Samsung UE55JS8500 (JS8500) Ultra HD 4K TV Review
Curve, what curve?
What is the Samsung UE55JS8500?The UE55JS8500 is the 55-inch model in Samsung's curved JS8500 range, there is also the 65-inch UE65JS8500 and the 48-inch UE48JS8500. The JS8500 range is the entry level SUHD TV, which are designed to offer a degree of UHD future proofing. As such they use Nano Crystal technology, which is Samsung's proprietary version of quantum dot, to create a wider colour space that is 92% of the DCI standard. They also use edge lighting with more efficient LEDs and a newer brighter panel that allows it to support High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 10-bit video. In terms of the differences between the JS8500 and the JS9000, the former uses Quad-Core processing rather than Octa-Core and doesn't have the full sized One Connect box but otherwise the two are, on-paper at least, identical. At the time of publishing (June 2015) the 55-inch JS8500 has a fairy consistent online price just under £2,350, so it best put the Super into UHD.
Design & ConnectionsIt’s clearly a side-effect of the ‘job’ but the sight of a curved TV is currently more commonplace than that of a flatty. Don’t get us wrong, the JS8500 is one sleek and beautiful television but we are saying the wow factor does wear thinner over time. This TV doesn’t just look good from the front, either, the back panel is also pretty designer with its textured and tactile charcoal finish. The swooping base-stand is also very elegant and not so long that it won’t fit on a ‘conventional’ AV stand; measured tip to tip, its span is almost exactly 86cm, just in case you need to check.
We were originally under the impression that the JS8500 range wouldn’t ship with Samsung’s (hopefully) future-proofed One Connect Box but that’s not quite the case. It, in fact, comes with a shrunken down One Connect Mini that houses the 4 HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 compliant ports, 2 USB 2.0 inputs and a Toslink digital audio out. I, personally, fell out with the full fat One Connect because of its intrusively noisy fan but there isn’t one inside the Mini. I could detect a slight whine to the thing when the house was extremely quiet but I needed to be up close and personal so it’s a non-issue in those terms but since the Mini doesn’t contain any of the video processing chips, it doesn't get hot so it doesn't need a fan. It also means it’s not the future-proofed proposition the full fat one provides.
Smaller and quieter but less future-proofed than the full sized One Connect box.
Barring the power input, all the other connections are behind the right side of the screen and include a headphone jack, a USB 3.0 input, terminals for satellite and aerial connections and a LAN port. The JS8500 naturally also features built-in Wi-Fi and thankfully supports both the 2.4 and 5Ghz bands; if you’re planning on taking advantage of the built-in Ultra HD streaming apps, the 5Ghz band should give you better performance, provided the TV isn’t too far away from the router. Finally we have the terminal for the One Connect lead and very small inputs for the supplied adapters covering legacy video (Scart, Component, Composite) types; this probably won’t be the last time this is stated in the review but, if your primary viewing is still standard definition based, don’t rush into buying an Ultra HD TV.
Remote ControlsIn the year 2015 a TV cannot justifiably be classed as high-end unless it comes with a minimum of two control mechanisms and the UEJS8500 duly obliges with its brace of remotes. To get an idea of the standard controller, just glance at the picture beneath and you’ll need no further words on the matter. The other is more interesting, and certainly more coffee table friendly with its contoured chassis matching that of the screen. Functionality wise, the smart remote has navigation buttons and a pointer for effective motion control and is optimised for the Smart TV platform. There’s also a built in microphone for voice commands and some basic options covering the menus, channel selection and volume plus a discreet mute button placed on the left side. It’s heavier than it looks and feels good in the hand and overall we were more than happy to use it on a day to day basis.
Features & SpecsThe UE55JS8500 incorporates all the new picture features found on Samsung's 2015 SUHD range of TVs and uses a curved screen with an edge LED backlight. It supports Ultra HD 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) and includes Quad-Core picture processing. The JS8500 also features Peak Illuminator Pro, which is designed to boost the brightness of the image by taking energy not being used in dark parts of the image and using it to boost the brighter parts; along with Precision Black local dimming and Auto Depth Enhancer.
