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Samsung UNJS8500 series review: Futuristic features don't make flat SUHD TV superior today

The Samsung UNJS8500 SUHD TV has a very good picture for an edge-lit LED LCD, but not good enough to justify the price.

David Katzmaier

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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22 min read

Editor's note: While the UNJS8500 sold in the UK has a curved screen, not the flat screen of the US version we reviewed, Samsung says the two are otherwise identical. For that reason most of the picture quality observations made about the flat version should apply to the curved one as well. Curved screens do introduce minor geometric distortions, increasingly visible from off-angle, and also affect room reflections and screen uniformity.


Samsung UNJS8500 series

The Good

The UNJS8500 is Samsung's highest-end 2015 TV with a flat rather than curved screen. It delivers very good picture quality, with relatively deep black levels, accurate color and solid video processing. It's the least-expensive TV compatible with HDR content, and offers a wider color gamut than most other TVs. The redesigned Smart TV system and remote are simpler than ever to use, its cutting-edge connectivity and other features can be upgraded in the future, and its design is gorgeous.

The Bad

Despite the nanocrystal-powered color and HDR compatibility inherent in Samsung's SUHD name, the JS8500 doesn't offer appreciably better image quality than many less expensive TVs. It has lighter black levels than some top competitors, an issue exacerbated by HDR content that requires maximum light output.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung UNJS8500 SUHD TV has a very good picture for an edge-lit LED LCD, but not good enough to justify the price.

Samsung has spent a lot of money promoting its new "="" tvs"="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="93146fdc-b0b2-42cb-9c21-db0226ba94c0" slug="what-is-samsung-suhd" link-text="" section="news" title="What is Samsung's SUHD?"> as different, better and, above all, worth the higher price compared to regular old UHD (aka 4K) TVs. In the case of the JS8500, the company's least expensive SUHD TV and the one model that's flat instead of curved, it's not.

The JS8500 is a very good performer for an LCD TV, and its color accuracy, video processing and most other picture quality aspects are excellent. Its black levels are also relatively deep, but not as deep as some of the other TVs we've tested such as the Vizio M series , which costs significantly less. Since those black levels form the basis of contrast, the most important element of picture quality, the overall image quality of the JS8500 falls a bit short of what I expect at this price.

This SUHD has plenty of other stuff to recommend it, however: beautiful styling, cutting-edge features and a future-readiness than surpasses most other TVs. It's the cheapest TV you can buy that will handle high dynamic range (HDR), which is considered the next big advancement in video after 4K, and it's also equipped to deal with wider color gamuts, promising more realistic color than ever. HDR content is rare and wide-color content nonexistent today, however, and those extras don't seem to help the JS8500 outperform other TVs with the video you can actually watch now, 4K and otherwise.

I wouldn't be surprised if Samsung's other SUHD TVs, the JS9000 and JS9500 , succeed more seriously at screen superiority. They also cost even more than this one. Meanwhile regular old UHD TVs like the JU7100 offer similar picture quality to this SUHD for a lot less money. Just drop the "S" for savings.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch UN65JS8500, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.


Unless they're curved, most expensive TVs look pretty much the same these days: slivers of frame surrounding a big screen. Somehow Samsung still manages more panache than competitors with the handsome JS8500.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sarah Tew/CNET

The thin bezel around the screen appears to be actual metal, in a textured silver instead of the typical black, and the top edge is mirrored enough to shave by. The "Samsung" logo is the smallest I've seen on any TV, and even the backside is subtly different, with a cool ridged texture. The low-profile stand gives the set that futuristic floating feel.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Last year I lauded called Samsung's remote the best TV clicker I'd ever used. The stripped-down wand found on the 2015 models simply isn't as good, and I actually prefer LG's clicker this year. Yes, Samsung's remote does offer that sweet, sweet motion control -- where you can whip a pointer around the screen just like a Nintendo Wiimote -- and it still has Samsung's awesome twist, where simply laying your finger on the capacitive button summons the pointer and a menu.

