back to article Samsung’s Smart Monitor tries too hard to be clever

Samsung's vision for a smart monitor tantalizes: the company suggests you park your PC and instead use Bluetooth input devices to work with a monitor that bakes in a browser and Office 365. If you really need a PC, the device can remote into a PC or Mac. Once the working day is done, the 32 inch M8 Smart Monitor includes …

  1. steelpillow Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    The future crippled - today

    Abandoning the broadcast airwaves and going for a cloud-serviced smart terminal does seem the way ahead for home entertainment.

    But Samsung are going to have to think harder than this. Why offer a crippled web browser when the world is your oyster?

    One elephant missing from this review is gaming. It's a sine qua non for any pretensions to a so-lightweight-its-crippled-too desktop. Does it play Doom?

    I wonder if it is more targeted at sales displays and the like.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: The future crippled - today

      Why offer a crippled web browser when the world is your oyster?

      Because Samsung really aren't very good at software. Hence a device which us all geared up for Teams but the browser can't manage it.

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: The future crippled - today

        This is a very astute comment.

        Software developed by hardware firms is diabolical - I'm thinking of anything ever made by Sony, any "connected device", all early pre-apple, pre-android phones, or - yes - Samsung's smart TVs, which have been unsmarted in this households they probably have been in yours.

        Apple are the only firm that does both well. But I think it's fair to say that with that one exception, software remains an afterthought to hardware manufacturers, and it shows.

        (I expect the reverse would also be true, but as I've never purchased a MS tablet or Google whatever, I can't really say)

        1. RockBurner

          Re: The future crippled - today

          Funnily enough - the opposite can be quite true.... and weirdly it's Microsoft that astounds all and sundry by, more often than not, producing very well thought out pieces of hardware. (especially, in my experience, the key interface tools like keyboards and trackballs).

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: The future crippled - today

            While some of the Microsoft hardware is acceptable, a lot of it is dire. For varying reasons, usually through Microsoft cost cutting in really stupid areas.

            For example, the key cap printing on the rather pricey Microsoft Natural keyboard is such poor quality that the letters on the key caps wears off after just a couple of weeks of use. That's appalling seeing as even £5-10 keyboards get this right.

            The original Microsoft Surface was a quite interesting table based interface. Just rather seriously flawed in a couple of fundamental ways: it was impossible to sit at which makes it a very poor table and the top surface was going to be damaged very, very quickly. The product that was released with the same name was just a badly balanced tablet with an expensive and not very good keyboard, as in worse that most laptops. These devices have improved a lot since, although the cost vs performance compared to a regular laptop is still not great.

            The Microsoft mouse, while some love them, the majority seem to favour mice that have some weight to them and don't feel incredibly cheap as a result. Having a really spongy mouse wheel action doesn't help them either. £5-10 generic mice or even large PC manufacturer mice that are both essentially clones of the cheapest Logitech mice are often preferred as they weigh more and have better button and wheel actions.

            Various XBoxes have had fundamental design flaws, the "red ring of death" being one of the earliest and most severe but there have been other odd design flaws in later devices too.

            1. RockBurner

              Re: The future crippled - today

              Ah yeah - I wasn't really considering the XBox tbh, just the peripherals.

              1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                Re: The future crippled - today

                The controllers were pretty rock solid.

        2. PhilipN Silver badge

          Software houses making things

          True. Software shops may think Apple gives a design on the back of a fag packet to Foxconn and says "Build this" so how hard can it be?

          Skill set could not be more different and mutually exclusive : not just design but factory selection, QA/QC, rolling raw materials supply, logistics, marketing, sales and point-of-sale. Fact is whatever your feelings towards 'em Apple is very VERY good at all of these.

          MS most likely found a keyboard/mouse they liked and branded it. Otherwise they were just lucky very occasionally. Their patchy record shows as much.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Software houses making things

            I do feel sorry for the Apple iPhone hardware developers, other than the appalling aerial shorting design flaw, but they design devices with incredibly tight tolerances and performance and doubtless spend a lot of time trying to make a phone 0.01mm thinner. Then the user comes along and shoves it in a hideous £10 phone case with spongy gel over the buttons and makes the entire thing 2cm thick.

