Samsung KS9500 Review – SUHD 4K Ultra HD 240MR Smart LED 4k TV (UN55KS9500, UN65KS9500)
While not quite the flagship 2016 SUHD 4K HDR TV from Samsung’s so-far excellent lineup of models for this year, the KS9500 is definitely a worthwhile contender for any serious home entertainment setup. Offering nearly the same specs and quality as the KS9000 SUHD TV we’ve also reviewed , the KS9500 is “augmented” still further by the addition of a curved display which some consumers might find enticing and others not so much. We’ve already made our negative stance on TV screen curvature clear here , but that aside, the KS9500 is one superb piece of 4K TV technology almost across the board.
Offering the latest in Samsung’s UHD Alliance-certified HDR technology and some excellent further specs for color and contrast augmentation, this 4K TV is easily one of the best if not THE best HDR 4K LCD models on sale in 2016, outdone only by Sony’s X940D or Samsung’s own KS9800, both of which are direct-lit models as opposed to the edge-lighting on the KS9500. Nonetheless, despite that edge-lit back panel, this 4K TV delivers some genuinely wonderful peak brightness and as a result also manages excellent contrast overall. In fact, the only 2015 SUHD TV model that could match the KS9500 or the other 2016 SUHD TVs on these particular specs as well as color is the JS9500 from last year. Let’s take a closer look at the KS9500.
Despite its edge-lit display, the KS9500 (along with the rest of the edge-lit 2016 SUHD TV models) offers some of the best display specs we’ve seen this year in any LCD 4K TV. So far, only Sony’s X940D Direct-lit 75 inch Bravia model and LG’s OLED models beat the SUHDs. With that said, the KS9500 is a real powerhouse when it comes to HDR, color, contrast and some tuly superb peak brightness. Its curved screen may be a pointless gimmick but it at least does no real display quality harm and if some users prefer the aesthetic appeal of curvature, then the KS9500 is their better choice over the KS9000
Going into further detail on those display specs, which are core of the KS9500’s best qualities, this TV delivers one of the best examples we’ve seen so far of the UHS Alliance’s “Ultra HD Premium” certification at work. This means some superbly rich and realistic 10-bit color, excellent advanced DCI-P3 color spectrum coverage and 1100+ nit (cd/m2) peak brightness levels that are stunning to see. Black levels in the KS9500 are also fantastic, with the capacity to go as low as 0.015 nits and even lower under some circumstances if local dimming is activated. The result is a contrast level that’s downright impressive by any LCD measure to-date. Once again, none of Samsung’s 2015 SUHD TVs quite matched these levels and even the JS9500 flagship 2015 TV fell short on both peak brightness and black levels. This is made all the more impressive when you consider that the KS9500 isn’t even a direct-lit 4K TV or Samsung’s 2016 flagship model like the JS9500 was. The SUHD line has definitely improved in this new year.
Furthermore, we love the upscaling technology in the KS9500. It’s superb in doing what it’s mainly built to do and there’s also a whole new twist for even native 4K content at work with this TV’s upscaling. Starting with its essential job of upscaling non-4K content sources, the KS9500’s upscaling engine works superbly with Full HD content and delivers excellent results with 720p and even 480p video sources. All will usually upscale in a way that leaves them looking distinctly better than they would have in a TV with their respective native resolutions. What’s more, the KS9500’s HDR display augmentation technologies also work to improve dynamic range and color saturation in all such video sources.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that any source of SDR non-4K content is converted into HDR video in this TV –it can’t quite manage that—but we do definitely note a slight to very high improvement in video almost across the board. The other interesting twist to this is that the TV also in a way “upscales” native SDR 4K video. It doesn’t improve its resolution of course but the processing engine in the KS9500 does improve color coverage and realism for such video sources.
Finally, we can’t cover what we like in the KS9500 without going into details on the quality of the 2016 Tizen smart TV platform that’s being given across the board to the company’s 2016 TVs. This new version of Tizen with Smart Hub has been improved at least moderately for even better usability, superior intuitive functionality and a layout that’s delightfully clean and easy to move around in when looking for apps, content from all sources and other functions. Needless to say, there’s also plenty in the way of web browsing features in Tizen. In our view this Smart TV OS is perhaps the second best we’ve seen in 2016, after LG’s webOS .
3.0 - 4 Reviews
Little in the way of bad can be associated with the KS9500. We genuinely think this is one of the best edge-lit LCD TVs on the 2016 market that we’ve seen to-date but, since no television’s perfect, a few minor to moderate points are worth mentioning, which criticize the KS9500 itself and, more broadly, Samsung’s general design tactics to some degree.
