Is this the best LCD TV ever made?
What is the Samsung JS9500?The UE65JS9500 is Samsung's latest flagship Ultra HD 4K TV or, as they would rather you called it, SUHD TV. What does the 'S' stand for? Well apparently it can stand for whatever you want it to. Samsung have been quite vocal in their continued support of LCD technology, especially in the light of competition from OLED which is being primarily championed by their arch rivals LG. However Samsung feel that as things currently stand, LCD provides the best way to effectively deliver the kind of performance that UHD is going to require. That's because we're about to enter a brave new world of TV standards, with Ultra HD adopting a number of improvements and not just increased resolution. So it appears that the new format will also use 10-bit video, a wider colour space and high dynamic range (HDR).
We'll cover all of these things in greater detail later but suffice to say these are exciting times as decades old TV standards finally catch-up with the actual display technology. As a result, the JS9500 represents the very apex of LED LCD development and is designed as a statement product from Samsung that will include everything the company currently has to offer including a curved screen, direct LED backlight, 3D, octal-core processing, a One Connect box and their latest Smart TV platform powered by Tizen. It's a statement product but it comes with an equally statement price and the 65-inch model (which is the smallest in a range that also includes 78- and 88-inch screen sizes) will set you back a cool £5,999 when it hits the shops. So can the JS9500 live up to the hype that has surrounded it and it's hefty price tag? Let's find out.
Editors Note: We always fully disclose to our readers what it is we are reviewing and why. This model is not released for retail until the end of March and as such all UK reviews of this TV are currently based on either a show floor demo at CES, a closed door preview at Samsung UK or in the case of this review, a pre-production review sample being sent to us directly from Samsung. The sample has been tested in our usual review environment and it was treated the same way any TV sent in for review is. Readers should bear in mind that we can't guarantee the final retail production units that ship to retailers will be exactly the same as this sample unit. However, we don't think there will be any major differences in terms of design, layout or performance. This review will be updated when we test the retail version, in the mean time please enjoy the preview review of what should be an exciting 2015 TV.
Update: Since completing the original review, we have tested an actual retail sample and the results were just as impressive as the pre-production sample. The actual retail sample of the JS9500 we tested delivered an out-of-the-box performance that was just as accurate as the pre-production sample and it also excelled in every other aspect. Based upon our experiences with both a pre-production and a full production unit of the Samsung 65JS9500, we can safely say that it's the best LED LCD TV we have reviewed to date.
DesignThe Samsung design team have been busy again, delivering yet another example of a modern TV with a stylish and contemporary look. The screen is curved of course and we're pleased to see that Samsung have improved the filter, making it far less prone to unwanted reflections. The JS9500 uses a direct LED backlight, so the chassis is deeper than previous generations but this just adds to the overall feeling of a solid and well-engineered product. The JS9500 has a silver brushed metal trim around the outer edge and a 1cm wide matching bezel with a chamfered finish. The overall design looks great but any reflected light on the shiny bezel can be distracting, which is why we generally prefer black. Speaking of distractions, there is an illuminated Samsung logo at the bottom centre of the screen which can thankfully be turned off.
There's a built-in camera and microphones at the top centre of the frame, which you press to pop-up for calls etc. and then push down again when you're finished. The stand has also had a redesign and now looks like a cross between last year's curved stand and the classic quad foot. The result is a chrome curved bar with a matching rear support, which looks attractive but unfortunately can't be swivelled. However the all-metal construction not only adds to the solidity of the JS9500 but emphasises its flagship status. Around the back of the panel there is a recessed area on the left where you plug the two-pin power cable in and another recessed area on the right where you attach the proprietary cable for the One Connect box. Also at the rear, on the bottom left is small joy stick control and some buttons in case you misplace both of the provided remotes.
The JS9500 has the classic looks of a Samsung TV and includes the excellent One Connect box.
Connections and ControlThe JS9500 comes with Samsung's handy One Connect box, which is such a great idea that we wonder why none of the competition have ever copied the concept. The idea is simple but highly effective because by putting all the connections and processing into the One Connect box, it becomes much easier to upgrade the JS9500 should that ever be necessary. It also means that there are only two connections going to the panel itself, the proprietary One Connect cable and the power cord - handy if you're wall-mounting.
