Samsung UN65F9000 3D LCD/LED Ultra HDTV
AT A GLANCE
Good black level and shadow detail
No full-array backlight
As with all of the new Ultra HD sets, the Samsung might not give you everything that the future of the technology will throw at it, but for now it’s an exceptional performer.
With a resolution of 3840 x 2160—four times as many pixels as in standard HD—Samsung’s UN65F9000 is one of the first so-called Ultra HD sets to hit the market and the company’s first such TV at 65 inches.
Source material for Ultra HD is scarce today, and TVs are more expensive than they likely will be. By opting for a well-designed set now, you’ll be ready for any imminent Ultra HD sources, but predicting the ever-changing capabilities of our video systems will always be something of a crapshoot. Nevertheless, Samsung’s current Ultra HDTVs are more ready for the still fluid technology’s future than most of the competition is.
Ultra HD is frequently called 4K, though with its resolution of 3840 x 2160, that’s not quite technically correct. But pithy terminology and big, easy-to-remember numbers sell, and 4K certainly rolls off the tongue more smoothly than Ultra HD. So be it—at least for now.
Around the Horn
The Samsung UN65F9000 comes with a fixed, non-rotating, and very wide stand. You’ll need a table or other support at least 60 inches wide to accommodate it comfortably.
All of the inputs, except for a single USB port on the back of the set, are on Samsung’s One Connect terminal box. The HDMI inputs on this separate box, as on most current sets, are HDMI 1.4b. This is sufficient to handle all of today’s standard- and up to 1080p high-definition sources, plus 3840 x 2160 Ultra HD at a maximum of 30 frames per second.
However, if and when there are expanded capabilities with 4K sources, HDMI 1.4b won’t cut it. More advanced HDMI levels are coming, but most current 4K sets can’t be upgraded to handle them, since that would require hardware changes. But Samsung’s 4K sets can be upgraded to future HDMI capabilities with the purchase of a new One Connect box (cost to be determined), freeing you from having to buy an entirely new TV.
Among the Samsung’s extensive video controls are Dynamic Contrast, a full color-management system, both 2-point and 10-point White Balance adjustments, five gamma settings, and Auto Motion Plus. That last one is Samsung’s motion-compensation feature. Since I hate how motion compensation typically makes movies look like video, I didn’t use this feature except to test it. But its Custom mode does offer separate adjustments for Blur and Judder. Turning the Judder control down, preferably to zero, does minimize the All My Children soap opera vibe.
The Smart LED control selects Samsung’s local dimming feature. Disappointingly for such an expensive set, it uses edge lighting rather than a full-array backlight. But it’s nevertheless well designed, offering satisfyingly dark blacks on most material.
Samsung’s Smart TV features include all of the usual goodies: connecting to the Internet, downloading apps, accessing social sites, and streaming or downloading movies and TV shows from the myriad sites that offer them via your wired or wireless home network. I streamed several HD trailers from Vudu; they all looked excellent and far better than I expected. Mobile devices that support Wi-Fi Direct can also be connected wirelessly to the TV without a wireless router.
The Samsung comes with both a conventional remote and the company’s Smart Touch trackpad remote. Both are backlit. The backlighting on the Smart Touch doesn’t include the lettering that identifies each button, but that shouldn’t be a problem after you become acclimated to its icons. (The TV can also perform facial recognition from its pop-up camera.) The Smart Touch remote provides for operation not only with its integral trackpad but also with voice and motion control. I was able to attain marginal motion control for navigating the Smart TV selections, but voice control remained a black hole for me. [Ed. note: For more on Samsung’s voice control navigation, see this issue’s “Smart TV IQ Test,” page 36.]
Ultra HD Performance
All of my tests and viewing here, except as mentioned in this section, involved standard HD source material, not Ultra HD or 4K. This material was, of course, internally upconverted by the set to a 4K (3840 x 2160) pixel count. But no such upconversion can produce a full Ultra HD viewing experience. For that, we need genuine Ultra HD sources.
During our evaluation period, Samsung announced a holiday promotion in which it gave hard drives to buyers of its 4K sets that contained two documentaries, The Last Reef and The Grand Canyon Adventure (around 40 minutes each) plus several UHD featurettes (ranging from a minute to just over 5 minutes in length). Video quality ranged from good but not particularly memorable (The Grand Canyon Adventure) to stunning (the short featurettes).
Independent experts have argued that for UHD to offer a visible resolution advantage at normal viewing distances (roughly 10 feet), you need a screen at least 10 feet wide! For a 65-inch (diagonal) set, they argue, you need to sit no further than 5 feet away to see the resolution increase that Ultra HD offers. I had no complaints with the picture quality of these shorts, but without identical 2K material, impeccably mastered, for comparison, it’s impossible to say whether or not UHD on a 65-inch set might offer a visible resolution advantage over standard HD at a practical viewing distance.
But it’s very possible that additions to the full UHD standard might also increase color accuracy beyond what our current HD system offers. These enhancements—to the color gamut, color bit depth, and color sampling—might be more important, on the screen sizes most popular in the consumer market, than UHD’s increased resolution. However, these enhancements remain in the discussion stage and were not part of what was seen here, nor part of any UHD set on the market as of the end of 2013.
But I can say that at viewing distances you might choose—8 to 10 feet—the best of the 4K material provided on that hard drive looked exceptional on the Samsung, with a smooth but still highly detailed picture offering vivid but natural-looking color.
2K Performance in 2D
The Samsung passed all of our standard video tests, though its chroma resolution was borderline at the highest tested frequency.
Before calibration, in Movie mode and with Warm2 Color Tone selected, the Samsung’s 2D white balance was more than satisfactory. After calibration, it was within the limits of our current HD standards, beyond criticism (see Test Bench).