Samsung TV Review and Price – Ultimate Buying Guide Covering Samsung 4k Smart TV Technology
Samsung is one of the definite leaders of the pack when it comes to building superb, well designed and feature rich 4K Ultra HD TVs. Overall, a number of Samsung ultra HD TV models, particularly those of the SUHD line are what we would consider to be some of the finest 4K ultra HD LCD TVs sold to date and in general this is a company whose 4K TVs definitely please their users far more than they disappoint them. For 2016, we saw this trend on Samsung’s part to continue with the advent of even further refinements to their newest models.
Samsung’s 4K ultra HD TVs first of all offer a rich list of standard connectivity, color, contrast, upscaling and smart TV features which are generally known to be exceptional in the quality at which they perform and whether you want high quality display, excellent color, great future proofed connectivity or a very fine smart TV platform, very few of this company’s models disappoint on the whole.
Samsung’s 4K ultra HD TV lineup for 2015 and in particular for 2016 consists mainly of two different classes of 4K TVs. These are the SUHD premium 4K UHD TVs and right after them in terms of general prestige, the 4K UHD 2016 KU-series 4K TVs and their 2015 counterparts, the JU-Series 4K UHD TVs, which are all still on sale. The 2016 SUHD models, which consist of the KS-9 Series and KS-8 Series TVs. Among the KS-9 Series, there are the curved KS9500 and the otherwise identical flat-screened KS9000, and the same is the case for the KS-8 models, with a curved KS8500 along with a flat screened KS8000. For the KU-Series TVs for 2016, there are four new main TVs as well. These are also divided into two pairs of TVs with one flat and one curved version which are identical in all other specs among each other. Thus, you have the KU7500 curved 4K UHD TV along with its flat version the KU7000 and then slightly lower down in display quality, the curved KU7500 along with its flat version the KU7000.
Among the above-mentioned models, which we’ll go into more detail on shortly, the 2016 SUHD televisions are the only TVs that come with genuine HDR compatibility and also the only TVs which offer quantum dot color enhancement. The JU-Series TVs and 2016 KU-Series models offer a sort of limited HDR for contrast and peak brightness but not to the same caliber as the top shelf 2015 SUHD models or all the 2016 SUHD TVs, which are all certified with “Ultra HD Premium” HDR specs as stipulated by the UHD Alliance.
Samsung 4K TV models from 2014 are also still available for sale, particularly with many online retailers but the principal TVs in the company’s lineup this year consist of their SUHD KS-Series TVs and their KU-Series non-SUHD models. With the 2015 SUHD TVs in the JS-Series and the 2015 4K UHD TV JU-Series being the main sellers and best Samsung TVs out on the market right now. We’ve reviewed a number of models from all Samsung lines and the SUHD models and JU TVs are all well represented on 4K.com.
Samsung’s TVs are rich in features designed to maximize the quality of the viewing and content access experience while also providing a generally excellent level of smart TV interactivity and processing speed for all the functions that come with these technologies.
On the other hand, Samsung’s 4K UHD TVs can sometimes lag in certain rendering technologies which are supposed to provide an ideal level of motion refresh and effectively display fast video or gaming action, especially in native 4K ultra HD resolution.
That said, here are several of the key specific technologies which are found in many or all of Samsung’s 4K televisions for 2015 and for 2016 in particular. We’ve broken them down by TV type.
2016 and 2015 SUHD TVs vs. KU-Series and JU-Series 4K TVs
First of all, the SUHD brand title doesn’t actually really mean anything other than being a way of distinguishing this entire class of 4K TVs and some of their finer features from Samsung’s more conventional UHD models. In other words, the “S” in SUHD is just a small marketing gimmick, not a reference to anything in particular. With that said, here are their most important features and a feature by feature breakdown of what distinguishes them from the kU-Series TVs, which come with technologies that almost all of the SUHD models include but with some key premium aspects and features missing:
UHD Premium High Dynamic Range
All of the 2016 SUHD TVs, from the KS8000 up to the flagship KS9800 are certified by the UHD Alliance as as TVs that match the Ultra HD Premium color and dynamic range standards for HDR. This effectively means that these TVs all deliver peak brightness that reaches up to beyond 1100 nits and rich deep black levels that go no brighter than 0.05 nits for “completely black” spaces on the screen. This HDR spec also means that these 4K TVs deliver Wide Color Gamut, with more than 92% DCI-P3 Color Space coverage and 10-bit color variation for much smoother color gradation.
The result is a high contrast level that completely beats what was the case in any 2015 SUHD TV, even the flagship JS9500 for last year. In comparison to their 2015 counterparts, the HDR-capable 2016 SUHD TVs are the definite winners in terms of superior, more advanced HDR specs. The main technologies behind this high dynamic range quality consist of Samsung’s HDR1000 spec, Peak Illuminator Pro, Precision Black and Samsung’s supplementary Ultra Black technology. All these fancy names aside, what you need to know about the capacities of the KS-Seris of 4K TVs is that they deliver high quality HDR with high peak brightness that can exceed 1450 nits in spot tests and deep black levels which can go as low as 0.001 nits with local dimming activated.
The 2015 JU-Series 4K TVs and the 2016 KU-Series models don’t offer these above levels of HDR. Instead, they can read HDR metadata through their HDMI 2.0a ports and do offer enhanced contrast, peak brightness and black levels. The enhanced peak brightness and deep black levels apply particularly to the 2016 KU-Series models.
First and foremost, one of the defining technologies of Samsung’s SUHD TVs is their enhanced “Nano Crystal Color”, as the manufacturer calls its version of what is in fact quantum dot color enhancement technology. This feature, which depends on films of tiny nano-particles which change the color of LED light to offer deeper, more varied and richer secondary colors in a TV screen, creates a somewhat deeper color richness and vibrancy, while also enhancing realism in onscreen visuals.
In practice, Nano Crystal Color has shown itself to be a nice refinement to the SUHD TV line but it also hasn’t quite lived up to some of the hype around quantum dots that was expected for this technology at the beginning of 2015.
In the 2016 SUHD models, Nano Crystal Color has been renamed to Quantum Dot Colr but is in effect the same color palette augmenting and enhancing technology of quantum dot filter screens between LED backlights and LCD display.
MultiZone Full Array Backlighting
This feature is found only in some of the best SUHD TVs and most notably exists in the JS9500, which is the flagship TV in the 2016 SUHD line and in the 2016 KS9800, which is this year’s flagship KS-Series 4K TV. As the name implies, the technology imparts a wide range of dimming and lighting zones behind the screen through precision control of a full array of particularly bright LEDs of a type which Samsung is well known for creating, as we’e noted in our reviews of these TVs.
Peak Illuminator technology
This feature is one of the two pillars of Samsung’s SUHD TVs with HDR capacity. In the case of the flagship JS9500 and the 2016 flagship KS SUHD TV models, Peak Illuminator Ultimate is in place to offer the highest possible level of brightness in the entire SUHD line. On the other hand, in the case of the lower-end SUHD models, there are also slightly weaker versions of Peak Illuminator which go by the names of Peak Illuminator Pro and simply Peak Illuminator. The Ultimate and Pro versions of this are integral to the HDR of higher-end SUHD TVs like the JS9500 and JS9000 models or their 2016 cousins the KS9000, KS8500 and KS8000.
Precision Black technology
Precision Black is the second core technology of the SUHD series HDR capabilities (at least in the top-shelf TVs of the line and in the case of those models it comes in the form of Precision Black Pro. Lower level SUHD models come with conventional Precision Black technology and the same feature is also in place in the JU-Series models, along with the basic Peak Illuminator technology. It is essentially with this combo of Peak Illuminator Pro (or Ultimate in the JS9500) and Precision Black Pro that the SUHD TVs are most distinguished from the JU-Series models, which even at their best only come with basic Peak Illuminator and Precision Black for high quality but not quite HDR-level ranges of brightness and darkness.
Motion Rate (SUHD and JU-Series)
All Samsung 4K TV models come with motion rate technology and have since the beginning, though older models features some deeply exaggerated arbitrary numbers to cover supposed “enhanced” refresh rates which were basically fake. Now however, the company seems to have standardized this practice into two essential standards which are Motion Rate 120 and Motion Rate 240.
Motion Rate 240 is found in top shelf models from both the SUHD and JU-Series TVs and represents and actual native refresh rate of 120Hz, and Motion Rate 120, found in the lower cost Samsung 4K TVs of either series represents a native refresh rate of 60Hz. Obviously enough, the higher the native refresh, the better the TV performs with fast paced content like games, action movies and sportscasts most of all. In the 2016 KU-Series 4K TVs, Motion Rate 120 (60Hz native refresh rate) is the case for all models while only the SUHD TVs offer Motion Rate 240 (120 Hz native refresh)
Processor (2015, 2016 SUHD and JU-Series and 2016 KU-Series)
The processing technology of Samsung’s TVs is almost uniformly excellent and the Tizen smart TV platform of all 2015 models works with some great speed and efficiency. However, there are still differences in quality depending on TV price. The very best 4K Samsung SUHD TVs offer X8 octa-core processing power for some really fast smart and content functionality, while the JU-Series TVs and some of the lower end SUHD models come with X4 quad-core processors which, while still excellent, aren’t quite as lightning-fast as their cousins.
Upscaling Technology (SUHD and JU-Series)
The upscaling engine in any 4K UHD TV is a crucial piece of technology for making the most of non-4K content so that buying a 4K UHD television in a market where most content still isn’t natively 4K in its resolution is worthwhile.
As their name implies, upscaling engines take non-4K Full HD, 720p HD and SD content and enhance it through reprocessing so that it looks sharper than it normally would. In the case of this technology, Samsung calls its version by the simple name of UHD Upscaling and we can say that it works superbly across the board. Whether found on one of their SUHD TVs or any of their JU and KU-Series TV models, UHD Upscaling does a fantastic job with Blu-ray Full HD video and an excellent to good job of scaling up the sharpness of high quality 720p HD and SD content sources.
One-Connect and One-Connect mini Box (SUHD and JU-Series)
The One-Connect and One-Connect Mini box are two different external devices very much unique to Samsung’s 4K TVs. What both devices do is provide an external secondary source of connectivity ports that covers all those ports normally also found on the TVs themselves. What makes these devices so eminently useful is that they can quickly be replaced with updated models without replacing the whole TV attached to them as dramatically new connectivity features for 4K TVs emerge.
In Samsung’s higher end 4K UHD SUHD TVs, the One-Connect box comes as an included feature and in lower-end SUHD TVs as well as most JU-Series 4K TVs, it’s an optional extra accessory that can be bought separately. There is also a mini version called the One-Connect mini box which offers less connectivity ports (for HDMI, USB, Ethernet, etc) but also delivers a certain level of future-proofing.
Smart TV Platform
The smart TV platform found in Samsung’s 4K UHD TVs of all 2015 and 2016 models is called the Tizen OS and it’s an excellent piece of user interface and control technology across the board. While LG’s webOS 2.0 is in our view the superior, more intuitive and faster platform, Tizen easily falls into the category of second best and this still means quality. With some great interactivity features like voice search, S-Recommendation engine technology (which offers new entertainment options based on previous personal choices) and full web browsing capacity. There is also the Tizen platform’s “Smart Hub” for quick and easy access to favorite shows, apps and online content.
Furthermore, a whole host of 4K UHD and non-4K content apps come baked right into Tizen. These include the usual sources like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Vudu and YouTube while other, more exclusive-to-select-TV-brand apps like the M-Go 4K content platform and Ultraflix are also available in the SUHD and 4K UHD-Series 4K TVs for 2015 and 2016.
Overall, as we’d said already, Tizen is superb and easily one of the three best smart TV platforms we’ve seen to-date in a 4K TV brand.
A note on 2016 Tizen Smart TV Improvements: The 2016 version of the Tizen smart TV platform and its Smart Hub interface has definitely been streamlined still further from the great smart OS we saw in 2015’s Samsung 4K TVs. In 2015 Tizen was easily the second best smart TV system on the market after the truly stellar LG WebOS platform and in 2016 it keeps its second place spot. Now however, Tizen offers a superior point and click capacity better processor performance for faster navigation and more intuitive usability overall. The Samsung smart remote isn’t as good as LG’s Magic remote or Vizio’s truly innovative SmartCast tablet remote system but it’s good enough for anything you’ll need from the 4K TVs of 2016 from Samsung.
Display wise, Samsung’s 4K UHD TVs are some of the best on the market as a whole. This applies particularly to the company’s top-tier SUHD TVs and some of the best of the KU-Series models but it’s also the case to one degree or another in all 2015 and 2016 Samsung 4K TV models relative to other brands in their class. The SUHD TVs in particular outclass LG and Panasonic LCD TVs by a solid margin and most of the best SUHD models are superior to their top-tier Sony or LG LCD TV counterparts in terms of visual specs as well in our view.
We should take particular note of the HDR1000 and other premium display specs of the 2016 SUHD TVs. They have in fact made these models, from the KS8000 up to the flagship KS9800, into the best 4K HDR TVs with LCD display technology that we have seen so far in this year. In terms of brightness capacity, black level, color quality and contrast, the 2016 SUHD TVs completely beat their Sony, Vizio and LG competitors almost entirely across the board. Only the 2016 OLED TVs from LG deliver what we’d consider superior picture quality.
Quantum Dot color technology and the combo of Peak Illuminator Pro/Ultimate and Precision Black in the better SUHD TVs also work to ensure a fantastic blend of both excellent contrast and wider color gamuts while full-array LED backlighting only enhances these features. Furthermore, even the edge-lit Samsung TVs offer great luminance thanks to the company’s famously high powerful LED technology.
On the other hand, many of Samsung’s mid to lower-tier 4K UHD TVs fail to offer some of the excellent motion blur control and judder handling that we’ve found to work so well in many Sony 4K TV models.
In terms of connectivity, Samsung’s 4K UHD TVs are exceptional, and we have no reason to think this trend will abate at all in 2016 –the contrary in fact.
For starters, these TVs offer the standard array of 4 HDMI 2.0 ports with HDCP 2.2 and full capacity for 4K video compression codecs VP9 and HEVC (H.265) and beyond this, they also come with three USB ports, an Ethernet port, a component/composite combo, and ports for Digital and conventional audio. On top of all this, there is of course also WiFi and WiFi Direct connectivity.
However, while these above ports and connections are fairly standard fare for all name brand 4K UHD TVs, what makes the Samsung models stand out is the fact that they either come with or have compatibility with the manufacturers One-Connect and One-Connect mini external connectivity boxes, which come with most of the above ports and can be replaced as needed to future-proof connectivity as new standards emerge. This makes Samsung’s TVs somewhat more future-friendly than most competitor models we’ve reviewed. This external box compatibility comes standard in all newer Samsung 4K TV models.
Our one connectivity complaint for the 2016 KU-Series 4K UHD TVs is that they break the Samsung 4K TV design trend of including at least 4 HDMI ports and 3 USB ports in all of their 4K TVs. In 2016, at least for the non-SUHD models, the company for some reason decided to intgrate only 3 HDMI ports and 2 USB ports as part of their design.
The best models
Now, as for some suggestions on specific brands, this will vary somewhat depending on your budget and specific needs. However, we can at least list some of the best models for quality and budget (three of the best and two solid budget models) for each the SUHD and 4K Ultra HD TVs in the JU-Series and 2016 KU-Series lines:
- KS9800 4K HDR SUHD TV with Full Array LED backlighting and HDR: This is Samsung’s 2016 flagship 4K TV and it offers a picture quality like that of no other 2016 LCD/ED 4K TV with phenomenal brightness, peak luminance above 1450 nits, deep rich black levels and a contrast ratio that is the highest we’ve seen to date in a 4K non-OLED TV.
- KS9500 4K HDR TV and KS9000 HDR SUHD TV: The second tier in the 2016 Samsung SUHD lineup consists of the KS9500 edge-lit 4K UHD TV with UHS Aloiance “Ultra HD Premium” HDR. This model has the brightest edge-lit display panel we’ve seen of any 2016 4K LCD TV and its color, contrast and color specs are simply stunning across the board. The KS9500 is identical to its cousin the KS9000 with the only difference between the two being that this model offers one of Samsung’s now famous curved screen designs while the KS9000 is the flat screen version of this TV.
