Hot on the heels of Sony and LG, market leader Samsung has today unveiled its 2016 4K UHD TV lineup for the Singapore market. Expectedly, the focus in on the new ‘SUHD’ models, which are found across two series (Series 9 and 7).
Before I continue, know that ‘SUHD’ is a marketing term that the Korean company has devised for its highest-end and most expensive 4K TVs. (Cross-town rival LG has a ‘Super UHD’ range, so don’t get confused.) While there are both flat and curved options, the majority of them are curved. Broadly speaking, the standout features of Samsung’s newest SUHD TVs are their quantum dot-based, 10-bit LCD display (none of them use OLED) and Tizen smart TV platform.
First seen at CES earlier this year, the top dog in Samsung’s SUHD TV lineup is once again from Series 9 - more specifically, the curved KS9000. Similar to the KS9500 in the U.S., the KS9000 we’ve here is available in 55, 65, and 78-inch screen sizes. Unlike the full-array local dimming-capable KS9500 (that's in Europe; in the U.S., it's called KS9800), which isn’t part of today’s launch, the KS9000 is an LED edge-lit LCD TV. Now if you were to ask me, that shouldn’t matter much to most people, not when Samsung is pretty much the best in the business when it comes to edge-lit TVs, with models that at times rivaled direct-lit or full-array sets.
Backlight mumbo jumbo aside, there’s actually plenty of consistency between the different models in the different SUHD series, especially in terms of features that matter to picture quality. For one, they all sport a quantum dot display. I won’t go into the technicalities here, but briefly, quantum dots - Samsung used to brand them ‘Nano-Crystals’ - are super-duper tiny particles that the company is using to improve the TVs’ color reproduction. Because they can produce different spectrums of light based on their size, these semiconductor material are very helpful in creating wide gamut displays. Samsung, of course, has its own methods of making quantum dot panels, and this year, it’s touting longer longevity and purer colors thanks to a new protective layer on these particles.
The quantum dots are also the secret sauce that enables the new SUHD TVs to achieve roughly 96% of the DCI-P3 color space, which is much wider than the standard Rec.709 we’ve on HDTVs, and which is being used by HDR (high dynamic range) content.
Then there’s brightness, a spec important for comfortable viewing in a well-lit room, as well as HDR content. All Samsung SUHD TVs in 2016 deliver at least 1,000 nits of brightness. I won’t mask it, Samsung’s constant stressing of this spec is an obvious jibe at LG’s OLED TVs, which typically hover around 600 nits. In fact, Samsung is brandishing another self-created term, HDR 1000, to stress the TVs’ HDR and 1,000 nits brightness capabilities.
Additionally, to reduce reflections and glare, the screens are treated with an Ultra Black tech that absorbs natural light the same way that a moth’s eye does to let it see better at night.
But let’s backtrack to HDR for a bit. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that these new Ultra HD Premium-certified SUHD TVs only support the HDR 10 format, and not the Dolby Vision HDR format. A Samsung spokesperson told me this decision was made primarily because most HDR content today only support HDR 10, not to mention that non of the current-gen 4K Blu-ray players support Dolby Vision. Still, with streaming services like Netflix on board Dolby’s HDR flavor, I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed. I’ve also asked Samsung if it’s possible to include Dolby Vision support at a later date through a new One Connect box / Evolution Kit, but the company has no further details to share at this point. (In case you’re wondering, LG’s 2016 4K TVs support both HDR 10 and Dolby Vision.)
To dispel the notion that TV makers can’t make good software, Samsung is putting tremendous effort on improving the Tizen OS that’s powering these TVs. In past years, Samsung had always claimed that its smart TV user interface was designed to make discovery and accessing of content and services easier and quicker, but in reality, the final experience typically fell short. However, based on my brief time with the new models, I think 2016 may just be the breakout year for the company’s Smart Hub interface, making it a true selling point. With perhaps just the right amount of animations and even more menu culling than last year’s iteration, this year’s Smart Hub UI has, in my opinion, done a very good job presenting the user in one place all sorts of content and info, from live TV and video sources to apps and even the menu, in a simple, but no less useful, manner.
And I’m not saying that because of the pretty skin. Samsung has nailed the little things, too. For example, these SUHD TVs are able to recognize many devices (Blu-ray players, Amazon Fire TVs, Apple TVs, Xboxes, PlayStations - you name it) automatically when you plug them in, and then program the bundled ‘One Remote’ to work with them. Because it’s so damn useful, I’m willing to overlook the fact that Samsung has dropped more buttons from this new smart remote. (The traditional clicker is available as a separate purchase.)
Other nifty features that I won’t detail here include a new Smart View app for sharing pictures, videos, and music from your mobile devices (including iOS) and PCs to the TV; the ability to access high-quality video games from the cloud (not available here yet); and a TV Plus VOD (video-on-demand) service that, sadly, is only available in Korea, and soon, Thailand and Vietnam.
With so many features shared across the board, is there a need to get the highest-end KS9000? Well, for one, the KS9000 is easily the classiest-looking of the bunch, featuring a curved display with a crazy-thin bezel. The back of the TV also has a brushed metal look, and Samsung has gone as far as to hide the screws so that they don’t mess up the aesthetics.
The 55 and 65-inch KS9000 also come with ‘Supreme Motion Rate 200’ and ‘Supreme UHD Dimming’, which in theory should allow for better motion clarity and backlight control than the KS7500 and KS7000’s standard ‘Motion Rate 200’ and ‘UHD Dimming’. Know that because these TVs have a native refresh rate of 100Hz, a lot of the magic has to be done through software. Same goes for the Supreme and non-Supreme micro dimming tech - though based on Samsung’s past TVs, I’ll assume that the KS9000 also has more dimming zones for the algorithms to play with. In short: expect better picture quality on the KS9000.
For audio, the KS9000 comes with a 60W, 4.1-channel speaker system, compared to the 40W/2.1 config on the KS7500 (available in 49, 55, and 65 inches) and KS7000 (available in 49 and 55 inches).
And last but not least, the entry KS7000 is Samsung’s sole flatscreen SUHD offering. In other words, for those averse to curved screens, there’s no flat equivalent of the KS9000.
The Samsung KS9000, KS7500, and KS7000 SUHD TVs are now available at all authorized Samsung dealers, with the exception of the 78-inch KS9000, which is slated to arrive in Q2. Here are their prices:
Note: Samsung is also selling non-SUHD 4K TVs. Without premium features like the quantum dot display, these regular UHD TVs basically target entry-level 4K TV buyers. They come from Series 6 - more specifically, the curved KU6500 and the flat KU6400. Both share largely the same specs: 4K resolution, Tizen OS, 20W speakers, HEVC and VP9 support, and built-in Wi-Fi.
And here are their prices: