Samsung’s Odyssey Ark made an unobtrusive presence at CES 2022, but the curved 55-inch gaming monitor-meets TV is almost ready to launch. It comes out in mid-September for $3,499.99, with pre-orders starting today. I got to test a prototype of the Odyssey Ark with a range of PC games. Surprise: Gaming with my face one meter away from a 55-inch 4K display with a 165Hz refresh rate is great. But I was equally impressed with the plethora of features the Ark can deliver.
The Ark represents Samsung’s most aggressive way to differentiate itself as a maker of gaming screens. The 55-inch 1000R curvature is, of course, one way to stick out. It can be easily rotated for use in portrait mode with up to three video sources. The other major way is with some smart TV functionality, namely the Samsung Gaming Hub which enables cloud streaming via Xbox Game Pass, Google Stadia and Amazon Luna. Like the Samsung M8 Smart Monitor I reviewed, it runs on Samsung’s Tizen OS – just in case you want to use some streaming apps like YouTube or Apple TV Plus.
Given the high cost, chances are you’ll want to do more than just play on the Ark. This screen is large enough to easily handle multiple use cases at the same time. Building on the standard Picture-in-Picture (PIP) mode offered by many TVs and some monitors, the Ark includes robust screen manipulation settings that let you go from standard (stack four windows, two by two) to more niche (set up one). entry in) will be 32:9, with one traditional 16:9 entry above it). The possibilities, while not endlessly configurable, seem ripe for some interesting use cases if you’re the type who likes to tweak settings. And that’s before you put the Ark sideways into cockpit mode.
To do this, you’ll need to tilt the screen up, raise it to the highest position that the large, minimalist, height-adjustable stand allows, and then rotate it 90 degrees counterclockwise. I was afraid it would be a job for two people, but I managed to do it myself without much effort. What’s cool is that if you rotate the screen, the image from your source is automatically rotated as well. With the Ark oriented this way, you can view up to three screens stacked vertically or stretch one from top to bottom if your game supports it. In cockpit mode, the Ark looks like a wave about to crash on top of you. Samsung’s Owen Sexton told me during the demo that the Ark can also be wall-mounted and will include a VESA mount.
Despite Samsung’s promotion of the Ark strongly favoring showing in cockpit mode, I preferred gaming in landscape mode with a single source occupying the entire screen. Using multiview mode is great but whether in portrait or landscape mode the curvature of the screen can cause any part of the screen to have a slight keystone effect with some corners looking skewed . That might break the immersion for gaming, but it should be good for other tasks. If I were using the Ark for work, I’d probably prefer to use it in cockpit mode. Similar to the idea behind LG DualUp’s 16:18 aspect ratio, it’s easier to quickly see multiple windows by moving my head up and down rather than back and forth like I have to do with multiple monitors or an ultrawide.
Samsung ships two remotes with the Ark, one is a typical remote to control basic functions and another, more involved option, the Ark dial. It’s a standalone command center that puts the Ark’s key functions (power, volume, input select, and game bar) on large buttons. There is a rotating dial and a directional pad in it to adjust settings faster. There’s even a solar panel to charge it, so you never have to plug it in.
I should note that neither remote seemed elegant in navigating the monitor’s myriad of menus and settings. There’s a definite learning curve to finding the settings you’re looking for, and a big part of my demo was just trying – and sometimes failing – to go where I wanted.
The Ark, like Samsung’s other high-end gaming monitors, is an amalgamation of the best TV panel technology with features deep-pocketed gamers are likely to enjoy, such as HDR, VRR, and four HDMI 2.1 ports (though oddly none. display port). It features Samsung’s Quantum Mini LED backlight that is claimed to be capable of up to 1,500 nits at maximum brightness, and the company claims it’s the first 55-inch 4K panel to support a 165Hz refresh rate.
This screen has a 1000R curve and it’s both weird and cool to see the curve come back for a panel that looks so much like a TV. The scoop of the curve isn’t as deep as the 1800R curvature of the Odyssey Neo G9 (for any of them, but I think the 1000R is the sweet spot to easily see everything on the screen without removing peripheral details from the boat fall).
In my short time with the Ark, playing games like Eternal doom and Forza Horizon 5 seemed like very good examples of how bright and fast this screen can go. No complaints there. The 16:9 aspect ratio meant that the image showed no visual distortion at the edges, as we saw with Samsung’s 32:9 aspect ratio Odyssey G9 and Neo G9. However, I wasn’t all that stunned by the contrast in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator as I hoped to be. With the Ark’s curve and the QLED screen, I kind of expected to be sucked into immersion. But the fact that I didn’t feel that way could have been due to a number of factors, such as the intense brightness of the room, the Ark’s visual mode not being properly tuned for gaming, or perhaps the tuning in this prototype- device is not quite ready.
Overall, the Ark experience feels polished, but there were some other quirks in this prototype. When a Samsung representative walked me through the photo resizing features, some tutorial popups didn’t go away. The team said this was a known prerelease issue. Also, a piece of the top ring wouldn’t stay put, leaving a hint of backlight peeking out. When I pressed the ring, the light leakage disappeared, but it came back shortly after I let go. Maybe it’s a problem with glue or some other problem. Hopefully that is not present in shipping units.
The Ark looks like a familiar amount at first glance, but there’s something about it that feels unique. It packs impressive gaming monitor specs in a design that, aside from the stand, is an old-fashioned curved TV. Given that it packs in some smart features like cloud game streaming and smart TV apps, the Ark could be a good choice for someone looking to pull out all the stops – both in size and cost of ownership. $3,499.99. I’m almost more excited with the idea that it’s a sign that some of these features may be coming to cheaper Samsung gaming screens in the near future.
Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge