What sort of a TV do you get for $10,000? This one: meet the new flagship Samsung Series 9 Curved UHD TV. Phew!
What Is It?
- Screen Size: 65-inch
- Screen Tech: SUHD, quantum dot technology
- Screen Type: Curved, 5-metre radius
- Resolution: 3840x2160 pixels
- Smart TV: Yes, Tizen
- 4K Inputs: HDMI 2.0
A bloody big, bloody beautiful and bloody expensive TV from Samsung.
The Samsung Series 9 JS9500 65-inch Curved SUHD TV (to use its full name), retails at $9999 and lands in stores within the next week.
Of all the TV buying abbreviations you've had to learn over the years, SUHD is probably the simplest to grasp.
The UHD (known colloquially as 4K) component features the same resolution (3840x2160) as the Ultra-High Definition TVs you know and love for their eye-popping visuals. SUHD basically just means it's a premium UHD TV from Samsung, complete with a new technology called quantum dot.
SUHD is a new screen technology that Samsung is pushing in its premium TVs, based on the quantum dots previously used by Sony and other panel-makers that offers a significantly wider colour gamut.
What this means is a TV that can offer brighter outright colours, more detailed and gradated colours over a wider range, and a more realistic image that’s closer to the one you’re meant to be seeing. It’s still not as high-contrast or as deep-blacked as OLED, but it’s easier to manufacture and available over a range of screen sizes.
Seriously, these TVs get immeasurably better every year. The picture quality on the new Series 9 Curved SUHD is amazing. It's not just 4K/UHD content that looks brilliant. Everything in 1080p looks fantastic too thanks to the smarter upscaling engine and the grunty Exynos processor at the heart of the panel.
Evil edge lighting has been banished on Samsung's new curved SUHD TV, replaced instead with a backlit technology. It makes the whole thing thicker and heavier, but once you've set it up on your entertainment unit and optimised your seating position, you'll probably never see the back of your TV ever again, so it doesn't matter.
A backlit panel means you don't get those annoying ghost lines reaching into the middle of the panel from the edge-lights like you did on last year's model. Backlighting is an older technology, but it's still better and brighter in my opinion.
The great-looking picture is nothing new from a Samsung TV, but what is new is the redesigned Smart Hub. Everything is different this time around, thanks to the new Tizen operating system.
On older Samsung Smart TVs, the Smart Hub that connected you to your content, your apps and the internet was a proprietary piece of software that kept getting bigger and bigger. In a bid to participate in the new Internet of Things universe, Samsung needed a new operating system which would act as an open platform and connect with other pieces of technology. Enter Tizen.
Tizen is a Linux-based open-source operating system (kind of like Android!) that wants to be the brains of every gadget you own. It’s existed since 2012, but is finally starting to show up on actual gadgets you can buy.
Tizen isn’t trying to reinvent smartphones from the bottom up. Like Android — or more specifically the Android Open Source Project (ASOP) — it’s born out of good old-fashioned Linux. On the surface, it even looks just like the kind of phone software you’re used to, except now on a TV.
Just like Android (and every other mobile OS) it gets things done with apps. Instead of trying to get people to make new apps (like Microsoft does with Windows Phone), Tizen relies mostly HTML5 web apps. It has a few native defaults like calculators and alarms, but most of Tizen’s optional apps will be web-based. That means that it’s easy to make something work on Tizen and everywhere else at the same time. The downside? HTML5 apps aren’t known for being too snappy.
Samsung has been working on Tizen for years, and it now has over 20,000 developers building apps for the platform. Tizen is currently running on other Samsung devices like the Z1 smartphone and the Samsung Gear S wearable.
The Tizen deployment (which sounds like a Robert Ludlum novel) means that everything works a little differently this time around. Rather than have a cube that you jump into and connect to all your content, Samsung has set the system up so that you have a ribbon of recent apps, inputs and menus down the bottom of your TV as you use it (like LG's webOS TVs), and a deeper menu that lets you access everything from apps through to games and exclusives like Plus7, VEVO and other bundled content.
The end-user benefits from all this by being able to install nifty HMTL5 apps from the likes of Plex (!!!), Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and more. We're looking forward to seeing more apps from the likes of Stan and Presto in the future.
Speaking of Netflix, you get six months of free Netflix (the 4K package) when you buy this TV. Sure, its only a $89.95 saving on a TV you pay $10,000 for, but every little bit helps right?
What's Not So Good?
Samsung TVs are some of the best looking sets around. Last year's flagship Series 9 UHD TV was a masterpiece. A deep black bezel meant that the image practically hung in mid-air when you looked at the panel, with the subtle curve drawing you into the action as it unfolds. This year's model is a little different.