The JS8500 uses a new filter on its curved screen that is designed to reduce unwanted reflections and includes extensive calibration controls. There is the Smart LED local dimming feature with settings for Low, Standard and High, along with the Auto Motion Plus feature that can be used to reduce motion blur. Along with Nano Crystal technology, which is Samsung's proprietary version of quantum dot, the 10-bit panel also uses a new LED light source and improved transmittance. The Quad-Core processing adds content orientated picture quality enhancements and quantum colour expression to better map colours to the TV's colour space.
Samsung Tizen Smart TV PlatformIn terms of the framework and user interface, the Tizen platform is pretty much there but, at the current time, a little bit lacking in key content. For starters, there’s no ITV Player, BBC iPlayer or Demand 5 so the only major UK catch-up service available is All 4. The iPlayer is labelled as coming soon but no sign of the other two. We’ve asked Samsung for an update on when we might see them. The stars of the show – as far as we are concerned, at least – are there in the shape of the Ultra HD streaming apps from Netflix and Amazon and we’ll look at both of those in the picture quality section. As soon as it’s more complete, we will conduct a full review of the Tizen platform but for now will summarise as, slick, pretty, easy to use but as yet unfinished.
Tizen-t quite finished yet
Input LagKerching! Continuing their blazing start to 2015 with their Ultra HD range, the 55JS8500 recorded an incredibly low 21.9 millisecond delay to controller input on our testing device. Frankly, if you want something quicker because you’re some kind of superhuman, or something, then you’ll need to check out a dedicated gaming monitor but good luck finding one this big. We also took the opportunity to have a play in the native colour space and whilst it can look too over the top with some games, it looks truly spectacular with others; Mario Kart 8 was a particular joy!
Picture SettingsMost of the hard work is done for you in simply selecting the Movie viewing mode, which disengages, and engages, most of the options we would have told you to select. We’d further advise experimenting with the Motion Plus settings in the Picture Options menu, and we would say start with it off and see how you go from there. If you find yourself seeing a lot of motion blur, use the lowest settings and work up until you get it to your liking. For movie content, we would definitely advise leaving it off at all times. The other one to have a play around with is the Smart LED control, which governs the dimming system in the JS8500. It is set at Medium by default but we found that could introduce some noticeable haloing of bright objects on dark backgrounds so we switched it to Low which reduced the effect to very tolerable levels. You could also set Backlight, Contrast and Brightness to match your viewing conditions by following the guides in our Picture Perfect section.
CalibrationLike the curved screen, incredibly accurate picture accuracy straight from the factory is becoming fairly commonplace, but probably more welcomed. Greyscale accuracy was excellent with just a touch too much red energy present which increased the closer to white we got. Still, most deltaE errors were in the highly tolerable range so very difficult to spot at all but to the highly trained eye. Colours, similarly showed great fidelity with just a few luminance fixes to put straight to achieve reference performance.
Starting with the two point white balance control, we were able to get dE’s under 1.5 across the board after just one pass; we then used the finer ten point controls to completely flatten response and get gamma tracking to target. The calibration suite in the Samsung is very responsive and pleasingly predictable so it was an even speedier job to get the colours on target.
With a look toward the now not too distant future, we measured the JS8500 against the DCI golour gamut and Samsung’s claims of it being able to hit about 92% of this extended colour space seem spot on. You are looking at a non-calibrated chart so it would have been possible to make improvements in the hue and luminance but the JS8500 certainly looks in decent shape when the content to match is available. As a side note, switching between a full red pattern on the native colour space and the Rec. 709 equivalent is quite a depressing experience - that’s not red!!
