Samsung’s Odyssey Ark had a stealthy presence at CES 2022, but the curved 55-inch gaming monitor-meets-TV is nearly ready to launch. It’s coming out in mid-September for $3,499.99, with reservations for preorders starting today. I got to test out a prototype of the Odyssey Ark with a batch of PC games. Surprise: gaming with my face three feet away from a 55-inch 4K display with 165Hz refresh rate is awesome. But I was equally impressed with the bounty of features that the Ark can deliver.
The Ark represents Samsung’s most aggressive play at distinguishing itself as a maker of gaming displays. The 55-inch 1000R curvature is, of course, one way to go about sticking out. It can easily be 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 that allows for cloud streaming via Xbox Game Pass, Google Stadia, and Amazon Luna. Like the Samsung M8 Smart Monitor that I reviewed, it runs on Samsung’s Tizen OS — in case you want to use some streaming apps like YouTube or Apple TV Plus.
Given its high cost, there’s a good chance that you’ll want to do more than just game on the Ark. This screen is big enough to accommodate multiple use cases at once with ease. Building upon 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 basic (stack four windows, two by two) to more niche (set one input to be 32:9, with one traditional 16:9 input 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 turn the Ark sideways into cockpit mode.
Doing so requires you to tilt the display upward, raise it to the highest setting that its big, minimalist, height-adjustable stand will allow, then turn it 90 degrees counterclockwise. I was worried that it’d be a two-person job, but I was able to do it myself without much trouble. What’s cool is that rotating the screen will auto-rotate your source’s picture, too. With the Ark oriented like this, you can view up to three screens stacked vertically or stretch one from top to bottom if your game supports it. In cockpit mode, it kind of looks like the Ark is a wave that’s about to crash on top of you. Samsung’s Owen Sexton told me during the demo that the Ark is also wall-mountable and will include a VESA mount.
Despite Samsung’s promotion of the Ark heavily favoring showing it in the cockpit mode, I preferred gaming in landscape mode with a single source taking up the entire screen. Using multiview mode is great, though whether in portrait or landscape mode, the curvature of the screen can make each slice of the screen take on a slight keystone effect, where some corners look skewed. That may break the immersion for gaming, but it should be fine for other tasks. If I were using the Ark for work, I’d likely prefer using it in cockpit mode. Similar to the idea behind the 16:18 aspect ratio LG DualUp, it’s easier to quickly see multiple windows by just moving my head up and down instead of side to side like I have to with multiple monitors or an ultrawide.
Samsung includes two remotes with the Ark, one being a typical remote to handle the basic functions and another more involved option called the Ark dial. It’s a standalone command center that puts the Ark’s main functions (power, volume, input select, and game bar) on big buttons. There’s a rotatable dial and a directional pad within it to more quickly adjust settings. There’s even a solar panel to recharge it, so you don’t need to ever plug it in.
I should note that neither remote seemed to make it elegant to navigate the monitor’s myriad menus and settings. There’s a definite learning curve to finding the settings you’re looking for, and a large part of my demo was just trying — and sometimes failing — to go where I wanted to.
The Ark, like Samsung’s other high-end gaming monitors, is a melding of its best TV panel technology with features that gamers with deep pockets will likely enjoy, like HDR, VRR, and four HDMI 2.1 ports (though, curiously, no DisplayPort). It has Samsung’s quantum Mini LED backlighting that it claims is capable of up to 1,500 nits at peak brightness, and the company claims that it’s the first 55-inch 4K panel that supports 165Hz refresh rate.
This display 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 curve’s scoop isn’t as deep as the Odyssey Neo G9’s 1800R curvature (to each their own, but I think the 1000R is the sweet spot in terms of easily being able to see everything on the screen without peripheral detail falling by the wayside).
In my brief time with the Ark, playing games like Doom Eternal and Forza Horizon 5 seemed like very good showcases for how bright and fast this display can go. No complaints there. Its 16:9 aspect ratio meant that the picture didn’t exhibit visual warping around the edges as we saw on Samsung’s 32:9 aspect ratio Odyssey G9 and Neo G9. However, I wasn’t as flabbergasted by the contrast in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator as I hoped to be. With the Ark’s curve and the QLED screen, I was expecting to be more or less sucked in with immersion. Though, the fact that I didn’t feel that way could be due to some factors, like the intense brightness of the room, the visual mode of the Ark not being tuned properly for gaming, or perhaps that the tuning in this prototype unit isn’t quite finished.
All said, the Ark experience feels polished, but there were some other quirks in this prototype. When a Samsung representative was walking me through the picture resizing features, some tutorial pop-ups wouldn’t disappear. The team said this was a known prerelease issue. Also, a sliver of the top bezel didn’t want to remain seated, letting a smidge of backlight peek out. When I pressed down on the bezel, the light leakage went away, but it came back shortly after I released it. Perhaps it’s an issue with glue or another problem altogether. Hopefully, that’s not present in shipping units.
The Ark seems like a known quantity on its face, but there’s something about it that feels unique. It packs impressive gaming monitor specs into a design that is, by all accounts aside from the stand, an old-school curved TV. Given that it packs in some smart features, like cloud game streaming and smart TV apps, the Ark could be a great fit for someone who wants to go all-out — both in terms of size and its $3,499.99 cost. I’m almost more excited with the idea that it’s a sign that some of these features could come to cheaper Samsung gaming displays in the near future.
Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge