Hands-on review: CES 2016: Samsung SUHD with Quantum Dot display

Samsung SUHD Quantum Dot Display

This year’s line of Samsung SUHD TVs are deceptive. At first glance, maybe it seems like little has changed to these 4K, HDR-ready pixel portraits.

But look harder at the curved, bezel-less screen and completely seamless back on Samsung’s new KS9500 TV, the flagship SUHD Quantum Dot Display, and you’ll start noticing how much work Samsung has done in 12 short months.

For starters, all TVs in the series will have 10-bit panels capable of over 1 billion colors. And those colors are going to look a lot better thanks to Samsung’s refined Quantum Dot technology that it first tried out in its SUHD TVs last year.

But of equal importance to the new bezel-less design, 10-bit color panel and aversion to using screws to hold things in place, the Samsung KS9500 has its destiny set as the center of your home entertainment experience by integrating a SmartThings hub directly into the back panel.

Samsung SUHD Quantum Dot TV

A war of nanometers

Football is a game of inches. Watching football, however, is now a game of nanometers.

The nanometers I’m referring to are the insanely tiny nanocrystals that the television industry calls “Quantum Dots” that use an electric charge to realign themselves to produce deeper shades of color.

In a conversation with Samsung Vice President of Television Product Marketing Bill Lee, he said: “Quantum Dots as it relates to televisions is only a year old for us. Why we’re talking about it, though, is that there have been improvements to the technology and design.”

These refinements he’s talking about are done to the film that contains the nanocrystals located in between the LEDs and the screen itself.

Samsung SUHD Quantum Dot TV

Quantum Dots, if you’ll remember from last year, give TVs a 30% boost in color accuracy and 64 times more color gradation to every pixel than standard LCD LED sets.

Add to that a 10-bit panel’s ability to produce over a billion colors and you have the makings to see your favorite shows in a whole new light.

A thousand nits under the pixel

But color is just one aspect of a great television. If your TV isn’t bright enough or the screen suffers from a bad case of the glares, it doesn’t matter how many colors it produces.

The KS9500, thankfully, won’t leave you wanting for light: it’s a 1,000nit display making it around three times brighter than most laptop screens and twice as bright as most typical LED TVs on the market right now.

Samsung SUHD Quantum Dot TV

What does that mean in practical terms? Less glare, deeper blacks and amazing-looking HDR content even in spots with direct sunlight. While I miss plasma TVs dearly and still compare nearly every TV I set my eyes on to their ultra-smooth black levels and crisp contrast ratios, handling direct sunlight was never their strong suit.

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Teasin’ Tizen

On the software side of things, you can count on the KS9500 and every member of the new SUHD Quantum Dot series of TVs to rock Tizen OS, the company’s in-house operating system that has become one of the last remaining proprietary OS’s in an industry leaning more heavily on Android TV every year.

While the Tizen OS I saw on display at a Samsung preview event didn’t look all that vastly different from what’s currently on the market, I noticed a sizeable improvement in speed when switching between inputs, as well as screen real estate for SmartThings, a system that can connect your TV to around 200 Internet of Things-ready devices.

Samsung SUHD Quantum Dot TV

In a short demo I saw someone use the remote to turn on and off nearby lights and could potentially lock the door to your house or change the temperature in the room. All of this seemed nifty, sure, but many might not find its inclusion a worthwhile one considering a SmartThings Hub is available on its own for around $100 (£68/AU$149).

Returning to Tizen this year, though, was PlayStation Now and streaming staples Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and Hulu.

Early verdict

A major sticking point for Ultra-HD televisions has been the lack of certified standards. It wasn’t until the UHD Alliance came about in early 2015 that we had any semblance of what to look for in a future-proof 4K display.

What’s good about Samsung’s line of SUHD Quantum Dot Displays … besides, well, everything I just mentioned, is that it will be one of the first series to be put through the paces of the new standard. That means it will be HDR-ready on Day One, and completely compatible with the upcoming line of Ultra-HD Blu-ray players that are expected to drop any day now. (Samsung’s new 4K Blu-ray player that was unveiled at IFA is now available for pre-order starting today, ironically enough.)

Samsung SUHD Quantum Dot TV

On a purely subjective level, the KS9500 was one of the best-looking TVs I’ve yet to see. In the past I’ve found Quantum Dots usually destroy natural-looking color, but after a year of experimenting Samsung has somehow found the secret sauce to creating richer, more vibrant colors without any of it looking oversaturated.

But, that said, if past SUHD models are any indication, this level of quality won’t come cheap. Surely it won’t be more than the also-excellent OLED TVs that LG will roll out later this year, however it’s not unreasonable to expect pricing to start around $1,499 (£899/AU$2,000). Availability wasn’t disclosed yet either, I’m afraid, but that’s sure to come out sooner rather than later.

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