First of all, we think the whole idea of going for edge-lit displays in what are obviously supposed to be (and in their quality are) premium 4K TVs. Vizio has been building full-array LED backlighting into all of its larger (55 inch+) main TV lines like the P-Series, M-Series and 2016 P-Series 4K UHD TVs since 2014 and Samsung is definitely the bigger and more experienced manufacturer among the two, so why not simply go for full-array lighting, at least in models like the KS9500? Yes, the KS9800 will offer full-array but with a massive price hike we don’t think is entirely justified. The KS9500, KS9000 and KS8500 all do a superb job of delivering peak brightness and contrast but they could do so much better on all fronts with direct-lit panels and their local dimming would be better as well.
Secondly and related to the above, the KS9500 doesn’t offer a high quality of local dimming technology. In this TV, the local dimming is in fact quite mediocre with too much blooming and not enough brightness in some highly pointed bright objects towards the middle of the screen. Full-array models like the much more affordable 2016 P-Series models from Vizio do much better in this area than the KS9500 and specifically because of their superb inclusion of full-array backlighting.
Third, the KS9500 oddly enough is designed with no 3D technology at all included. None of the 2016 SUH models have this and while we think 3D content is too scarce for this to be a major issue, those of you who really want 4K TV with either active or passive 3D definitely included in it would be better off staying away from any of Samsung’s entire SUHD lineup.
Finally, while we can understand why Samsung would avoid IPS (in-plane switching) technology in favor of VA (vertical alignment) panels in its 2016 SUHD TVs since the latter delivers much better contrast and brightness, the downside to this is one of low viewing angles in the KS9500 and other SUHD models. From beyond 65 degrees to either side of dead center, this 4K TV and its cousins all lose a lot of contrast and color richness quickly.
All things considered, the KS9500 2016 SUHD TV is one superb piece of technology with only minor flaws working against it. It’s also reasonably well-priced for its quality and class, especially when compared to any 2016 SUHD TV with display specs even close to being as powerful as those of the KS9500. There are a couple of flaws in this TV but they still don’t take away from this being the best edge-lit 2016 LCD TV on the market along with the identical but flat-screened KS9500.
• Screen size: 54.6 diagonal inches - UN55KS9500 and 64.5 diagonal inches - UN65KS9500
• 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: 60W (20W x 2, Woofer 10W x 2) Down Firing Down Firing w/Tweeter (4.1CH) speakers with Dolby Digital Plus
• Contrast Ratio: 6,662:1
• Other Display Features: Curved display, Auto Depth Enhancer and Ultra Clear Panel technology
• Processor: Quad-core
Quantum Dot Color: Just as 2015’s SUHD 4K TVs came with what Samsung called Nano crystal color, the 2016 models come with what’s now called Quantum Dot Color. Both are the same technology by different names and in either case, the technology in question does work to enhance display performance by augmenting the 10-bit color reproduction delivered by the KS9500’s HDR display specs. The result is an even richer than normal color palette on the screen. The way in which Quantum Dot Color works is essentially by interposing a layer of ultra-thin screens with quantum dot nanocrystals of different sizes impregnated into them. When the white light from the TV’s LEDs passes through these nanocrystals it polarizes them into shining different primary colors based on their specific size. The result blends with color technology in the pixels on the screen for deeper, more varied and thus richer color space coverage.
UHD Premium High Dynamic Range: The KS9500 has been certified for Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance, along with the other 2016 SUHD TVs as a TV that matches their rather specific color and contrast specs. This means that the TV has to comply with minimums and maximums of color space coverage, peak brightness and black level in particular. These specs and their certification in the KS9500 mean that the TV is capable of reaching at least 1100 cd/m2 of peak brightness and can manage black levels no higher than 0.05 nits. As we’ll soon see, the KS9500 more than meets these standards and uses its own internal technologies in the form of Supreme UHD Dimming, Peak Illuminator Pro and Precision Black Pro, all working along with Samsung’s “HDR 1000” technology, to essentially ensure that the television display delivers at least 1100 nits of peak brightness and 0.05 nits of black along with 10-bit color. The effect on HDR 4K content is downright stunning to behold and really does make a difference from what you’d get with even the best non-HDR 4K LCD TVs.
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. Tizen was in our opinion the second best smart TV system after LG’s WebOS in the 2015 TV lineups by brand and in 2016, the same is the case, but with further improvements to Tizen in this year. Now Tizen offers all of the most popular 4K and other media apps while also having expanded its selection of choices still further. Furthermore, navigation between different app menus and different other sections of the smart platform is easier than ever. We also love the aesthetic and design changes to the menus on the 2016 platform’s interface. They’re better looking and more usable than they were in the 2015 version of this smart platform.
