What makes a TV stand out from the rest? For some, it’s the gimmicks, like curved displays. For more critical consumers, however, it takes a lot more than style. When it comes down to it, it’s about genuine technological innovation.
Samsung has delivered this in heaps over the past year, culminating in the 2017 release of its ‘QLED’ lineup – stunning, near-borderless devices that take full advantage of ‘quantum dot’ technology’.
Unfortunately for most consumers, however, these top-of-the-line models are pricey, and that same cash could get you a top-end OLED LG – TV’s current champion.
Samsung has, however, been dabbling with quantum dots for some time now, and its SUHD Series 9 KS9500 unit gives us the QD experience in all its glory – at a more reasonable price.
What are ‘Quantum Dots’?
Put simply, quantum dot is the latest colour-enhancing LCD technology. A few years ago, Samsung was calling it ‘nano crystal colour’, incorporating it into its high-end models.
Screens laced with either red or green quantum dot nanocrystals are layered over a blue-hued LED panel, creating sharp and highly focused red, green and blue (RGB) tones.
Quantum dot nanocrystals in vials, illuminated with UV light. Credit: Science and Engineering South Consortium
Samsung claims that quantum dots display colour in a range 64 times that of a ‘regular TV’. All you need to know is that it works – the colours on SUHD panels using the tech are arguably the most vibrant on the market today.
Samsung makes good-looking TVs, and the KS9500 is no exception. Its low-profile borders and stylish base make it a fashionable addition to any contemporary living space.
Now a Samsung staple, the ‘Smart Box’ is a port-hub that keeps all connections at a distance from the actual TV. It can be hidden out of sight, minimising the TV’s visual presence.
Yes, it’s curved – but it’s still just a gimmick. Samsung continues to state the obvious by noting that a curved display ensures the same viewing distance regardless of viewing angle. While this is obviously true, it’s not necessarily worth the extra you end up paying for the novelty.
A lot of effort has been put into designing the rear of the TV, and it looks nearly as good as the front. That means that you won’t have to position it against a wall – it can float in the middle of any space.
Specs wise, the KS9500 is pretty well-equipped. Its ‘UHD Premium’ display comes in three sizes: 55”, 65” and 78”.
It’s equipped with all sorts of graphics improvements, like HDR 1000, Supreme UHD Dimming, Peak Illuminator Pro and Precision Black Pro. Using all these features together, the Samsung ensures that it’s always displaying at least 1100 nits of brightness and 10-bit colour.
The colour, as mentioned, is bolstered by the quantum dots. Overall, the unit is absolutely superb for viewing HDR 4K content – it’s as good as it gets.
It’s got Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and its quad-core processor makes sure that everything runs smoothly.
The TV is also equipped with some mightily-good built-in speakers, utilising Dolby Digital Plus to get the most out of the 4.1 channel system.
Performance is generally good all round, but there are a few exceptions. While playing PlayStation 4 – a device limited to Full HD output – the TV did blur colours every now and then, creating what looks like a ‘3D’ effect. It’s quite annoying, but it’s hopefully something that can be solved with a firmware update – especially considering the TV wasn’t even handling 4K content.
The TV does feature Samsung’s long-standing ‘Game Mode’, designed to speed up games at the expense of some graphics quality. I found, however, that gaming was far smoother with Game Mode off. It all comes down to personal preference.
The KS9500 runs on Samsung’s Tizen operating system, with its ‘Smart Hub’ having been streamlined and improved. It’s a joy to use, offering a plethora of easy-to-navigate apps and a customisable control centre for quick access to your favourite devices.
The OS can get a bit glitchy at times, often displaying strange patterns and colours on startup - perhaps another firmware issue.
The system can be voice-controlled, and the feature actually works quite well, even with South African accents.
The USB interface is especially efficient, playing a whole array of file formats and running just as smoothly as the rest of the system.
Ah, yes. The remote. The holy grail of television design – a treasure still eluding Samsung. Unfortunately, the KS9500’s remote really lets it down.
Compared with its older Smart TV remote design – a rounded device with individually-fitted buttons and a fully-functional trackpad – this remote is rather bland and difficult to use.
First off, its buttons are extremely difficult to press. Honestly, it’s a hand workout. Five of the fourteen buttons are part of the remote surface, and not independent, depressable parts. The trackpad is gone, and the button selection has been greatly simplified.
The shape of the remote doesn’t help, either – the ‘ergonomic’ design sits awkwardly in your hand, and its curved edges mean the remote can’t really be operated while it’s sitting on your coffee table.
Annoyingly, the power button doesn’t work about one in every ten presses. It’s not a hardware error – once you manually press the power button located under the TV, the remote works just fine.
Fortunately, it seems like Samsung has picked up on at least one of these flaws. While it’s kept this remote design for its new QLED units, the power button is now depressable.
Despite several annoying issues, the KS9500 is arguably one of the best SUHD panels on the market today.
It lacks 3D functionality, but makes up for it with top-of-the-line visual prowess – it’s immersive enough in two dimensions.
It’s great to look at, even when it’s off, and its cocktail of features output crystal clear video that handles motion exceptionally well, displaying it in colour bettered only by its 2017 successor – the QLED TV.
It’s definitely one of, if not the best edge-lit TV on the market today. That’s not necessarily a good thing, as this TV has the potential to be so much more with full-array LED backlighting.
The curved display is also a gimmick that has outlived its stay, adding to nothing but the price.
Display: 9/10 (A story of what could have been)
Design: 10/10 (It’s gorgeous)
System: 9/10 (LG still pips it – but only marginally)
Remote: 5/10 (Looks don’t make up for poor ergonomics)
Features: 7/10 (No 3D, but everything else)
Final Score: ★ ★ ★ ★
The 55" model currently retails for R28 999 on Takealot.