Samsung KS9000 SUHD 4K Ultra HD 240MR Smart LED 2016 TV Review (UN65KS9000, UN55KS9000)
After releasing several thoroughly reinvented 4K TVs in 2015 in the form of their now famous SUHD lineup, Samsung has continued their new branding choice into 2016 with the next generation of SUHD 4K ultra HD smart TVs with HDR and quantum dot color enhancement. The KS9000 4K SUHD TV, which comes in two different sizes at 55 and 65 inches, is the second tier SUHD TV for 2016, one notch below the next-up, temporary flagship model KS9500 television (until the KS9800 comes in June). In other words, this particular TV is the next generation equivalent of the 2015 JS9000 , which was itself one highly acclaimed piece of home entertainment technology.
First of all we should note that after careful examination of the new KS-Line of 4K TVs and the KS9000 in particular for this review, we can say that a lot of the features and specs for both the 2015 and 2016 models are virtually identical. Samsung itself has gone ahead and changed up a lot of their marketing terminology for the new SUHD model but the essential technologies behind these labels are either the same or only slightly refined in the KS9000 from its 2015 SUHD JS9000.
On the one hand, this is a bit sneaky on Samsung’s part, but on the other hand, there are major key enhancements between last year’s models and the 2016 KS9000 and other SUHD TVs which make this a far superior 4K UHD TV in its display quality. Most particularly, in the KS9000 and its 2016 SUHD cousins, HDR has been improved enormously with all new heights of peak brightness and contrast performance. This makes the KS9000 into one downright superb television that could easily be considered one of the best non-OLED television models for this year.
Furthermore, this isn’t to say that there aren’t some genuine improvements at work in the KS9000. Because as we’ll shortly see, this new model definitely upped the ante on high dynamic range and color technology, with contrast improvements being a particular new benefit as we’re going to soon see.
Like we said, even if the KS9000 come with an overwhelming majority of the same essential specs as the JS9000 from 2015, it’s copying a lot from what was an excellent TV and still remains as one of the best 4K LCD models on sale today. That aside, the KS9000 2016 SUHD does indeed improve on its predecessors abilities and thus can soundly be called an even better 4K TV, meaning that this particular model is downright superb in so many ways.
There are a number of things which particularly make this new model into one superb performer. First among them is the sheer quality of black levels, contrast and color saturation. This is after all an HDR TV from one of the leading brands on the market and its internal high dynamic range and display specs are designed to conform to the standards for “Ultra HD premium” from the UHD Alliance. The quality thus really shows in the display quality of the KS9000 in both of its size ranges.
Secondly, the depth and clarity of Samsung’s Ultra Clear Panel technology and the strong LED qualities in the TV’s screen only help enhance both contrast and sharpness. Light flow to bright areas of the screen is downright top notch for an LCD TV and images look nicely dynamic as per the HDR standards built into the KS9000. On top of all this, the upscaling technology in the KS9000 is downright superb, with SD, 720p and Full HD content in particular all getting the benefit of some excellent augmentation in their quality. The effect can be a bit weak or even fuzzy looking in poorly mastered SD video sources but for high quality DVDs and pretty much any sort of 720p or 1080p content, Samsung’s 2016 upscaling engine does its work like a pro.
There’s also one other cool new upscaling/remastering feature at work in the KS9000 that we never noted in the 2015 JS9000 model. This is the newer TV’s ability to also upscale the contrast in non-HDR or “non-SUHD” content, as Samsung calls it. In simple terms, the TV augments brightness and vividness in SDR video sources for improved contrast levels which often do indeed create a superior level of picture quality.
Next, the Samsung Tizen smart TV OS --which we’ve reviewed before in our Smart TV platform guide— works as well as it ever has in the KS9000. This is in our view the second best smart TV platform on the market today, lagging a bit behind only LG’s WebOS smart interfaces and the KS9000’s quad-core processor makes sure that Tizen runs smoothly and easily in this TV. Usability and access to smart TV apps are both superb as well.
Finally, we’re downright happy that Samsung has also given this 2016 SUHD TV a flat display panel option. As we’ve explained in detail before, curved screen design was little more than a silly gimmick when it started being introduced to all normal-sized 4K TVs in late 2014 and we’re happy to see signs that it’s fading away.
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On the other hand, the KS9000 isn’t a perfect 4K TV by any means and while its flaws are definitely few and far between, it has a couple of them, some very minor and a couple we think are a bit more criticism worthy.
First of all, this TV still suffers from the side-angle viewing problems of some of its 2015 SUHD cousins. The viewing angles on the KS9000 aren’t terrible but we definitely think that Samsung could have put more effort into improving their LCD TV technology for handling angles better. Color saturation and contrast both suffer markedly at wide off-center angles.