- KS8500 and KS8000 4K HDR SUHD TV models: Like the duo of KS9500 and KS9000 premium 2016 SUHD TV models, the KS8500 and KS8000 are also identical to each other in that both TVs share the exact smae specs with the difference between them being a curved screen in the KS8500 and a flat screen in the KS8000. The specs on both of these models allow for slightly less peak brightness and slightly brighter black levels than those found in the higher-end edge-lit KS9500/9000 models but nonetheless, the KS8500 and KS8000 TVs still deliver superior display specs and HDR quality to any 4K LCD HDR TV from 2015 at all, even when they’re compared to Samsung’s flagship JS9500, which had full-array LED backlighting.
2015 SUHD TVs
- JS9500 SUHD 4K Smart TV with HDR: this is the flagship 2015 RK TV from Samsung and it’s superb across the board, featuring several technologies not found in any other model.
- JS9000: This is arguably Samsung’s closest-to-top-tier model 4K UHD TV and it comes with virtually everything that the JS9500 offers except Peak Illuminator Ultimate and Precision Black Pro technologies for the highest possible dynamic range.
- JS7100: One of the budget SUHD 4K TV models. It comes with quantum dot color enhancement but does not include HDR capacity. Nonetheless, an excellent and more affordable SUHD model.
KU-Series 4K TVs (2016 models)
- KU7500 4K smart TV: This is the flagship model among the KU-Series 4K TVs and it is better than many competing 4K TV models from LG or even Sony. With edge-lit LED backlighting, very good contrast, Samsung’s Active Crystal Color and some excellent visual specs, the KU7500 Also offers a curved display and a picture quality that’s similar to that of the 2015 JU7500 and JU7100.
- KU7000: The second best of the KU models, the KU7000 also offers some truly excellent display specsand is essentially exactly identical to the KU7500 except that this version comes with a flat screen display and thus costs less de to a lack of this in any case pointless extra feature. For this reason we recommend it more than the KU7500 unless you really like the way curved 4K TVs look.
- KU6500: The KU65004K UHD curved TV offers what we’d call modestly good display performance and is very similar in its display specs and overall performance to the 2015 JU6500. Unlike the KU7000 or KU7500, the KU6500 lacks Active Crrystal Color enhancement and also doesn’t come with the superior edge-lit LED backlighting technology of these models. Instead it offers a Slim FLED direct-lit backlight which tends of produce inferior black performance. This is a curved 4K TV model.
- KU6300: The KU6300 is essentially identical to the KU6500 except that it lacks display curvature, making it considerably more affordable even though it offers identical picture performance to its curved sibling.
JU-Series 4K TVs (2015 models)
- JU7500 4K smart TV: This is the flagship model among the JU-Series 4K TVs and it is better than many SUHD models. With full-array LED backlighting in its larger models and some excellent visual specs, the JU7500 beats even many top-shelf competitor LCD TVs in display quality.
- JU7100: The second best of the JU models, the JU7100 also offers some truly excellent display specs, Motion Rate 240 refresh rates and excellent precision local dimming technology in its larger versions. This particular TV also comes prices at a more reasonable level than its SUHD and JU7500 cousins.
Samsung’s 4K ultra HD TVs are by no means on the more affordable end of the wider UHD TV spectrum of brands but they have enough price variation to meet plenty of different budgets. Furthermore, almost without exception, the models on offer in both the SUHD and JU-Series lines are either fantastic, great or very good. Thus, for whatever price you do buy them at, you’re getting quality that’s worth the dollars spent for the most part.
Obviously, the flagship SUHD models like the KS9000 and the KS9500 will cost several thousand dollars each but some of the smaller 55 inch or less SUHD and KU-Series units can retail for well below $1500 and they still offer plenty of home entertainment quality.
Positives, Negatives and Final opinion
In our final reckoning, Samsung is quite possibly the best 4K TV maker on the market today in a general sense. It gets some stiff competition from Sony but delivers better 4K TV quality overall, and when it comes to beating LG’s LCD models, Samsung leads by a wide margin.
- Innovative technologies like Quantum Dots and HDR
- Future-proof connectivity
- Above average content access
- Beautiful designs
- Broad range of prices
- No particularly bad 4K TV models
- Some of the budget models offer poor motion blur and judder control
- Flagship TVs could be a bit cheaper
- Full-array backlighting absent in lower priced models