Samsung UN65JS9500 4K LED TV Review
Samsung's flagship delivers the Ultra High Definition goods.
The Samsung UN65JS9500 (MSRP $5,999, online for $4,499) is an excellent performer that utilizes high-quality tech like nano-crystals (quantum dots) and a full-array backlight with 150 zones of local dimming to deliver stellar picture quality.
The TV's contrast is boosted by its HDR compatibility, making for bright, dazzling highlights alongside impressive black levels for an LCD television. As you'd expect, the TV's grayscale and color accuracy is also very good. Samsung's "Auto Motion Plus" and the 120 Hz refresh rate backlight deliver great motion performance, and upscaled sub-4K content looks great, too.
Read on to see our test data and calibration results.
We calibrate each TV we review with two goals in mind. First, calibrating the TV to international standards (in this case, the rec.709 HDTV standard) gives us the best idea of how the TV's out-of-the-box, default performance compares. Second, calibrating the TV using controls available to consumers helps us to explore the efficacy of the TV's controls and flexibility in different viewing environments.
As usual, Samsung includes quite a few calibration-specific controls like 2/10 point white balance, a gamma slider, and a custom color space (Color Management System), though you don't get a 10-step gamma control or the more advanced 20-point white balance control.
In Movie mode, all controls are accessible, though the TV has been calibrated in conjunction with "Smart LED" (local dimming), which can make a very in-depth calibration difficult because the presence of the on-screen menu very slightly alters the measurements. During the process, I aimed for home theater standards, calibrating to a reference brightness of 40 fL and a gamma curve of 2.4.
Below, you'll see Samsung's default settings in the Movie picture mode (left) alongside my calibrated settings (right). The following sections and charts compare the pre- and post-calibration results for details like grayscale tracking, gamma, and color accuracy.
Contrast—the difference between a TV's darkest and brightest points—is a typical strength for sets equipped with full-array local dimming like the JS9500. This TV's active dimming zones (and HDR compatibility) lend it typically excellent contrast results, though the black levels do tend to shift from very good to only okay depending on content.
The TV's zone layout wasn't terribly congruous with our usual ANSI checkerboard contrast pattern, resulting in variable black levels depending on how much of the screen was dark. With a majority dark screen, I measured minimum luminances as low as 0.003 cd/m2 (in Movie mode) with typical brightnesses ranging from 170-200 cd/m2 (though much higher on small, pinpoint areas during content). Sometimes the black level would jump as high as 0.07 or 0.08 nits, however, when neighboring bright areas.
Overall, the JS9500 averaged a black level of 0.04 cd/m2 and a reference brightness of 194.20 cd/m2, giving it an average contrast just under 5000:1. This is excellent for an LED TV, but doesn't come near the massive contrast of OLED sets.
The curved JS9500 tested typically of most LCD TVs in terms of horizontal viewing area. This is one spot where OLEDs have a natural advantage, being emissive displays. I measured a total viewing angle of 53°, or ±26.5° from the center to either side of the screen. This is to be expected even amongst LED TVs with full-array local dimming technology.
Gamma is another area where a TV's local dimming can have standout effects during the calibration process. Gamma refers to how evenly a TV adds (increases) luminance as it moves from black (0 IRE) to reference white (100 IRE), where typical gamma curves measure 2.2, 2.3, or 2.4.
Out of the box in Movie mode, I measured a gamma of 2.18—quite close to the 2.2 ideal, which is considered best for a room with typical lighting. During calibration, I moved the gamma slider from 0 to -1 and lowered the backlight to hit around a 40 fL reference brightness, resulting in a gamma of 2.38, closer to the 2.4 ideal.
Grayscale & RGB Balance
Televisions create "grayscale" elements (dark grays, midtones, and highlight whites) via a combination of their primary color sub-pixels (red, green, and blue). The proper, 100% emphasis of each sub-pixel results in a neutral and identical gray coloration across the luminance levels of the grayscale. Ideally, a TV will not show coloration in grayscale elements nor represent different "colors" of gray, where ideal HDTV white/gray point adheres to a 6504K correlated color temperature, exactly x = 0.313, y = 0.329 on the 1931 CIE color gamut (for rec.709 color).
Such grayscale error is measured in statements of maximum/collective error called deltaE, where a deltaE (or dE) of 3 or less is considered ideal. The JS9500 tested with a bit of error out of the box, with pre-calibrated settings resulting in a grayscale dE of 4.6. After calibration, adjusting the TV's 2/10 point white balance resulted in a grayscale error of 3.13, which is just marginally above a perceptibly perfect result.
Here's a closer look at the TV's individual RGB emphasis, which correlates exactly to the dE of various grayscale IRE steps found above:
A color gamut is a visual illustration of a a TV's color abilities, specifically the hue and saturation of its red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow colors. While a color gamut can illustrate a TV's produced color space against any set color standard, in this case we tested the JS9500 against both the rec.709 (SDR) and DCI-P3 (HDR) color spaces, as has been the case for most HDR-capable TVs this year.
The JS9500's out-of-the-box rec.709 adherence is, as you might expect, very good. The TV delivers vivid but accurate rec.709/sRGB color, requiring almost no correction during calibration.
Compared to the DCI-P3 color space, the JS9500 doesn't quite offer full coverage, but still produces the greatly increased quantum dot color that we've come to expect from Samsung's SUHD lineup. In the set's Dynamic or Native color space options, expect a great deal more color for content old and new than you'd get from the average HDTV.
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