            1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: Software houses making things

              Yeah, you'd think they'd TAKE THE FUCKING HINT and stop making phones so thin that using them is like handling a razor blade. I put nice, thick cases on my phones because I have huge hands. I can't pick the bloody things up without the nice, thick cases added on.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "Abandoning the broadcast airwaves and going for a cloud-serviced"

      Just wait for a couple of broad audience live events - i.e. a couple of football matches in Europe - and actual networks slow down as sleeping snails because they can't handle the traffic - because they were designed with far less average traffic in mind and being able to deliver it in short burst. And telcos have little incentives to resolve the situation as it requires big investments (and a lot of agreements among them) while profits go to OTTs only.

      You can switch to RFoF - but that's still broadcasting.

      Anyway, this monitor reminds me of the doomed Palm Foleo. If they really want to deliver something useful, just give us good panels with enough connectivity we can match them with any device we like - of course being "dumb" instead of "smart" they can't collect anything about the user....

    3. FatGerman

      Re: The future crippled - today

      Having been burned multiple times by online services suddenly deciding I need to buy a new device to absorb their content, I now don't use any online services and I doubt I ever will again. Still got a 25 year old Panasonic dumb TV that works and a big collection of optical media. Remember them? When you actually owned the stuff you paid for and could use it any time, even if the internet was down. What will they think of next?

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: The future crippled - today

        ...and a big collection of optical media... What will they think of next?

        Ripping said media to a NAS and playing it whenever I want to play it. Regardless of which damn box the disc happens to be in, if in a box at all. Also I get to skip all the "Copyright theft is theft" bullshit... it's not, it's copyright violation and cannot ever be theft.

        Oh wait, that's what I thought of next, and not the parasitic industry desperate for me to re-purchase and rent everything that I previously bought.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    a low-end "smart" TV

    Why on Earth would you want a "smart" TV ?

    They're no better than a normal TV, and they report everything you watch to the mothership.

    Fuck smart, I want dumb but efficient.

    And I want my privacy.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: a low-end "smart" TV

      I made my Samsung smart TV dumb by never plugging it in to my network...

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: a low-end "smart" TV

        BT had a scary feature: part of your bandwidth can be available to other subscribers over wifi and you get a share of theirs when you are away from home. One day Samsung and BT will notice they can do a deal to prevent you from avoiding over-the-net software downgrades.

        1. Jan 0 Silver badge

          Re: a low-end "smart" TV

          FON was a great way to be nice to strangers or get wifi when out and about, killed in the UK when BT borged it. I've noticed that there still are a few Foneros around the Mediterranean, msybe elsewhere? Good mobile data bandwidth is still patchy.

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: a low-end "smart" TV

      I'm not so worried by the "reporting everything to the mothership" angle, as in order to watch much content one must use a streaming service of some form and you can guarantee that this information is all recorded somewhere.

      My take on the "smart" TV is that they are inevitably anything other than smart. They have moronic interfaces which make what was previously a simple task as annoying and slow as possible, the software spewed into them is usually so inefficient that it makes whatever underspecified dumping ground of basic computing components on them choke at the simplest of things. That most manufacturers, in particular Samsung, deny all knowledge of their software within a few weeks of release of the device and just lead it an abandoned mess which becomes steadily less and less useful does not help.

      Give me a good quality display and a replaceable control/playback device for it and I'm happy. That way when the control/playback device becomes obsolete, which it will within a few years, I don't have to replace the entire display.

      1. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

        Re: a low-end "smart" TV

        For art TV, I use second hand large monitors with thin bezels (Dell seem good for 2nd hand price) plus soundbar plugged into a second hand thin client (prefer the HP T620s) running Kodi

        Good for broadcast HD channels, upgradeable software and replaceeable hardware.

        Would these fit your spec?

        Now moving into second hand digital signage for display (choose carefully for video specs!).

        Lots of portoptions s for network, sound, video.

