What is the Samsung KS9500?
The KS9500 also supports High Dynamic Range, more specifically HDR 10, and it has a peak brightness of over 1,000 nits. As with all the models in Samsung's SUHD range this year, it is certified as Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance. It boasts Samsung's latest Smart TV platform, along with their new Smart Controller and an auto source detection feature. There's built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, along with a One Connect box that includes four HDMI 2.0a/HDCP2.2 inputs. The KS95000 comes in screen sizes of 65-, 78- and 88-inches and the UE65KS9500 that we are reviewing retails for £3,799 as at the time of writing (June 2016). So can the Samsung KS9500 use its full array backlight effectively and put the plus into HDR? Let's find out...
Connections & Control
As with all of Samsung's SUHD TVs this year, the KS9500 includes their new Smart Controller. This small universal remote is nicely designed, well made, comfortable to hold and intuitive to use. It includes all the buttons you'll need for day-to-day operation of the TV and there's even a built-in microphone for voice control. There are centrally positioned navigation and OK buttons around which you'll find multi-purpose controls for numbers, colours, return and play/pause. There's a power button in the top left hand corner and a Home button, along with volume and channel controls, further down.
The KS9500 also comes with Samsung's standard black plastic remote control included, which has all the buttons you'll need but obviously isn't as stylish as the Smart Controller, nor does it offer universal or voice control. If you'd rather use your smart device as a controller there's also Samsung's Smart View remote app. This is available for both iOS and Android devices and is a simple but effective remote control app. The layout of the main control page is designed to replicate the button layout found on the provided Smart Controller and the app also allows access to content on your mobile device.
Features & Specs
The KS9500 includes Precision Black Pro, which is the best version of Samsung's local dimming technology, and supports HDR 10, with well over 1,000 nits of peak brightness. The KS9500 is the first Samsung model to include the new HDR+ feature that is designed to give a faux-HDR experience from standard dynamic range content. We will discuss this feature in more detail in the Picture Quality section but Samsung will be rolling HDR+ out to all their KS models via a firmware update in the next few weeks. The Samsung also includes improved algorithms and processing to deliver upscaling and source and bit-rate analysis that results in a superior picture quality with streamed sources. As has already been well reported, Samsung have dropped 3D from their entire line-up this year but that probably won't be a major issue for most consumers.
This year Samsung have also added a new Auto Detection feature which automatically detects a new device when connected via HDMI, sets it up in the Smart Hub and loads in the appropriate remote codes. The combination of the Smart Hub and Auto Detection feature, along with the new Smart Controller and Smart View app, results in a very effective smart platform. This effectiveness is improved by increased processing power that also delivers a robust and responsive platform that is both fast and stable. Sadly Samsung have dropped their 'Evolution Kit' upgrade path, so you'll no longer be able to upgrade the 2016 Samsung TVs in the way that you could with previous generations. However we'll cover the new Smart Hub platform in more detail in a dedicated review.
Samsung UE65KS9500 Recommended Settings
Picture Settings - Out-of-the-Box
We'd also recommend setting Sharpness to zero and using the Low setting for Smart LED, which is what Samsung call their local dimming system. As far as Auto Motion Plus is concerned, we would definitely recommend turning it off for film based content but there is room for experimentation where fast-paced sports content is concerned. There is another sub-menu called Special Viewing Mode and it's here that you can select Game Mode to reduce the input lag significantly. There is also a setting called Sports Mode, which you should avoid at all costs and the HDR+ Mode that we'll discuss later.
Picture Settings - Calibrated
Picture Settings - High Dynamic Range
Black Levels and Contrast Ratios
The KS9500 was particularly impressive in these tests for an LCD television and this undoubtedly comes down to its combination of a VA panel and a full array backlight. We measured the TV's native black level at 0.014 nits and this immediately dropped down to 0.001 nits when we set the Smart LED local dimming to Low. We had no trouble hitting our target of 120 nits for standard dynamic range content and we measured the Samsung at 1,473 nits with a 10% window and 715 nits with a 100% window, when sending it an HDR signal. So there is plenty of headroom when it comes to delivering the specular highlights of HDR 10 content. Those are some impressive numbers and using our 0.014 and 120 nits standard dynamic range measurements that equates to an on/off contrast ratio of 8,571:1 and the ANSI contrast ratio measured at 3,783:1.
