Samsung UN65JS9500FXZA LCD Ultra HDTV Review Page 2

Even out of the box, our sample of the Samsung had exceptional color. And while I spent hours calibrating the set, the visible improvement over the uncalibrated set in the Warm2 Color Tone setting was small.

Equally important was a palpable sense of image depth, even with 2D sources. I also noticed what appeared to be enhanced dynamic range on current, non-HDR source material—even at the low picture settings described earlier and with the Dynamic Contrast control off. When Jack drops into the subterranean library in Oblivion (chapter 3, 16:20 into the film), his flashlight shines more brightly than I recall seeing on other sets, particularly when it flashes directly into the camera. Ditto for the setting sun visible on his return to the station (at the beginning of chapter 4). Further viewing turned up many more such examples.

I was later able to confirm that the set does indeed produce an HDR-like effect with non-HDR content. The effect makes use of both the set’s Smart LED local dimming and pixel-level processing, and can be defeated only by turning Smart LED off. This of course will dramatically compromise the set’s outstanding black level. While I wish Samsung had provided a less drastic way to disable the derived HDR, I’d likely have left it on even then. It really did add a realistic, fully believable punch to the picture. All of my observations here, apart from the very limited true HDR material Samsung provided, were made with this derived HDR (and therefore Smart LED) engaged.


With the set’s Smart LED control on High, blacks were outstanding. Even in a darkened room, the black bars on widescreen images disappeared on most material—and after fades to black, the set disappeared completely. All of my favorite inky test scenes came across perfectly (in particular, the entire last act of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), though I sometimes had to change the Brightness setting a step or two for the set to do them full justice. There was some visible blooming around bright objects against a dark background. (My acid test for this is the screensaver that shows a white Oppo logo moving across a black background, courtesy of my BDP-105D player.) But this was rarely visible on typical sources.

I occasionally saw blotchy grayness in parts of a dark screen image—most apparent when the Smart LED setting was turned down or off, but rarely visible on my preferred High setting. There were also some minor backlight uniformity issues, though they were very hard to spot on anything other than dark to mid-gray full-field test patterns.

One aspect of the Samsung’s performance was definitely less than stellar, however, and it was no surprise. My picture evaluations were made while sitting on center or only a few degrees off. But move 20 degrees or so to either side, and the image starts to fade, subtly at first but becoming worse the further off center you get. This is common to many LCD sets. And the closer you move to the TV (to get the full benefits of 4K resolution), the narrower the optimum seating area becomes.

The 65JS9500 also does 3D. At first, the 3D glasses I was sent didn’t function. That is, they didn’t fuse together double 3D images. When they finally did work (and I could never discover exactly why), about half of the 3D discs I sampled produced an unwatchable flicker. Samsung worked on the issue, however, and shortly before our deadline provided an update. It fixed the problem; I sampled nine different 3D discs and they all worked properly, with no flicker. (Owners of this TV should note that, though I had my sample set for automatic firmware updates, the update Samsung pushed through to fix the 3D didn’t download until I manually selected “Update now” from the menu.)

Both before and after the fix the Auto Motion Plus (motion interpolation) feature was always on in 3D, even when I turned it off in the menu. When I turned on the set’s 3D-to-2D mode (with a 3D disc loaded), that didn’t turn it off, either. Fortunately, the Custom mode of this feature allows you to separately adjust both Blur and Judder. Setting Blur to 10 (maximum) and Judder to 3 to 4 smoothed motion blur noticeably while still retaining enough of the film look to satisfy my inner video purist (though I still left Auto Motion Plus off in 2D).

All of that sorted out, the 65SJ9500 produced by far the best 3D I’ve ever seen, anywhere, either at home or in the theater. It was sharply detailed, more than satisfyingly bright, and showed no obvious ghosting. For the first time I can honestly say that if given the choice on this set I’d watch the 3D version of a Blu-ray instead of the 2D. This is doubly ironic given that the popularity of 3D at home, and the availability of 3D discs, is shrinking just as at least one company has finally discovered how to take full advantage of the format.

Ultra HD
The UHD source material available to us is still limited. YouTube’s 4K videos, for example, use the VP9 video codec and not the Samsung’s (and the more widely used) H.265 (HEVC). The Samsung only decodes 4K YouTube content as 1080p. But I did have a Sony FMP-X10 UHD Media Player on hand, which now works on any UHD set with HDCP 2.2 copyright management. It included 4K content ranging from the excellent-looking documentary Beneath the Blue Sea to a trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with a weird, reddish color balance (likely a creative choice—I haven’t seen the movie). None of the 4K material I was able to view on this set looked any better (and sometimes it looked worse) than the best upsampled 1080p Blu-rays, including those mentioned earlier.

Of course, we’re still in UHD’s early days, and I’m not the first to remark that higher resolution is the least important feature of the technology. Color and HDR could have a far bigger impact. I had an even smaller sample of HDR material: very short excerpts from Life of Pi and Exodus: Gods and Kings that Samsung provided to us on a USB flash drive. At first, viewed with the Medium setting of the Dynamic Contrast control and significant increases of the Backlighting and Contrast controls (the selections looked all wrong in the settings I used for the non-HDR material), the result was HDR overkill, like drowning a big slice of chocolate fudge cheesecake with hot fudge sauce. But after toning down the controls, it was easy to see how HDR can improve the UHD picture. Bright highlights popped, but in a natural way. Without appropriate test patterns and perhaps new test tools, however, we’re left to using our eyeballs to get this right, at least for now. The risk in this is that HDR can (and will) be overdone. To see how, you’ll need to look no further than your local big-box discount store later this year!

While my 65-inch Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 plasma is no longer in production, it’s nevertheless a good candidate for the best 1080p HDTV ever made. I set it up side by side with the Samsung and drove them both from the same Blu-ray source material. I had to fiddle with the control settings on both sets to get them to match as closely as possible—difficult to do when comparing a plasma with an LCD. (The latter still had gobs of brightness in the tank when the plasma was huffing and puffing to keep up.) But even with as close a match as I could manage, the Samsung won that challenge, with more pop, particularly on bright highlights. It also had more detail, thanks to its (upconverted) 4K resolution. The colors were different, but mainly because the Panasonic, just recently unpacked from its cross-country move, needs a calibration touchup. And the Samsung LCD should clearly eat less power than the Panasonic plasma.

However, the Panasonic had superior off-center viewing, a better gamma (the Samsung could really benefit from an additional gamma step to the dark side), less motion blur (unless you can stand to use Auto Motion Plus), greater adjustability, and a hard-to-define but (indulge me here!) more laid-back, analog look. If I didn’t already own two plasmas (the Panasonic and a 60-inch Pioneer Kuro), would I dig into my checkbook to buy the Samsung? You bet, though its LCD off-center image degradation remains a significant issue—for me.

Yes, it’s pricey. And no, there won’t be a glut of 4K source material for some time yet. But aside from off-axis viewing and that wonky remote, the Samsung UN65JS9500FXZA equals or betters any other set I’ve yet reviewed. The only question is whether or not OLED, which can do equally well or better with blacks while eliminating the off-axis problems, can perform as well in other respects at a similar price. That said, we have yet to see a 65-inch OLED Ultra HDTV that offers both advanced color and HDR for a lower price than the Samsung (particularly with discounts). Until that happens, the Samsung is here now, and it’s ready for any and all challengers as King of the Ultra HD Hill.

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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