        Many are 'unsmarted' versions of smart TVs + remote control.

        At least they seem to obey VESA DPMS (so I can turn screen off within Kodi' , unlike 'smart' TVs

  3. dermots

    Where is this PC you must remotely connect to?

    The get out of jail of being able to remotely connect into a PC requires a PC, so where would it be? Local? Then just use it directly with none of the downsides of the ‘smart monitor’. In the office? At whose hot desk and who manages it? Seems this terminal was built for the 2010s not the 2020s.

  4. doublelayer Silver badge

    If you want smart, put an operating system on it

    The title summarizes my suggestion. If a company wants to make a monitor that's much more than just a screen, they shouldn't do it this way. Putting their own locked down pseudo-OS on the device means it will require work they're probably not doing to get the included applications functional. There's an alternative: use an existing OS stack, add software for any special features, and let existing applications do things the manufacturer doesn't want to write and support.

    If this was a big Android tablet that could be used as a monitor, well I still wouldn't want it, but at least the Office365 integration would probably work pretty well as it could use Microsoft's existing code which runs natively, supports multiple windows, etc. Similarly if it used a full Linux installation (I'm guessing there's a Linux kernel in there anyway, but not the typical layers above it), then you could use a browser that's better supported which would also support multiple windows. Whichever way they went, it could also be customized by the user if they wanted it to do something else.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: If you want smart, put an operating system on it

      Easier still, just use a regular monitor and connect what you need.

      £100 monitor, £70 phone, keyboard, mouse, job done.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: If you want smart, put an operating system on it

        There's a reason the suggestion started with "If you want smart", though maybe I should have put some quotation marks around smart. I would also suggest a simple screen that does nothing on its own, but if a manufacturer thinks there's value in having functions that don't depend on any external device, they could still do it better.

        To be fair (possibly too fair) to them, there is value in doing it the other way around. I know some people who have iPads and value that they can use them as extra monitors for Macs when they're not being used as tablets. As I understand the feature, it only works with Apple systems (and I'm guessing occasionally breaks there too), so having a tablet that doubles as a monitor without the manufacturer-specific limitations could be useful to someone who already likes tablets. This restricted environment device, however, lacks the advantages of the tablet part and doesn't do anything to justify its increased price.

    2. SImon Hobson

      Re: If you want smart, put an operating system on it

      At a previous job we did have a display that ran a full OS - I think the boss bought it for demonstrations etc.

      Of course, it was basically a monitor with a PC built into it - and it cost more than a similar quality monitor and a similar quality PC.

      It wasn't long before the PC part showed it's age and wasn't upgradable - so it ended up being used as ... a monitor.

      Given the size and cost of some modern PCs (and if that's your need, brackets to stick the PC on the back of the monitor), I reckon far better to just buy a decent "dumb" monitor so you can upgrade the "smart" bit as and when.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: If you want smart, put an operating system on it

        "Of course, it was basically a monitor with a PC built into it - and it cost more than a similar quality monitor and a similar quality PC."

        They're called All-In-One PCs. Most PC vendors sell them. Apple has had iMacs for a long time as well.

        Their selling point is just a tidier desktop than with a separate PC+monitor. Less cabling and such. People buying these are not interested or perhaps not even aware that the computer part may be obsolete after some years. Style over substance.

        Tying a PC behind a monitor can still be done with various VESA mounts but the PC power button typically ends up behind the large monitor so isn't very accessible so you'll end up with a kludge, like enabling power-on via mouse/keyboard which excludes Bluetooth.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: If you want smart, put an operating system on it

          Sadly most iMacs cannot be used as a screen.

          It's really annoying, I've now got a 2015 iMac with a lovely screen - that I can't use at all.

        2. SImon Hobson

          Re: If you want smart, put an operating system on it

          This one wasn't aimed at the "all in one" market - more the industrial display market. End result was the same - the PC bit of it became effectively useless and it just reverted to being an (expensive) monitor.

  5. Shalghar Bronze badge

    Why does this exist anyway ?

    Why are such misdeveloped devices created anyway ? This is a commercial product not a test device of a private tinkerer trying to figure out how to design something like the intended device with improvised software to just test out some features. Even if the hardware is acceptable, the abysmal software implementation that cannot deliver on the promises made absolutely devalues this attempt at creating the advertised device.

    Know your strengths but know your weaknesses even better. Samsung seems a bit too stubborn to me, still clinging to failed software like the universally disliked bixby instead of accepting their limits and investing to do better and overcome obvious shortcomings.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TL;DR - isn't this a "terminal" ?

    Like what we had in the 80s ? VT100, etc etc

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: TL;DR - isn't this a "terminal" ?

      There was no mention of an RS232 port, telnet or ssh so, no, it doesn't sound as useful as having a VT100 or any more modern terminal.

  7. fizz

    No smart devices for me

    I got already burned enough times to learn a basic lesson: avoid as much as possible any internet-connected device without a proper (possibly linux) OS.

    Companies can't simply be trusted to keep their proprietary OS up to date, and are moreover often crap at realizing them in the first place.

    Smart TV interfaces becomes unusable and a security hole.

    Smart home devices stop working, often requiring you to replace them soon after being installed.

    Some things you can't avoid at the moment, like smart-phones, but for the rest, it's better to be as conservative as possible, hoping that at some point devices will start to converge toward some kind of stable standard, and maybe digital rights groups will manage to have some sane repairability laws introduced.

    Not holding my breath though.

  8. Ball boy

    Where's the market for this?

    So it's a screen that has a slimmed-down, bespoke OS running. Good luck keeping that up to date.

    Far better to get a fairly dumb screen (with speakers) and wire it into a SBC mounted on the back. Run a decent OS - mentioning no names - and you've got all the media you will ever want, it's self-updating and can remote to other computers as and when required.

    And yes, it can play Doom.

    There's really no point adding 'intelligence' to display devices: the variety of sources and constant change means they'll get outdated. Stick to using screens as screens and put the brains in something that's able to evolve.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Where's the market for this?

      Where? -> Good question.

      Answer: in the fevered mind of some marketing AH, that's where.

      But the problem is not the marketing droid with an excess of whatever he drank that morning.

      The problem lies in the management level that actually approved it going into production.

      And of course, in those gullible enough to want to part with their money and purchase one.

      I stopped purchasing Samsung products many years ago but my three monitor rig still runs a pair of 940n 19" monitors I use for displaying terminal outputs and such.

      Incredibly, they still work well enough for what they are used for and when I got them it was only because there were no 5:4 ratio monitors available in the local IT market.

      But I've suffered enough Samsung products to even consider spending any money on one.

      O.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once the working day is done, the 32 inch M8 Smart Monitor

    reports back to the mothership. Fuck no.

  10. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Trollface

    Samsung?

    So, Tizen? On my LAN? No way!

  11. tiggity Silver badge

    No

    Need an actual TV Tuner for it to be worthwhile.

    If my internet goes down, or high contention so bit rate is pathetic, I can still watch a normal freeview signal TV channel.

    Just know the apps will soon be unsupported.

    I have an oldish non smart TV, though it does have Freeview and has some app support for that (so you can play programmes from previous days via the relevant "player").

    Though some of the apps gradually unsupported - got an email from ITVHub recently saying no longer supported for "copyright reasons"

    Not that it affects me, have an old Humax connected that I use to record TV & a Chromecast attached if I want to stream stuff using an app of some sort.

    So, a non smart TV works fine for me as I'm unaffected by gradual loss of support.

