Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review Page 2

In addition, for a given input and picture mode, the Samsung set won’t store separate color-calibration settings on the same input and picture mode for both UHD and non-UHD sources. (I didn’t have the opportunity to test for this on the LG 65EF9500 OLED before it had to be sent back.) It’s still an open question as to whether or not this might become an issue of concern.

While most of these oddities aren’t of the player itself, they do point to player/set compatibility issues that need to be addressed industrywide. The videophile may grudgingly (or perhaps happily!) optimize his or her controls with every disc; the average consumer will not.

Ideally, there should perhaps be separate memories for HDR and non-HDR UHD Blu-rays and for 1080p discs, with the set recognizing the type of disc and switching automatically to the desired, user-adjusted settings. Samsung, at least, says its 2016 televisions (due out soon) will have separate adjustability for HDR and non-HDR sources, and it’s possible that the BD Wise picture memory mentioned earlier could help manually address these issues when a Samsung UHD player is mated with an older Samsung UHD display like the 65JS9500. (Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test this in time.)

The perfectionist, of course, will likely still do additional minor tweaking on every disc! For most of my HDR-enhanced UHD viewing on the Samsung display, I used the Movie mode, with Backlight and Contrast just a few steps below maximum, Brightness between 45 and 47 (though I had to set it considerably lower than that for some discs, particularly Ender’s Game), and Color at or near 50. The Gamma was usually optimum at +2 or +3, considerably higher than the –2 or –3 that was best for 1080p Blu-rays.

At the shorter viewing distances recommended for UHD, the range of acceptable seating positions with an LCD set narrows dramatically before contrast and color begin to degrade. This becomes even more significant with HDR, which also loses much of its impact on an LCD TV when viewed from significantly off axis. And it applies to the vertical as well; those planning to mount that new HDR UHD set over the fireplace, take note! Of course, this won’t be an issue with OLED, which doesn’t suffer from the off-axis performance issues that affect LCD.

Lastly, HDR works best in subdued room lighting. With too much ambient illumination, the benefits of HDR at the dark end of the brightness scale are seriously diminished.

Samsung on Samsung
Apart from the above concerns, the combination of Samsung’s 65JS9500 display and UBD-K8500 player, with most of the Ultra HD Blu-rays I watched, was often striking. I can’t comment definitively on how this combo compares with the player’s performance on the LG 65EF9500, since the two sets weren’t available to me simultaneously. But I will say that while the Samsung LCD’s blacks were very good (with its Smart LED set to Standard or High—I used High) and its shadow detail impressive, the LG OLED’s blacks and shadow detail were clearly more jaw-dropping. On the other hand, while the OLED didn’t look at all dim on those bright highlights, the LCD, with a higher peak white level on tap, produced them with more dramatic punch.

Even at my longer than optimum 10-foot viewing distance, I could see what appeared to be an increase in resolution from most UHD Blu-rays on the Samsung set, particularly in the non-CGI scenes in Chappie,

The Smurfs 2, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2—all of them Sony Pictures titles. These three were the only UHD discs I had on hand that were mastered in true 4K. The others were mastered from 2K digital intermediates. (See my A/V Veteran blog entry “HDR Is Here!” at for more on this.) Those others were in no way lacking in visible detail, but the three discs specified above were standouts.

More than enhanced color and resolution, it’s HDR that adds the most to the UHD presentation. The results were very different from simply turning up the backlight when watching a 1080p Blu-ray with standard dynamic range. HDR shows up, often dramatically, where it’s best needed, and otherwise the images will look little or no different from those of a non-HDR source.

Directly comparing an HDR UHD movie and its 1080p Blu-ray release is a somewhat dicey proposition, but I couldn’t resist putting the Samsung LCD, fed by UHD discs from the Samsung player, against my 1080p Panasonic TC-65ZT60 plasma, fed by standard Blu-rays from an Oppo BD-105D player. You can read the accompanying story, “Apples to Oranges: 1080p vs. HDR UHD,” for the details, but suffice to say, it was an overall win for UHD Blu-ray.

A Word (or Two) on Color
An Ultra High Definition Blu-ray Disc is capable of carrying 10-bit color (for finer color gradations than our previously dominant 8-bit system—in theory making it far less susceptible to color banding), a BT.2020 color gamut (much wider than our traditional “Full HD” BT.709 standard), and 4:2:0 color subsampling. A discussion of the latter is beyond the scope of this review, but it’s basically a form of color compression.

