There can be only One Connect with Samsung's F9000
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What is the Samsung UE55F9000?At the end of 2012 Sony and LG launched their 84" 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) TVs with stratospheric prices to match their huge screen sizes and, not to be outdone, Samsung recently launched their 85" S9000 with an easel-style stand and an equally wallet-busting price tag. However, in the last few months Sony, LG and now Samsung have released 4K UHD TVs in far more practical screen sizes of 55 and 65-inches and at prices most people could actually consider. In fact, thanks to a mini price war in the last few weeks, UHD TV prices have dropped considerably with 4K now being available for well below £4K. The Samsung UE55F9000 can be picked up for around £3,300 which isn't much of a premium over the manufacturer's flagship 1080p model and with further price reductions expected, we could soon see 4K UHD hitting a mass market tipping point. Of course, with the standard for 4K yet to be agreed, there is still some way for the format to go but Samsung, at least, appear to have developed a simple an elegant solution to this problem. So let's see if the UE55F9000 is the bargain that it looks to be on paper.
Design and ConnectionsThe UE55F9000 has a rather traditional appearance for a Samsung TV, with a black brushed metal bezel and a silver trim on the outer edge. The overall look is one of simple elegance combined with classic lines and the build quality is excellent. The bezel, whilst not quite the size zero found on some other Samsung designs, is still narrow at only 1cm wide and there is a retractable built-in camera at the top. The chassis itself has a bit more girth than we're used to on edge-lit LED screens, clocking in at 3.5cm, whilst the entire display weighs 25kg. The UE55F9000 sits on a brushed metal rectangular stand, which is good news for anyone planning on using a soundbar or centre speaker, and has 5cm of clearance. The UE55F9000 can be wall mounted and there is a detachable two pin power cable, which will make this process easier.
On the UE55F9000 itself the only connections are a CI (Common Interface) slot, a USB port and a service port; this is because all the other connections are found on the One Connect box that ships with the TV. This simple idea is a very elegant solution to the issue of future proofing the UE55F9000 and once the standards of 4K UHD have been agreed and HDMI 2.0 has been introduced, it will be an easy task to replace the connection box with one that meets the new standards. As an added advantage, it also make for much tidier cable management and if you're wall mounting, there are only two cables going to the display itself. Samsung use a proprietary cable to connect the box to the display and whilst the one provided is quite long, you will be able to buy longer runs from Samsung to aid with installation. In terms of actual connections on the box, there are four HDMI inputs (including ARC and MHL support), along with all the legacy connections, an aerial socket, two satellite connectors, two USB ports, an Ethernet port, an IR extender, a service port, a 3.5mm audio jack and an optical digital output. We really liked the One Connect box and our only criticism would be that it gets quite hot over a prolonged period of time.
The UE55F9000 comes with two remote controls, the first of which is a standard black plastic affair, familiar from any number of Samsung TVs but slightly shrunken down to the proportions of your average Blu-ray player remote. Samsung would prefer you to use the included touch pad remote which uses RF to connect and includes basic controls along with a touch pad. There is also a built-in microphone which is used for voice control and definitely beats shouting across the room. We certainly found the touch pad useful for navigating the Smart TV System but despite offering a graphical representation of the full remote onscreen, we found that for basic controls the old school remote was a lot quicker and easier.
Unlike most of the other 4K UHD TVs on the market, the UE55F9000 uses active shutter 3D. It comes with two pairs of RF glasses that are very light and have very little tint to the lenses, which means that images in 3D appear more accurate and brighter. However, we did find them to be a little fragile, an unfortunate side effect of their lightness, and we also didn't like the fact that can't fold the arms of the frames in. The lenses are reasonably large and just about fit over regular glasses but the lack of any sides to the frames means they can't block out ambient light, making them susceptible to flicker. The glasses provided with the UE55F9000 use batteries but you can also buy an optional USB rechargeable version if you prefer.
MenusThe UE55F9000 uses the same menu layout featured in most of Samsung's TVs for the last couple of years. The menu system is very responsive to navigate and provides some useful guidance for what the various settings do or, at least, that they’re supposed to. The main menu offers a basic set of options including Picture, Sound, Broadcasting, Network,Smart Features, System and Support but within these main choices are a large number of sub-menus.
The Picture menu offers a choice of four types of Viewing Mode - Standard, Natural, Dynamic and Movie. The latter is designed to approximate industry standards and thus it should offer the most accurate out-of-the-box setting. Both the Picture Mode and the Sound Mode can be accessed directly using the Tools button on the remote control. There are also all the usual basic controls that you would expect to find on any LED TV such as Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint. From the Picture menu, you can access sub menus for Picture Size, 3D, Advanced Settings and Picture Options. You can also apply your calibrated picture mode to other inputs, although it didn't appear to copy the white balance or colour space settings which kind of defeats the object.
