Samsung took the monitor world by storm during CES 2022 with the unveiling of the Odyssey Ark, the company's first 55-inch, 4K curved gaming screen with 165Hz refresh rate and 1-millisecond response rate. It came with a host of features, the most prominent being its ability to switch from the traditional horizontal orientation to vertical.
The head-turning monitor is finally available for pre-order to the tune of $3,499.99. Since I didn't get a chance to see it in person earlier this year due to the pandemic, Samsung was kind enough to give me access. And I have to say, it might be my favorite monitor of the year.
Pricing and availability
Yes, the Odyssey Ark is seriously expensive at $3.499.99. Still it's cheaper the Alienware 55 OLED Gaming Monitor (AW5520QF)'s initial price of $4,999. And Samsung is offering a slight rebate for those who pre-order to the tune of $300. And I wouldn't be surprised if Samsung offers even more discounts as we get closer to the holiday season.
The monitor will ship sometime in early September 2022.
Like the Alienware AW5520QF, the Samsung Odyssey Ark is a 55-inch panel. But that's where the similarities end. The Ark's panel is curved with a 1,000R curvature and makes use of the company's proprietary Quantum Matrix Technology Mini LED technology.
You might have heard of Mini LED previously from Apple's M1 MacBook Pros. The technology basically offers some of the best features from QLED and OLED panels, retaining QLED's higher brightness, decreased burn-in concerns, lack of degredation over time with OLED's higher contrast ratio, deeper blacks and greater power-efficiency.
In addition to Mini LED, the matte panel with its 16:19 aspect ratio also offers detailed HDR control, which during my demo delivered incredibly vivid colors and deep blacks. And thanks to the Neural Quantum Processor Ultra the panel can upscale your visuals to a stunning 4K resolution. I definitely wouldn't mind watching a movie or three on this bad boy.
But this is a gaming monitor and Samsung made sure to pack in plenty of goodies to that effect. Starting with AMD FreeSync Premium Pro which ensures the monitor's refresh rate is synchronized with the graphics card of whatever it's connected to. That means you'll get smooth rendered images and an infinitesimal amount of input lag.
And speaking of gaming, the Ark has Samsung's Gaming Hub pre-installed. A game streaming discovery platform, this is where players can play games from Xbox Game Pass, Nvidia GeForce Now, Google Stadia and more. When the time comes to tweak your gaming-specific settings there's Game Bar, which gives players the ability to create settings for individual titles such as FPS, HDR or VRR. You can also adjust the screen aspect ratio and response time.
While it's easy to get caught up in the massive display, the Odyssey Ark still has more features hiding behind its captivating surface. For audio, the display has a tweeter positioned at each corner of the panel with a pair of subwoofers in the middle for a more immersive sound experience. The audio gets software assists from its Sound Dome Technology which consists of Sound Booster, Quad Object Tracking Sound and of course, Dolby Atmos.
I played through Forza Horizon 5 and was impressed with how different and realistic each car sound as accelerated and braked throughout various course. Even my unfortunate crashes had weight. I'd love to take this for a spin with a few choice FPS known for big explosions.
Flex Move Screen is one of the Ark's cooler features. It allows users to adjust screen size between 55-and 27-inches and change the screen position. You can even switch the screen ratio between 16:9, 21:9 and 32:9. And for those occasions that you are playing with a smaller screen, the black space can be filled by Active Ambient, a collection of pre-installed backgrounds.
Need to do a bit of multitasking? Then Multi View is the name of the game. The feature splits the screen into four smaller ones simultaneously or three in Cockpit Mode (more on that in a second). One screen will show the connected video source, while the others can be used to launch YouTube, Discord, a web browser or some Samsung-powered widgets. The screens can be resized and reordered to your liking and eliminates the need for multiple monitors.
Each of the features can be accessed via the Ark Dial, a funky remote that Samsung includes with Odyssey Ark. The massive panel also ships with the One Connect Box, which has four HDMI 2.1 ports that you can connect various video sources to the Ark including game consoles like the Xbox Series X and PS5, a desktop or a laptop.
Sure, the Odyssey Ark has VESA mounting, but why in the world would you want to mount this thing when you have Cockpit Mode. Like most monitors, the Ark can be used in a vertical orientation. It's just not very often that you see a 55-inch curved monitor being used that way. But after spending some time with the Ark, I'm a believer.
Switching orientations is simple, you simply grab the bottom corners of the display and pull down and outward. Next, you spin the panel clockwise into position and push upwards. It takes a little getting used to, because let's face it, you're going to treat a nearly-$4,000 monitor with kid gloves. But once I felt confident that the Ark's moorings were indeed sturdy, I was twisting and turning with the best.
And as easy as flipping the display is, it would be a whole lot cooler to see some hydraulics of some sort doing the heavy lifting. But I imagine that would severely raise the price and potentially involve a broken motor somewhere that would ruin the fun.
It's big, expensive and ostentatious – three things that make me exceedingly happy. But the Samsung Odyssey Ark definitely has more substance than style offering a lovely 4K, Mini LED display with vibrant color and rich, deep blacks as well as a surprisingly powerful audio. Then you have Samsung Game Hub for streaming games, the ability to connect up to four video sources and a couple of interesting ways to multitask. And of course, you can change the Ark's orientation into something that's equal parts useful and conversation starter.
I'm eager to take a deeper dive into the Samsung Odyssey Ark when it lands in the Laptop Mag labs.