Not all discs will offer BT.2020, nor can any current consumer displays show it, but that potential is available. Most displays are limited to something slightly less than P3, the color gamut used in commercial digital cinemas, which is wider than BT.709 though not dramatically so.

Two controls on the Samsung player determine how this enhanced color capability is handled. The first, HDMI Color Format, I left in Auto (default). The second, HDMI Deep Color, affects the output color bit rate. With Deep Color off, the bit depth in the source is retained: 8 bits (per color) for 1080p or less, 10 bits for UHD. Turn it to Auto, and bit depths for both 1080p and UHD are upsampled to 12 bits. The latter can generate no additional real information, but might offer benefits on some material.

To keep the output of the player as close as possible to the capabilities of the source on a UHD disc, I left HDMI Deep Color off. In this setting, according to Samsung, the output of the player with 24-frame-per-second material (which is universal on all of the movies released on UHD BD to date, though possibly not on the pre-movie studio logos and menus) is 10 bits, 4:4:4, and a maximum color gamut of BT.2020 (though, again, not all discs will be mastered in BT.2020). The upconversion to 4:4:4 (uncompressed color) by the player offers no additional real color information not present in the disc’s 4:2:0 native format.

The rest is up to the display. For much of the test period, I left the Samsung display’s HDMI UHD Color (settable by input) turned off. I later learned that in the Off position, the player’s 10-bit, wider color gamut output (with a UHD disc) is scaled back to 8 bits and the BT.709 color gamut. Following that discovery I reset this control to On and repeated my color observations to see how things looked with the 10-bit color now activated.

With the correct settings for enhanced color now established, the changes I saw (versus at BT.709 gamut and 8 bits) were never earth shattering. But while neither the current UHD discs nor UHD sets can as yet take advantage of the full color capabilities promised by the UHD format, there were still benefits to be seen.

Reds, in particular, could be more intense when called for, and less red-orange than reds often appear in BT.709. Blues were also a little richer, though this only stood out for me in the more smurfy-looking Smurfs in Smurfs 2. Changes in greens were harder to spot. I also noticed that the few instances of color banding I had seen on some discs in the 8-bit limit with HDMI UHD Color turned off were gone when it was turned on and the display began processing video with the full 10 bits present in the source.

When I saw the first demos of Ultra HD with high dynamic range, I was concerned that HDR, in particular, would be so distractingly obvious that it would pull you out of a movie. But based on what I saw here, exactly the opposite occurred. It enhanced the experience.

To some degree, the Ultra HD Blu-ray format is still a work in progress. What’s needed on the production side is more experience with HDR among transfer technicians, and manufacturers must improve coordination between the players and the displays to allow them to switch seamlessly to the best settings for each format: 1080p, Ultra HD without HDR, and Ultra HD with HDR.

That said, when you do get the setup right, a good HDR-enhanced Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc on a good Ultra HD set, with appropriate room lighting, offers a great video experience. And the Samsung UBD-K8500 player is ready to do its part.

Editor's note: For our reviewers' impressions of some of the first UHD Blu-ray movie titles, see "Eye on UHD: 14 Ultra HD Blu-ray Movies Reviewed."

WildGuy's picture

Really good information here. i thoroughly enjoy reading it. Speaking about Samsung 65JS9500 uhdtv, since its a last year's model, i think it probably display less than 90% of DCI-P3 color gamut. Maybe that's why the difference between Rec.709 and wider color gamut such as DCI-P3 and REC.2020 isn't that big.

newer samsung uhdtv models which i think its about to come out soon or just recently come out this year possibly support color gamut higher than 90% of DCI-P3 which should make the differences between Rec.709 and DCI-P3 or Rec.2020 bigger.

prerich45's picture

Great review Mr. Norton! Very honest.

dougspeterson's picture

I grabbed one of those prerelease units and have, been enjoying it's 4k, not just the new UHD disks but the apps that were missing from my 2014 Sony 4k 65" flatscreen. The upraded res over 1080p is obvious to me.

However it apparently does not do the hires DVD based audio formats, which are likely to be replaced by Atmos etc in any case. Does it actually do the 192/24 spec'd? There is a rumor the bit depth is truncated.