Samsung UN65JS9000 4K LED TV Review
Samsung's JS9000 boasts next-generation color abilities that put it ahead of the curve.
During CES in January, Samsung made some weighty claims about its new "S-UHD" line—4K TVs capable of color and contrast capabilities well beyond standard LCD performance. We finally got one into the labs, and it's very clear that the company has no intention of blowing smoke.
The Samsung UN65JS9000 (MSRP $5,999, sells everywhere for $3,499) delivers stunningly rich color and an impressive brightness that makes for jaw-dropping picture quality. Crucially, it will also play HDR and wide color content once those formats are available. Pot-sweeteners include Samsung's brand-new smart platform and an elegant "shirring" finish.
While the TV's edge-LED design means it lacks the raw contrast of something like LG's 4K OLED lineup, make no mistake—the JS9000 still packs a serious punch. Not only does it live in an entirely different class than most 4K sets, it's frankly one of the best LCD TVs we've tested. For $3,500, you're getting a terrific UHD TV and investing in awesome next-generation capabilities—what's not to love?
The JS9000 series is available in three screen sizes
Samsung's JS9000 series features three curved 4K televisions in 48 inches (UN48JS9000, MSRP $2,499), 55 inches (UN55JS9000, MSRP $3,999), and 65 inches (UN65JS9000, MSRP $5,999). They're all currently available for way less than MSRP at $1,999, $2,499, and $3,499 respectively, as most of Samsung's 2015 TVs have immediately gotten a price cut.
Design, inputs, smart content, panel type, and performance features—like UHD dimming and nano-crystal color—are identical between sizes.
It's worth noting that the JS9000's panel is allegedly identical to the company's top-tier JS9500 lineup, with the primary difference being the JS9000's edge-lit design—the JS9500 TVs have full-array backlighting. Check our TV buying guide for more information on how they differ.
Our 65-inch JS9000 was received on-loan from Samsung, and given roughly 24 hours of break-in/viewing time prior to calibration and full evaluation. It was tested using the CalMan 5 Professional calibration software, a QuantumData 780a signal generator, a Konica Minolta CS-200 color meter, and a Konica Minolta LS-100 luminance meter. All picture modes were factory reset prior to evaluation.
Design Details & Hardware
Samsung continues to embrace the curved TV look—and then some.
The JS9000 is dressed head-to-toe in premium materials and elegant design details. A curved metal base complements—and subtly adds to—the screen's gentle arch. And while the stand's bright, silver finish doesn't perfectly meld with the TV's darker, brushed bezels, we think it'll jive with most rooms.
Because this is a 4K TV, you can sit much closer to the screen without seeing individual pixels. Sitting front-and-center enhances any immersion created by the curved screen, but it's not a giant improvement over flat-panel TVs. And as I've said in the past, viewers should be careful about room lights when dealing with curved TVs: At certain angles, glare from lights can compound in an arc across the screen, obscuring the picture.
Unlike most TVs, the JS9000's design filigree also extends to the rear casing, which boasts silver shirring. Shirring usually describes patterns in fabrics (thanks mom), but in this case it refers to evenly spaced, vertical ridges that run the length of the TV's backside. The sleek look is interrupted only by inputs for the power cable and OneConnect box.
What's the OneConnect box? Well, it externalizes the TV's A/V inputs, like the HDMI and USB ports. The box's compact design and 10-foot cable make it easier to access the TV's ports compared to traditional placement. It also (potentially) allows owners to keep pace with hardware and software upgrades by swapping in a newer box. It also means that if you run it through a wall you can swap out the box on one end rather than ripping out the whole system in a few years.
The box offers four HDMI inputs—all HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 compliant—and three USB inputs (one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0), as well as component/composite (via splitters) and coaxial for cable/antenna. Utility ports include ethernet (LAN) in, IR out, and an RS-232c control port, as well as digital (optical) and analog audio outputs.
No standard TV clicker is included—you get Samsung's new "smart" control instead. It's a small, wand-like remote that delivers some hi-tech extras, like a microphone for voice commands, an on-screen cursor, and fully backlit keys. I'm not a huge fan of the control's tiny navigational keys, but the on-screen cursor and voice controls work like a charm.
Smart Features & Software
Samsung's Tizen platform floats blissfully along on the coat-tails of webOS.
Last year, LG stole the show with one of the snappiest, prettiest smart platforms we'd ever seen—webOS. Since then, Sammy has upped its smart game via a Tizen-powered platform that tries to pull a similar trick. The platform is fast, effective, and chock full of content ranging from essential to shovelware. But it's also sort of cold and lifeless—the opposite of LG's bubbly, colorful platform. Think of it as the Cameron to LG's Ferris.
Of course, you likely aren't buying this TV to be charmed by its internet features, and from a utilitarian standpoint everything here checks out handsomely. You'll get ample streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and YouTube—all 4K compatible.
In fact, apps are really the primary focus, and most of the premium options—Pandora, Hulu Plus, VUDU, PlayStation Now—are already installed. App browsing is easy and the layout is clean, broken up into basic categories like "games," "lifestyle," and "kids."
While I usually can't stand TV web browsers, Samsung's smart control makes browsing much easier. The on-screen cursor is fluid and responsive, making tasks like typing or clicking links and images much more pleasant compared to the snails-pace navigation from previous years. It's not a PC browser replacement, but it works great in a pinch. The last notable features include cable integration and personal media sharing over DLNA or USB.
The JS9000 is flush with great software options and customizability, but accessing them can be a tad janky. To get into the full menu, you first have to open up a base menu with no fewer than 20 horizontal boxes that line the top of the screen. Scrolling through is tedious since all 20 are simply "shortcuts" to items you can already get to pretty easily in the traditional menu. We can see what Samsung was going for, but the function feels obscured by the design.