In a bid to get that classic, timeless art-look, the bezel has a bright silver finish and is very visible when you're watching. It's also thicker than previous years, and to be honest it's a little distracting. With the removal of edge-lighting, Samsung has less to hide in the bezel than ever. I can't think of why it needs to be so thick and distracting. If a curved set is meant to bring you closer into the action, a bright, thick silver bezel pulls you right back out again.
The Auto Motion Plus engine designed to smooth out motion blur and judder during fast action scenes is a little problematic on this new SUHD model. It has a few different auto-smoothing modes, ranging from Clear, through to Standard and Smooth. Those words mean almost nothing, but what you need to know is that there's no Goldilocks zone for this function. The smoothing is either lazy and barely smooths the image or way too keen and makes the whole thing look like that glossy Final Fantasy movie from a few year's back.
The only other issue I have with the TV is how you're meant to navigate the Tizen system. On the old Samsung Smart TV, the cube design kept everything simple. You knew where your apps, movies, music and inputs lived. Navigating around it was a breeze. Settings were kept in the one place, and everything was streamlined for lean-back use. Tizen handles things a little differently, deploying a WebOS-style ribbon at the bottom of your panel when you select the Smart Hub button on your remote.
But that ribbon only includes your most recently accessed items. Say you used Netflix, navigated an external hard drive or played a specific input in the last week, all that would be there, but featured apps and apps you've installed live one menu down requiring more navigation.
Add onto that another menu at the top of the screen with a few settings menus in it, and a deeper menu below that for all of your picture, sound and network settings. That second menu requires an additional button on top of your remote to activate, too.
It just feels a little all over the place, which is disappointing considering Samsung had its UI on lock for TVs as little as six months ago. It's not a dealbreaker, but it'll take some getting used to for returning users.
During our time with the TV, we also took a look at the new Samsung Series 8 Curved Soundbar. It's a magnificent piece of kit, simply because it's finally designed to match its TV companion.
The angle of the soundbar's curve is exactly the same as the angle of the TV, the materials are exactly the same and the dimensions mean it sits perfectly underneath your TV. The two are made for each other.
The subwoofer has also been improved, with a larger woofer and a design that places it lower to the ground in a rectangular-shaped box rather than the large, awkward cube it was in before.
The Soundbar doesn't waste one of your HDMI ports to connect to the TV, either. All it needs is power from a wall socket, and it connects to your TV wirelessly via Samsung's AllConnect wireless streaming protocol. The new subwoofer also connects via AllConnect.
It's a great system that's easy to set up, conserves your precious HDMI connections and doesn't de-synchronise your audio like most wireless setups do. And because it's on the AllConnect system, you can connect Samsung's new 360-degree multi-room speakers to the system for a brilliant surround sound experience.
What's Not So Good?
The soundbar itself produces great audio as always. It's a little bass-heavy thanks to the companion sub-woofer drowning out the higher frequencies, however. You get a great range of sound, however.
Samsung soundbars have always had a bit of an issue amping up the volume during big action scenes while being unbearably quiet during simple talking scenes. It requires you to ratchet your volume up and down all the time which really takes you out of the experience.
Other than that, it's a very capable sound system, but a little pricey. Especially when you consider the Series 8 curved soundbar will set you back $1699, plus the cost of the 360-degree speakers you want to buy.
Should You Buy It?
For the longest time, TV manufacturers have told us to obsess over blacks and the depth that one panel's technology can help it achieve over another. Both Samsung and LG fought for dominance over the black market for years, until the fight came to a head with OLED.
OLED is tricky to make, expensive as hell and has a pretty high failure rate, so Samsung decided to get out of the game and attack the problem from another angle: it decided it wanted brighter panels with more colour. Enter SUHD.
Of course, it's an incredibly capable TV. A manufacturer like Samsung pours R&D money into its TV department, meaning that it's going to be pretty hard to wind up with a crappy panel at the end of the day. Plus, Samsung wouldn't get away with the prices it's charging for the set if it were a lemon.
Sure it has a few new design quirks I don't like with Tizen and the silver frame bezel, but it's still a great TV.
Last year, we all thought the dream TV was going to be a massive OLED panel with a subtle curve and colours that would blow your goddamn mind. When we realised that that would cost us the GDP of a small European nation to own, we had to adjust our focus. The Samsung SUHD TV is the best bang for buck: it produces blacks that are almost as good as an OLED TV, while also producing more vibrant colours and a brighter image overall.
It's the TV you've always wanted, at a price you might be able to justify one day.
Campbell Simpson also contributed to this review.
Luke Hopewell reviewed the Samsung SUHD and soundbar at the Sydney Hilton as a guest of Samsung Australia.