The full array LED backlight was another area where the KS9500 proved to be an extremely strong performer and overall the uniformity was excellent. There was no evidence of bright corners or edges when looking at a 5% test pattern, nor were there any signs of clouding. We used a 100% white pattern to check for dirty screen effect and again the Samsung passed with flying colours. In fact the only issue we could see was some minor banding on fast pans across football pitches but we have yet to see a TV using a direct LED backlight that didn't have at least some banding, however slight. Having said that, it was very mild and shouldn't spoil your enjoyment when watching football and we certainly found the picture impressive whilst watching the opening match of Euro 2016.
Local Dimming and Viewing Angles
Samsung have excelled in terms of their local dimming over the last few years , so it didn't come as a surprise to discover the feature was highly effective on the KS9500. In fact because of the full array backlight, the KS9500 includes Precision Black Pro and overall the results were impressive. We used the Low setting for the majority of our viewing and overall the local dimming enhanced our viewing experience, ensuring that blacks appeared suitably dark whilst retaining detail in the shadows. At the other end of the scale, the highlights were bright and punchy but without any clipping. The result was an image that had plenty of dynamic range and almost no halos in the Low setting and when combined with the excellent native black levels and inherent brightness the results could be impressive.
Although we used the Low Smart LED setting for standard dynamic range content, you will need to set it to High for HDR content, if you want to get the best possible experience. When it came to HDR we did occasionally get some mild haloing in the High mode but overall the the KS9500 showed exactly why a full array backlight is superior to an edge-lit model in this respect. The blacks were deep, dark and consistent, as evidenced by the black bars on films, even when the image itself was very bright and the KS9500 also managed to achieve a darker overall image, even when there was a bright object in the frame, whilst retaining plenty of shadow detail at the same time.
Although Samsung's main reason for further developing their Quantum Dot technology is to produce a wider colour gamut, there are other benefits. One of these is that the viewing angles have improved and the KS9500 was certainly better than previous generations of Samsung TVs. In fact last year's models had a rather narrow viewing angle, which was fine if you watched TV sat central to the screen. However as soon as you started to move off-axis the colour accuracy and contrast performance word begin to deteriorate. This year the optimal viewing angles are wider, although given that the KS9500 uses a VA panel, it will always struggle to retain image accuracy once you move outside a 90 degree arc. In fact it was only when viewing off-axis that any halos became apparent, although they were rarely visible when viewing from the centre.
Whilst we can test for motion resolution, people can perceive motion very differently and what one might consider good or bad can be extremely subjective. However we have always found the motion handling on Samsung TVs to be quite good, allowing for the inherent limitations of LCD technology. Motion handling was certainly another area where the KS9500 impressed us and it was free of any of the stuttering or frame dropping that we have experienced with Samsung TVs in the past. The KS9500 handled all of our motion tests very well, delivering a motion resolution measurement of over 300 with Auto Motion Plus off and the full 1080 lines with it on. Naturally using Auto Motion Plus does introduce smoothing thanks to the frame interpolation, so with film-based content we would always leave it off. However for sport-based content, which is shot on video, there is certainly room for experimentation and it could certainly pay dividends during Euro 2016. Samsung also include a custom setting, where you can experiment further with blur and judder reduction, and it's here that you'll find LED Clear Motion. This feature uses black frame insertion, which reduces the brightness of the image and can cause flicker with some people, but it can also result in a better sense of motion.
Standard and High Definition
As always we started with the lowest quality content and gradually worked our way up to the best, so our testing started off with standard definition material. Since the KS9500 gets the basics right it is able to deliver a very watchable picture even with lower resolution content. The combination of the greyscale, gamma and colour gamut created a great foundation, whilst the deep blacks, bright highlights and effective local dimming gave images plenty of impact. The Samsung is able to squeeze every last pixel of detail from the standard definition content, thanks primarily to the company's superb video processing and upscaling, which has been enhanced this year by intelligent image analysis. What this meant in principal was that the image was analysed against a database of images and then deinterlaced, scaled and processed to produce the optimal viewing experience. It certainly worked in practice and whilst watching the season finale of Agents of SHIELD we could almost forget it was in standard definition. Once we moved up to high definition content, the KS9500 could really show what it was capable of, with detailed and natural-looking images that were thoroughly enjoyable.
There was a noticeable sense of refinement to the pictures that the Samsung produced but also an almost casual ease about the way in which it produced them, an ease that stems from a degree of confidence on the manufacturer's part. This confidence comes from the fact that the TV was laying all the groundwork so effectively, meaning that all the key aspects of picture quality were place. When you combined these factors the results were simply superb. So nature documentaries looked wonderful on the KS9500, whilst with the Euro 2016 football the Samsung delivered an exciting and hugely enjoyable visual experience. Naturally it was with Blu-ray that the TV could really strut its stuff and a recent purchase like Zootopia looked absolutely stunning, although old favourites like Gravity also looked impressive. The local dimming handled the space-set images with ease, reproducing all the stars whilst also managing to retain the deep blacks and deliver all the dynamic range as Sandra Bullock tumbles in the abyss. The darkness of space is juxtaposed against the bright white of her spacesuit, resulting in images that had a real sense of impact.
Although if you want to an almost HDR-like experience with non-HDR content then Samsung may have the answer. HDR+ is an interesting new feature that makes its debut on the KS9500, although it will be rolled out to Samsung's other KS models via a firmware update over the next few weeks. HDR+ actually takes the original standard dynamic range signal and enhances it to create an experience that is intended to mimic HDR. It does this by accurately mapping the hue and saturation of the source content to points within the TV's native DCI-P3 colour gamut and then analysing the luminance of each scene to boost the gamma curve and enhance the dynamic range to take advantage of the KS9500's increased brightness capabilities.
Since the image is being manipulated it will obviously no longer match the industry standards, which means you won't be seeing what the content creators intended you to see and, as with any image processing, HDR+ also can't add what isn't there. So although an image may appear to have brighter highlights, the detail in those highlights will be the same as it was in the original source content. To demonstrate this we watched the exact same scene in Deadpool using the Blu-ray with HDR+ and the Ultra HD Blu-ray with genuine HDR and there was was clearly more detail in brighter parts of the image, such as the clouds in the sky, which just isn't there on the Blu-ray. This increased detail doesn't just stem from the higher resolution of Ultra HD Blu-ray but also from the fact that HDR content is mastered at 1,000 to 4,000 nits, whilst standard dynamic range content is mastered at 100 nits. As a result HDR can reveal more detail in shadows and bright highlights than non-HDR content.
However if you allow for the inherent limitations of the source content, HDR+ can actually prove quite effective at creating a more dynamic viewing experience. This is because Samsung have invested a great deal of time and money in creating a processing algorithm based upon the statistical analysis of the differences between the same content in both Rec.709 and DCI-P3. It is this algorithm that maps the Rec.709 content to the native DCI-P3 colour space of the TV. They have also developed a similar approach for luminance, using statistical analysis to extract a tone curve that can map different luminance regions within the same scene.
The resulting images did look surprisingly natural and HDR in appearance, such that when watching the same scene with the feature turned off it looked rather dull in comparison. We measured the HDR+ setting and found that despite expanding the colour gamut and enhancing the gamma, it retained an accurate greyscale and colour temperature for white. So given the limited amount of HDR content available, we can see consumers finding it a useful feature to get the most from their new TV. As video purists we would always recommend watching content as the creators intended but, as Mark found out when reviewing the Sony 55XD9305, there is fun to be had from these faux HDR settings and they can produce a natural-looking and highly enjoyable experience. The good thing is that you can just turn HDR+ on and off, so you always have a choice, and you can adjust the HDR+ settings which allows you to experiment and create an image that best suits you.
High Dynamic Range
The KS9500 is the first TV with full array local dimming that we've been able to properly review with HDR test patterns and content because when we reviewed the Panasonic TX-65DX902B the tests and content weren't available yet. Hopefully we'll be able to update the Panasonic review soon but, in the meantime, the KS9500 clearly showed how superior a full array backlight is when watching Ultra HD Blu-ray with HDR. We have been pleasantly surprised at how good the images produced by Samsung's edge-lit TVs have been this year but they have all struggled to some degree or another when it comes to HDR. It was never going to be easy delivering those bright highlights with the LEDs located at the bottom of the screen but the KS9500, with its full array and 150 dimming zones, was able to take full advantage of the new format. When watching the best of the current crop of Ultra HD Blu-rays, the Samsung revealed exceptional levels of detail, superior colour depth, a wider colour gamut and an incredible dynamic range. There's no question that the increased brightness and image control afforded by full array local dimming makes a noticeable difference – blacks were deep, dark and consistent, even in the borders of letterboxed films, whilst the highlights were bright and punchy.
The entire image just popped in a way that only genuine HDR can and the KS9500 also had no problems with motion artefacts or any other apparent issues. It was, quite simply, a lovely image that fully demonstrated the potential of Ultra HD Blu-ray with HDR. There are a number of UHD Blu-rays that really stand out from the pack in terms of image quality, resolution and dynamic range, with The Revenant, Sicario and Deadpool being our current favourites. The KS9500 rendered them all with exceptional clarity, producing vivid and natural colours and a dynamic range that gave the images real impact. In comparisons with the same regular Blu-rays of these films there was clearly more detail in highlights, whilst the blacks were deep but retained plenty of shadow detail. The increased resolution of these titles was also immediately apparent, as was the wider colour gamut, with the colours now looking very accurate. There was a solidity to the image and in a film such as The Revenant, some of the wide shots looked incredibly realistic. There's no doubt that the KS9500 delivered the best HDR experience that we have had to date and if you're sitting on the fence when it comes to the new format, it's time to get off.
The KS9500 had a decent amount of amplification built in and could go quite loud without becoming harsh or brittle. The Samsung also produced a expansive front soundstage that could fill the average sized living room, even creating a certain degree of immersion, whilst dialogue always remained clear and centred. We generally find that the Music option in the sound settings tends to provide the most balanced audio and so it was for the KS9500. Whilst this TV is never going to be able to deliver a room-shaking and immersive surround experience with modern blockbusters, it can certainly handle the majority of your regular content watching. However, if you're investing in a 65-inch KS9500, or an even larger model, we would recommend that you seriously consider buying an outboard audio solution so that you can get the best from your new TV.
Samsung UE65KS9500 Video Review
Input Lag & Energy Consumption
Samsung have invested a lot of time and money in developing their Quantum Dot technology, primarily to widen the colour gamut and increase the brightness. However the advances that the manufacturer has made in Quantum Dot technology also mean that the panel has a wider optimal viewing angle and an improved level of energy efficiency. We found that using a 50% raster we measured the energy consumption of the Standard mode at 140W and the calibrated Movie mode at an excellent 82W. We also measured the HDR mode, which obviously uses a lot more energy, and that came in at a much higher 294W. However, despite its relative size, for the energy conscious amongst you the KS9500 will certainly use less a lot less power with regular content than previous models.
How future-proof is this TV?
|4K Ultra HD Resolution|
|Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best)||69.5%|
|HDMI 2.0a Inputs|
|HDCP 2.2 Support|
|4K Streaming Services|
|Smart TV Platform|
|Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10)||9|
|What do these mean?|
- Excellent greyscale and colour accuracy
- Great black levels and contrast ratios
- Impressive local dimming
- Effective video processing
- Good backlight uniformity
- HDR content looks stunning
- Incredibly low input lag
- HDR+ feature is interesting
- Attractive design
- State-of-the-art smart features
- No flat option
- No 3D support
- Occasional banding on pans
Samsung KS9500 (UE65KS9500) UHD 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?
The Samsung UE65KS9500 is everything that you would expect from a modern flagship TV, delivering an irresistible combination of design, build quality, features and performance. The look of the KS9500 is very attractive, with a surprisingly slim form factor considering its full array backlight, and a well-designed stand that provides solid support and offsets a deliberately minimalist appearance. There's a moth eye filter to help minimise light reflections and the KS9500 effectively combines style and solid construction with a contemporary aesthetic. In fact our only complaint in this area would be that unlike with the KS9000, Samsung don't offer a flat alternative. The KS9500 uses a One Connect box that minimises the number of cables that you need to run to the panel itself, handy if you plan on wall mounting, but has every connection you'll need, including four HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 inputs. There's also built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, ensuring that you can connect just about anything to your new TV.