Within the Advanced Settings are all the key calibration controls, starting with Gamma which globally adjusts gamma across the entire image. Then there's a choice of a two-point White Balance control or a ten-point White Balance control which will allow for very accurate calibration of the greyscale. Finally, there's an option called Colour Space which gives you a choice between Auto, Native and Custom; if you choose Custom you have access to a full Colour Management System (CMS).
FeaturesThe UE55F9000 includes Samsung's superb Smart TV platform and uses a powerful quad-core processor that significantly boosts the performance with faster access to Smart features, higher quality video streaming and true multitasking capabilities. Samsung's Smart Hub remains a class leader, intelligently organising and managing all your content into five easy to navigate panels. The intuitive interface uses thumbnails to provide instant previews to help you quickly and easily select what you want to watch. The five panels include 'On TV', 'Films & TV Shows', 'Photos, Videos & Music', 'Social' and 'Apps'.
One area where Samsung have developed a clear lead is in terms of video-on-demand services and they are currently the only manufacturer to offer all the major catch-up and streaming services. There are apps for BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5, along with Netflix, LoveFilm and Blinkbox. In addition Samsung have recently added Wuaki.tv to the list of services they offer on their Smart TV platform, so it really does offer a one-stop shop when it comes to video-on-demand. There's also YouTube and Vimeo of course, which can be handy for taking full advantage of the UE55F9000, as here you can find some actual 4K content to watch.
Samsung's remote app is very impressive this year and there are versions for both iOS and Android, although we found the Apple version worked best. When we launched the app it immediately started streaming live TV and offered both a simplified and full version of the remote control. It also included a touchpad, a microphone feature for voice control and a full keyboard, so it's only a matter of time before your smartphone or tablet becomes the primary remote control. Overall we found the 2013 version of Samsung's Smart TV System to be absolutely superb, setting a reference to which other manufacturers will aspire - a full in-depth review can be found here.
Audio QualityIn terms of the sound quality, Samsung are clearly aware of the limitations of slim TVs and have been working hard to improve the performance in this area. The addition of greater amplification helps, as does the wider chassis where subwoofers have been included. The UE55F9000 includes two speakers at 2 x 15W and two subwoofers at 2 x 20W, which allows for a much improved audio performance. The larger screen size also helps create a greater sense of stereo separation and as a result the UE55F9000 could create a much better soundstage than many slimline TVs. Whilst you can't ultimately cheat the laws of physics, the sound quality has certainly been improving this year, with clear dialogue and well delivered music and effects.
CalibrationAs is aways the case with Samsung TVs, the best out-of-the-box choice is the Movie mode, which will deliver a performance that matches the industry standards as closely as possible for a factory setting. A list of suggested settings based on the measurements taken during the review can be found here.
The UE55F9000 delivered a very good greyscale performance out-of-the-box, with only some minor discolouration at the higher end of the scale. This was due to a slight excess of green and a deficit of blue, resulting in a slight yellow caste. The gamma was tracking just above our target of 2.2 at the lower end of the scale but was spot on from 50 to 100 IRE. The colour gamut performance was also impressive, with all the colours measuring close to their targets and combined DeltaEs (errors) below the threshold of three. Overall this is an excellent performance and given the available calibration controls we would expect to improve this still further.
The UE55F9000 includes both a two and a ten-point white balance control, so it was a simple task to get all three primary colours to measure in equal amounts. This resulted in errors that were well below the acuity of the human eye, delivering a smooth transition from black to white that was free of discolouration. The gamma was still tracking slightly above our target of 2.2 in the darker part of the image but this didn't adversely affect the picture and overall this is a reference performance.
The CMS employed by Samsung on their TVs is extremely effective and we were able to deliver a reference performance when measured at 100% saturation. All the colours were hitting their targets for Rec.709 precisely, whilst white was measuring at its target of D65. There was a tiny amount of under-saturation in red but, just like the greyscale, this is a reference performance overall.The measurements used for calibrating the colour gamut are taken at 100% saturation but looking at the performance of a display at lower saturation levels can often reveal issues that might not be present in the fully saturated measurements. This was the case with the UE55F9000, where despite red being slightly under-saturated at 100%, it proved to be a little over-saturated at lower stimulus levels. This was especially true around 25% which is the area affecting white skin tones and could sometimes be seen with real world material where flesh tones would appear slightly reddish. However, the other colours were tracking very close to their targets and overall the colour performance was very good.Whilst this is undoubtedly something of a lottery, in the case of our review sample the backlight uniformity was excellent, with no bright edges or obvious pooling. This general uniformity in the backlight was evidenced by the ANSI graphic shown above, where the various measurements for the black and white squares are reasonably consistent. Samsung are using a SPVA panel on the UE55F9000 and in our testing we measured the native black level at 0.05cd/m2 which is very good for a LCD TV. The UE55F9000 includes Samsung's Smart LED local dimming feature and unsurprisingly when activated the measured black levels reduced to 0.01cd/m2 in the low and standard settings and 0cd/m2 in the high setting. The UE55F9000 is also bright and we had no problems hitting our target of 120cd/m2 for white, which resulted in a very good on/off contrast ratio of 2,000:1 and a suitably wide dynamic range. The ANSI contrast ratio was also quite impressive, coming in at 1,529:1. The use of a SPVA panel may deliver better blacks but it also resulted in a narrow optimum viewing angle. Anything outside a 90 degree radius began to look a bit washed out, so correct placement will be critical, especially since the panel can't be swivelled.
The video processing on the UE55F9000 is especially important because for the time being, all the content you will be watching on it will be upscaled to the native 4K panel. Thankfully the video processing was absolutely superb, with all the content we watched being deinterlaced and scaled perfectly to match the 4K panel. The UE55F9000 proved extremely competent at deinterlacing and scaling standard definition content, with clear and crisp reproduction of fine details and no unwanted ringing. The Samsung also had no problems detecting both 3:2 and 2:2 cadence correctly and, as long as the Auto2 Film Mode was selected, scrolling video text over film was also delivered perfectly. The UE55F9000 aced all the other tests as well, delivering an almost flawless performance in every regard. The quality of the video deinterlacing at 1080i50 was just as good as it was for standard definition and there were no apparent issues with 24p content. All this content was perfectly scaled to match the panel and we saw none of the frame stutter of motion handling issues that have manifested on other Samsung models. In fact we found the overall motion handling to be quite impressive for a LCD TV and even fast moving sport looked quite good.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 160W
- Calibrated – Professional Mode: 159W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 222W
Samsung UE55F9000 Picture Quality 4KObviously the big selling point of the UE55F9000 is the inclusion of a native UHD panel but, as always, the problem lies in a lack of actual native 4K content. There's no doubt that the content will come, with a number of satellite providers already testing 4K broadcasts and Netflix talking about streaming 4K content by 2015. Once the standards have been agreed for 4K we can expect to see more announcements in this area and the Blu-ray Disc Association is looking at a 4K addition to the Blu-ray standard, so we will hopefully see a disc-based delivery system in the next two years. In the meantime we are limited to some 4K test footage that we have for review purposes, along with some content on YouTube and 4K still images. As always, when actually watching native 4K content on a UHD TV the results are spectacular, with a beautifully detailed image and no visible pixel structure. However, we would probably say that 55 inches is about as small as a 4K panel can be before the benefits are largely lost and it's on the bigger screen sizes that the format will prove most popular. At least with the F9000, you're safe in the knowledge that once the format's standards have been agreed and HDMI 2.0 has been released, it will be a relatively simple process to upgrade your new TV.
UE55F9000 Video Review
Samsung UE55F9000 Picture Quality 2DSo in the absence of any real 4K content, it's good old-fashioned high definition and maybe even standard definition that will be forming the majority of your viewing material for the foreseeable future. Thankfully the video processing and especially the scaling of lower resolution content to match the native 4K panel is excellent. It would seem that Samsung have also been making improvements to the video processing in general because with the UE55F9000 we didn't experience any of the frame stutter or 24p issues that we've noticed on previous models. In fact the overall motion handling was very good, especially for a LCD TV and there was no need to resort to the Motion Plus frame interpolation feature. Once you add in the highly accurate greyscale and colour gamut, the result is a genuinely impressive image, with clean and detailed images that take full advantage of the increased pixel density. When watching Blu-rays ,in particular, we could see that edges were smoother as the scaling took advantage of the 4K panel, thus reducing jaggies or stair-stepping. As a result even though you know that the UE55F9000 can't add extra detail to a 1080p source, the image does appear more defined and thus detailed.
The backlight uniformity on our sample was very good, although we appreciate this can be a lottery, and the S-PVA panel delivered decent blacks for a LCD panel. However the use of an S-PVA panel also means that the Samsung has a narrow optimum viewing angle and thus care should be taken when installing the TV, especially as it doesn't swivel. The UE55F9000 includes both Precision Black combined with Samsung's Micro Dimming technology and in the low setting this delivered an improved black level without crushing the blacks or reducing the detail in shadows. There was no evidence of any back door processing, such as noise reduction, on the UE55F9000 but there is also no Cinema Black feature. This is designed to turn off the LEDs in the black bars of 2.35:1 movies but we found it could result in brightness fluctuations. However we didn't find ourselves missing the feature because the local dimming did a superb job of producing deep blacks throughout the entire image. As a result the picture looked good both during the day and at night when black levels become more important. We watched a great deal of standard definition and 1080i content from Freeview, along with content from Netflix and on Blu-ray and overall the images looked excellent.