3.0 - 4 Reviews
Quite simply, the visual specs of the KS9500 are amazing for an LCD TV and make us excited to see how much better they could be in the flagship KS9800 when we review it as well. This TV compares wonderfully with virtually any other 2016 LCD 4K TV with HDR and outdoes any SDR 4K TV on the market to-date in overall quality. Furthermore, it even manages to beat OLED TV for HDR if you take into account its capacity for peak brightness.
For starts, the KS9500 really makes good on its Ultra HD Premium certification by a very solid margin. Contrast is superbly high, high dynamic range ffeatures work wonderfully and color realism in the KS9500 is nothing short of excellent. Reading all of these things is of course one thing while actually seeing them is entirely different, thus, here are some of the specs themselves to ponder.
As far as testing results for the KS9500 go, this model delivers peak luminance of more than 1400 bits in small specific areas of the screen while being more than capable of going beyond 1300 nits for even 10% areas of the screen. Even areas as large as a quarter of the display can manage 1000 nits of brightness. This is much better than what we’d expect for an Edge-lit 4K TV and goes well beyond the kind of specs the direct-lit 2015 JS9500 flagship SUHD TV could deliver, which maxed out at some 800 nits even for spot peak brightness.
But peak brightness is only the first part of HDR contrast and black levels have to also be met within a specific margin that the UHD Alliance has set at 0.05 for effective quality HDR. In this the KS9500 once again excels by delivering a solid 0.016 nits of maximum luminance in the blackened areas of its display space. This is a superb level of darkness by LCD TV standards and combined with the TV’s white levels of 98.7 to 100 cd/m2 results in a stunningly good contrast ratio of 6,660:1. Both HDR content and SDR video sources benefit from these technologies but native high dynamic range 4K video sources are what really produce a complete “wow” factor in the KS9500.
Color technology in the KS9500 is also excellent across the board. This TV delivers 10-bit color, which makes it superior to most 2015 4K TVs and even most of the SUHD models from last year. With 93% of DCI-P3 color space covered, the TV’s 10-bit color display capacity means an ability to generate over 1.06 billion color values, as opposed to only the 16.8 million possible with 8-bit color.
Finally, we’d like to also note that motion control capabilities in the KS9500 are downright superb, with a native 120Hz refresh rate like all of the 2016 SUHD models, the KS9500 can manage excellent 24p content playback, excellent judder control and some superb motion control specs that we found to be better than those of many 2015 Samsung 4K TVs.
On a last note, we’d like to also add that the curved screen of this particular TV model is a gimmick which we think adds nothing but extra dollars to the retail price. No it won’t improve “immersiveness” and mounting on a wall only becomes more cumbersome. You might love how curved display looks but it’s probably not worth the extra $200 it adds to the price of the KS9500 over that of its otherwise identical KS9000 flat screen cousin. Curved display is a Samsung trick for squeezing more money from buyers, we’d recommend not letting it draw you in.
Connectivity-wise, the KS9500 offers pretty much all of the essentials that come with any 4K TV in 2016 and all of the Samsung models as well.
This means a total of 4 HDMI 2.0a ports with full HDCP 2.2 and HEVC/VP9 support integrated into them along with HDR encoded content reading capacity (the “a” in HDMI 2.0a). Furthermore, the KS9500 includes 3 USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet connection and built-in WiFi for streaming content to and from mobile devices in non-4K resolutions.
Of course, the smart Platform also offers up wide access to many media apps with 4K content streams and music or non-4K video media and there is also a full web browser built into Tizen. Just remember however that the KS9500 will only be able to stream online 4K video if it’s connected to a high-speed internet connection of at least 15 to 20Mbps through its Ethernet connection.
The 2016 KS9500 comes in two models. The smaller 55 inch version of the TV retails for $2,499.99 and the larger 65 inch model (UN65KS9500) is on sale for $3,699.99.
3.0 - 4 Reviews
Once again, to summarize briefly, we don’t like the fact that Samsung has gone with edge-lit display technology in even premium 2016 4K TVs like the KS9500. In the case of this TV, it also results in some very mediocre local dimming performance. Furthermore, we’re not fans of this model’s curved display and think it adds pointless cost to the retail price. Furthermore, the viewing angles of the KS9500 are poor quality and the lack of 3D support might not please some consumers.
• Excellent peak brightness
• Superb High Dynamic Range
• Tizen smart OS works wonderfully
• The TV looks great
• Color performance is fantastic
• Deep, rich black levels
• Amazing contrast
• Great motion control performance
• VA display panel means poor viewing angles
• No 3D support
• Local dimming is mediocre
• No full-array LED backlighting
• Curved screen adds almost $200 pointless dollars to price