Samsung UN65JS9500FXZA LCD Ultra HDTV Review

2D Performance
3D Performance
PRICE $4,200 (updated 2/2/16, price was $6,499 when reviewed)

First-rate blacks and shadow detail
Superb resolution—in both 4K and 1080p Full HD
Impressive sense of image depth—even in 2D
Best 3D seen anywhere
Image degrades significantly off center
Annoying remote control
Glitchy voice- and gesture-control features

This is the first consumer Ultra HDTV out of the gate offering more than just four times the resolution of 1080p HD. While it will require more UHD program material to fully judge its ability to provide 10-bit color, a wider color gamut, and higher dynamic range than today’s content, this Samsung is still a strong candidate for the best LCD set launched to date.

Ultra HD remains very much a work in progress. Source material is still scarce, and while some is available through various forms of downloading and streaming, the promised delivery of Ultra HD on Blu-ray (the route most likely to offer the best UHD quality) is still months away. Furthermore, the UHD sets that have appeared to date offer little more than enhanced resolution—resolution that isn’t really significant unless you see it on the biggest screen you can afford and sit closer than some folks prefer. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a UHD set isn’t desirable. Manufacturers are pouring their best R&D efforts into the technology. But the full benefits of UHD on domestically sized sets will come in the form of advanced color and higher dynamic range from content designed to tap these advantages, not just higher resolution.

Enter the new Samsung SUHD sets. The “S” in SUHD apparently doesn’t stand for anything in particular. Not Super, not Sensational, not Smashing, not Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (Not even Samsung.) But all of those words could be used to describe the 65-inch-diagonal UN65JS9500FXZA (which I’ll refer to as the 65JS9500), the smallest of the three models in Samsung’s SUHD JS9500 series.

Smart Technology
At $6,499 list (though available for $5,000 from major retailers, and even on Samsung’s own Website, as I write this), the 65JS9500 is one of the priciest sets of its size currently available. For that, you expect everything including the kitchen sink, and that’s basically what you get.

The set’s most visible feature, even when it’s off, is its curved screen. For me, this would be neither a dealbreaker nor a deal-maker, though it remains highly contentious among videophiles. Samsung also makes an optional curved soundbar (!) for the set (not tested here). (For more on curved screens, pro and con, see "State of the Arc".)

The Samsung’s rear-panel lacks the usual jack pack. Instead, a single cable links the set to the external (and theoretically, replaceable) One Connect box, which provides all of the wired inputs and outputs.



The set is currently equipped with HDMI 2.0 (sporting the full 18gigabit-per-second bandwidth) and HDCP 2.2. It’s also ready for High Dynamic Range (HDR) sources, but HDR over HDMI will require HDMI 2.0a. This isn’t yet available, but when it’s ready, Samsung plans to offer an upgrade.

Several different versions of HDR are currently floating around the consumer video ecosphere, with no settled standard for either the content or display specifications. The best known is Dolby Vision. Samsung’s JS9500 sets use the SMPTE HDR Open Standard. The main concern for consumers here is that each version of HDR requires slightly different grading for the source. If you play back an HDR source created with HDR format A on a set using HDR format B, there could be a visible difference—perhaps insignificant, but we don’t know yet. It will be to the industry’s benefit to ensure that whatever grading is used on UHD Blu-ray will be fully interoperable with all HDR sets.

The 65JS9500’s backlighting is multizone, full-array local dimming (Smart LED, in Samsungese). The number of zones isn’t specified. Full-array local dimming not only improves black levels but also makes it possible to produce bright image highlights where they’re needed on the screen, a key requirement for HDR video.

The set’s backlighting isn’t provided by the usual raw LEDs, but rather by Nano Crystal Color. This is Samsung’s name for quantum dot or nanocrystal technology. A quantum dot is a microscopic, inorganic particle that emits light of a specific wavelength when energized. The wavelength depends on the size of the dot. Typically, blue LEDs are used to energize the dots, which are sized to emit red or green light. Together with the blue LEDs, this produces the tricolored light required to illuminate an LCD panel. The image itself is still produced by the LCD panel; the dots (with the LEDs) merely provide the backlighting that all LCD sets require. The advantages claimed for this backlight technology over all-LED sets are a wider range of colors and lower power consumption.

The UHD source material currently available to the consumer is still produced with standard dynamic range, 8 bits per color, and the Rec. 709 (1080p Full HD) color gamut. But the UHD road map calls for a move up to 10 bits. And the new, wider UHD color gamut is expected to be a variation of something called P3, the gamut used in digital cinema.

P3 will provide more of the colors visible to the human eye than our present Rec. 709 does. That’s why the ability to produce a wider range of colors is significant. The Samsung 65JS9500 is the first UHD 4K set we’ve tested that should accommodate these added color and HDR features. According to the company, the 65JS9500 will accept and display sources using both 10-bit color and the P3 color gamut.

There’s a lot of industry talk of an even wider color gamut, Rec. 2020, which is accommodated in the Ultra HD standard. But this isn’t practical to achieve today in a consumer set. It’s also not supported by all video experts. While the TV industry has a seemingly endless capacity to surprise us, I wouldn’t hold my breath, or my checkbook, waiting for Rec. 2020.

The Samsung offers a full range of video adjustments, including multiple picture modes, 2- and 10-point White Balance controls, a full color management system (CMS), and multiple fixed gamma settings. The usual controls I rarely or never use are here as well, including digital video noise filters, Dynamic Contrast, Black Tone, and Auto Motion Plus. The last of those is Samsung’s motion-compensation feature. It’s better thought out than most similar frame-interpolation features, and it offers a Custom mode with separate adjustments for Blur and Judder (to minimize the soap-opera effect). But I still avoid it.

Smart Features
While great picture performance is the most important quality of any Ultra HDTV, the Samsung also has more bells and whistles than any self-respecting videophile can wrap his or her head around. There’s something here for everyone. You can download the 160-page manual from Samsung’s Website for more information than can possibly be covered in a review. Name a feature, and it’s likely to be here: Smart apps, full Web browsing, links to the majority of the most popular streaming/downloading sites (Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and so forth). You also get picture-in-picture (PIP) screen mirroring (to share content from another device), social networking, and the sharing of videos, photos, and music via your home network. And much more. Wired or wireless, of course.

The Smart features I did test here were HD streaming from Amazon and YouTube and the motion- and voice-control options. My wireless connection was nearly flawless, buffering only two or three times in hours of use, which suggests that your Web-based quality will depend more on your own Internet provider than on the Samsung itself.

715sammy.rem.jpgThe provided remote control is very small, with tiny and closely packed buttons. Your five-year-old may enjoy using it more than I did. It offers a pointer option that’s quicker to use than the buttons, but incredibly fussy. The aiming position seemed to wander, sometimes even forcing me to point the remote well off-screen to position the cursor. As an alternative, there’s a Samsung remote app available for iOS and Android that you can download to your smartphone or tablet.

I didn’t like the voice-control option any more than I have on previous sets offering this feature. It even popped up several times when I didn’t ask for it. And the Motion Control option (Samsung’s name for gesture control) kept insisting that I didn’t have sufficient room lighting, even with a table lamp next to me. I went no further with these features, which simply aren’t ready for prime time.

SD and “Full HD”
The Samsung performed flawlessly on all of our standard video tests. It also looked impressive enough on 1080i/p sources to fool the average viewer into believing the material was true 4K. In other words, the 2K-to-4K upconversion was superb—possibly the best I’ve seen. The set also sailed through all of our available 4K test patterns with no visible issues.

The 65JS9500’s audio is also far above the mediocre sound we hear from most flat-screen sets. It’s more full-bodied, nicely balanced, and reasonably satisfying even on challenging material. There’s still no true bass, and the sound overall isn’t even a match for that of a modest outboard audio system, but it isn’t likely to offend your silver (or even golden) ears. The set’s optical digital output provides full multichannel audio passthrough with Dolby Digital sources but only two channels with DTS.

When the Samsung’s video controls were set too high, even well short of clipping and in Movie mode, the images had visible glare on highlights—strong enough to look bad on sunlit faces. The settings I ultimately chose for both 2D movie viewing and calibration were Backlight at 7, Contrast at 62. This produced a picture with a peak white level of about 38 foot-lamberts and worked superbly well for me in a darkened room. For different situations (perhaps for normal daytime lighting, particularly when watching sports), some viewers might prefer using a Backlight setting of 15 with Contrast on 60, which produced a peak white level of 52 ft-L with no glare or other adverse effects. I discovered belatedly that my Sharpness setting of 50 produced artifacts on a frequency sweep test pattern. But it also clearly offered more apparent detail on upconverted material without adding visible edge enhancement or other unnatural artifacts as seen from a standard viewing distance. A setting of 30 to 35 was a respectable compromise.

Even before calibration, the Samsung looked astonishing. The resolution on the best Blu-ray transfers was amazing, even when viewed from 10 to 12 feet away. I saw details on familiar discs that I’d never noticed quite so clearly before. Textures were superb, from faces to clothing to natural objects. At the beginning of Microcosmos (1996) on Blu-ray, there’s a disclaimer alerting the viewer to occasional picture flaws due to the age of the material. The only “flaw” I spotted was film grain, highly visible in some shots but virtually invisible in most. What I did get from this disc was some of the most dazzling detail you’re likely to find in any source material. The set’s Digital Clean View control could remove most of the grain, but it also subtly softened the image. I left it off.

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trynberg's picture

Hi Tom, thanks for the excellent review as always. In your opinion, does the curved screen exacerbate the off-angle viewing problems? Did you experience any other positive or negative effects of the curved screen?


johnboy's picture

GREAT REVIEW! My understanding from Samsung is that if you set the COLOR SPACE setting to "native", then all non-HDR content displayed will be upscaled to high dynamic range, i.e., the wider color gamut. You seemed to recommend doing that but then you don't! What's your experience if i set my COLOR SPACE to "native" for all content? Thanks

johnboy's picture

I'm considering purchasing a Samsung BD-J7500 3D 4K upscaling Blu-Ray Player to integrate with my Samsung JS9500 SUHD TV. Is it better that the TV do upscaling to 4K for DVD's & Blu-Ray discs, or the Blu-ray Player? Or is it best that both devices perform the upscaling concurrently as i don't believe you can defeat the 4K upscaling feature on the TV? If the TV is best on its own to perform upscaling, then can the 4K upscaling feature on this Blu-Ray player be defeated? Thanks again.

mars2k's picture

Curved screen = marketing gimmick = extra cost = no thank you