Samsung KS8500 Review – 2016 SUHD 4K Ultra HD 240MR Smart LED TV (UN49KS8500, UN55KS8500, UN65KS8500)
The KS8500 is nearly identical to its KS8000 cousin and the main thing which distinguishes the two as far as we can tell consists of the difference in curved vs. flat screen design. That said, this model, like the KS8000, offers one truly superb 4K LCD TV package for the new year and representative of how Samsung has really kicked things up a few notches from what they offered in their 2015 SUHD models.
Most notably, technologies for local dimming, motion control and weaker audio are what distinguishes the KS8500 and KS8000 models from their pricier KS9000 and KS9500 cousins. Beyond these, the degree of uniformity to the specs and quality in the entire 2016 SUHD line is much more consistent than it was in the 2015 models under the same brand. As for the KS8500 itself, its curved screen is a pointless touch that only adds to price without improving value (unless you just like the way curved design looks) but despite this, the TV is one excellent choice for high quality HDR display with 4K resolution for this year. The KS8500 isn’t entirely perfect but it won’t disappoint by any means.
Despite being the mid-level offer in the 2016 SUHD lineup, the KS8500 offers the same core display specs and HDR technology as it’s pricier and slightly better KS9000 and KS9500 cousins. Minor exceptions to this include the lack of Supreme UHD Dimming and so-called Supreme Motion Rate 240Hz in favor of UHD Dimming and Motion Rate 240Hz in the KS8500. Furthermore, the KS8500 offers slightly weaker speaker power than the already available KS9 models.
These little details aside, this TV gives virtually identical display performance and HDR technology, which is to say that it delivers both to a very high degree of quality in terms of contrast, peak brightness, color saturation and black levels. Ultra HD Premium certification from the UHD Alliance is part and parcel of the entire 2016 SUHD model lineup so with the KS8500 you’ll get your hands on rich 10-bit color with smooth tone gradients, some superb 1100+ nit peak brightness and deep rich blacks that go down to a darkness level of at least 0.05 nits. None of the 2015 SUHD TVs except the JS9500 could manage most of these display features and this essentially means that the KS8500 is superior to virtually all of them, despite being a mid-range 2016 SUHD TV. What’s most impressive is that this TV manages to deliver all of the above despite coming only with edge-lit LED backlighting, which is a serious testament to the power of Samsung’s LED and light distribution technologies.
Furthermore, the KS8500 delivers some of Samsung’s best yet upscaling technology, with a unique little twist. First, there is the usual upscaling of non-4K UHD content in the 480p, 720p and Full HD ranges, all of which are upscaled in their crispness superbly by the processing technology in this TV line (particularly 720p and Full HD video sources). However, going beyond the basic resolution upscaling, the KS8500 also manages to improve the contrast and dynamic range of these sorts of content sources wherever possible. You won’t get video that looks like native 4K HDR content from non-4K SDR content but you will get a superior viewing experience to that found in a non-4K TV or 4K SDR TV displaying the same content in most cases. This is definitely worth seeing at work in the TV. SDR 4K content also gets the benefit of the KS8500’s HDR enhancement technology, with notable improvements to some types of visuals and colors.
Finally, we have the 2016 Tizen smart TV platform with improved Smart Hub technology. Samsung has taken their already great 2015 Tizen/Smart Hub combo and refined it still further in the 2016 SUHD TVs (KS8500 included). Ease-of-use, intuitiveness and layout have all undergone some decent little improvements while the remote control now also offers improved smart manipulation abilities.
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On the other hand, the KS8500 and its 2016 SUHD cousins are far from perfect, with a few minor and some moderate flaws working against them.
Next, we’re disappointed that the KS8500 and the rest of the 2016 SUHD lineup didn’t bother to include any sort of 3D content support in their specs. 3D 4K content may not be all that common and for most viewers the 3D absence will probably be a non-issue but since these are premium cutting edge 4K HDR TVs, the inclusion of 3D would have been a nice little bonus.
We’re also downright disappointed and annoyed that Samsung still fails to just give all of its premium SUHD TVs along with the KS8500 the benefit of full-array LED backlighting. Admittedly, the company manages to produce some fantastic contrast, peak brightness and local dimming despite the edge-lit arrays all of the 2016 SUHD TVs except the upcoming flagship KS9800 use but just image for a second how much better this already great LED technology would look if it was full-array. If Vizio can manage to pull full-array off across all of its 2016 P-Series models and still price them affordably, we completely fail to see why Samsung won’t do the same for its loyal customers.
Finally, the KS8500 is a curved 4K HDR TV model and its specs are otherwise pretty much identical to those of the flat screen KS8000. Why is this something we dislike? Well because despite the identical specs and screen sizes, the KS8500 sells for just under $200 more and the only reason for this is the pointless gimmicky screen curvature Samsung insists on keeping in its newest SUHD models. Forget the hype, curved screens in any normal-sized 4K TV are not more “immersive”. They do nothing except distort reflected light more and spoil viewing angles.
A few minor to slightly moderate flaws aside, we can’t help but really like the KS8500. It’s not much different from the KS8000 and even the KS9500 and KS9000 models are mostly the same but since they’re all great TVs, the KS8500 is also a great TV and definitely a serious candidate for anyone who’s looking for a new 2016 LCD 4K TV that delivers on everything essential for high quality and even cutting edge home entertainment.
• Screen size: 48.5 diagonal inches - UN49KS8500, 54.6 diagonal inches - UN55KS8500 and 64.5 diagonal inches - UN65KS8500
• Smart TV: Tizen OS, Smart Hub, Smart TV with Apps and Full Web Browser
• HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
• VP9 Included. Yes
• HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
• HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
• Refresh Rate: 120Hz native refresh rate (Motion Rate 120Hz)
• Screen Lighting: Edge-lit LED backlighting with Supreme Dimming tech
• Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
• Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet port
• Remotes: Samsung smart button remote
• Connectivity: 4 HDMI 2.0a ports, 3 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Component, 1 composite, 1 Audio Out, 1 Digital Audio Out
• Sound: 40W (10W x 2, Woofer 10W x 2) Down Firing w/Bass Reflex (2.1CH) speakers with Dolby Digital Plus
• Contrast Ratio: 5,538:1
• Other Display Features: Curved display, Auto Depth Enhancer and Ultra Clear Panel technology
• Processor: Quad-core
Quantum Dot Color: All of the 2016 SUHD TVs come with the inclusion of Samsung’s Quantum Dot Color feature and essentially, it’s the same quantum dot nanoparticle filter technology from the 2015 SUHD TVs but with a changed name (last year’s version was called Nano Crystal color). Regardless of name, the technology does enhance display performance and mainly serves to further augment the 10-bit HDR color reproduction specs of the KS8500 for an even richer more saturated color palette on the screen. QD color essentially works by interposing a layer of quantum dot nanocrystals of different sizes between LCD screen and LED backlight so that the crystals polarize into different primary colors when the light from the KS8500’s LEDs hits them. This then enhances the pixel-based color palette of the display output in more dynamic ways, creating a deeper vibrancy and color space coverage.
UHD Premium High Dynamic Range: Just like the other 2016 SUHD TVs, the KS8500 is certified by the UHD Alliance as a TV that matches their Ultra HD Premium color and dynamic range standards for HDR. This effectively means that this TV and the rest of the KS-Series 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. The result is a high contrast level that completely beats what was the case in any 2015 SUHD TV except maybe the flagship JS9500. In comparison to its 2015 counterpart, the HDR-capable JS8500, the KS8500 is the definite winner 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 KS8500 is that it delivers 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.
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 KS8500 and its smart TV interface.
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Simply speaking, the visual specs in the Samsung KS8500 are nothing short of superb almost across the board. This TV compares superbly with other major 2016 LCD 4K TVs and if you take into account the peak brightness the model is capable of, it’s an even better performer in this area than LG’s absolutely stunning G6 OLED 4K TV.
To start things off, the KS8500 delivers on the Ultra HD Premium certification it has been given by the ULD Alliance and does so wonderfully. Contrast and overall high dynamic range quality are excellent in this particular TV and color realism is downright great, thanks both to 10-bit color and quantum dot filters. Nonetheless, reading that all of these are great is one thing and actually seeing the performance of this TV in the flesh is another thing. Furthermore, the test numbers that back these claims up are definitely worth pondering.