Obviously Samsung are trying their best to make sure that you won't need to upgrade the JS9500 and as such it already has Octa-Core processing, the latest version of Samsung's Smart TV platform, HDMI 2.0 inputs, HEVC decoding and support for HDCP 2.2 copy protection. However you never know and should Samsung ever need to upgrade the JS9500, say for HDMI 2.2 perhaps, then all they need to do is swap out the One Connect box. Of course there may be a cost attached, but at least it's an option.
In terms of the actual connections, the One Connect box includes four HDMI 2.0 inputs and three USB ports. There's also twin tuners for both terrestrial and satellite TV, along with a Common Interface (CI) slot. In addition there are inputs for composite and component video, digital optical audio, an IR extender and a headphone socket. There's a proprietary connector for the cable that connects the box to the TV, as well as a LAN port, although the JS9500 has built-in WiFi.
The One Connect box mirrors the rest of the TV with a silver brushed metal finish and a well built feel to the unit. The first generation of the One Connect box could get quite hot due to the processors inside but Samsung managed to address that issue last year. Obviously with Octa-Core processing in this year's model, the amount of heat produced has increased and so Samsung have included fans for cooling. You can hear these fans when the volume is low or off but you can always put the box away somewhere.
In terms of remotes the JS9500 comes with two, the first of which is a plain black plastic controller. It includes all the buttons you would ever need to control the TV but, aside from during setup, you probably won't use most of them very often. For that reason Samsung provide a simplified smart controller that has been optimised for use with the Smart TV platform. This smart controller is well made and fits comfortably in the hand, whilst its silver brushed metal finish matches the rest of the TV's styling.
The smart remote includes navigation buttons and a pointer for effective motion control of all the smart features on the JS9500 but as an alternative there is also a free remote app available for both iOS and Android. This app is well designed, with a slick and attractive user interface and includes all the controls you will need to control the TV. Whilst there are already two other ways to control the JS9500, the ability to use your smartphone or tablet as a remote is a welcome addition.
UE65JS9500 Features and SpecsSince the JS9500 is Samsung's flagship TV, it comes with just about every feature imaginable including the One Connect box and two remote controls; although the 3D glasses are sold separately. It also incorporates Samsung's proprietary Nano Crystal technology, along with a new 10-bit panel that uses an improved light source with higher transmittance. It also has Octa-Core processing with quantum colour expression, a peak illuminator and content-orientated PQ enhancements. Nano Crystal technology is Samsung's version of quantum dot and means that the TV can deliver purer and more precise colours by adjusting the size and thus the wavelength of the ultra fine particles in the nano crystal layer, allowing it to deliver 92% of DCI.
In addition the cell structure of the panel has been changed to improve the transmittance making it 37% brighter, whilst the LEDs are 20% more efficient, thus improving the black levels and creating a better contrast ratio. The panel also offers 10-bit colour depth and Quantum Colour Expression processing which uses an increased number of colour adjustment points to better map content to the TV's wider colour space. The Peak Illuminator allows the TV to take full advantage of its increased brightness and improved contrast ratio, boosting the brightness to 1,000nit without using additional power. The Peak Illuminator analyses the image and converts energy from the dark parts of the picture to the bright parts, thus improving the contrast ratio and boosting the dynamic range.
The JS9500 also uses a direct backlight and local dimming to produce a superior overall performance, whilst the Auto Depth Enhancer has been improved and now works on an object-based rather than area-based methodology. Finally Samsung have updated their Smart TV platform, which is now powered by Tizen and offers a host of new features as well as a completely redesigned user interface. Since our review sample was a pre-production unit and the smart platform is still being developed and tested, we will wait until after its official launch before reviewing it in detail.
In terms of its specs and features, there really is nothing that the JS9500 lacks - it's truly a flagship.
Picture SettingsAs always, we recommend that you use the Movie picture mode when setting up your new Samsung TV. In fact if you do nothing else, at least select this mode because it should immediately give you the most accurate out-of-the-box performance. Once you've selected the Movie mode, you'll need to set the Backlight, Contrast and Brightness controls to suit for viewing environment. The Sharpness control can be set to zero to ensure there is no edge enhancement artefacts and the Colour and Tint controls left at their default settings.
In terms of the advanced settings, special features such as Dynamic Contrast, Black Tone and Flesh Tone should be turned off and unless you're planning on a calibration we'd recommend leaving the Gamma at zero, the White Balance controls untouched and the Colour Space on Auto. In terms of the picture options you can set Film Mode to Auto2 for interlaced content but when watching film-based content we would recommend leaving Auto Motion Plus to off. The Smart LED feature controls the local dimming and using the Low setting produced the best results in terms of deep blacks and minimal haloing.
You can see our suggested picture settings for the pre-production sample of the UE65JS9500 we reviewed in this video:
Pre-CalibrationAfter performing the basic setup that we suggested in the previous section we measured the performance and we were surprised by the results. As you can see in the graphs below, both the greyscale and the colour space were delivering errors below the perceivable threshold of three and the gamma was tracking around our 2.2 target. This is the best out-of-the-box performance we have seen from any review sample and would almost qualify as a reference performance.
Post-CalibrationGiven the accuracy of the review sample out-of-the-box, there wasn't much left to do in terms of calibrating the greyscale and colour space. Basically we just tweaked the greyscale using the ten-point white balance control to get errors of less than one, although it's doubtful you'd see any difference between the pre- and post-calibration settings. We found that in calibrating the greyscale we affected the gamma at 90IRE but again we doubt anyone would ever notice. We also fine-tuned the colour space using the colour management system but again, it's debatable how much of a difference you would actually notice after calibration. However, even if this exercise had no perceivable affect on the accuracy of the TV it shows how effective Samsung's calibration controls are, producing results that are essentially perfect - as the graphs below demonstrate.
Of course the measurements shown in the CIE chart above right are only part of the picture, they reveal the performance at 100% saturation but we are rarely looking at a fully saturated image. To get an idea of the colour accuracy at lower saturation levels we also run a series of sweeps at 25, 50 and 75%, as shown in the graph below. The performance of the JS9500 was equally impressive and aside from a slight over-saturation of red at 50% all the other colours were at or extremely close to their targets.Finally we also checked the native colour space of the JS9500 to see how Samsung's Nano Crystal technology actually measured up in reality. The newly discussed Ultra HD standards for both broadcast and Blu-ray will probably include a colour space as wide as Rec.2020, however in practice it's more likely that the cinema standard of DCI will be used. Samsung claim that the JS9500 has a colour space that's 92% of DCI and as the graph below shows this is correct. In fact most of the colours were able to reach their targets for DCI, aside from a slight restriction in green and thus yellow.
These are some of the most accurate images we've ever seen and an input lag of 24ms is remarkable.
Input LagIf there is one area where Ultra HD TVs have struggled up until now it's in terms of their input lag. However if the JS9500 is anything to go by, it would appear that Samsung have solved this problem. We measured the input lag at 140ms in Movie mode but this dropped to a staggering 24ms when the TV was in Game mode, which is not just the lowest we have measured for a UHD TV but one of the lowest for any TV. As a result gaming was very responsive and the combination of the screen size, curve and excellent processing made the experience highly immersive.
Sound QualityThe use of a direct LED array has more benefits than just a uniform backlight because the deeper chassis means that bigger speakers can be included. As a result the sound quality of the JS9500 was very good, with the downward-firing speakers creating a decent front soundstage. The size of the screen itself makes for better stereo separation, whilst the built-in amplification meant that the Samsung could go loud without distorting. The JS9500 reproduced dialogue with clarity, whilst music and effects are also well rendered. There are a number of different sound effects available, allowing you to adjust the sound quality depending on the content you are watching.
Samsung UE65JS9500 Video
There's no doubt that the JS9500 produces the best pictures we have seen from an LED LCD TV to date.
