The pinnacle of LED TV engineering, so far?
What is the Samsung UE65F9000?
The Ultra HD revolution continues to gather pace, with more and more manufacturers beginning to show their 4K hands.We’ve already seen the ‘junior’, 55-inch member of the Samsung F9000 family and it left Steve Withers highly impressed but the extra 10-inch diagonal screen size of the 65-inch F9000, under scrutiny here, is going to place greater strain on Samsung’s video processing prowess. After all, there’s still virtually nothing available to watch in the 65F9000’s native, 3840 x 2160 pixel count.So the emphasis, at least for the time being, is on how it copes with lesser resolutions. With a price tag just shy of £5,000, this display is certainly going to have to excel in the core departments to get anywhere near justifying it’s place in the market – 4K panel, or not. Let’s see how this big gun of the Resolution Revolution fares on the front line.
Design & ConnectionsThe 65F9000 is unmistakably a Samsung display, bearing the ultra-thin black bezel outside of the gloss black screen and finished with a silver trim on its edges. Nothing remarkable there, in this day and age, but for an LED/LCD TV it does carry a weight of noteworthy status. For those accustomed to setting up large screen LED TVs, we’d issue a word of caution that you will need to phone a friend in order to get this one up on to its heavyweight rectangular base-stand. Once safely erected, the 65F9000 is an impressive and imposing sight but surprisingly low-slung, so placing a soundbar or centre speaker in front is likely to result in a small portion of the screen being obscured.
You'll need to phone a friend to get this baby up
Aside from the mass, the other extraordinary design feature of the F9000 comes in its connectivity options. To negate the inevitable changes in both the HDMI and Ultra HD specifications, as the format finds its feet, Samsung has created the One Connect box which houses virtually all the interfaces for connected equipment, including 4 HDMI ports, 2 USB and a digital audio out. The ‘One Connect’ then attaches to the chassis of the F9000 with a proprietary video cable. The Samsung F9000's One Connect box will be upgradeable as and when standard are updated, so there should be no worries on being future-proofed but Samsung aren't a charity, so expect there to be costs associated.
...there should be no worries on being future-proofed.
As is the norm for a high-end TV these days, the 65F9000 comes with 2 remote control choices in the box. One is a standard black plastic affair, which feels totally out of place in such a high-end package, whilst the other is far more ‘designer’. The touchpad remote looks like something from a sci-fi movie and as well as the eponymous touch controls, also allows for voice controls and search via the built-in mic. Also included are a variety of basic, well-used controls but, in all honesty, we still preferred the conventional route and it’s not as good as LG’s Magic Motion controller so there’s some work to do before it can be regarded as a viable, full replacement.
One Cheap/One Chic
MenusSamsung’s high-end displays always present an almost baffling set of options and the F9000 is no exception. The Picture Menu, alone, goes on for pages and pages but we’re thankful of the generous set of calibration controls. Most of the fancy sounding, ‘enhancement’ controls can actually be disabled although there are a couple we’ll look at later on that can - and do - bring benefits. A quick shortcut to switching off all, or at least most, of these processing options is to select the Movie Picture mode, which will also bring the added advantage of presenting the most accurate images. And if all the options are too much, you can always turn to the helpful e-manual built-in to the menu system.
FeaturesWhat the F9000 hasn’t got, Smart TV-wise, would probably be easier to cover, as Samsung truly has thrown the kitchen sink at this one. At the heart of the Samsung offering is the redesigned Smart Hub from where you can get at pretty much all that’s on offer. Samsung has, this year, split the content in to five separate categories (sorry, panels) these include 'On TV', 'Films & TV Shows', 'Photos, Videos & Music', 'Social' and 'Apps'.Samsung has gone heavy in their products’ integration to your existing set up, including the ability to incorporate channel listings from the likes of Sky, Virgin and Freeview and use them in their content suggesting, S-recommendation feature. There’s also an IR extender in the box that will allow you to use the touchpad remote as a controller for a set-top-box but in the case of using a TiVo at least, it’s a somewhat convoluted process.
Samsung’s continues to be the only Smart TV manufacturer able to offer the catch-up services of all the major free to air platforms, so there are players from ITV, the iPlayer, 4OD and Demand 5 built-in, as well as loads of paid-for services such as Netflix and LOVEFiLM. Naturally YouTube also makes an appearance but there’s literally dozens more to get your teeth in to.. If you can’t find anything to watch, or listen, to from the web then the F9000 has you well covered as a media streamer, with a very generous number of file types supported, including MP4, MKV, MP3 jpeg, to name but a few. It all ticks over very nicely too, thanks to the inclusion of quad core processing and to top things off, the bezel is home to a built-in, retractable camera that can be used for Skype video calls or leaving messages on.