  12. weirdbeardmt
    Mushroom

    oh. i guess i'm the odd one out here.

    a lot of fevered comments here... although pretty certain nobody actually has one of these. I do.

    my use case was pretty specific - I have a 49" LG ultrawide already (so not exactly short of screen real estate) but there are some occasions having the screen physically separate makes sense. and if I'm working late then I tend to like to have something 'on'... e.g., sports, some other low commitment event that I can flick eyes to when necessary but otherwise focus on the main display.... and having something I can occasionally beam to from the main computer would be a bonus, and also connect another computer/laptop/device from time to time.

    so I went actual shopping (in an actual shop and everything) for an actual television which had to be smart. haven't used aerial or satellite in... forever. my office has neither of those things. i had researched an LG television which seemed to tick all the boxes and was absolutely convinced I was not going to buy a Samsung due to all of their TVs being reportedly riddled with ads. I saw the LG, a Samsung and a Sony alongside each other and I'm pleased I did because the Samsung was noticeably the best display. not much between it and the Sony (in fact Sony possibly better) but the LG was truly abysmal.

    and having used Android on my main Sony tv; I didn't want to go anywhere near that, so swapping to Tizen seemed like a reasonable shout.

    i did some more research on the Samsung devices and stumbled across these smart monitors, which seemed to tick a lot of boxes. i was originally going to get the M5 but in the end went for the M8 due to having USB-C. found one online which was nowhere near the $700 reported here (± £330 IIRC but it had to be white at that price)

    and so far everything is perfectly fine. the streaming apps do exactly what I want.. usual array of iPlayer, Netflix, Prime etc. and a store with all the others if you want them. it is rapid to turn on, which probably explains it's poor 'G' energy rating. the screen is sharp and the picture quality very good.

    i wasn't forced to sign up for a Samsung account... well not at first. annoyingly you do need to do that if you want to use anything beyond the default, or install a new app. or to use its voice control (called Bixby, ffs) which is truly appalling and completely unusable.

    AirPlay (yes yes, macOS, let's move on) works exactly as you would expect. I can't imagine ever using the Workspace feature.

    the built-in browser is a fairly miserable experience. I had one tab streaming an audio feed and I wanted to open a separate tab to load something else... which nuked the stream on the first tab.

    I originally had wanted your average TV remote (since primary use is streaming apps) but that is where it quickly falls over if you do want to do anything beyond that. fortunately most apps support logging in from another device nowadays which is good, since just typing your credentials would be a tedious experience, although I doubt that's unique to this device.

    but it was tedious enough to the extent that I started trying to work out how to remote control it. I can't imagine ever using the remote desktop feature - I misunderstood that when I was researching because I assumed that meant i would be able to e.g., VNC *to* the monitor; whereas that is for connecting from the monitor *to* another device. I guess that could make sense, maybe, for some things... maybe? I used the built-in browser and just getting to the page I wanted was a nightmare and it seems like the only option there is to attach a keyboard/mouse to it as opposed to being able to actually remote control it.

    I've not seen a single ad yet; although I'm not sure if that is my PiHole doing its job or if they don't bundle these monitors with that stuff like they do on the TV. I've no doubt it's shipping every last detail back to whomever pays well enough but, that I'm not convinced that's any different to anyone else anymore.

    anyway, tl;dr, for my use case, this thing is doing what I wanted it to do, pretty much. If it was possible to VNC it that would be great but beyond that, it does what I need.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Microsoft's famous productivity suite"

    Microsoft's infamous productivity suite

    FTFY

  14. Richard Lloyd

    I like my M7...

    I bought the M8 predecessor (yes, the M7) shortly before the M8 was announced - Samsung had multiple discounts (and a free pair of bluetooth headphones) so I got it new from them directly for £187, which is a great price even for a "dumb" 32" 4K monitor. The M8's pricing is a joke by comparison - £699 and all they've done is throw in a Webcam and not allow you to buy it in black (which my M7 is).

    Ignoring the smart apps/Office 365 stuff (which I never use because a PC is attached, duh!), the M7/M8 have wi-fi, bluetooth, 65W PD charging (one £4 USB cable got it nicely charging my Steam Deck while the monitor is on) and a remote control (every monitor should have one for the monitor UI and turning it off/on). One cute thing the monitor did is check for a firmware update for itself, prompt for it and download/install it once you confirmed with the remote - does your monitor do that?

    At £200-£250, the M8 would be an absolute no-brainer, but at £700, there'll be very few takers. I do wish my M7 had better speakers though - looks like the M8 did bugger all to improve one of the weakest points of the M7.

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