Samsung JS9500 Picture QualityThe first thing to mention is that the JS9500 uses a direct LED array and as a result the backlight was extremely uniform, with no clouding, pooling, bleeding or bright corners and edges. Thanks to the deeper chassis there was also no banding apparent on camera pans, which is normally caused by the LEDs being too close to the panel itself.
Video ProcessingWhen it came to the video processing on the JS9500, the results were extremely impressive. This is a key area when it comes to Ultra HD 4K TVs because, for the time being, almost all the content you watch will be upscaled to match the higher resolution panel. The Samsung delivered a fantastic performance, scaling content effectively without introducing any obvious artefacts. The JS9500 passed all of our usual video processing tests and overall the quality of the deinterlacing and scaling was excellent.
Motion HandlingWe used our FPD Benchmark test disc to measure the motion resolution of the JS9500 at around 300 lines which is what we would expect from an LCD TV. This could be improved to the full 1080 lines by using the Auto Motion Plus feature but that gives film content an overly smooth appearance. However there is room for experimentation when it comes to sports or games but in general we found the motion handling on the Samsung to be perfectly acceptable without the need to resort to frame interpolation. When watching 24p Blu-rays the motion retained a suitably film-like quality and overall the motion handling on the JS9500 was surprisingly good for an LCD TV.
Black Levels and Contrast RatioThe JS9500 uses a VA panel and as a result the black levels were very good, with the measurement of 0.06cd/m2 on a 0IRE window, although on a full black screen the LEDs were turned off and the measurement dropped to 0.001cd/m2. We got exactly the same measurement on both a window and full screen with the Smart LED (local dimming) set to Low. The JS9500 is also very bright, easily hitting our target of 120cd/m2 and going as high as 396cd/m2 on a full screen with everything maxed out. The Samsung wouldn't be able to hit a 1,000 nits on a full screen but thanks to the peak illuminator it should be able to achieve that with highlights in the image, which is what HDR is supposed to do.
Taking our brightness target of 120cd/m2 and a black measurement of 0.06cd/m2, the JS9500 delivers an on/off contrast ratio of 2,000:1 and an ANSI contrast ratio of 1,926:1 with Smart LED off. This improves slightly to 2,116:1 with Smart LED set to Low and overall these are impressive numbers for an LED LCD TV. It does show just what the technology is capable of with the right combination of panel backlight and local dimming. Since the JS9500 uses a VA panel it is worth pointing to that the viewing angles are limited when compared to an IPS panel. Although you might feel this is a small price to pay for decent black levels and contrast ratios.
Ultra HD 4K PerformanceThe amount of Ultra HD 4K content is still very limited but it would appear that this is about to change. In terms of streaming services, Netflix has been joined by Amazon and YouTube as sources of native 4K content, whilst UHD broadcast and UHD Blu-ray are less than a year away. So it won't be long before you have plenty of Ultra HD 4K content to watch on your new TV. If that wasn't enough the new standards for UHD mean that you won't only be getting increased resolution but you'll also be getting an improved image thanks to a wider colour space, 10-bit and high dynamic range.
The JS9500 will be able to take full advantage of these improved standards once content is actually available in them but until then you can still enjoy whatever 4K content you have available. Thanks to the lack of fibre optic broadband we were unable to enjoy the latest season of House of Cards in Ultra HD and were thus limited to our current 4K test videos. Still as we went through the various clips the level of detail was astonishing and the JS9500 delivered wonderfully bright and accurate 4K images. There were no signs of artefacts or sharpening and the motion handling was excellent.
High Definition PerformanceThe combination of superb image accuracy, excellent video processing, great blacks, even backlight uniformity and highly effective local dimming resulted in some of the best images we have seen from an LED LCD TV. We sometimes had to remind ourselves that this actually was an LCD TV and as we watched season three of House of Cards in HD we could almost believe the images were Ultra HD instead.
The natural and detailed pictures were very impressive and once we moved onto HD broadcast content we were equally as impressed, with natural history programmes jumping off the 65" screen in all their glory. We also had a chance to put the JS9500's local dimming through its paces thanks to the BBC's recent series Wolf Hall, which includes numerous scenes at night that are lit by little more than candle light. These scenes have deep blacks and loads of details hidden in the shadows, which could be a nightmare for some TVs. However the JS9500 handled it with aplomb, retaining the deep blacks whilst also delivering the shadow detail.