The KS9500 is just as feature-packed on the inside and whilst it doesn't support 3D, it has just about everything else. So you get Samsung's new Smart Hub with its launcher bar that provides easy access to all the current 4K video services and combines all your favourite content into a single access point. There's also an Auto Detection feature that will automatically setup any device that you connect to the KS9500 via HDMI and load in the relevant remote codes, so you can use the Smart Controller as a universal remote. The Smart Controller has also had a redesign, simplifying the button layout but remaining comfortable to hold and intuitive to use. The controller provides the option to use voice control but there is a regular remote included if you prefer a more old school approach, whilst those who would rather use their smart device as a controller can download Samsung's Smart View app.
In terms of image related features the KS9500 obviously uses a 10-bit Ultra HD 4K curved panel with a full array LED backlight and Precision Black Pro local dimming. The use of a VA panel delivers a fantastic black level for an LCD TV, even without engaging the local dimming and the optimal viewing angles were surprisingly wide. The backlight uniformity was also excellent thanks the the full array and there were no problems with bright edges or corners, clouding or dirty screen effect. However there was a tiny bit of banding with fast camera pans across football pitches but we have yet to see a TV using a direct LED backlight that didn't have at least some banding, however slight. The local dimming was highly effective and the motion handling was particularly good for an LCD, making the KS9500 a great choice for fast-paced sports action.
The KS9500 delivered an excellent level of greyscale and colour accuracy both out-of-the-box and after calibration but we would like to see Samsung fine tune the gamma tracking slightly. However the TV combined all of its picture features and accuracy to deliver natural-looking and delightfully detailed images with both standard and high definition content. Obviously the better the quality of the source the more impressive the images that the Samsung could deliver on its 65-inch screen and it is the first TV that we've reviewed since Ultra HD Blu-ray arrived that can take full advantage of the new format. The KS9500 actually delivered the best tracking against the HDR PQ EOTF that we've measured, the colour gamut is also very wide and now tracking Rec.2020 correctly thanks to a firmware update. As a result the images that the Samsung produced from Ultra HD Blu-ray were spectacular and amongst the best we have seen.
As good as HDR content looks, there is currently only a limited amount available and so Samsung have added a new feature to the KS9500 that they call HDR+. This is designed to map standard dynamic range content to the wider colour gamut and increased brightness of the KS9500, resulting in an image that appears more like HDR. As with any image processing feature, HDR+ can't add what isn't there and it does veer away from image accuracy when compared to the industry standards but it's actually quite effective and will doubtless prove popular with many consumers. Thanks to the larger size of the chassis and the screen itself, the sound quality on the KS9500 is actually quite good, although we expect most owners will ultimately seek an outboard audio solution. As the cherry on an already delicious cake, the KS9500 is very energy efficient and has an input lag of only 21ms, making it ideal for gaming. In fact the Samsung UE65KS9500 does everything a flagship TV should do and it does it all very well, making it an obvious candidate on anyone's shortlist this year.
What are my alternatives?
If you like all the features on the KS9500 but would rather have a flat screen, then you could go for the UE65KS8000 but you will have to accept LED edge-lighting rather than a full array backlight. Aside from that the two TVs offer almost identical features sets, although the KS8000 doesn't include the Pro version of Samsung's Precision Black local dimming and since it's flat there's no Auto Depth Enhancer. However, if it's as good as the KS9000 then it should make a decent alternative and can be picked up for just £2,699. If it's a full array backlight that you're after and you also want 3D support then your best bet is Panasonic's TX-65DX902B, which uses a flat screen and costs a very reasonable £3,299. It includes 512 individual LEDs, boasts Premium UHD and THX certification and delivers the most accurate colours we've seen from any TV this year.
If you're prepared to go a bit larger then you also have the option of Sony's KD-75XD9405 which uses a full array backlight, has a flat screen and supports 3D. The XD94 is a cracking performer and thankfully Sony have dropped the massive side speakers this year, which means that despite the huge screen size, the XD94 will only set you back £4,999. Finally you could look at LG's new OLED range, all of which can deliver incredibly deep blacks, a wider colour gamut and HDR support including Dolby Vision. The 65-inch B6 will set you back £4,299 and uses a flat screen but doesn't support 3D, although if you're considering a 2016 Samsung then that probably won't be an issue for you. If you'd like 3D support and are happy with a curved screen there's also the 65C6, whilst if you'd like 3D and a flat screen there's the 65E6, which is feature-packed but will cost a hefty £4,999.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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