The introduction of 4K was only the first step to improving the home viewing experience. Now this year we see the introduction of TVs that are going to support High Dynamic Range (HDR) and expanded color gamuts. These TVs produce brighter highlights while still offering great shadow detail. We also will get to see movies at home that offer the same wider range of colors that movie theaters offer today. These offer big improvements in picture quality that are visible from any distance and screen size.
One of the first displays to support both of these is the Samsung JS9000 SUHD. It is a curved, edge-lit LED screen that uses Quantum Dots to support the P3 color gamut and can produce HDR highlights. It offers 4K streaming content from Netflix and Amazon, accurate grayscale and color images, and a 30,000:1 contrast ratio. The curved screen still seems to offer no real benefits to me, and in this case makes a flaw in the edge lighting more apparent. That flaw aside, the JS9000 is a nice, though expensive, TV that is as future-proof as you can buy today.
|Display Type:||LED LCD|
|Inputs:||4x HDMI 2.0a, 1x Component/Composite, 1x USB, 1x Antenna|
|Outputs:||1x Optical, 1x 3.5mm Audio|
|Streaming Services:||Netflix (4K), Amazon (4K), MGo (4K/HDR), YouTube, Hulu|
|Display Size:||57.5" x 36" x 14.4"|
|Display Weight:||72.5 lbs.|
|Review Date:||June 24, 2015|
At CES 2014 I watched many demonstrations of HDR and wider color gamuts. Side-by-side with traditional HDTV content they offer clear advantages. Bright highlights that don’t cause viewer fatigue. The different shades of Red and Blue that are available are easy to see when watching the recent Star Trek film. At an event earlier this year in NYC, Samsung showed us comparisons of HDTV content and HDR/P3 content using clips from Exodus. From the color of gold to the shine of the sun, the HDR/P3 one looks much better. Even across the room you notice the difference in colors and brightness.
What is the downside to these new technologies? The first is cost. HDR requires more powerful backlighting systems, and those cost money. The other is that right now there isn’t much content available to use HDR or the larger color gamut. Later this year as we will get streaming content from Netflix and UltraHD Blu-ray discs with HDR. Since those are coming so soon, I’m not worried about the lack of content as I was when UltraHD TVs first started shipping. As I write this sentence there were the first Four UHD HDR movies released on the MGo service. They need the Samsung UHD Video Pack, and are $30 each to download, but content is appearing.
One of the big pushes at CES this year from Samsung was their new Tizen SmartTV interface. Based off Android, Tizen is a big change from their previous SmartTV approach. Compared to that, Tizen is much better to use. You get quick access to your most recently used apps and a selection of your favorite apps. The JS9000 is quick and responsive when running apps and has a wide selection. Since these apps can run at UltraHD resolution you’ll want to use them over a media streamer. The only app that I usually use that was missing is SlingTV.
The remote for the JS9000 also features voice control. You can use this to search for movies to watch across the SmartTV services, check weather or sports scores, or even set the sleep timer. In use I found this control to be both slow and offer up inconsistent results. Voice control on the Roku, FireTV and Android TV platforms is good, but not here yet. The compact remote feels good in your hand and offers quick access to the most common controls.
Samsung puts all the inputs in a separate box that connects to the TV over a proprietary cable. For 99% of people I think this is a benefit. You only need to run this cable and a power cord to the TV, and so it’s easier to set it up and have access to the inputs even if wall mounted. The only people who might not like this are those that have already run cables through the walls and are replacing a TV. For most people, this external box makes for a much cleaner look that is easier to connect devices to. I just wish they’d add a front HDMI port to the box as well.
In the end, performance matters, and the JS9000 is almost as good as you can get in an LCD today. You have good black levels that stay dark without crushing shadows. When Voldemort and his minions gather outside Hogwarts in the final Harry Potter, it looks great. Blacks are deep and dark but all the fine details are still visible. The letterbox bars are solid black and completely disappear in a dark room. It also shows the main flaw in the image: the edge-lit LEDs.