Again there are two different ways to move around: motion control with the pointer, and clicking from one item to the next with a traditional four-way cursor. But the new control separates them too much, placing the cursor control below the pointer, and the presence of two separate OK buttons complicates matters. I often had to glance at the remote, and ended up using motion control less, defaulting most often to the traditional cursor.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung also removed too many of the dedicated buttons, including voice search, rewind/fast-forward and, the "keypad" button. Yes the new remote is aggressively lean and small, its motion control precise and slick, but I miss the old one.

The new menu system, however, is a big improvement. Just laying your finger on the touch-sensitive pointer button is enough to summon a basic menu. Icons appear on the top, bottom and left of the screen for "Menu/123," "Smart Hub" and volume, respectively, allowing you to dive into overlays for each while the main video continues playing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The "Menu/123" overlay is the heart of the system, and it's very well-designed. It summons a number pad and full transport (play/pause/stop/record) controls for device and app control, and the top strip serves as a gateway to pretty much every major function, from settings menus to input switching to picture mode. Best of all you can rearrange the tiles along the top in any order -- including to the end of the strip, which only becomes visible when you scroll to the right. You can also move the number pad to either side. Yes, I often prefer dedicated keys for these functions, but this onscreen system is the best substitute for them I've seen.


Key features

Display technology: LCD (VA)LED backlight:Edge-lit with local dimming
Screen shape: FlatResolution:4K
Screen finish: GlossyRefresh rate:120Hz
Smart TV: TizenRemote:Motion
3D technology: Active3D glasses included:1 pair

A couple things separate the Samsung JS8500 from run-of-the-mill 2015 4K TVs: a nanocrystal-enhanced LCD structure, said to improve color, and HDR capability, which is designed to deliver better contrast in the form of brighter highlights, among other improvements. These extras, and an extra few hundred in UPP price, are what make it a SUHD TV.

Nanocrystals seem very similar to Quantum Dots, but Samsung doesn't want to use that term so it's going with "revolutionary Nano-crystal technology." The nanocrystals are designed to emit specific wavelengths of light, which allows for greater efficiency (more light for the same amount of power) and wider color gamuts that better approximate the range of colors found in real life. Samsung's method applies a layer of those crystals between the LED backlight and the standard liquid crystal display element inside the TV. For more details, check out Quantum dots: How nanocrystals can make LCD TVs better.

The other big feature is compatibility with HDR (high dynamic range) content.

HDR video, not to be confused with HDR for photography, promises better picture quality thanks to brighter, more realistic highlights and other improvements. It's widely viewed as the next step beyond 4K, which addresses only resolution, not contrast or color. Only a few HDR-capable TVs have been announced so far, and the JS8500 is actually the least expensive.

Beyond those bullet points it's a fairly standard 4K TV. Its edge-lit LED backlight uses actual local dimming, as opposed to the software-only variety found on some Samsung sets. Unlike Vizio, Samsung won't specify the actual number of dimming zones on any of its TVs.

Like nearly all current 4K TVs, the JS8500 uses a panel with a 120Hz refresh rate. To its credit the company has backed the "Motion Rate" claims down to a smaller number than in previous years, 240 in this case, which it achieves by virtue of a scanning backlight and optional black frame insertion.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The cavalcade of features extends beyond the picture. One of the more interesting is its OneConnect Mini connection box, which houses most of the inputs and offers a modicum of future-proofing. Samsung says that in the future you'll be able to buy new OneConnect boxes that may offer improved connectivity, processing and software. The company just began selling the latest version, the SEK3500U ($399), which delivers an octa-core processor, Tizen Smart TV, the new remote, HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 inputs, and the VP9 and HEVC codecs to compatible 2013 and 2014 Samsung TVs.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In a time when lots of TV makers are dropping 3D to cut costs, Samsung keeps it in the mix. The JS8500 only includes a single pair of active glasses, however, which seems a bit stingy on a TV this expensive.

Smart TV: Samsung has yet again replaced its TVs' brains, this time employing the Tizen operating system it also uses in some of its smart watches and cameras, as well as a few phones . Tizen has a rocky history you can explore in-depth using the links below, but most to users of the new TVs that's irrelevant. In the end the main thing you'll notice is the new interface.

The first thing that came up when I hit "Smart Hub" was a welcome change: a clean, simple, horizontal overlay of icons, with recently used apps and other items, like inputs, lined up along the bottom of the screen. To its left sat an inscrutable "Featured" box that seemed a bit frenetic in the way it cycled through icons, but otherwise harmless enough. Then, to my chagrin, an ad popped up right next to it.

It's the most prominent and annoying advertising I've seen on a Smart TV system since Panasonic tried a banner a couple years ago. At least you could disable Panasonic's ad; on the Samsung, there's no way to prevent it from appearing. Other systems including LG's Web OS have ads, too, but they're buried deeper in the system, not dancing up on the initial screen demanding your attention. Are things really that bad, Samsung?

It's also noteworthy that a recent software update has brought the new initial overlay, complete with the ad, to 2014 Samsung TVs like the UN60HU8550 I have in-house. The update only applies to that first bottom line-up though; the deeper 2014 Smart TV menus haven't changed, so Samsung doesn't get the kind of credit LG deserves for its Web OS update.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Meanwhile back on 2015 models, the new design of the deeper menus is an improvement, once you figure out how to get there. To launch more apps beyond "Recent," or do anything else within the Smart system, you'll have to go to "Featured," a rather unintuitive choice in terminology. There you'll find a couple key apps like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu Plus, as well as the "apps" icon. Once you click it you're greeted by a friendly, clear list of app tiles neatly categorized and searchable. I prefer its design to the app store for Web OS and Android TV , the Google-designed system used by high-end Sony and Sharp TVs this year.

Samsung also benefits from being the exclusive Smart TV provider for HBO Go, and its app selection is superb, with most of the major apps covered. Motion control worked within many of the apps, although Hulu Plus, HBO Go and Vudu are exceptions. Samsung used to offer cross-platform search, but not anymore. Searching using the main magnifying-glass icon gave me results from YouTube and the Internet, but not from any of the apps. Of course you can still search within individual apps, but if you subscribe to multiple services cross-platform search is very useful. Web OS, Android TV and Roku TV all have cross-platform search.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Of course Samsung includes a browser and of course it's nowhere near as good as using your phone, tablet or computer. Both Samsung and LG offer motion control on the browser, which helps a lot, but LG has the advantage of a scroll wheel on the remote.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Oodles of other smart features are onboard. The most useful is Sony's PlayStation Now service, allowing streaming gaming and control via a PS4 controller, just like on Sony's own televisions. Samsung's Multi Link Screen feature lets you put up the browser and other apps split-screen next to a show. Another extra is the "extra" function, which for some reason gets a remote control button even though its only function seems to be summoning halfway-related tweets alongside whatever show you're watching. Its technology is pretty cool though, actually analyzing video content in conjunction with your provider/channel list to figure out what you're watching. It didn't always work, though.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While Tizen is an improvement over the complex multipage system Samsung used in the past, and definitely better than Vizio, it's still not as good as LG's Web OS or Android TV overall, and all are a step or ten behind Roku TV. Especially if you're getting a TV this expensive, it's worth springing the $70 for a Roku 2 , or another streamer, instead of using the inbuilt system.

4K streaming apps: I checked out 4K streaming on the built-in Netflix and Amazon apps and they worked as expected, although as I've seen in the past, consistent 4K streams from Amazon (as opposed to "HD" and 1080p HD") are more sporadic than they are on Netflix.

As usual I didn't see a massive image quality improvement over those services' HD streams, and in previous tests I've performed, neither 4K streaming services' image quality could quite match the best 1080p Blu-rays. And of course content is scarce, although Netflix in particular deserved credit for continuing to release many of its original series, like "Daredevil," in 4K.

While the UltraFlix app is available for 2014 Samsung 4K TVs, it's absent from 2015 models like the JS8500; Samsung says it's being optimized for Tizen and should appear soon.

New for this year, the YouTube app is capable of delivering videos in 4K resolution. Unfortunately the app -- unlike the YouTube website -- doesn't indicate which resolution the video is streaming in, so it's tough to know what you're really watching. I checked out a few of the 4K videos there, including "Honey Bees" and "Beauty of Nature," and they looked sharp enough, but as usual it was impossible to tell if they were actually in 4K.

