Samsung UN55JS8500 55-inch 4K SUHD LED/LCD TV - Review

Samsung UN55JS8500 Smart 4K SUHD LED/LCD TV
Samsung UN55JS8500 Smart 4K SUHD LED/LCD TV. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

TVs Are A Changin' and Samsung Takes The Lead

TVs have certainly gone through a metamorphosis in recent years, with the introduction of the Smart features, 3D, 4K resolution (which accounted for 40% of U.S. TV sales in 2015), the end of Plasma, the introduction of curved screens, the rise of OLED TVs, and now there are three more additions to that list, HDR, Wide Color Gamut. and Quantum Dots.

To stake its claim as a continued leader in TV tech, Samsung unveiled its first generation of its 4K SUHD TV product category in 2015, and one of the best examples if the UN55JS8500.

In addition to significant video display enhancements, the JS8500 series TVs offer up more features than you may possibly want or need. To find out what it offers and how it performs, keep reading this review.

The Samsung UN55JS8500 - Features and Specifications

1. Design - 55-Inch, 16x9, LCD with flat glare-minimizing ultra clear pro screen, and very stylish narrow bezel.

2. LED Edge lighting - Additionally supported by Nano-Crystal (Quantum Dot) color enhancement technology, Precision Black, Peak Illuminator-pro for enhanced whites (DR compatible), and Local Dimming for more precise brightness and contrast control for specific displayed objects.

3. 4K native display resolution - Additionally supported by  Clear Motion Rate 240 (combines 120Hz Screen Refresh Rate with additional color and image processing).

4. Upscaling - 4K video upscaling/processing provided for all non-4K sources.

5. 3D - Native 3D and 2D-to-3D Conversion using the Active Shutter system (one pair of glasses included).

6. Onboard Connections  -   Ex-Link (A service port), 1 USB port, Ethernet/LAN port (TV also has built-in Wifi), composite and component video connections (paired with shared audio inputs), 3.5mm audio output jack, RF input for connection of an indoor/outdoor antenna, or the RF output of a cable/satellite box.

7. One Connect Mini-Box - The following connections are provided by an external connection hub, referred to as the One Connect Minibox:  4 HDMI inputs. 1 HDMI input is DVI-compatible via adapter, another is MHL-enabled, and a third is Audio Return Channel (ARC) enabled/. All HDMI inputs are version 2.0a with HDCP 2.2 copy-protection for access to HDR and 4K Streaming sources.

In addition to the HDMI inputs, there are also two additional USB ports, and a Digital Optical output provided on the external One Connect Mini box.

8. Audio - There is a built-in 40-watt 2.2 channel speaker system (10 watts x 4) for use in lieu of the outputting audio to an external audio system (However, connecting to an external audio system is highly recommended). Built-in audio compatibility and processing include Dolby Digital Plus, DTS Studio Sound and DTS Premium Sound 5.1.

9. DLNA Certification - This allows access to audio, video, and still image content stored on network-connected devices, such as PC or media server.

10. Wireless Sharing -  A Screen Mirroring (Miracast -  referred to by Samsung as Smart View 2.0) option also provided which allows wireless media streaming from compatible portable devices directly to the UN55JS8500 without going through your home network router

11. Bluetooth Options - The Samsung UN55JS8500 is also Bluetooth-enabled, which provides two capabilities. The first capability allows users to directly stream audio from compatible portable devices and hears it through the TV's speakers. The other capability is where sound originating from the TV can be streamed directly to a compatible Samsung Sound Bar, Home Theater-in-a-box system, or a wireless Bluetooth speaker.

12. Operating System - For efficient and visually pleasing onscreen menus and navigation, the UN55JS8500 incorporates Quad Core processor supported Tizen Operating System

13. Internet Streaming - Beside the core emphasis of providing the best possible video quality in an LCD TV platform, the UN55JS8500 is fully-functional Smart TV, offering up a comprehensive selection of Internet Apps.

Some examples include Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video, HBOGo, Vudu, Hulu, Pandora, YuppTV, Plex, M-GO, Crackle, Facebook, Twitter, and more, including a full Web Browser. You can even connect a keyboard and mouse (either wired or wireless) to make app and web browsing more efficient.

14. Multi-Link Screen - Allows display up to four sources at once (one TV channel plus three additional sources - two TV channels cannot be displayed at the same time as the TV only has one tuner). However, you can display a TV channel, a web source, an HDMI source(s), and USB source the same time.

15. ATSC/NTSC/QAM tuners - For reception of over-the-air and unscrambled high definition/standard definition digital cable signals.

16. Smart Remote Control - Provides onscreen, pointer, or voice control menu navigation. Remote control via HDMI-CEC is also provided.

17. Additional Control Features - Motion Control, Face Recognition, and Skype video phone calling possible with the addition of optional WebCam (Samsung VG-STC5000/ZA).

Video Performance: 4K

4K-capable TVs are definitely supplanting 1080p TVs as the "king-of-the-hill" and although 4K resolution, by itself, does not create the "wow-factor" in most TVs 60-inches or smaller, there is more to consider. The introduction of 4K has actually given TV makers the incentive to improve additional aspects of video display quality, that, when combined with 4K resolution, has the ability to elicit a lot of second looks. These include the incorporation of Wider Color Gamut and contrast/brightness enhancement (HDR).