Naturally, the highlights here are the ample options for tweaking audio and picture quality. It's this deep level of customizability that sets the JS9000 apart from the company's less expensive TVs. Here are the major players:
Auto Motion Plus: Samsung's motion enhancement suite features multiple pre-set modes (Clear, Standard, Smooth) and a Custom mode. The latter allows you to tailor de-judder (for film) and de-blur (for fast-moving content) separately. This also gives access to LED Clear Motion, a black-frame insertion mode that improves motion by dimming the screen slightly.
Smart LED: Unlike a TV with a full-array backlight and local dimming, the JS9000 is edge-lit, meaning it relies on lights that line the sides of the screen. To enhance the picture, the Smart LED software dynamically dims and boosts different LED zones. You can set this to Off, Low, Standard, or High—we recommend leaving it on "Standard" for the best performance.
Cinema Black: It might sound like the latest Netflix original series, but this is actually a neat little option that helps darken the black (letterbox) bars that show up when you're watching anamorphic film content. When a scene darkens, the TV fixes the top/bottom LEDs at a certain dimness, and compensates for the middle via boosting.
For the TV geeks out there that may want even more, the JS9000 doesn't disappoint. You'll get a gamma slider, custom color space tuner, and dual/multi-point white balance controls. During calibration, the controls were surprisingly granular and responsive.
As for audio, the JS9000 sounds fine, but the speaker quality doesn't match the big, beautiful picture. You at least get plenty of sound options, including various pre-sets like "Music," "Movie," and "Clear Voice." You can also toggle an auto-volume mode and set the speakers for whether the TV is sitting on a tabletop/wall-mounted.
Picture Quality & Viewing
A gorgeous 4K TV that's slightly caged by today's content offerings.
Most people are going to love this TV, there's no doubt about it. Thanks to Samsung's nano-crystals (read: quantum dots) and micro-dimming, the JS9000 boasts an incredible color range and super bright highlights. The 4K eye candy on YouTube and Netflix leaps right off the screen with terrific detail and vivacity. Seriously—the JS9000 is much more than just a run-of-the-mill 4K TV.
But to really define its value—and the value of the entire S-UHD line—we have to dig deeper. I strongly recommend brushing up on the expected upgrades to UHD TVs via our in-depth guide if terms like HDR and wide color gamut are unfamiliar.
Potential buyers should consider that while the JS9000 is equipped to handle both HDR and wide color gamut content, there's almost none available at the moment. Besides a single TV series— Mozart in the Jungle, available only for Amazon Prime members—HDR content is still very hard to come by. That might sound like a deterrent, but lucky standard content still looks fantastic here, and there's bound to be more HDR coming along sooner rather than later.
In a nutshell, you're paying for functionality that you can't take advantage of yet (kind of like buying any 4K TV a couple years ago). The raw power here benefits content of all walks, but tight now, HDR is more like a bonus functionality. In the meantime, the JS9000 still rocks today's content in the manner of a hurricane.
Much ado about lighting
Okay, so you can't race along the HDR Autobahn yet, but the JS9000 still handles like a dream. Testing revealed world-class performance in color accuracy, panel brightness, and motion performance.
Likewise, upscaled content—non-4K content stretched to fit the full screen—looks excellent. Newer Blu-rays are flawless, older Blu-rays still look good, and stuff like cable and DVDs are, as usual, passable. That's important, since the overwhelming majority of "HD" content on cable is still 720p or 1080i outside of streaming options and Blu-rays.
On the downside, the JS9000 lacks the full-array backlight that our best-ranking 4K TVs deliver, and this causes a couple issues. For one, concentrated brightening ("flashlighting") at the sides of the screen may distract you in dim or dark-room viewing—I recoiled from it immediately, but that's also my job. I wish I could say it was only visible during dark scenes, but you can pretty much always see it.
Secondly, as we've seen before, the combination of a curved screen and edge-lighting makes for poor viewing angles. While head-on viewing is gorgeous (especially with a seat that's front-and-center in the curve), it would be risky to wall-mount this TV and expect perfect viewing from all around a huge room.
Finally, while the JS9000's contrast performance won't disappoint by any means, it's nowhere near OLEDs or the best plasma sets. The TV is super-duper bright, yes, but the black levels are merely above average, falling just short of great.
Want oodles more detail about this TV's performance? Check the Science Page to see our calibration recommendations and test results.
The JS9000 delivers an awesome picture today and superb value tomorrow.
If you want a truly premium UHD experience over the next few years, the UN65JS9000 is a step in the right direction. The TV's vivid nano-crystal color and intense brightness are literally futuristic, and designed to excel both today and down the road once the next generation of UHD content arrives.
While it's missing the extra "oomph" we've seen from super-premium options like full-array sets and OLEDs, it's still one of the best LCDs we've ever tested. Not only does it outpace the other wide color gamut models we've tested this year, it does so with no expense to contrast or core performance. That's an extremely important development whether or not you care about HDR.
If you're a videophile, you'll probably take issue with the flashlighting problems caused by the TV's edge-lit design, especially if you're upgrading from a super-inky plasma. While 4K OLEDs like LG's EG9600 and full-array LCDs like Sony's X950B cure this problem, they are only slightly better and also cost almost twice as much.
The UN65JS9000 is a flagship-quality television in all the ways that matter: It's built to impress the moment it's out of the box, but like a fine wine will only get better with time. It's not the best TV that you can buy, but getting this kind of quality for $3,500 isn't just a bargain—it feels like stealing.
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