So Smart, it hurts
As we can see, in the default Movie mode, there really wasn’t too much wrong with the 65F9000’s output. Greyscale tracking showed a slight predominance of green in the whites and a bit too much blue in the darker portions of the picture but it’s hard to fault for a pre-set. Likewise, colours were also pretty much where they need to be against the HDTV Rec.709 standard, with just a few minor errors to iron out using the CMS.
Samsung’s calibration controls are amongst the best in the business and using both the 2 and 10 point White Balance controls we were able to dial in perfect greyscale and gamma tracking. The only thing we couldn’t fully fix with the controls was the slight under-saturation in red but it got close enough to prove virtually unnoticeable.
Just as importantly, colour tracking at lower saturation points was fantastically accurate, resulting in pictures that were very believable across the board. One thing we would note, if Rec 2020 becomes the colour standard for UHD TV, then this panel is not likely to be able to cope with the added demands of the more saturated colour palette but as nothing is agreed yet, that’s a moot point for now.
Contrast, Black Levels & Screen Uniformity
Perhaps Samsung’s greatest achievement with this 65-inch F9000, is in producing a panel with almost pristine uniformity. To be hyper-critical, there was a very faint, scotch pancake size patch of light visible toward centre left of the screen, on an all-black background but even that disappeared with the Smart LED control engage; and engage it you should. Even with it ramped up all the way to High, there’s no sense of details being crushed and few enough side-effects to make it a must. That said, we’ll give little to no credibility to the 0 cd/m2 measurement we took on a completely blackend screen with Smart LED set at High but the averaged reading of 0.33cd/m2, from a checkerboard pattern, would seem fair reflection of actual performance.
For the number crunchers, that’s an ANSI contrast of about 3500:1, which is very good, and made all the more so by the excellent screen uniformity. Our only real cause for complaint, from a screen consistency standpoint, was panel banding with some panning shots. Again, sporting content is a good place to go and see this issue but it rarely proved a distraction.
Smart LED is a must to bring out the best in the F9000
On paper (or is that screen), the Samsung 65F9000’s video processing is immense. Scaling of even lowly standard definition signals was nearly flawless and the same can be said for the deinterlacing and cadence detection qualities. In practical terms, the combination of having to both deinterlace and scale sometimes caused edges to break with real world content. It’s the challenge of eliminating blur with fast paced content that’s a more pressing concern, however, and it’s something we particularly noticed when watching Football at 1080i50. There is the option of trying the LED, or regular, Motion Plus processing but the former proved ineffectual and the latter erratic, introducing frequent jerky and stuttering movement. So, we need the standards bodies to come to the rescue by making sure they insist on frame rates brisk enough to ensure we’re not going to be seeing too much undue blur with our UHD sporting content; 120fps doesn’t seem unreasonable here but that’s also probably beyond what LED/LCD could reasonably support.
UE65F9000 Picture Quality 4K Ultra HDLet’s face it, there’s not a great deal of content for us to discuss here. Samsung provided us with a couple of demos with a native 3840 x 2160 resolution, in h264@50Mbps and it would be fair to say both looked sublime. One – a familiar subject of Samsung demo material – was a cookery slot whilst the other was a whistle-stop tour of the Sydney harbour area. Would I have noticed the lumps in the Hollandaise sauce and the granules of non-melted chocolate in the ganache at 1080p? Possibly but there was a certain texture and life-like quality to images we’ve not really witnessed with Full HD, on a television, at least. Likewise, the footage from around Sydney was blessed with an enhanced sense of reality – hippos, for some reason, look incredible at Ultra HD resolutions and the detail evident in Sydney Harbour Bridge was mesmerising.
Native 4K can be mesmerising
In an ideal world, we’d have been given the same content at 1080p as a comparison but that wasn’t on offer so we experimented with viewing distances vs detail perceivable, as best we could. (As a quick side note, I have slightly better than 20/20 vision and have never required prescription glasses). From our usual viewing spot – 7 feet and 10 inches away (yes, we measured), we couldn’t quite pick out all the rivets and imperfections on the Bridge and it was only when we were just inside 6ft, that we were able to resolve the full picture. That’s a pretty close seating position for a screen so large and certainly untypical of the average living room setup.
