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Samsung UNF9000 series review: A great 4K TV you still shouldn't buy

The Samsung UNF9000 could be one of the best 4K TVs on the market, but its high price and the low impact of its 4K resolution make it very difficult to recommend.

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David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg

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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13 min read

Even if you can actually afford one, now is not a good time to buy a TV with 4K resolution. Hold off a few months and better ones will be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, likely with actual HDMI 2.0 inputs, a wider range of screen sizes, and maybe even improved picture quality. They'll probably still be too expensive for mainstream consumption, but they'll be cheaper than the ones available now.

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7.3

Samsung UNF9000 series

The Good

The <b>Samsung UNF9000 series</b> 4K/Ultra High Definition LED LCD TV delivers excellent picture quality with deep black levels, accurate color, effective video processing, and a uniform screen; 4K resolution provides some benefit with 4K PC games; upgradable One Connect box allows improvements to input suite and Smart TV; stunning minimalist design with thin bezel and low-profile stealth stand; mind-boggling feature list with touch-pad remote, IR blaster with cable box control, four pairs of 3D glasses, motion and voice command, and the industry's most capable Smart TV platform.

The Bad

Exceedingly expensive and a poor value compared with 1080p TVs; improvements afforded by 4K resolution minimal to nonexistent; wide stand.

The Bottom Line

Despite excellent all-around picture quality, the Samsung UNF9000 4K TV offers almost no improvement over cheaper 1080p TVs that cost much less.

But if you just Want A 4K TV Now, Damn the Caveats! (™), the Samsung UNF9000 series is as a good choice as any. Its picture is superb for an LED-based LCD -- and LCD happens to be the only TV technology that can deliver 4K resolution to the market now. The F9000 offers best-in-class future-proofing, with Samsung's unique Evolution Kit option available to keep its processor, Smart TV suite, and inputs from going obsolete over the next few years.

Now, about those caveats. Anyone buying a 4K/Ultra High-Definition TV of 65 inches or smaller and expecting to see an improvement in detail -- or any other aspect of picture quality -- with normal HD sources will be disappointed. We tested the Samsung UNF9000 and Panasonic TC-P65WT600 extensively to look for any such improvement compared with a same-size 1080p TV, and it simply wasn't there.

Meanwhile actual 4K content is as rare as hen's teeth today, and not going mainstream, especially as broadcast TV, for years. Even when a 4K TV plays 4K content, the improvement over a 1080p TV is likely to range from subtle to nonexistent, depending on how close you sit. As difficult as it is to believe when you hear about all those extra pixels mentioned in marketing materials, 4K offers at best marginal real-world improvements on 1080p. See "Why 4K TVs are stupid still" for more.

Speaking of 1080p TVs, Samsung makes an excellent alternative to this one: the UNF8000 series. In just about every way aside from resolution, it's the same as the F9000. It also costs $500 less at 55 inches, and $1,200 less at 65. Until that price delta closes to a couple hundred bucks, 1080p TVs will always offer superior value to 4K TVs for most buyers.

Update 11-18-2013: Due to a recent price drop, the Value rating of this review was increased from a 3 to a 5, the overall rating accordingly improved from 6.4 to 7.5, and a portion of the review text modified.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch Samsung UN65F9000, but this review also applies to the 55-inch screen size in the series. The two have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Models in series (details)
Samsung UN55F9000 55 inches
Samsung UN65F9000 (reviewed) 65 inches

Design
The UNF9000 shares the same brilliant, stunningly minimalist design as the UNF8000. The bezel around the screen on my 65-inch review sample is too thick to call "hairline," but it still makes the big TV seem almost all picture. I appreciated its mostly black coloration, accented by the thin line of silver along the very edge when seen from the front. Another thing I appreciated: the "Samsung" logo below the screen is tiny.

Another highlight is the unique stand. Depending on the height of your tabletop, the stand can disappear, leaving the TV to levitate above. And not far above -- the TV measures just 1.5 inches between the bottom of its frame and the tabletop, the lowest profile of any TV I can remember. Only a pair of curved feet peep out at the extreme edges to either side; they're actually the ends of the base, most of which arcs behind the set. Needless to say, it doesn't allow the TV to swivel.

It also requires a table as wide as the TV itself. As long as you follow the manual's grave instructions to not let those little feet protrude over the edges of your tabletop, it's plenty stable. When I ignored those instructions during my F8000 review, the TV did actually fall over. No harm was done, but let that be a lesson to ya.

All Samsung high-end TVs this year include its touch-pad clicker. It's small, with just a few buttons above and below a spacious pad, but it fit perfectly in my hand. The remote uses Bluetooth to work without needing to be aimed at the TV. Responsiveness was superb, and I found myself merrily swiping along large menus and rarely missing my selection. In many ways it's the best remote control included with any TV I've ever used.

The main flaw of Samsung's clever clicker comes with its lack of buttons, but unlike every other 2013 Samsung TV, the F9000 includes a traditional remote as well. While certainly more cluttered, it actually does a better job than the touch pad at allowing easy access to many functions, especially for cable box/DVR control. It's a relief to not have to rely on a pop-up onscreen remote to do something as basic as fast-forward or pause live TV.

For more on Samsung's touch pad and standard remotes, check out the UNF8000 and UNF6300 reviews, respectively.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features "="">Other: Built-in camera and microphone for voice and gesture recognition; cable box integration and control via IR blaster; additional 3D glasses (model SSG-5100GB, $19); optional Smart Evolution/One Connect kit (available 2014 and beyond; price/model TBD); optional keyboard (model VG-KBD2000, $99)
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit with local dimming
Screen finish Glossy Remotes Touch pad and standard
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Active 3D glasses included 4 pair
Refresh rate(s) 240Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/music/video

Features
The short version? The F9000 is just like the F8000, but with 4K resolution and a special One Connect box where all the inputs live. And the F8000, in true Samsung fashion, had more features than any other TV on the market until this one came along.

As far as picture-affecting features go, the Samsung Web site seems to indicate a slight difference in the two TVs' local dimming systems. The F8000 features "Micro Dimming Ultimate with Precision Black Local Dimming," as opposed to mere "Micro Dimming Ultimate" on the UNF9000. Since the latter lacks a Cinema Black setting in the menu, I'm guessing that's the difference. Cinema Black dims the letterbox bars of ultra-wide-screen movies specifically and separately from the standard dimming, creating higher perceived contrast. Regardless of this apparent difference, in practice the two TVs' dimming behaved nearly the same: among the best I've tested on an edge-lit TV.

Both have a 240Hz refresh rate, which goes officially unmentioned in favor of Samsung's "1,200 CMR" spec. Yes, that spec amounts to a crazy-inflated number that's basically fake, but in Samsung's case at least it indicates excellent motion performance.

Like all Samsung TVs the F9000 uses active 3D technology, despite the improvement 4K resolution affords passive 3D. It continues Samsung's tradition of including four pairs of active 3D glasses in the box. The new SSG-5100GB specs are slight retreads of the SSG-4100GBs from last year, with no real improvement made to their flimsy design, but at least additional pairs are cheap. Since the F9000 adheres to the universal standard, you can always purchase other glasses.

The set will also be compatible with future Smart Evolution kits, but they'll be wholly different in form from the current version. Instead of attaching like a lamprey to the back of the TV, future Evolution Kits for the F9000 will replace its current One Connect box -- which contains not only the physical inputs described below but also, apparently, the TV's "brains" (processor, memory, etc.). Beyond Samsung's promise that a future version of the box will offer compatibility with the HDMI 2.0 specification, it remains to be seen how much such kits cost and what improvements they offer.

Smart TV, cable box control, and voice and gesture control
In case you're wondering, we didn't test these features on the F9000. However, we expect them to work basically the same as they did on the F8000. The brief summary is that Samsung's Smart TV suite has more content than anyone, and its design is second to none. While the TV's cable box control isn't very useful for heavy DVR users, it works well enough. I didn't find much use for the recommendation engine, and I haven't really tested voice and gesture control. For more details, I'll refer you one final time to the F8000 review.

One minor, supposed difference between Panasonic's TC-L65WT600 4K TV and the F9000 is that Panasonic claims to be the only one whose Web browser renders pages in 4K resolution. Even if you actually care about TV Web browsers, don't get too excited. In my quick comparison, Panasonic's browser didn't look any sharper than Samsung's, even when looking at Google Maps (one of Panasonic's own examples of its browser's benefits). Even if it did, I'd take Samsung's browser any day instead, with its much better design and vastly superior responsiveness via the touch pad.

Picture settings: There's plenty on tap here and no differences from the F8000, aside from the aforementioned Cinema Black. You get 2-point and 10-point grayscale control, an excellent color management system, and four picture presets. Samsung's class-leading Auto Motion Plus dejudder control not only turns the Soap Opera Effect on or off, it allows adjustment of both blur reduction and smoothness. Meanwhile there are three levels of Smart LED to control local dimming. I can't really ask for anything more.

Connectivity: Nothing major goes missing here. Four HDMI ports, three USB, and an optical digital output do the digital heavy lifting, while analog video is served by a single component-video port that's shared with composite video (via breakout cables). There's no VGA-style PC input, but there is a port for the included wired IR blaster.

Aside from one of the USB ports, the jacks are housed in a slim breakout box Samsung dubs One Connect, which connects to the TV itself via a single 10-foot umbilical that terminates in proprietary plugs at both ends. The idea of using an outboard box is to allow relatively simple upgrades. The F9000's current box has only HDMI 1.4-compatible inputs; the company says a future box (release date and price TBD) will offer HDMI 2.0 inputs.

That HDMI 2.0 solution isn't as elegant or inexpensive as the promised free firmware upgrades of Sony and Toshiba, or the already-included "based-on HDMI 2.0" compatibility of the Panasonic TC-L65WT600 (albeit on only one input). But it actually offers the best guarantee of future compatibility, mainly because none of those companies actually claims full HDMI 2.0 compatibility via their upgrades. Check out our roundup of HDMI 2.0 upgrade paths for more.

Picture quality
Allow me to reiterate that once you get to HD resolution on a TV, other factors like contrast, color and uniformity have a much greater impact on how good the image looks. I'd rather see TV makers address those points than simply throw more tiny pixels on the screen, which is why CNET and many others -- including these poll respondents and industry experts -- are more excited by OLED than by 4K. But whatchagonnado? 4K TVs are here now, and it looks like their prices will hit mainstream levels long before those of OLED TVs.

This review represents the first opportunity I've had to test a non-Seiki 4K TV in my lab. I performed extensive side-by-side viewings comparing the UN65F9000 with another 65-inch 4K TV, the Panasonic TC-L65WT600, as well as to a 65-inch 1080p TV, the Panasonic TC-P65S64. As always, I compared the TVs after calibration in a dark room using HDMI distribution amplifiers capable of providing simultaneous signals to each TV without degradation.

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Unless otherwise noted, all of my observations were conducted at a seating distance of 77 inches (6.5 feet). That's much closer than the 9 feet most viewers sit from their TVs, but equal to the THX recommended distance for immersive home theater. I'll use those recommendations to specify the lower bound of what I mean by "normal seating distance." On a 55-inch TV like the UN55F9000, that distance is 65 inches (5.5 feet), and on an 85-inch TV like the UN85S9, it's 101 inches (8.4 feet). Moving farther away, of course, makes the benefits of high resolution dwindle further.

Everything I saw indicated that even at these relatively large screen sizes and theatrical viewing distances, the improvement afforded by 4K resolution with standard video content (as opposed to PC games or still photos) is subtle at the best of times, but usually nonexistent.

In fact, with some 1080p sources, the Samsung occasionally looked very slightly worse (softer) than the 1080p TV. Perhaps that's because of the picture quality advantage of plasma versus LCD, or imperfect upconversion on Samsung's part, but regardless, it runs counter to the notion that the magic of video processing can make 1080p look better on a 4K TV -- at least in the cases of the F9000 and WT600.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to perform what I consider "The Ultimate Test," which is directly comparing high-quality 4K native footage on a 4K TV next to the exact same footage in 1080p on a 1080p TV. When I get the chance to do so, hopefully soon, I expect to be able to sit farther back (maybe around 8 feet) and see some minor benefit to 4K resolution. This excellent calculator tells me that at that distance, the 4K vs. 1080p improvement on a 65-inch TV is about 40 percent, given my 20/20 vision.

Beyond resolution, the F9000 is an excellent performer for an LED LCD. It evinced the same superb black-level performance and color accuracy as the F8000, beating the WT600 in overall picture quality -- although the latter has an advantage in bright rooms and from off-angle. As usual, however, the best plasmas, and even a midlevel one like the S64, provide a better overall picture.

4K sources testing It's tough to get 4K sources these days, even for someone with my resources at CNET. Both Panasonic and Samsung sent USB keys with a few minutes of 4K footage, each of which looked great. Samsung's included the breathtaking landscapes, time-lapse cityscapes, and unnaturally well-lit nature scenes I've come to expect from 4K demos. Unsurprisingly they were rife with amazing detail, especially from up close. Too bad the video from Samsung's USB wouldn't play back on Panasonic's TV, and vice-versa, so I couldn't put the same footage on both TVs to compare.

I was able to compare the two TVs' handling of 4K using a Redray 4K video player, however, which that company was kind enough to loan me for this review. It came filled with a few 4K videos (at 4,096x2,060 pixels, so scaled somewhat by the TVs), the best of which for my tests was the "Red 800" sampler montage. It contained plenty of spectacular shots including extreme closeups of eyes and fingernails, desert and arctic landscapes, motorcycles and crossbows, and a variety of other highly detailed images. Seen side-by-side, the two 4K TVs didn't show much difference in detail at all; the major differences were in black level and other nonresolution areas (see below).