UE55F9000 Picture Quality 3DThe UE55F9000 is the first 4K UHD TV we have seen that uses active shutter 3D, as opposed to passive, and the results were generally very impressive. Samsung claim that by not having to use the passive filter they can deliver a brighter image and more perceived detail because of the use of the entire panel for both eyes. The 3D was certainly impressive and the combination of the new glasses, improved processing, higher resolution panel and the brighter picture all combined to deliver a truly immersive experience. When it came to side-by-side 3D broadcasts the UE55F9000 performed very well and when we moved on to 3D Blu-rays, things got even better, with no crosstalk and an image that had an incredible sense of detail and depth, with many objects having a real three dimensional 'pop' to them. The smooth motion handling and lack of judder or flicker were also impressive and we were glad to see that the backdoor frame interpolation evident on the F8000 has been removed on the F9000. During the testing, we watched a number of 3D Blu-rays, including the recently released The Great Gatsby, along with old favourites like The Hobbit and Hugo. All looked superb with Baz Luhrmann's hallucinogenic three dimensional visuals in The Great Gatsby were a particular highpoint, as they drew you into his fevered and highly stylised version of the 1920s.
- Impressive blacks and contrast ratio
- Good backlight uniformity
- Excellent greyscale and colour out-of-the-box
- Reference greyscale and colour after calibration
- Genuine future-proofing
- Excellent video processing
- Comprehensive calibration controls
- Quad-core processing
- Well designed and responsive menu system
- Reference Smart TV System
- Very effective remote app
- Twin tuners for both Freeview and satellite
- Built-in WiFi and camera
- Touch pad remote control
- Two pairs of 3D glasses
- Limited viewing angles
Samsung UE55F9000 4K Ultra HD TV Review
After some fairly avant garde designs from the Korean manufacturer recently, it comes as a pleasant surprise to discover that the UE55F9000 has such a traditional look. The simple black bezel and silver trim provide some classic styling, whilst the standard rectangular stand will be a hit with those looking to add a soundbar or centre speaker. As a flagship Samsung TV the build quality is excellent and the UE55F9000 comes with all the accessories you would expect including two remotes, two pairs of glasses, twin tuners, built-in WiFi, quad-core processing and an integrated camera. The first clue that the F9000 is different from the majority of its stable-mates is the inclusion of the One Connect box, an ingenious solution to the problem of 4K's developing standards. The majority of the inputs are on this box, which is then connected to the F9000 via a proprietary cable, thus providing a simple way to future proof the TV. Once the standards have been agreed, all Samsung need do is send out a replacement box and the F9000 will be immediately up to spec. It's an elegant solution which makes you wonder why more manufacturers haven't thought of it.
In terms of the other features, the 55UEF9000 includes Samsung's reference Smart TV platform, which is both comprehensive and, thanks to the inclusion of quad-core processing, very responsive. There is also Samsung's Smart Evolution feature that allows for another level of future-proofing in terms of the software and processing. The menu system remains a perfect example of clarity and intuitive navigation and, as always, there are extensive calibration controls. The out-of-the-box accuracy was very good and, after calibration, a reference level of accuracy could be achieved. Samsung have beefed up the sound on the F9000 and thanks to a slightly deeper chassis, the audio was actually quite good for a modern TV. The video processing was also excellent, with the F9000 perfectly scaling all content up to the native resolution of its 4K panel. The backlight uniformity was good and the black levels were excellent for a LCD TV, although the optimum viewing angles are quite limited. The power consumption was slighter higher than Samsung's comparable 1080p models, as was the input lag, which might be the result of the increased processing requirements.
Whilst there remains a lack of actual 4K content, what little we had for testing looked spectacular with an incredible level of detail that clearly distinguishes it from regular high definition. Having said that, a 55-inch screen is probably the smallest screen size that would actually benefit from the increased resolution and 4K UHD will undoubtedly be primarily used with larger screen sizes. When it came to watching 1080p content the results were almost as impressive, thanks to some very effective video processing, and all content appeared to benefit from the screen's higher pixel density. In fact, even standard definition looked very watchable and it would seem that Samsung have ironed out all the processing issues that have plagued previous models. Unlike the competition, Samsung are using active shutter 3D on their 4K UHD TVs and the results were superb, with bright and detailed images that had plenty of depth and were free of crosstalk.
Overall the Samsung UE55F9000 delivers a superb all-round performance, utilising its higher resolution screen to good effect with standard and high definition content and providing a genuine degree of future-proofing. The premium you'll pay for a 4K panel is falling all the time and if you're in the market for a new TV then the UE55F9000 looks like a very tempting proposition. All the features of a flagship TV and the inclusion of a 4K panel, all for a very reasonable price... welcome to the revolution.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality9
Ease Of Use10
Value for Money8
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