So, does that mean UHD is going to be a waste of time for most? Well, we won’t answer that question for anyone, you need your own eyes to be the arbiters on that, but, from what we’ve seen so far, the benefits aren’t solely resolution based. The above mentioned solidity and texture of images is incredibly pleasing and - if the pertinent standards bodies get their wish - wider colour spaces and increased frame rates will only help seal the deal. Whether an LED/LCD TV will ever really be up to those new challenges is another matter but with OLED waiting in the wings, the future looks promising for Ultra High Definition, if only from an enthusiasts standpoint. We’ll let the manufacturers worry about how to sell the idea to the masses whilst we carry on enjoying the fruits of their endeavours. We will just close by saying that we can’t wait for the next UHD TV to arrive with a whole batch of new content for us to salivate over.
UE65F9000 Picture Quality Full HDWhilst getting excited about the future is all well and good, the here and now isn’t 4K. We’d presume that most people prepared to stump up 5 grand on a TV will at least have some interest in picture quality and, for that, they are really going to need to be sending the 65F9000 a minimum of 720p. In fairness, Samsung’s scaling engine is superb. Those (rare) SD channels with decent bitrates can look passable and a high quality DVD transfer can look surprisingly good, but you shouldn’t be expecting miracles from the majority of standard definition material available.
A little late to the party, perhaps, I’ve just started watching Game of Thrones on Blu-ray and it’s testament to the qualities of the 65F9000 at 1080p24, that I was compelled to romp through all the episodes before it was sent back. With the Smart LED control engaged – and you should – black levels and dynamic range were superb with no sense of detail being lost.
For an edge-lit LED the dimming system is truly astonishing and as accurate as any we’ve encountered in a full array LED. There were times it could be caught out – any scenes which are predominantly dark with flickering flames (plenty of those in GoT), would cause the screen to briefly illuminate all-over but Smart LED is still most certainly worth using.
There were even times when the 65F9000 could make Blu-ray look better than 1080p, such is the finesse of the video processing, but that’s pretty much restricted to scenes that are almost static. One of the major challenges for Ultra HD TVs is to maintain clarity with moving pictures; all those extra pixels will show up any blur more clearly and whilst that wasn’t really an issue with the Blu-rays we watched, it was certainly evident with several football matches we viewed at 1080i50. We can certainly see now why the ITU and EBU are pushing for framerate of 120fps, and beyond, and to be frank, we’d have preferred to watch our sport on a 1080p native panel. Movies are another matter, however.
To be frank, we’d have preferred to watch our sport on a 1080p native panel. Movies are another matter, however.
Picture Quality 3D
The Samsung 65F9000 certainly has a lot going for it with 3D content. There’s size in particular, 65-inches is excellent for 3D in the home, giving pictures the necessary impact and depth and the almost stellar brightness the F9000 possesses ensures they’re delivered with impressive punch. The F9000 employs an active shutter 3D system but we never felt there was undue flicker or any real sense of eye-fatigue but we could certainly see a little crosstalk, at times, in very high contrast scenes. Still, no matter, the Samsung 65F9000 delivered one of the best 3D experiences we’ve had in home, to date.
One of the best 3D experiences we’ve had in home, to date.
- Superior dimming technology
- Incredibly life-like images
- Almost uncanny uniformity
- Tremendous scaling of lower res content
- Knock-out picture accuracy
- Built to last
- Smarter than your average TV
- Sports & fast paced action can be blurry
- It aint cheap when there's little to no 4K content
Samsung UE65F9000 4K Ultra HD TV ReviewSamsung has come out all guns blazing in these first exchanges of the Ultra HD Revolution. The Samsung 65F9000 is a kick-ass, killer, kosher and near kingly 4K TV that is as much testament to the Koreans’ engineering know-how as it is to the dawn of a new era.
The first thing that strikes you is the build quality - it's reassuringly solid and heavy and the One Connect box means you won't be left floundering when the standards start changing. Menu interfaces and navigation are smooth and slick and Samsung has stuck in just about every Smart feature one could hope for.
Out of the box, the F9000 was already fairly faithful to Industry standards but following a quick calibration, performance was absolutely Reference category. Combine stunningly accurate colours with superb dimming and you get pictures that leap out of the screen, dripping in dynamic range.
Video processing was generally so good that the 4K panel even managed to improve the better 1080p content we gave it to digest, although sports and fast moving content at 1080i showed the limitations of LED technology. For Ultra HD to succeed, we need the standards bodies to ensure we have high enough framerates so that the next gen of TV entertainment doesn't become a blur-fest.
All in all, the Samsung F9000 is an absolute triumph of engineering. We'd certainly encourage anyone tempted in to the world of Ultra HD to put it right at the top of their go-see list but, caveat emptor, there's little to no native content to watch on it. For now, at least.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
2D Picture Quality8
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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