If Samsung is to be believed, the 65-inch UE65JS9500 represents a whole new category of TV technology; it’s not just a UHD TV, it’s an ‘SUHD’ TV.
While a few retailers seem to have bought into this suggestion, though, the truth is that it’s not really a completely new sort of LCD TV. It is, though, uniquely cutting edge in a number of areas.
These start with its design.
For as well as being boldly curved, the screen is suspended in a beautifully metallic, ultra-thin frame that further stands out from the crowd by being heavily chamfered. The whole thing is beautifully built too, and even the external connections box that comes with the TV benefits from a brushed aluminium finish.
This so-called ‘One Connect’ connections box is actually one of the set’s most appealing features, for as well as the TV’s connections it carries the its processing and feature chipsets so that you can upgrade your UE65JS9500 with future Samsung TVs and operating systems (as well as, potentially, new types of connection) simply by swapping the current One Connect for a future one.
What's on offer?
This unique future-proofing touch isn’t the only way the UE65JS9500 is thinking ahead more than any other TV right now either. It’s also the only TV - along with its ‘SUHD’ brethren - currently able to handle high dynamic range (HDR) content, with its expanded brightness and colour range.
Right now, sadly, the UK has zero HDR content for consumers to watch.
But Amazon has already started streaming it in the US and will doubtless do the same in the UK soon; Netflix has stated it intends to launch HDR later this year; and the new UHD Blu-ray disc format due before Christmas is committed to HDR. So it makes perfect sense for the UE65JS9500 to accommodate HDR already.
To be fair to Samsung’s rivals, some of them - LG, Sony and Panasonic - are introducing HDR support to a few of their high-end TVs via firmware updates later in the year.
But HDR is not just about a TV being able to ‘read’ an HDR signal.
To get the full impact from an HDR feed a TV needs colour, contrast and brightness capabilities beyond those of today’s ‘typical’ LCD TVs. And it’s here that Samsung’s HDR prescience comes in to its own, for the 65JS9500 claims an unprecedentedly (for a commercially released TV) huge maximum brightness of 1000 Nits. That's thanks to a combination of a new backlight system; backlights placed directly behind the screen; the ability to control sections of the backlights independently; and a new ultra-transmissive panel.
The UE65JS9500 additionally uses new ‘Nano Crystal’ technology to deliver a colour range much wider than anything produced by normal LCD colour systems - though it should be stressed that the other main brands are using colour-expanding tech in their flagship TVs too this year.
One last trick in the UE65JS9500’s locker is its 10-bit panel which, in conjunction with Samsung’s new video processing, means it can resolve far more colour tones than the usual 8-bit TV.
Although its picture talents are the UE65JS9500’s star attraction, it also carries Samsung’s new Tizen smart TV system, featuring a much more streamlined and mostly helpful menu system than anything we’ve seen from Samsung before.
It feels a little unfinished currently thanks to one or two missing apps and features, but we’re assured that all Samsung’s usual tricks will arrive eventually via firmware updates.
All it's cracked up to be
So for the moment of truth: does all that high falutin’ tech inside the UE65JS9500 appear ‘on the screen’?
Actually yes. Especially if you unlock the screen’s maximum potential with HDR UHD content.
As noted before, none of this content is yet available to general consumers, but Samsung provided HDR UHD clips of Life of Pi and Exodus: Gods And Kings on a USB stick for my tests - and the results were mind blowing.
I’ve watched these films dozens of times while testing TVs, but never before have I seen them looking like this.
Colours, in particular, are unprecedentedly dynamic and rich, leaving the same scenes on non-HDR TVs looking dull and muted by comparison. But also astonishing is the image’s brightness and contrast, as bright colours and white areas explode off the screen with a level of intensity and dynamism that again hasn’t been seen before on a TV.
It’s like swapping 20W eco bulbs for 60W standard ones.
The worry when you’re talking about such extreme brightness on an LCD TV is that it will cause dark areas to look washed out and grey. But here again Samsung delivers a dazzling surprise, as the local dimming system and innately good contrast performance of Samsung’s latest panel designs produce some of the deepest, most natural black colours ever seen from an LCD TV right alongside those unprecedentedly bold colours and whites.
The combination of HDR, UHD and the 10-bit panel also delivers mesmerising results where detail is concerned, as its range and subtlety of colour helps the TV give full expression to just how much of a step up UHD can be when it’s done right.
Back to the old-school...
While the UE65JS9500 is stunning with HDR UHD content, though, how does it fair with the normal HD stuff we’re still predominantly stuck with today?
Outstandingly well, thankfully.
The processing Samsung uses to both convert HD material to UHD and boost the colour range of non-HDR sources is extremely impressive.
Non HD content doesn’t look as good as native UHD, but it certainly looks more detailed and textured than it would on a mere HD TV. The extra detail is added, too, without the picture becoming noisy or unnatural.
Similarly, while non HDR content doesn’t look as boldly coloured or dynamic as native HDR, it does look richer and more contrasty than it does on normal TVs - though if for some reason you’d rather not exploit all those picture technologies you’ve paid the big bucks for, Samsung’s flagship TV can also limit itself to current colour and contrast standards.
For all its cutting edge thrills though the UE65JS9500 isn’t quite perfect.
HDR sources can look noisy unless you calm the set’s sharpness. Bright objects can exhibit light haloes around them if you don’t salve the brightness setting from Samsung’s over-aggressive presets.
Occasionally the screen loses a little shadow detail in its bid to deliver rich blacks alongside the bright whites unless you even out the contrast.
The set’s sound falls short of some of LG and, especially, Sony’s TVs.
Last and worst, the curved screen can distort reflections across more of the screen than a flat TV.
While Samsung’s flag-waver for 2015 is seriously demanding on your wallet (though slightly cheaper than the top LG 65EC970V screen) and even occasionally feels almost too far ahead of its time, when all’s said and done it’s currently uniquely qualified to cope with the AV future that’s almost upon us.