I also tried a quick experiment using Florian Friedrich's 4K resolution pattern (Mr. Friedrich drives an independent test laboratory in Munich, runs Quality.TV along with renowned video expert Joe Kane, and among other activities consults for numerous companies, including Samsung). Via the JS8500's YouTube app the pattern didn't deliver the full resolution, and it also looked worse than the same pattern on LG's 65EG9600 and the Nvidia Shield , which both in turn looked worse than when I downloaded and played it back from a local file (using the Shield), which was the only time it delivered the full resolution of 4K. I wasn't surprised that streaming isn't as sharp as downloaded local files, even in 4K, but it's interesting to see variation in streaming quality among the different 4K YouTube apps.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: Almost nothing has changed from recent Samsung vintage in this department. In addition to four preset picture modes, advanced controls include 2-point and 10-point grayscale plus an excellent color management system. Samsung's Auto Motion Plus dejudder control is the best in the business. It not only turns the Soap Opera Effect on or off, it allows adjustment of both blur reduction and smoothness -- and includes a setting called LED Clear Motion that improved motion resolution further, albeit along with some visible flicker (see Video processing below).

You can adjust the local dimming via the Smart LED function, and a "Cinema Black" option dims horizontal letterbox bars. There's also a UHD HDMI Color mode, which allows the TV to "see" and display the 4:4:4 chroma subsampling content that may potentially be included in HDMI 2.0-compatible sources. Such signals are essentially nonexistent today, so I didn't test the efficacy of this mode.

It's worth mentioning here that HDR sources, at least the ones I tested, automatically change some of the the picture settings to specific parameters. They almost always changed automatically once I switched to a non-HDR source, but the switch can still be disconcerting. See the HDR tests below for details.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: The bulk of the JS8500's inputs, namely all four HDMI, 2 USB 2.0, and the optical digital audio output, reside in a little black box called the OneConnect Mini (cute!). It connects to the TV itself via six-foot umbilical. The back of the TV does have a few inputs itself, including one USB 3.0, an Ethernet port, the RF antenna jack and minijacks for the included the analog AV breakout cables (one each for component- and composite-video).

Sarah Tew/CNET

All of the HDMI inputs are state-of-the-art, compatible with HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0, capable of accepting up 4K resolution at 60 frames per second and 4:4:4 chroma subsampling rate. Samsung says those inputs will be upgradeable to HDMI 2.0a for forthcoming HDR devices, but has yet to determine the method. Hopefully it will be free, like Sony.

Picture quality

My picture quality ratings scale has been reset for 2015, placing the JS8500 squarely in "very good" territory. Its lighter black levels cause it to fall short of sets like Vizio's M and P series full-array local dimmers, but most other aspects of its image quality, including color, video processing and bright room performance, are excellent.

I was disappointed in its rendition of the sparse early HDR content I had on-hand, however. And while there isn't any wide color gamut content on the market, it did succeed in coming closer to coverage of the P3/DCI color space than other TVs I've tested. That said its advantage was only a few percentage points ahead of the others, and the nanocrystals didn't seem make standard gamut sources look any better.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Black level: The JS8500 stood in the middle of my lineup at producing a realistically dark shade of black. In very dark scenes, such as the black level (and nausea) torture test from Chapter 2 of "Gravity," where Ryan tumbles untethered into space, the depth of its letterbox bars, the shadowed space suit and the void between the stars was relatively dark, but not the kind of inky quality I saw on the full-array local dimming TVs.

The Sony 950B and both Vizios delivered better black levels overall than the JS8500, especially when small bright elements appeared on the screen, such as the pause icon from my PS3. The SUHD did look a bit darker than the other two Samsungs, however, and also beat the Sony 850C -- the lightest TV in the room -- handily. Its performance in this category is very good for an edge-lit LED LCD.

Shadow detail was a strength compared to the Vizio sets, however, with more near-black details visible in dark areas, for example the details on the back of her jet pack and the shaded edge of her face inside the helmet. I still preferred the look of the darker Vizios and especially the Sony 950B (which delivered full shadow detail) in these and other dark scenes, however, because of the added pop and realism imparted by the deep blacks and brighter whites.