We should also note that while the black levels and “Supreme Dimming” precision in the KS9000 are definite winners in comparison to other LCD TVs on the market this year, the KS9000 doesn’t come close to matching OLED technology in the quality of its blacks still or the precision of its local dimming technology. LCD still has a ways to go in this regard it seems, even with the latest premium TV models like this one.
Secondly, Samsung should know by now that simpler is better when it comes to all the display bloat produced by special picture enhancing technologies like those found in the KS9000. While yes, some of them do a great job of creating a superior viewing experience, others only work to over saturate images or create oddly unnatural visual effects. It’s a shame some of these features are on by default in this TV right out of the box, forcing you to tone things down manually. The AutoMotion Plus is a particular hassle due to the strange effects it creates in 2D content and movies.
Finally, while this may not bother a large percentage of viewers in the least, some people who are thinking of buying this new TV or the other SUHD 2016 models will be unhappy to know that Samsung has not given the KS9000 any sort of 3D support, neither passive nor active. So there’s that for you fans of 3D immersion to chew on when you’re thinking of buying.
On the whole, the 2016 SUHD TVs in general are looking great and the KS9000 is a fine replacement for the JS9000 from last year. We love this TV in most of its specs and think its new “ultra HD Premium” HDR features are a definite improvement on the HDR capabilities of last year’s counterpart to this TV, making the 2016 SUHD version the better buying choice if you’ve never owned either TV and are wondering which to go for.
However, if you already own a JS9000 from 2015 and you’re happy with its high dynamic range and color features, there’s really no need to change it up for this newer version quite yet. The two TVs are remarkably similar in most ways.
UN65KS9000FXZA or UN65KS9000 - 65 inch version
UN55KS9000FXZA or UN65KS9000 - 55 inch version
• Screen size: 54.6 diagonal inches and 64.5 diagonal inches
• 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 (Supreme Motion Rate 240Hz)
• 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: 60W (20W x 2, Woofer 10W x 2) Down Firing w/Tweeter (4.1CH) speakers with with Dolby Digital Plus
• Contrast Ratio: 6,545:1
• Black Level maximum: 0.017 cd/m2
• Other Display Features: Auto Depth Enhancer and Ultra Clear Panel technology
• TV weight without/with stand: 58.2 lb./ 63.1 lb.
• Dimensions: 57.0" x 32.9" x 1.6" inches without stand/ With stand: 57.0" x 36.6" x 16.3" inches
• Processor: Quad-core
The new core highlights of the 2016 KS9000 SUHD 4K TV are definitely its visual features, followed by the more traditional qualities in its smart TV platform. Due to these, this is one hell of a great LCD TV and even by the standards of other top-shelf LCD 4K UHD TVs in 2016 so far, it stands out as an excellent model.
• Quantum Dot Color: This is essentially the same technology as last year’s Nano Crystal technology but with a new name given to it for marketing purposes. In either case, quantum dot color definitely does add a notable visual benefit to the colors on the screen and enhances vibrancy and realism in particular. The quantum nano crystal layer between LCD screen and the KS9000’s backlight creates a particularly powerful effect when combined with the color enhancements of high dynamic range technology in this model.
• HDR 1000: This is Samsung’s version of 2016 UHD Alliance certified HDR technology and it looks superb in the KS9000. Blacks are deep and rich by LCD standards, bright spots are capable of peaking at over 1000 nits of brightness and the overall quality of the HDR in the KS9000 is definitely superior to that of the dynamic range found in the 2015 JS9000. Unlike 4K resolution itself, HDR is immediately and obviously visible when placed next to SDR display or lower quality HDR, and the KS9000 shines in the quality of its high dynamic range.
• Peak Illuminator Ultimate: This is an integral part of the KS9000’s HDR technology and isn’t found in the 2015 JS9000. Along with Ultra Black and it is the mechanism by which this TV can produce exceptionally bright whites in onscreen content. In this, the KS9000 definitely beats even the best existing OLED TVs, with peak brightness of at least 1100 nits being easily possible and spot brightness points that were measured to go as high as even 1400 nits, taking the KS9000 well into the range of UHD Alliance HDR qualifications for this spec.
• Ultra Black: This is the counterpoint technology to Peak Illuminator Ultimate and it is another improvement over the specs of the 2015 JS9000, which only features the rather weaker Precision Black spec. With Ultra Black, the KS9000 is capable of hitting black levels that go as low as 0.001 cd/m2 if smart local dimming is also activated, but achieves a more regular black level of 0.034 cd/m2, which is still impressive by LCD TV standards. Ultra Black and Peak Illuminator Ultimate are the two core technologies behind the KS9000’s HDR capabilities.
• Smart Features: The 2016 version of the Tizen smart TV OS in this and other new SUHD TVs is not a dramatic improvement from the 2015 Tizen smart platform but it does come with some minor upgrades. The new smart remote now features superior point and click capability and the quad core processor has ceated what we think is a smoother and faster Smart platform navigation than that we noted in the 2015 SUHD TVs we reviewed. Furthermore, access to Smart Apps is better than ever. We also love the new addition of an auto device detection mechanism, which is very handy for quickly accessing content from external devices.
• Sound: The sound quality of the KS9000’s speakers is downright remarkable when you consider the fact that they’re housed inside a chassis with less than an inch of depth. This TV creates some very high quality native sound and offers several different audio configuration modes to choose from with Music sound being the sharpest and riches in our view.
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As we’ve already mentioned, the visual specs of the KS9000 are superb –definitely when measured against those of other newer or older LCD 4K TVs and even when measured up against OLED technology in terms of peak brightness capacity.
For starters, this TV manages the already-mentioned “Ultra HD Premium” level peak brightness of well beyond 1000 nits, with the ability to peak at more than 1400 nits of maximum focal point brightness on the screen. That in turn is complemented by an also superb black level capacity that can take darkness down to well beyond the UHD Alliance-specified minimum of 0.05 nits, with the KS9000 easily managing 0.017 nits against a white level of 99.3 cd/m2 (cd/m2 being numerically equal to nits) and even being capable of reaching around 0.001 nits of specific dark levels with local dimming technology activated. The result of these two technologies alone is a superb level of contrast and some excellent range in contrast levels for rich, fine details on the screen during viewing of both HDR content and to a lesser extent, even SDR content, which benefits from the TV’s dynamic range chops.
Next up, there is the color performance of the KS9000. In the 2016/2016 SUHD models, just as in the 2015 SUHD TVs, Samsung has once again added in quantum dot nano crystal color and simply given it a new name, finally calling it quantum dot color. This QD technology consists of a layer of ultra thin film located between the LCD panel and the front protective glass of the TV. As the quantum dot crystals are struck by the light from the TV’s LEDs after it has also passed through the TV’s pixels, they produce a broader, richer range of color values for both greater realism and superior vibrancy.
On the other hand, the KS9000 also fails somewhat in terms of the ideal for color performance as it’s defined in HDR standards from both the UHD Alliance and even the Dolby Vision high dynamic range standard. While the TV manages a level of DCI-P3 performance that is impressive enough, at about 97% of the color space for P3 represented, the TV’s Rec.2020 performance is not quite as good, since the Rec.2020 color space container is larger than DCI-P3. This TV only manages roughly 73% of Rec.2020 standards. This still means it’s pretty much good enough for UHD Alliance color standards and most viewers likely won’t even notice the weakness here, but the KS9000 is not what we’d call a perfect color performer.
Finally, on a more basic level, while this particular SUHD model delivers some superb visible color performance, great contrast and truly excellent brightness, its viewing angles could definitely use some work, with a notable percentage of color, contrast and brightness lost suring wide angle viewing.
The connectivity features of the KS9000 are just about identical to those of the 2015 Samsung SUHD TVs In this year’s models, you get a total of 4 HDMI 2.0a ports, with full HDR content transmission capacity and 3 USB 2.0 ports. Samsung could have finally given their 2016 SUHD TVs USB 3.0 but decided not to and we consider this disappointing, but it’s definitely not a major complaint.
The usual built-in WiFi and Ethernet connectivity are both present an the new 2016 Tizen smart TV platform offers access to an even wider array of 4K UHD content apps and entertainment options, thanks largely to growth in the market. Since both HEVC and VP9 content compression codecs are supported by the KS9000, you can use it and its full web browsing capacity or its assorted streaming apps to watch pretty much the full range of online 4K content, from both YouTube (VP9) and all other streaming media platforms (HEVC).
The KS9000 SUHD HDR 4K smart TV is selling for what we’d consider to be a reasonable range of prices for its two different size ranges. At $2,297.99 for the 55 inch model and $3,497.99 for the 65 inch version, the TV is priced almost identically to its 2015 JS9000 cousins in the same size ranges, even though the 2016 version offers far superior high dynamic range performance.
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To summarize briefly, the KS9000’s biggest defects are its surprisingly poor viewing angles, less than OLED-level black level performance and its lack of 3D technology. We also think the TV could have used a couple USB 3.0 ports and would have benefited from full-array LED backlighting considering its price and status.
• Excellent HDR specs
• Superb peak brightness
• Some very deep rich blacks
• Great smart platform
• Physically beautiful
• Very good color performance
• Weak viewing angles
• No 3D support
• Lacks USB 3.0
• We’d prefer full-array LED backlighting