Finally we watched some Blu-rays and the JS9500 was able to show what it's really capable of, taking full advantage of the superior quality of the high definition disc format. Recent titles like Guardians of the Galaxy looked spectacular with every frame bursting with detail. Of course as we've already stated, we're reviewing a pre-production sample so we can't guarantee that these levels of performance will translate to full production units. However, there's no reason to expect a performance that is fundamentally different from what we experienced with our review sample.
3D PerformanceThe JS9500 uses active shutter 3D and comes with two pairs of glasses included. These glasses use RF to sync with the TV and are very light, making them comfortable to wear. The increased brightness of the JS9500 meant that the 3D was excellent and when combined with the local dimming, the 3D had real depth and plenty of pop. Overall this resulted in some very impressive 3D, with loads of detail and no apparent flicker or crosstalk. The Samsung was capable of delivering extremely accurate 3D images and recent 3D Blu-rays like How to Train your Dragon 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes looked very impressive on the JS9500.
We did however have one issue, as soon as we began watching any 3D content we could immediately see that frame interpolation was being applied, despite the fact that we had turned Auto Motion Plus off. We were able to confirm this using our FPD disc and the 2D to 3D feature and this undefeatable frame interpolation on 3D content was a disappointment. We hope this is just a bug in our pre-production sample and we have reported the issue back to Samsung.
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) 9 What do these mean?
- Extremely wide dynamic range
- Impressive local dimming
- Superb backlight uniformity
- Reference image accuracy
- Excellent video processing
- Extensive features and upgradability
- Great design and build quality
- Very low input lag
- Un-defeatable frame interpolation in 3D
- Limited viewing angles
- One Connect box is noisy
Samsung UE65JS9500 (JS9500) SUHD 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?Samsung clearly intend the JS9500 to be their definitive statement on the future of Ultra HD and a demonstration of the kind of performance an LED LCD TV is capable of delivering. We certainly support the idea of using Ultra HD as a way of delivering a superior set of standards, rather than just increased resolution. As a result the JS9500 has been designed to meet the proposed new standards with UHD resolution, 10-bit video, a wider colour space and support for high dynamic range. Whilst we will have to wait and see what actually happens with these new standards, the JS9500 certainly appeared to support Samsung's claims of compatibility and the One Connect box at least offers a viable upgrade path.
However in the meantime the JS9500 is also able to deliver an equally impressive performance with Full HD content and the image accuracy was nearly reference right out-of-the-box. In addition the highly effective calibration controls also allow the JS9500 to deliver measurements that were essentially perfect. The use of a direct LED array results in an extremely uniform backlight, the VA panel delivers excellent blacks and the local dimming was genuinely effective. The video processing was also very impressive, the motion handling very good, the 3D fantastic and the input lag exceptional.
Of course no TV is perfect and since the JS9500 uses a VA panel, its viewing angles are limited but that's a small price to pay for superior blacks. In terms of other issues, the fans in the One Connect Box are a bit loud and there's undefeatable frame interpolation on 3D content but both of these issues have been reported to Samsung. The UE65JS9500 isn't cheap but the design, build quality, performance and features go some way towards justifying the hefty price tag; although ultimately whether you feel its worth nearly £6,000 is probably a matter of personal preference.
What are my alternatives?This early in the year, it's difficult to offer alternatives because we haven't seen any of the new TVs yet aside from the Samsung JS9500 but based upon what we saw at the Panasonic Convention, the CX802 looks interesting with a direct LED backlight, a wider colour space (98% of DCI) and support for high dynamic range (HDR) - all at a cheaper price. The new Sony TVs also look impressive, although they won't support HDR which might limit their future compatibility with any agreed standards for Ultra HD. And that's the real question, with so much change happening at the moment, is it really the right time to buy a TV at all? It would certainly make sense to wait until the standards for Ultra HD has been agreed but at least the Samsung UE65JS9500 should be able to meet all the requirements once they have been.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality9
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box9
Picture Quality Calibrated10
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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