Thus, as far as test specs go, the KS8500 manages broad peak luminance of 1000 to 1100 nits and in spot testing of smaller 2 to 10% areas of the TV’s display space can even reach peak brightness levels of 1400 nits or slightly more. That this is something Samsung could pull off in a TV with an edge-lit display is definitely impressive. As for the second major part of HDR contrast, there are the black levels, and in the KS8500 they are also superb, with normal black levels going as far down the scale as 0.019 cd/m2 and in some cases even reaching 0.001 nits (numerically equal to cd/m2) with local dimming activated, in contrast to white levels of 99 cd/m2. These two combined together add up to some truly superb native contrast that goes well above 4,000:1. As a bonus of these specs, SDR 4K and non-4K content sources also tend to look richer, with superior color palettes and great dynamic range, even if they don’t compare to how beautiful native HDR 4K video sources look.
Furthermore, the color performance of the KS8500 is definitely superior. This TV manages to hand out 10-bit HDR color that outperforms even the color palettes we saw in the 2015 SUHD TVs. While Samsung has been a bit quiet about this TV’s Rec.2020 color performance (it goes no higher than about 72%), the TV does deliver superb DCI-P3 performance with 93% of the DCI-P3 color space covered. The 10-bit color in the TV also means that gradation between tones is far smoother and more realistic, with 1.06 billion color values being possible instead of the 16.8 million that come with 8-bit color.
Finally, we should also mention that the KS8500 comes with a native 120Hz refresh rate that’s about the standard for premium 4K TVs in 2015 and 2016. Samsung also adds in a spec for what they call Motion Rate 240Hz, which is basically a type of motion interpolation addition to the native refresh technology, and while it does improve motion in onscreen video somewhat, the visual effect created might not be to everyone’s liking.
On a last note, we’d also like to add that the curved screen of the KS8500 is a gimmick. This is something we’ve covered in detail before on this website and we hold to the opinion that screen curvature in any normal-sized 4K TV and in any TV within the size ranges of the KS8500 (49 to 65 inches) will not in any way feel more immersive through a slightly screen curving. On the other hand, the curvature can be detrimental in how it affects viewing angles, light reflection off the display and in how it makes mounting the TV to a wall a bit more cumbersome.
The connectivity specs of the KS8500 are pretty much the standard issue for what you’ll get in most 2016 4K TVs and in all of the SUHD models. They’re essentially identical to the specs of the 2015 SUHD models as well.
This means a total of 4 HDMI 2.0a ports with full HDCP 2.2 and HEVC/VP9 support along with HDR encoding capacity (what HDMI 2.0a is all about). Furthermore, the KS8500 comes with 3 USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port and built-in WiFi for streaming content to and from mobile devices in non-4K resolutions or music content you want to send to the TV itself.
Samsung also offers the One Connect box for its SUHD TVs, which externalizes all connectivity ports into a single device that can be upgraded easily as new connection and HDMI standards come out.
The KS8500 sells in three sizes, with a 49 inch, 55 inch and 65 inch model available. The cheapest of these is the 49 inch model at $1,699.99, followed by the 55 inch at $1,997.99 and then the 65 inch edition for a not-so affordable $2,997.99.
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As we’d covered in detail above, the KS8500 suffers from a few notable weaknesses. First among these is the lack of 3D support of any kind. This is followed by poor viewing angles to the VA panel technology Samsung used for these TVs. Then, there is the fact that the brand still won’t give its premium SUHD models full-array backlighting across the board and only reserves it for the flagship edition, even though a brand like Vizio can manage FALD technology in all of its 2016 P-Series TVs.
• Superb HDR quality
• Very high peak brightness
• Some solid Tizen smart OS improvements
• One sexy looking TV
• Remarkable color performance
• Very deep black levels
• Great contrast
• VA panel causes poor viewing angles
• No 3D support
• No USB 3.0
• Still no Full-array LED backlighting
• Curved screen adds $200 to price without a point