The Samsung's dimming isn't perfect by any means, however. One issue was I saw was occasional pulses in brightness, particularly in the letterbox bars above and below the image, where the bar would grow brighter and then dimmer briefly. I saw the pulses a few times during "Gravity," for example at 22:20 and 32:10, and they were relatively distracting. The JS8500 has a Cinema Black option that provides additional dimming to the letterbox bars, so I tried disabling it, but the pulsing remained (albeit slightly reduced in intensity). The other Samsungs also, showed these pulses, but they seemed less frequent and less obvious when they did occur.

I also noticed blooming in the form of large brightness variations with certain material. The most obvious came up when I simply hit Pause on my PS3, which cause the bottom half of the screen to illuminate during dark scenes. I saw a similar issue on the top of the screen with a spinning "loading" logo against a black background. To be fair these issues were also visible on the full-array local dimming TVs, but they were more, well, local.

Color accuracy: If you're expecting a massive jump in color as a result of SUHD/nanocrystals/quantum dots, you'll be disappointed in the JS8500. Just about every piece of content available today -- from cable TV to streaming video (4K and otherwise) to Blu-ray -- uses the Rec. 709 gamut, and with that material didn't look any different on the SUHD than on the other TVs in our lineup that don't use nanocrystals.

That said, colors on the JS8500 were superb and extremely accurate. According to my measurements it's one of the most accurate TVs I've ever tested after calibration, delivering grayscale/gamma and color errors below 1 (3 or less is considered below human perception).

That accuracy showed up in standard program material, too. Unlike "Gravity," the "Samsara" Blu-ray is a carnival of rich, saturated colors starting with the Balinese Legong dancers in Chapter 1. They looked brilliant on the JS8500, the gold of their costumes and the blue and red of their exotic makeup conveyed in stunning beauty. But those colors didn't look any better on SUHD than on the other TVs. The same went for the deep green of the vegetation and the dark reddish-brown skin of the Mursi villagers in Chapter 9, the blue of the seas and skies, and otherworldly red/orange of Kilauea.

Skin tones also looked very good, if a very slightly more bluish/reddish than on the other displays. That cast was most obvious on black and white material, such as "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," where again the grays and near black areas appeared a bit bluer/redder than on the other displays. I was surprised to see this since my measurements indicated an excellent grayscale, and it wasn't an issue with my calibration; I zeroed out my grayscale modifications to make sure, but it didn't help. Perhaps the difference can be attributed to those nanocrystals in some way. Regardless, it was far from drastic and wouldn't be visible to most viewers outside of a side-by-side comparison.

The JS8500 also performed very well on advanced color tests, scoring average Delta errors of 1.47 for saturation and 2.23 for the color checker (anything less than three is considered below the threshold of perception). Luminance color error was also negligible. I also tested its coverage of the P3/DCI color gamut that's in line to replace Rec. 709. It scored 90.3 percent coverage. That's wider than any of the four other TVs I tested so far, including the LG 65EG9600 (87.9 percent), the 65JU7100 (82.1 percent) and the LG 55EC9300 (89.3 percent).

Thanks to Chris Heinonen of Reference Home Theater and The Wirecutter for letting me use his CalMan workflow, which made those advanced measurements possible.

Video processing: The JS8500 offers the same basic suite of processing adjustments as Samsung's standard, and it's among the most versatile and capable in the business.

As expected the SUHD is capable of delivering true 1080p24 film cadence. Unlike most LED LCD TVs, however, it can also deliver full motion resolution at the same time -- you don't have to engage the over-smooth Soap Opera Effect to get optimum motion resolution. On most other sets, conversely, no mode offers true film cadence with zero smoothing and full motion resolution.

To get peak motion resolution you'll have to engage the LED Clear Motion setting. The problem is that Clear Motion introduces a small amount of flicker, so I ultimately decided against using it in my calibration. The flicker is slight, however, so sticklers for motion resolution (and those who don't notice flicker as readily as I do) might opt to keep Clear Motion turned on. Just be aware that engaging it also reduces light output by roughly half, so you should double the backlight setting to achieve the same light output, and you may want to disable Clear Motion in bright rooms.

