Samsung UN55KS9000 Review

First, a note on the differences of the 9-series models. The KS9000 models are flat, while the KS9500 is a curved screen. All else in this review should be the same except the dimensions and prices.

This year’s KS series TVs from Samsung are receiving a verbal makeover. Samsung, the ever vigilant master of sleight of term has new appellations, handles, and sobriquets by which to call their visual magic. Some might call it eyewash, because the features are pretty much the same. Last year we wrote about What Makes a UHD TV and SUHD TV? (Samsung’s term)

A FEW CHANGES FOR THIS YEAR ARE:

 Current Term 2015/2016New Term 2016/2017
Color SystemNano Crystal TechnologyQuantum Dot Color
Backlight manipulated
motion rate
from 120Hz panel
240Hz Motion RateSupreme Motion Rate 240
ProcessorOcta-Core ProcessorQuad Core Processor
Dimming TechnologyUHD DimmingSupreme UHD Dimming
PanelUltra Clear ProUltra Clear Ultimate

Strengths

  • Contrast, Color, Black Levels are excellent for an LED TV
  • Clarity and depth from Ultra Clear panel
  • Strong LED edge lighting produces top notch light flow-through for dynamic images
  • HD programming upconversion looks great in 4K
  • Minimal input lag in Game mode
  • Quad Core core processor makes the Smart Hub run very smooth and fast
  • Tizen OS Smart TV is fast, has essential Apps
  • Appearance Both the curved and flat screen look great
  • Smart remote now has point and click functionality

Weaknesses

  • Side angle viewing angle contrast and saturation loss
  • AutoMotion Plus really highlights unnatural effects to 2D shows and movies
  • Less saturated blacks than OLEDs
  • No 3D

Picture Quality Rating: 92/100

Strong LED Lighting/Brightness

Though there are inherent weaknesses with Edge-Lit LED lighting, Samsung has maybe the brightest LEDs in the market. The 9-Series passed the test on the new UHD Alliance brightness standard of at least 1000 nits. The powerful LEDs really give the KS9000 a step up in terms of contrast due to those peak whites. It shows up in light flow through on the screen. You will notice this standout feature when viewing onscreen scenes with natural light coming into rooms. Also with on screen in room lighting. Contrast is also very strong with these SUHD Samsung TVs with deep black levels. The KS9000 can get brighter than OLED TVs. Read more about that and color below in the Quantum Dot Color section.

Supreme UHD Dimming

Samsung’s new term for edge lit dimming is Supreme UHD Dimming a replacement for last years UHD Dimming which is a replacement of Micro Dimming. There is a lot of precision regarding contrast, color, and detail levels needed for each part of the screen to coordinate and excellent overall image. Since the dimming mechanism on the KS9000 is from the edges, we cant really call it true local dimming – a term that describes a TVs ability to brighten or darken specific areas of the screen independently from one another. This feature is effectively supposed to increase contrast in various areas of the picture. At times, it darkens the screen a lot, especially on the higher settings. Edge Lit dimming has never been one of the best features to me. I like the full boat full array micro dimming much better which has a major impact on contrast. The manipulation of the edge lighting as in the KS9000 to my eyes only marginally impacts color and contrast in the picture.

HDR Compatible

The big focus TV feature for 2016/2017 is HDR (High Dynamic Range). HDR extends the range that a pixel in an LCD TV can show. This applies to the brightness and luminosity of images. Contrast is enhanced by increased brightness rather than deeper blacks. Rather than just increase the brightness of the picture overall though, the real purpose of HDR is to increase contrast in various image areas of the picture. It improves the presentation in the brighter parts of the picture and this creates more contrast with surrounding darker parts of the picture. Since picture contrast is one of the primary features in improving perceived depth, HDR is considered a major picture quality improvement even though it may not increase the overall contrast of the panel a lot. Bright colors receive enhanced purity. A good HDR image will show better shadow detail, and the scenes that you will notice the most are those with light illuminating images, especially outside sunlight effects, or a room that has sunlight coming in through a window and illuminating parts of the room. This picture quality improvement varies quite a lot with the HDR content being viewed. I’m not going as far as to say it’s a gimmick, but from what I’ve seen I wonder how much of an improvement it really is. HDR content is and will be in short supply for a while.

The studios, distributors (Netflix, Amazon) and TV manufacturer must all be on the same page for you to see HDR content. Some Amazon Original series are currently offered.

Side Angle Viewing

From off center the KS9000 and KS9500 have the normal problems associated with LCD TVs. Black levels fade as does color saturation. The 9-series panel’s beautiful presentation loses a lot of it’s luster. Since this is not an IPS panel (in-plane-switching), it suffers more from side angles than that variety, but presents better black levels from straight on viewing.

HD to UHD Upscaling and Conversion

Ever wonder if the picture quality is better on a 4K UHD TV with a standard definition or HD signal pumped into it? The answer is yes ONLY if the TV has a stellar upscaling and conversion technology built in. The KS9000 analyzes the incoming signal, applies video noise reduction techniques, and scales up the lower resolution signal. Lastly, it enhances the detail which may be the most important bit. Anyway, the end result is that yes, you get a much better picture. I would place Samsung second behind only Sony in this regard, but it also depends on which model of TV. This is one of the big differences of the very top end TVs. Better processing produces a great picture quality even with streaming video signals. The KS9000 and KS9500 are at the very top echelon in this regard.

What Makes an UHD TV an SUHD TV?

Alright, here are the particulars on what makes an SUHD. First, there is a new color system used called DCI P3 which has a wider color gamut or spectrum or pallet – call it what you will it’s a bigger range of colors, more Crayolas in the box. That color is dispersed and enhanced further by Quantum Dot film which is placed in one of the layers of the panel. The combination of the two does improve the color. It comes across more refined, cleaner and more defined than the previous 4K TVs. To me, it’s a 10% improvement in color representation. Next, the SUHD lineup has a brighter backlight which is capable of hitting 1000 nits at peak brightness and produce deeper blacks as well, though this is more difficult to discern. Last, all SUHD TVs in Samsung’s lineup have the proprietary Samsung developed Tizen operating system for Smart TV though that’s not part of what differentiates an SUHD. SUHD is all about those upgraded picture quality features, especially the wider color gamut.

Color Performance/Quantum Dot Color

The previously dubbed Nano Crystal Technology which is now called Quantum Dot Color is at the heart of improvements in color for the KS9000. All SUHD models by Samsung for 2016 and 2017 enjoy this technology. The QDEF layer is a stack of ultra thin film located between the LCDs (liquid crystals) and the front protective glass or plexi layer. The benefits of the technology are a wider color gamut (more colors) produced by better disbursement through the QDEF Diffuser Film. Think of the Quantum Dot layer as a color converter which assists the LCDs in creating more colors. Quantum Dot technology is thought of as competing technology with OLED TVs (organic light emitting diodes) which carry their own color to the surface of the panel.

Finally, it works, I’ve seen the side by side demonstrations. It produces a cleaner, clearer and more defined color representation especially in the greens and yellows. With a 4K UHD signal I would say the color production is 5% to 10% better. Samsung, of course, puts the figure higher at 20% to 30%.

Supreme Motion Rate 240

This figure represents an enhanced Hz rate for the 120Hz panel. By manipulating the powerful LEDs Samsung is able to produce an “effectively” faster refresh rate.

Picture Calibration and Settings

The Samsung KS9000 comes with only 4 preset picture modes which are Movie, Standard, Vivid, and Game. Obviously, Game mode is your choice to cut down on motion lag from games.

Quick Picture Calibration Settings

Quick Calibration:The following settings are for a medium to dark room light. Since calibrations can vary among different TVs even from the same model number, we no longer post the advanced 10 point White balance calibration settings. However, TV manufacturers have improved at providing a preset picture setting that is pretty close to D65 out of the box. The settings below will get you close. Try the Warm 2 setting and for a couple days to get used to it. If after a couple days picture images still seems to warm (reddish tones), change it to the Warm 1 mode. Also, if you are viewing in a brighter room environment, you may prefer the Warm 1 mode.

Picture Mode: Movie
Backlight16Sharpness10
Contrast99Color50
Brightness45TintG50/R50
Expert Settings
Digital Clean ViewOffGamma0
AutoMotion PlusOffRGB OnlyOff
Film ModeOffColor SpaceAuto
HDMI ColorFilm ModeOff
HDMI Black LevelNormalSmart LEDOn
Dynamic ContrastOffColor ToneWarm 2

Notes:The Backlight setting is the easiest and quickest way to adjust for room light conditions. For brighter rooms move the setting up and darker rooms down. Game Mode may be enabled under Special Viewing Mode. The Digital Clean View mode may be utilized for lower quality and lower resolution content like 480p DVDs, non-HD cable, and streaming TV that is not HD quality.

Auto Motion Plus – Know When to Use this Feature

The Auto Motion Plus feature is something that comes as a blessing and a curse. By default it is set to On in all of the preset picture setting modes. You will likely want to turn it off for streaming content, DVDs, Blu-rays, and TV shows. The feature gives you a dreadful “Telenovela Effect”, making images look unrealistic by eliminating too much natural background blur. Turn it off in the Expert Settings menu and everything will be fine again. You’ll immediately see judder when you disable it, but your eyes will adjust momentarily. The features does not hurt good quality live sports programming so you may want to use it there. Another experiment you may want to try is using it with poor quality DVDs. It can help the viewing experience there, bringing these old movies to life. Just be familiar with how to s and it won’t be a problem.

Another possibly acceptable setting is enabling the feature using the Custom setting and using a low value on the De-Blur portion of the setting.

(Note: to get to the setting click on Menu, swipe across to Picture, Scroll down to Expert Settings and scroll down to AutoMotion Plus.)

Features Rating: 88/100

Tizen Operating Smart TV

This Samsung developed system is included only on SUHD TVs for now and is much faster and more responsive than previous Samsung Smart TV/Smart Hub menu systems. It’s instantaneous response time operation impressed me. Aside from the increased speed it remembers where users are in a program rather than having to fast forward from the beginning like last years models. The Smart Hub menu has also been revamped and upgraded for easier organization of your favorite Program and Apps options. Overall, the Tizen system is pretty strong but not as smooth or interface friendly as the Android TV system included on Sony and Sharp’s best models. The Android system also has a little better offerings.

The included black touchpad Remote Control is light, and easy to operate whizzing around the Tizen Smart Hub menu system. The point and click operation is a plus. On the negative side, the remote is small and takes a lot of getting used to. The functions on the remote itself are very limited.

Sound Quality

Samsung put more energy in the sound quality this year with 60 watts of audio output, 20w from each speaker and 10w each from 2 subs. The effort pays off in less tinniness, and more full sound. Volume is plentiful. With a TV this nice looking you hate to have to add a bulky unattractive soundbar especially in a modern or minimalist setting, so the better speaker system is welcome.

Appearance and Design

Although Samsung calls the 9-series bezel-less, it does have a visible quarter inch bezel framing as usual. It’s super sleek and the silver stand and frame are very aesthetically pleasing. The non-curved KS9000 version has only 1.6” of depth. Some say the curved screen (KS9500) helps with side angle viewing quality. Others think the curved screen can be worse of in-room ambient light. We dont think it helps much, but the look is novel and somewhat more enveloping from front and center. If the curved screen appearance appeals to you then go for it. The price difference is around $200 more for the curved variety. The included One Connect box keeps your cables nice and tidy for the KS9500. It can also be upgraded in the future without having to replace the whole TV.

Value Rating 88/100

UN65KS8500 – $2999

UN55KS8500 – $1999

UN65KS8000 – $2799

UN55KS8000 – $1799

Prices have really come down nicely on the curved variety if that’s your taste. For a very small step down from the KS9000 and KS95000 you save a good chunk of change around $250 to $500 depending on the model. For one of the best LCD TVs on the market for 2016/2017 these prices look very reasonable for a nice living room TV.

Overall Rating 89/100

Quick Specs

  • Backlight: Edge Lit LED
  • Smart Functionality: Yes – Built in Wi-Fi
  • Inputs: 4 HDMI, 3 USB
  • Native Refresh Rate 120Hz (240 Supreme Motion Rate)
  • HEVC for watching streamed 4K content from sources like Netflix® and Amazon Instant Video (requires Internet speed of at least 20Mbps)
  • Quad Core Processor
  • HDR 1000 (UHD Alliance)
  • 4K UHD Certified
  • Full Web Browser (of marginal utility)
  • Audio Output 60W 20W X 2 Speakers, 10W X 2 Subwoofers
  • Dimensions:
    • UN65KS8500 56.8″ x 32.7″ x 4.1″ Curved Screen
    • UN65KS8500 56.8″ x 35.7″ x 11.6″ with stand Curved Screen
    • UN55KS8500 48.2″ x 27.8″ x 3.5″ , TV Only/ 48.2″ x 30.6″ x 9.2″ with stand
    • UN65KS9000 56.8″ x 32.8″ x 1.8″ TV Only/ 56.8″ x 35.7″ x 11.6″ with stand
    • UN55KS9000 48.2″ x 28.0″ x 1.7″ TV Only/ 48.2″ x 30.5″ x 9.2″ with stand

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