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Samsung M8 Smart Monitor review: A sub-$700 Apple Studio Display alternative?

The Samsung M8 makes it easy to work with PCs, Macs and other devices, and also doubles up as a Tizen-based smart TV.
cliff-joseph-author.jpg
Written by Cliff Joseph, Contributing Writer on
Pros
  • Attractive 32-inch 4K display
  • Competitive price
  • Good connectivity
  • 1080p webcam
  • AirPlay support for Apple devices
Cons
  • Weak speakers
  • Build quality could be better
  • Poor documentation

Apple recently experienced a rare misfire with the launch of its 27-inch Studio Display. The display's 5K resolution delivers very good image quality, but its high price and glitch-ridden webcam were less welcome. So Samsung's announcement in April that it was taking pre-orders for its new M8 Smart Monitor was clearly intended to steal some of Apple's thunder.

The M8 -- or S32BM801 to give its full model number -- has now shipped, and at just $699.99 or £699 it provides an attractive 32-inch display with 4K resolution for less than half the price of Apple's Studio Display ($1,599/£1,499). 

It's also more than a simple computer display, as it runs Samsung's Linux-based Tizen operating system, which allows it to function as a standalone smart TV when not connected to a PC or Mac. That low cost does involve some compromises, but the M8's versatility and competitive price does make it a tempting option for people who are working from home and need a good general-purpose display that can handle office work during the day and entertainment in the evening. 

Samsung M8 Smart Monitor

Samsung M8 Smart Monitor: 32-inch display, smart TV and standalone Microsoft 365 terminal.

Image: Cliff Joseph / ZDNet

Design & features

The M8 doesn't have the same build quality as Apple's Studio Display, and its lightweight plastic casing -- which is available in several colours -- does feel a little flimsy. That's not necessarily a deal-breaker since this isn't a mobile device, and the display is likely to spend most of its life simply sitting on your desk. However, we were a bit concerned about the small, detachable webcam -- which we almost broke while simply unpacking the display -- so it's probably wise to keep the webcam away from the prying fingers when you're not using it. 

Samsung M8 Smart Monitor: webcam & remote

The 1080p webcam (left) is detachable and, like the rest of the M8, a little flimsy build-wise. The monitor/smart TV comes with a remote control (right).

Image: Cliff Joseph / ZDNet

Samsung gets the basics right, though, with a smart, compact design and a panel that measures just 13mm thick. The 32-inch display provides 4K resolution (3840 x 2160, 137.7ppi) and supports HDR10+, providing a bright and colourful image that works well for running productivity software, web browsing and watching video.  

The contrast could be a little sharper, and the M8 won't be suitable for creative professionals who need accurate colour fidelity for graphics or video work. However, it does support 99% of the sRGB colour standard and will be perfectly adequate for simple photo-editing and presentations work. The built-in speakers aren't great, though, suffering from a distinct lack of bass, and Samsung could certainly learn from the custom speaker system provided by Apple's Studio Display.  

SEE: How to make meetings effective and useful: 6 ways to get actually get stuff done

On the other hand, the M8 does allow you to adjust the height of the screen without charging $400 extra, as Apple does with the Studio Display. The M8 also scores with its 1080p webcam, which provides a bright, sharp image that will work well for video calls when you're working from home. 

There are some useful connectivity options as well. The M8 includes a Micro-HDMI port for connecting to a set-top box or streaming devices, with an HDMI-to-micro-HDMI cable included in the box. There's a primary USB-C port that can be used to connect a PC or Mac, and a secondary USB-C port for connecting peripherals and accessories. The M8 also supports dual-band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.2, and even includes AirPlay for wireless streaming from Apple devices. It's a little disappointing, though, that there's no Ethernet to provide a lag-free connection to a wired network.

Samsung M8 Smart Monitor: profile & ports

Samsung M8 Smart Monitor: profile (left) and ports (right).

Images: Cliff Joseph / ZDNet

Monitor modes

That's an impressive set of features for such an affordable display, and it allows the M8 to function in two main modes. You can use it as a TV or external display, connecting a computer or set-top box via HDMI. However, it makes more sense to connect a computer via the primary USB-C port, as this provides video input for the display and 65W power output for charging a laptop. This also allows you to connect additional computer peripherals to the M8's secondary USB-C port, such as the SSD that I use for Time Machine backups on my MacBook. It even let me connect my little Kensington Mobile Hub, giving me some additional USB ports so that I could connect my USB keyboard and mouse, and SSD drive to the M8 all at the same time. Apple users can also go wireless and connect their Mac or iPad to the M8 using AirPlay to extend or mirror the display. 

Samsung M8 Smart Monitor: Mac & AirPlay

Apple AirPlay support allows for wireless connection between the M8 monitor and iPads or Macs.

Image: Cliff Joseph / ZDNet

It's also possible to use the M8 as a smart TV, which is controlled by the Tizen operating system. Tizen provides its own selection of streaming services, apps and games, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Apple TV and Samsung's own TV Plus (which seems to come with an alarming collection of cookies). And, for remote working, there's an option to log into an online Microsoft 365 account to provide quick access to your work files even if you don't have a PC or Mac available. You can also connect a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard to the M8. 

Our only real complaint with the M8 is that Samsung's documentation is pretty poor. The provided quick-start guide simply shows you how to connect the stand and cables, and provides little help for navigating the many features found in the on-screen menu system and the handheld remote control. It took some time to find a PDF manual on Samsung's website, but even this was just a generic manual that covered several different Samsung monitor products, making it difficult to find information that was specific to the M8. 

Conclusions

The build quality could be better, and Samsung really needs to write a decent manual for the M8, but it provides an attractive and versatile computer display/smart TV at a competitive price. Its real strength, though, lies in the connectivity features that make it easy to work with PCs, Macs and other devices when you need to, and then to simply switch off and relax with some on-screen entertainment at the end of the day.


Samsung M8 Smart Monitor specifications

Screen size32 inches (flat)
Panel typeVA
Resolution3840 x 2160 (4K, 16:9, 137.7ppi)
Brightness400 nits
Contrast ratio3000:1
Viewing angles178°(H)/178°(V)
Response time4ms
Refresh rate60Hz
Colours1.07 billion
Colour gamut99% sRGB
CertificationsHDR10+
ErgonomicsEye Saver Mode, Flicker Free
Dimensions (with stand)713.4mm x 575.2mm x 203.8mm (28.1in. x 22.6in. x 8in.)
Weight (with stand)6.7kg (14.8lbs)
Height adjustment120 ± 5.0mm
Tilt adjustment-2.0˚(±2.0˚) ~ 15.0˚(±2.0˚)
Swivelno
Pivotno
OSTizen
TV Plusyes
Digital assistant supportAlexa, Bixby
SmartThings app supportyes
Mirroring, DLNAyes
Apple AirPlayintegrated
Web serviceMicrosoft 365
HDMIMicro-HDMI
USB2x USB-C
Auto Source Switch+yes
Wi-FiWi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)
Bluetooth4.2
Audiospeaker (Adaptive Sound+)
Videodetachable 1080p webcam
Power supply100-240V
Power consumption40W (typ), 0.5W (DPMS)
Cablespower (1.5m), HDMI to Micro-HDMI, USB-C
Remote controlyes
Chassis colourswhite, blue, green, pink
Price$699.99 / £699

Alternatives to consider

A high-quality display is a worthwhile investment if you're working from home. The latest displays also include a built-in webcam, along with useful connectivity features for the home office.

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