Picture QualityAfter a solid week of viewing of the Samsung UE55JS8500, watching the first twenty minutes, or so, of episode 5 of Netflix Ultra HD exclusive, Daredevil, kind of summed up the entire experience with its strengths and weaknesses fully on show. A scene from one of the Russian baddies’ hideout where there is sunlight pouring through thick glass into a dark room emphasised the JS8500’s ability to produce extremely contrast rich pictures, with the brightest parts of the image close to being uncomfortable to view while there was plenty of detail retained in the darker portions. It’s not HDR, yet, but the way the series is shot gives you some idea of what it will look like when it arrives later in the year and it shows the Peak Illuminator tech is definitely doing some good work.
The entire series of Daredevil is punctuated with scenes set very late at night, in dark and dingy backstreets where lighting is provided either in bright neon form or by a car headlamp, and here the JS8500 gets an opportunity to show off its dimming capabilities and it’s a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. For most of the time it does hold up but it can be caught by the camera panning around and you might just notice instances where you can see the backlighting changing its luminance levels in a very obvious way. Well, the LED lighting is actually at the edges and that’s where you can see the fluctuations more easily. I certainly didn’t notice this so much with the JS9000 so this is definitely one advantage of the higher-tiered model. There’s one scene, in particular, within those first twenty minutes where a camera is panning around in a 360-degree movement where it is very easy to spot. This particular sample also showed some slight patchy uneven distribution of light towards the top-right corner, although general screen uniformity was excellent and didn’t detract from the stellar image quality of the streamed Netflix UHD content.
So does the JS8500 need the help of the dimming feature? Well, arguably not as native black levels are good at around 0.069 cd/m2 with Smart LED disengaged. On balance, however, we left it on Low as the brightness pumps are infrequent and there’s a definite benefit in perceived contrast and dynamic range for over ninety percent of the time. In that configuration we got average black levels of 0.056cd/m2 from a chequerboard pattern, resulting in an ANSI contrast ratio of 2325:1. Whilst good, that’s not a stellar number but it doesn’t really give the true idea of what the JS8500 is capable of with real world content. It does produce a lovely image, with extremely convincing colours and it’s not restricted to looking its best only with 4K content. Admittedly, almost all of the standard definition channels from the inbuilt tuners looked poor but, then, that’s exactly what they are and you should be seeking out HD alternatives whenever possible. We appreciate some people still harbour DVDs for perfectly legitimate reasons and the scaling engine in tandem with the flawless film cadence detection means that a good transfer will look perfectly fine but you can’t expect miracles.
Very little to fault, picture quality wise, but it's not quite so impressive as the JS9000
From anywhere 720p - and up - you’re laughing, however, as the scaling demands become far less onerous at this point and even relatively low picture quality streaming services such as NOW TV looked more than passable. There have also been tangible improvements made to the deinterlacing of 1080i content, so broadcast sports look far better than with the 2014 models although still without quite the clarity a good 1080p TV would show. The motion handling is also good and if you’re not susceptible to flicker – as I unfortunately am – then you can improve the look of it by engaging the Auto Motion Plus setting in a custom configuration with LED Clear Motion set to On. In doing so you will notice the image dims as the process uses a black frame insertion technique similar to one used in cinema projection but the JS8500 has oodles of light power at its disposal, so you can just turn up the Backlight to compensate. For those interested, we measured an all-white screen at 275 cd/m2 in the Movie mode, which is enough for almost any room perhaps bar a greenhouse. For those saying that’s not enough for HDR, which demands a minimum of 500cd/m2, well it’s not really relevant to a full screen measurement and besides which, the test patterns don’t have the metadata to engage the HDR processing.