In dark scenes like this or scenes with a uniform color across the screen, you can see them. I’m not sure if the curve accentuates the issue, but there is significant blooming from these. I can watch sports or some movies and they never show up, but throw on a dark film and they are not hard for me to notice.
This LED flaw is a shame as almost everything else about the Samsung image is great. Watching the demo clips of HDR versions of Life of Pi and Exodus, the difference in colors and highlights is easy to see. The contrast during the opening scenes of Drive or the nighttime scenes in Skyfall is as good as I’ve seen outside of a plasma or OLED screen. I measured them at 30,000:1 using APL patterns, which is one of the best LCD measurements I’ve ever seen. Colors are accurate and animated films from Pixar just want to jump off the screen.
Even better I didn’t notice the dynamic lighting system pumping the brightness while watching movies. Usually when I watch the final Harry Potter film I notice the backlight level changing during the attack on Hogwarts. It is a dark nighttime scene but explosions during battle trick lighting systems into thinking it should be brighter, and you get a noticeable pumping effect. With the dynamic backlight at the standard setting this didn’t happen but blacks are noticeably darker than with it off.
Watched from a 7-8’ distance, 4K streaming material from Netflix looks great. The second season of House of Cards has impeccable details during daytime scenes or those with close-ups. The dark, cloudy sky during the opening credits shows compression macroblocking. These are present on all streaming content, they just stand distracted me more in UltraHD. These issues will be gone once we get UltraHD Blu-ray this year with its higher bitrate. Only obsessive videophiles like me are likely to notice them as well.
3D is good on the JS9000 but not perfect. I still find my eyes straining a bit while watching Hugo, but the included glasses are light and easy to wear. Four HDMI 2.0 inputs with HDCP 2.2 mean you can connect all future UHD sources to it. The images from the JS9000 are fantastic, and they’re only going to improve once we have HDR and wide-gamut materials to watch on it.
Two Main Flaws
There are two flaws that hold back the image quality of the Samsung. The first is the visibility of the LEDs as I mentioned earlier. I imagine it is a combination of the curve making and having to be more powerful than ever before for the HDR capability. The step-up Samsung UN65JS9500 features a full-array backlighting system that doesn’t suffer from this. It can go even brighter for HDR content, but costs $1,500 more. If you do notice the LEDs when you watch the TV, you might consider stepping up to that.
The second is that off-axis viewing isn’t fantastic. It drops off in contrast ratio and color accuracy rather quick when you move to the sides of the screen. Dead center it looks fantastic but sit a few feet over and you might wonder what all the fuss is about. This is the trade-off for using a screen that can produce deep, dark blacks like the JS9000 can. The only way to avoid this is to go with a TV that uses an IPS panel, but the contrast ratio will close to 30 times worse than that of the Samsung.
Future Ready, Brilliant Today
For a couple years now I’ve been telling everyone to hold off on buying a 4K set. Much of that is because you were able to buy a plasma display that looked better for less money, but you can’t do that anymore. The other reason is that the content and other potential bonuses with 4K were still a bit off. Now that we have 4K streaming, are getting 4K physical media this year, and have HDR and wide-gamut content, it is a different story. You can go get a TV that I think can offer a better picture than my plasma does.
I just wish that the LEDs didn’t have the issues that they do. That’s the only thing holding me back on the JS9000. The JS9500 doesn’t have that flaw, or I would have noticed it when we did training on it in NYC. That issue aside, the JS9000 is one of the best TVs for tomorrow and one that looks fantastic today.
|Pros:||Accurate image, large gamut, HDR capability, as future-proof an HDTV as you can buy today, SmartTV system much improved over prior Samsung versions|
|Cons:||Edge-Lit LEDs noticeable during use, off-axis viewing, still not sold on the curve|
|Summary:||If you want a TV today that isn't going to be outdated soon, the Samsung JS9000 offers every feature you want. It will show off all the brilliance of HDR and Expanded Gamut content that is released this year, and will look fantastic with all your existing content. The blooming of the edge-lit LEDs is the only real drawback offered by the set.|