I ended up using the AMP setting of Custom since it was flicker-free (as long as LED Clear Motion was turned off) and also delivered true 1080p/24 film cadence and very high motion resolution (about 1080 lines), as long as you set Blur Reduction to 10 and Judder Reduction to 0. The other modes (Standard, Smooth and Custom settings with judder reduction set above zero) introduce some level of smoothing, or Soap Opera Effect. Clear produces the slightly stuttery motion characteristic of 3:2 pulldown with film-based sources.

With Game mode engaged, the JS8500 produced an impressive input lag score of 37.9ms, a few ticks into our arbitrary "Good" territory. Interestingly, its less expensive 4K stablemate the JU7100 scored a phenomenal 21.6ms, among the lowest (best) we've measured on any TV.

4K sources: 4K material is still scarce enough that I didn't spend nearly as much time testing it as I did 1080p, but it's getting more common. I enjoyed a variety of 4K clips from numerous sources, including 4K demo boxes and files (primarily supplied by TV makers) and streaming (see above). I asked Samsung for the 2015 version of its UHD Content pack, an optional hard drive filled with 4K and reportedly HDR movies, but was told it's not available yet.

I used a 4K distribution amplifier to compare the JS8500 directly against other 4K sets in the lineup, and the main image quality differences I saw were the same as in 1080p: to do with contrast and color, as opposed to resolution. The best 4K content looked spectacular on all of the TVs, as I've come to expect.

I also checked out a variety of 4K test patterns from both my DVDo test pattern generator and from Florian Friedrich, and the JS8500 looked as good as or better than the other sets in our lineup in most areas. In a couple of Florian's most challenging tests I did notice some differences, for example in the pixel phase, phase modulation and zone plate tests on a couple of the TVs, but the JS8500 passed these tests with no issues. It also looked great in the moving text test, unlike the LG 65EG9600 OLED TV I tested earlier.

HDR sources: Samsung's SUHD TVs currently have exclusive access to the first widely available HDR content, namely the first season of "Mozart in the Jungle" and the pilot episode of "Red Oaks," both Amazon original series and available only via the TVs' built-in Amazon Video app. Curious, I fired them up on the JS8500.

Mozart in the Jungle is the first content widely available in HDR. Sarah Tew/CNET

In short, neither blew me away. Episode 4 of "Mozart," titled "You Have Insulted Tchaikovsky," looked no better than the standard Ultra HD stream on JU7100 I set up to compare. I didn't notice the kind of brighter highlights and contrast boost I've come to expect from HDR demos. In fact, Amazon's HDR on the JS8500 looked a bit worse than Amazon's normal UHD on the JU7100, with somewhat more washed-out blacks and a generally cloudier, flatter image.

I switched over to "Red Oaks" and the difference was drastic -- and again I liked the non-HDR version better. Unlike with "Mozart," colors looked over-saturated in "Red Oaks" in HDR and skin tones in particular appeared ruddy with that sunburned look to Caucasians (the series is about a golf club, so there are plenty of white people). On the other hand, the green grass of the golf course, the blue of the pool and the red of a Corvette did look more brilliant and impressive in HDR, and contrast and richness were improved as well. I can imagine that many viewers would prefer the more "dynamic" (if less natural-looking) colors of the HDR version, and I have no idea which version the producers intended. Personally I wished for color somewhere in the middle of what I saw on the two TVs.

I was also supplied with some Hollywood HDR material by Samsung, including clips from "Exodus: Gods and Kings" and "Life of Pi" (which Samsung demoed earlier at CES) as well as original HDR material by Florian Friedrich.

Florian's material was designed in part to show the difference between HDR and SDR (standard dynamic range) material, and it certainly did. The HDR looked very good: the shots of clouds over water, sunlight glinting off waves and a sunset behind clouds looked more brilliant and powerful in HDR, and colors looked punchier and more vibrant. Once more however, the dark parts of the image had a washed-out quality, and when I watched the SDR versions of Florian's clip on the Sony X950B, the Vizio M-series and the LG EG9600, I still preferred them overall to HDR on the JS8500.

These early tests aren't an indictment of HDR, just this particular implementation on this TV. I won't bore you with too many details, but the short story is that the HDR content I tested with includes metadata, basically instructions that ride along with the video signal, that tell the TV to enact particular picture settings. On the JS8500 those settings include a Backlight setting of 20, the maximum. Cranking the backlight on this TV (and most other LCD TVs) washes out the dark parts of the image, robbing it of contrast and pop. I tried reducing the backlight control but it returned to max within a few seconds as a new packet of HDR metadata arrived.

I'm guessing that TVs with full-array local dimming, such as the Samsung JS9500, Vizio's Reference series , Panasonic's CX850 and Sony's XBR-75X940C, will provide better contrast (deeper blacks) with HDR content that specifies a maxed-out backlight. And of course OLED, with its perfect black levels, should make HDR look better too. But from what I've seen on the JS8500, HDR isn't an improvement.

Uniformity: The JS8500 delivered very good uniformity across its screen, outdoing even the full-array Vizios in this department and falling short of only the Sony 950B. Its extreme top and bottom edges were very slightly brighter than the rest of the screen, but the effect was visible only in specialized test patterns. I also noticed a slightly brighter lower-left corner, but only with the backlight turned up all the way.

The screen was basically free of clouding and backlight structure, aka "dirty screen effect." Some blooming or uneven brightness in dark scenes was visible as described above, but that's about it.

Like most LCDs it was typically poor at maintaining color and black level fidelity from off-angle. It washed out and took on a bluish/reddish tint from the sides relatively quickly. That said, none of the other sets in my lineup was much better from off-angle.

Bright lighting: While not quite as impressive overall in a bright room as semi-matte screens of the Vizios and the Sony X850C, the JS8500 held its own here, deadening reflections as well as the Sony and better than the LG. Its advantage came in its preservation of black areas, which it did better than any of the others -- including the other Samsungs. I'm willing to believe Samsung when it says its SUHD TVs deliver improved contrast in bright rooms.

Samsung makes a big deal out the light output capability of its JS9500 SUHD TV, but the JS8500 isn't much brighter than any other LED LCD out there. It is brightest setting (Dynamic) it measured 121 fL (footlamberts) with a window test pattern, compared to 133 for the Vizio P65, 212 for the Sony X950B and 129.7 for LG's 65EG9600 OLED. Of course, unlike OLED it maintained basically full light output even with a full-screen test pattern.

3D: The JS8500 delivered the excellent overall 3D image I've come to expect from Samsung's high-end TVs, outdoing last year's disappointing HU8550 in this category significantly. Watching "Hugo," my go-to 3D test disc, crosstalk (that ghostly double-image that plagues 3D viewing) was minimal in difficult areas like the GK Films logo, Hugo's hand reaching toward the mouse and the sleeve of Méliès.

In my lineup only the Sony 950B outperformed the JS8500, and the difference was slight: a bit less crosstalk, and more contrast thanks to its higher light output and better dimming. The JU7100 had a bit more crosstalk but still delivered very good 3D, while the X850C was a step behind, with a dimmer image that still showed moderate crosstalk.

Other aspects of the JS8500's 3D image, including contrast and color accuracy, were likewise very good. I also appreciated the fact that, unlike LG's EG9600 OLED, I could sit closer and not see too much crosstalk.

Samsung is still using the same glasses as last year, and again they felt cheap, loose and flimsy. In their favor they remained light and comfortable for long periods of time.

Geek Box

Test ResultScore
Black luminance (0%) 0.004Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.3Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.628Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.548Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.801Good
Avg. color error 0.632Good
Red error 0.863Good
Green error 0.637Good
Blue error 0.991Good
Cyan error 0.343Good
Magenta error 0.405Good
Yellow error 0.552Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) PassGood
Motion resolution (max) 1200Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200Good
Input lag (Game mode) 37.9Good

How We Test TVs


Samsung UNJS8500 series

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 10Performance 7Value 6
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