Samsung UN65JS9500 4K HDR TV Review

HDR TV with space background

The JS9500 is Samsung’s flagship TV series for 2015, and it’s represented in this test by the 65-inch UN65JS9500. You can also get 78-inch and 88-inch versions if you’ve got the space.

The JS9500 series is defined by three main features. First, it’s got a native 4K UHD pixel count of 3840x2160 - that’s four times as many pixels as you get with HD. Second, it’s got a curved screen design. Finally, it’s the very first TV to support high dynamic range playback. 

HDR is a new picture technology that lets you enjoy more contrast and richer colors so long as both your TV and the content you’re watching on it are made to HDR standards.

To make the UN65JS9500 compatible with HDR, Samsung has had to deliver a number of innovations in its LCD screen (hence its rather eye-watering $6,000 asking price!). First, a new proprietary NanoCrystal technology delivers a much wider range of colors than you can get with a normal LCD screen, up to 93% of the color spectrum you see in commercial digital cinemas, versus less than 80% with normal LCD TVs.

It also uses a new ultra-transmissive panel design to produce much more brightness than any consumer LCD TV before; as much as 1000 lumens in fact, which makes it pretty much three times as bright as typical LCD TVs. 

Compromise-Free LED Lighting

Given how LCD TVs work, the worry has to be that so much brightness will result in dark scenes looking grey and washed out. However, Samsung’s flagship set has hopefully got this covered too thanks to its direct LED and local dimming combination. The direct lighting places the LED lights directly behind the screen rather than around its edges like most TVs do, while the local dimming system is able to control clusters of the LEDs individually, so they can output different levels of brightness to boost the screen’s contrast performance.

While it’s the picture features that mostly explain the 65JS9500’s cost, it does also carry Samsung’s new Tizen smart TV operating system. This replaces Samsung’s previous rather overpowering full-screen menus with a much tidier, less intrusive system of overlaid menus that treat everything - even AV inputs and TV channels - as apps, to aid navigation. 

The system isn’t perfect, but it certainly makes it much easier to quickly access your favorite content than anything Samsung has done before.

HDR Amazes

Colors enjoy a richness, intensity, and dynamic range, and there’s nothing remotely cartoon-like about this effect, either; on the contrary, these explosive colors actually look more life-like as well as more impactful. The TV’s NanoCrystal technology and clearly ultra-powerful processing help it produce color blends with unprecedented precision. A precision which is itself backed up perfectly by the screen’s 4K UHD resolution.

The new levels of brightness the 65JS9500 achieves play their part in driving the set’s ground-breaking colors powerfully off the screen too, as well as helping it reproduce amounts of detail and degrees of color tone accuracy during dark scenes that are simply not visible on typical LCD TVs.

So long as you’re careful how you set it up, the 65JS9500 delivers the richest, most convincing and most dynamic contrast and black level performance the LCD TV world has seen so far.

Comparing the same Exodus and Life Of Pi scenes from non-HDR Blu-ray on a non-HDR TV merely underlines just how much HDR is bringing to the party. Its impact is in some ways more profound than 4K UHD, and once you’ve experienced it on a screen as powerful as the 65JS9500, it’s painful to have to go back to today’s video ‘normality’.

Looks Awesome Without HDR

The only problem with the 65JS9500’s HDR talents is that you won’t actually be able to enjoy them for yourself because of the current absence of readily available HDR content. It’s fortunate, then, that the 65JS9500 also happens to be a superb performer with non-HDR content.

Colors still look more dynamic and richly saturated than they would on a normal TV, the screen’s unprecedented brightness still makes non-HDR footage look more luminous and intense than it does on regular TVs, and the exceptional local dimming/direct LED engine still leaves other TVs for dead on the contrast front.

HDR Sets It Apart

While it’s the 65JS9500’s HDR talents that really set it apart from anything else in the market right now, it also makes the most of its native 4K resolution. Samsung TVs have long had a knack for bringing out every last available pixel of detail from whatever source resolution you feed them. The combination of so many pixels and so many colors and light subtleties really does make you feel like instead of watching a TV, you’re actually looking at real life.

In short, the 65JS9500 emphatically proves at the first time of asking that HDR and UHD are a match made in AV heaven.

First-rate UHD Upscaling

Unfortunately, native 4K UHD content is also still not as widely available as it really should be.

For the record, watching standard definition on the 65JS9500 isn’t much fun. Having to conjure up so many millions of pixels to turn standard definition into UHD proves a bridge too far even for a TV as powerful as this.

If you’re still into 3D, or you actually want to see how it should be done for a change, the 65JS9500 is once again a revelation. The way it upgrades HD 3D Blu-rays to 4K UHD makes 3D worlds look incredibly tangible and immersive, while the panel’s extra brightness works wonders on both combatting the usual dimming effect caused by 3D glasses and helping to define a convincing sense of 3D space.

Sound Quality

If there’s one performance area where the 65JS9500 isn’t up there with the best of the competition it’s sound. It’s certainly no slouch, delivering a convincingly open, clean mid-range and plenty of treble detail, but it lacks the raw attack, power, and bass extension of audio stars like the Sony X900 series.