And that was four paragraphs without mentioning the curve. The reason for that is quite simple, I was barely aware of it when the TV was switched on, which probably gives you a fair indication of my feelings on it; I neither like nor dislike it, it’s just there, although perhaps it does add just a little more depth with 3D content. There’s a hint of crosstalk now and again in high contrast scenes but that generally doesn’t detract from the highly detailed and engaging experience. The brightness capacity of the panel also helps the 3D look both vivid and natural, although as we’ve seen with others in the range there’s a slight ‘soapiness’ in the motion handling, regardless of any motion processing settings being engaged or not. Curiously, setting Motion Plus to ‘Clear’ provided the most natural looking motion handling but it’s still not quite ‘right’. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker for me, however, but then I’m not exactly a fan of the format and it seems Samsung care as much as I do about 3D since they don’t include any 3D eyewear in the box. You don’t need special specs for HDR – well maybe sunglasses - but on the subject of sunshine – he says, shoe-horning it in here because he nearly forgot – Samsung has made major improvements in the ant-reflective properties of the screen coating which means the JS8500 is normally very watchable in the daytime, i.e. you don’t feel like you’re at the funfair, in the hall of mirrors, like some of last year’s curved TVs could make you feel. Viewing angles are a concern, however, and there is very noticeable contrast drop-off once you move 35-40 degrees off-centre.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of DCI - 100% best) 92% 10-bit Panel HDMI 2.0a Inputs HDCP 2.2 Support HEVC Decoding 4K Streaming Services Smart TV Platform Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10) 7 What do these mean?
- Gorgeous design
- Great connectivity
- Tizen UI is smart
- Highly impressive dynamic range
- Ultra-low input lag
- Generally great screen uniformity
- Some key apps missing from Tizen
- Dimming system could be better
- Some slight dark screen uniformity concerns
Samsung UE55JS8500 (JS8500) Ultra HD 4K TV Review
Should I buy the Samsung UE55JS8500?Well it’s a thing of beauty, if you value looks, that’s for sure. The curve of the screen is quite gentle and the base stand swoops in tandem with it to provide a super-sleek design. The JS8500 also features great connectivity with no less than four HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 inputs housed in the One Connect Mini, which also offers a tidy wire management solution; unlike the full sixed One Connect Box, the Mini offers no processing upgrade path, however, although it is somewhat questionable how much that feature has actually been worth it in the past. Even one of the remote controls is curved but it is also highly effective in providing motion pointing and voice control which really come in to their own when using the Tizen Smart TV platform.
Talking of which, the suite of video streaming apps is not yet on a par with that of previous generations so, for now, we’re missing BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and Demand 5 (not a big miss, admittedly) but there are a couple of jewels in the crown with both Amazon Prime Instant and Netflix allowing for Ultra HD video streaming. Thanks to its very strong contrast and superb colour palette, the JS8500 made 4K images look predictably superb but, to be fair, anything 720p and upwards looked smashing. The dimming system employed is not without flaws however – and certainly not as good as that in the JS900 – but impressive native black levels and generally excellent dark screen uniformity mean you won’t necessarily need it. There were a couple of small patches where the edge lighting wasn’t being distributed evenly but they were far from over-intrusive.
On the subject of the curve we’re still not really convinced, although perhaps with 3D it does lend just a little more depth. More importantly it doesn’t cause any issues and the reflectivity of the JS8500 is commendably now, thanks to improvements made in the coating. All in all, the Samsung UEJS8500 provides everything we would expect from a high-end Samsung TV - great design, cutting edge tech, a bevy of well thought-out Smart TV features but, above all, high quality pictures. Recommended.
What else could I buy?The good news is that amongst the ’name’ brands, at least, it is easier to find a top-notch Ultra HD TV than it is a 1080p one. My first port of call for a demo would be the Panasonic TX-55CX802B which provides pretty much exactly the same deal in terms of picture quality, future-proofing and Smart TV features (Panasonic's isn’t quite finished either) for a price around £200 less than the JS8500; it’s not as good looking, however. If you want to go the other way with price, then we would probably point you in the direction of the Samsung UE55JS900 which boasts a better dimming system than the JS8500 but comes with a premium of about £400 on top but for that you will get the full One Connect box. And if you fancy a size hike, you might want to think about the 65-inch LG UF850V which is actually some £250 less expensive than the Samsung. It doesn’t have the black levels nor the dynamic range of the Samsung but it does provide a very creditable image.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality8
Picture Quality Calibrated9
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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