In the case of the UN55JS8500, I found the color very accurate right out the box, with well-balanced flesh tones and general saturation balance. Also, when viewing HDR-encoded content, the enhanced brightness, where needed, did not have a typical over-exposed or washed-out look. The brightness levels of fire, lamps, or sunshine looked very realistic.

However, although the UN55JS8500 displays excellent images, it isn't perfect. Black levels, although very good for an Edge-lit LED/LED, don't quite go as deep as what you might find on some Full-Array backlit sets, and definitely not as deep as you will find on an OLED TV. On the other hand, uniformity (the evenness of color, blacks, and whites across the entire screen surface) was very good for an Edge-lit set, with minimized corner spotlighting and no noticeable white blotches on the rest of the screen.

The UN55JS8500 does its best work when displaying native 4K content that is also HDR-encoded. However, for those that don't have access to a lot of native HDR-encoded 4K content, non-HDR 4K content still looked excellent. Also, even 1080p sources (such as Blu-ray) look great as a result of excellent upscaling capability, and standard resolution DVD sources look better than you might expect.

However, it is important to note that if you are one that still subscribes to analog cable or still plays VHS tapes - be warned - those sources are not much improved on this TV. Even 4K upscaling can't improve those sources to a significant degree - there just isn't enough video information to work with and they also suffer when magnified to large screen sizes.

For an illustrated look at the video upscaling performance of the UN55JS8500, refer to Part 3 of this review

Video Performance: 3D

With the advent of 4K, HDR, and the announcement that the new Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc format does not include a 3D option, TV makers have been making a slow retreat in offering 3D viewing options in the latest generation of TVs. However, the irony is that these newer sets actually provide a much better 3D viewing experience than previously implemented.

In exploring the 3D viewing option available on the Samsung UN55JS8500, I found that it provided an excellent 3D viewing experience. Even though Samsung uses the Active shutter system, which ordinarily results in noticeable dimming, when compared to viewing a 2D version of the same content, the fact that the UN55JS8500 has enhanced brightness and contrast capability, the results are excellent.

If you have never considered a 3D-capable TV, or own one currently and are not quite satisfied with the result, definitely check out a Samsung JS8500 series sets, you might be surprised. The 3D images are bright, have a good contrast range, and, if you engage AutoMotion Plus, motion blurring is minimized. If the 3D content is produced well, in my opinion, it will look great on this TV.

Audio Performance

The Samsung UN55JS8500 comes equipped 10 watts x 4 channel built-in speaker system, which provides basic (treble, bass) audio settings and sound processing options (Standard, Music, Movie, Clear Voice, Amplify, Stadium, Virtual Surround, Dialog Clarity, Headphone Surround (can be used with any set of headphones), Balance, Equalizer).

A selection of preset sound settings. Standard, Music, Movie, Clear Voice (emphasizes vocals and dialog), Amplify (emphasizes high-frequency sounds), Stadium (best for Sports).

However, although the provided audio setting options provide better-than-average sound quality for a built-in TV speaker system, and voice clarity is also very good, there just isn't enough interior cabinet space to provide a powerful home theater-type listening experience.

For the best listening result, especially for watching movies, an external audio system, such as a good sound bar, paired with a small subwoofer or full system featuring a home theater receiver and 5.1 or 7.1 channel speaker system are the best options.

Smart TV Features

Samsung has the most comprehensive Smart TV features of any TV brand. Centered around its Smart Hub label, Samsung allows you to access a host of content from both the internet and a home network.

Some of the accessible services and sites include: Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, Netflix, Pandora, Vudu, and HuluPlus

In addition to audio and video content services, Samsung is also able to access online social media services, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and also provides the ability to make video phone calls via Skype (optional VG-STC5000 camera required - Buy From Amazon).

Also, users can also add more apps and content via the Samsung Apps Store. Some of the apps are free, and some require a small fee or the app may be free, but the associated service may require an ongoing paid subscription.

As is the case with the current state of the internet, the video quality of streamed content varies, due to both the quality of the content source and the speed of the internet connection. Quality ranges from low-res compressed video that is hard to watch on a large screen to high-def video feeds that look more like DVD quality or slightly better. The 8500's upscaling and video processing capabilities also help, but if the source is of really poor quality, there is only so much that can be done, and, in fact, in some cases, video upscaling and processing can actually make poor quality content look worse.

DLNA, USB, and Screen Mirroring

In addition to content from the internet, the UN55JS8500 can also access content from DLNA compatible media servers and PCs connected to the same home network. I was easily able to access content stored on the PCs connected to my home network.

For added flexibility, you can also access audio, video, and still image files from USB flash drive type devices. In addition, Samsung provided Western Digital My Passport Cinema Vidity-enabled Harddrive which contained examples of native 4K/HDR content.

I found that accessing content from the network and USB plug-in devices was easy, but, it is important to note that the UN55JS8500 is not compatible with all digital media formats (consult the eManual, accessible via TV's menu system, for details).

Also, using an HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition smartphone, I successfully streamed audio and video content from the phone to the TV, using Screen Mirroring (Miracast), Bluetooth, and DLNA options available on the phone.

Control Features

Another important feature provided by Samsung for the UN55JS8500 is the inclusion of the Smart Control remote.

The concept of the Smart Control is very practical as it allows users to navigate onscreen menus via a touchpad that moves an onscreen cursor in much the same way as you would use a mouse, providing the ability to navigate all of the TVs menus and features.

The Smart Control also gives users the ability (with its built-in microphone) to use voice commands to control some functions (such as channel changing). In addition, if you are using the Smart Control, but prefer a more traditional remote control user experience, instead of having to reach for the standard remote, you can actually use the Smart Control to display on the onscreen version of the keypad remote, which is large and easy to see.

The Smart Control remote, although I felt that is was a very practical alternative was a little quirky at times as I had some difficulty matching my control motions with the onscreen cursor movement. Also, as with most voice control systems, sometimes, I had to repeat commands more than once, and sometimes found that the remote when to the wrong channel that I had commanded.

One additional control option that is very practical for web browsing and navigating through the Apps menu is that ability to connect both a USB (or Bluetooth) keyboard and/or mouse. I tested out the USB keyboard option and found scrolling and typing in search keywords, passwords, etc... what easy. The only additional thing is that I still had to have the remote control handy in order to initially activate the onscreen menu so I could use the keyboard.

What I Liked About The Samsung UN55JS8500

1. 4K, HDR, and 3D!

2. Very good onscreen uniformity for an LED Edge-lit set.

3. Incorporation of Nanocrystals (Quantum Dots) for enhanced color performance.

4. Excellent brightness and contrast range - Although the HDR content is a need for best result, even standard content sources benefit from the UN55JS8500's Peak Illuminator Pro Technology.

3. Very good video processing/upscaling of lower resolution content sources.

4. Extensive onscreen menu system.

5. The Apps platform provides a comprehensive selection of internet streaming options (including access to some 4K streaming services).

6. Lots of picture adjustment options provided - can be set independently for each input source.

7. Thin profile and thin bezel edge-to-edge screen styling.

8. Matte screen surface reduces unwanted glare from light reflections.

9. Better onboard sound than I expected - but still needs an external sound system (sound bar or surround system) for best home theater viewing experience.

10. Stable Wifi, Wifi-Direct, Miracast, and Bluetooth.

What I Didn't Like About The Samsung UN55JS8500

1. While the UN55JS8500 is compatible with open HDR 10 specification it is not compatible with Dolby Vision HDR.

2. "Soap Opera" effect when engaging motion settings can be distracting.

3. Off-axis color fading.

4. The built-in audio system was better than I expected for such a thin TV, but an external sound system is really needed for a good home theater listening experience.

5. Shared Component/Composite video input.

6. No onboard controls except for a single button on the back of the TV that serves as both a power on/off and menu navigation control.

7. Wobbly stand. This was a concern of mine throughout the review process - If you have the TV on a movable rack or stand if you need to move that stand - make sure you take on hand to brace the TV. Once placed, users should definitely secure the TV to the wall, even if on a stand.

Final Take

With a stylish edge-to-edge panel design and minimally reflective matte screen, the UN55JS8500 fit well in any typical home environment and can handle variations in room light.

The set's video performance definitely sets a benchmark for Edge Lighting, and the addition of Nanocrystal (Quantum Dots), Peak Illuminator Pro and HDR tech pushes the capability of the LCD TV platform further.

The UN55JS8500's built-in speakers sound better than average (although an external audio solution, such a sound bar or full multi-speaker system would provide a better listening experience - especially for movies).

Also, for the finishing touch, the UN55JS8500 includes comprehensive Smart TV features that provide access to internet and local network-based content and added bonus of Wifi Direct/Miracast, and even Bluetooth elevates the TV as central home entertainment hub even further. The Samsung UN55J8500 SUHD TV definitely deserves a spot on your TV shopping list as a great addition to a home theater setup.

For an additional look and perspective on the Samsung UN55JS8500, also check out the other two parts of this review: Photo Profile - Video Performance Test Results - Buy From Amazon (Available in the 48, 55, and 65-inch screen sizes)

Additional Components and Software Used In This Review

Blu-ray Disc Players: OPPO BDP-103 and Samsung BD-J7500 (one review loan)

Home Theater Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR705

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System (7.1 channels): 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center, 2 Fluance XLBP Bipole Surround Speakers, Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone.

Native 4K/HDR source content provided by Samsung via Western Digital My Passport Cinema Hard Drive. Titles included: The Maze Runner and Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Blu-ray Discs (3D): Drive Angry, Godzilla (2014), Gravity, Hugo, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Jupiter Ascending, The Adventures of Tintin, Terminator Genysis, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Blu-ray Discs (2D): Age of Adaline, American Sniper, Ben Hur, Max Max: Fury Road, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Pacific Rim, and San Andreas

Standard DVDs: The Cave, John Wick, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer unless otherwise indicated. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

Original Publish Date: 02/14/2016 - Robert Silva

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