Both of these sources proved that 4K video can look great, but so can 1080p. Unfortunately, with no 1080p equivalents, 4K videos are about as useful for judging the real-world advantage of a 4K TV as putting actual candy in your eye (Mike & Eyeke, anyone?).

I did have two versions of "Timescapes," one on Blu-ray disc at 1080p and another on an MP4 file at 4K. I compared them with one another directly, simultaneously playing the 4K version on the 4K sets and the 1080p version on the 1080p sets. The 4K version did appear a bit more detailed in areas like the finest textures in the dirt (10:21) and rocks (12:40).

The difference was by no means drastic, but I do think most viewers observing carefully at my seating distance could tell them apart consistently in a side-by-side comparison. To put it into perspective, the difference in detail was nothing like the one between DVD and HDTV, however; it was closer to the difference between a good high-def Netflix stream and a Blu-ray movie.

Unfortunately, neither format looked as good as it could. I suspect the "Timescapes" Blu-ray of being slightly soft (compared with exemplars like "Samsara" for example) and of the relatively small 4K file I tested of being more than slightly compressed. "The Ultimate Test" this was not.

I didn't manage to test any other 4K video sources before I had to return the Samsung, so I moved on to a PC game. I was able to get a very playable frame rate (just above 40fps) out of BioShock: Infinite at 4K resolution using a relatively powerful PC -- a Velocity Micro Edge Z55, equipped with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 video card. On the 65-inch screen, the game looked superb. Detail was tremendous, even with High (as opposed to Very High) graphics settings, and I really appreciated the extra sharpness of the lines and oomph in the textures.

I also played the same game at the same settings and seating distance on the 1080p 65-inch TV, except I specified 1080p resolution. The difference was pretty easy to see: details didn't look as sharp, textures appeared a bit flatter, and the game didn't seen as crisp or lifelike overall. It still looked great, just not as good as on the 4K TVs.

For what it's worth, the two 4K TVs both resolved every line of a 4K test pattern supplied by Joel Silver of the ISF. I also looked at a few 4K test patterns from Joe Kane, supplied by Samsung, but didn't learn much beyond the fact that both TVs behaved as I suspected they would. I neither calibrated the TVs in 4K nor to any measurements of 4K sources. For the tests above I used my 1080p calibration (below) for 4K sources, and they appeared similar.

High-definition sources testing For the next few years anyway, 4K TVs are going to be displaying, at best, 1080p high-definition content most of the time. The majority of my testing of the F9000 used various examples of high-def, from Blu-ray to broadcast TV. The F9000 is an excellent performer overall, but in no case did its extra pixels afford any improvement to high-def video seen from normal seating distances.

I expanded my comparison lineup with HD sources to include all of the following TVs.

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.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Comparison models (details)
Panasonic TC-L65WT600 65-inch 4K LED LCD
Panasonic TC-P65S64 65-inch plasma
Samsung UN55F8000 55-inch LED LCD
Sony KDL-55W900A 55-inch LED LCD
Panasonic TC-P60ZT60 (reference) 60-inch plasma

Black level: The F9000 can deliver extremely deep black levels, so despite some compromises, it's still one of the best LED LCDs I've ever tested in this department. Watching the black-level torture test that is "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," the F9000 was one of the best-looking TVs in the room. Yes, the two plasmas showed a more consistently deep black level, especially the superb ZT60, but in the darker scenes, the F9000 outdid the depth of the S64's black, too.

The opening shots of Chapter 14, for example, where the magical artillery assaults Hogwarts, showed the black of the Samsung's letterbox bars as darker than those of any other set, aside from the ZT60. The Sony W900 came in second, while the other sets were all about equal in this scene.

During brighter scenes, however, such as when fire engulfs the Room of Requirement (1:00:51), the F9000 brightened considerably, losing its black-level advantage over any of the others, while the plasmas remained admirably dark. Indeed the TV's global dimming -- the brightening and darkening of the entire screen, as opposed to just a local part -- seemed more aggressive and variable on the F9000 than on any of the other LCDs. That said, it didn't spoil my enjoyment, since that brightness never spiked too high, and overall contrast remained excellent regardless of how bright the scene became.

The biggest dark-room difference between the two 4K TVs, the Samsung F9000 and the Panasonic WT600, was also the biggest reason I preferred the Samsung's picture: excessive blooming on the Panasonic. In many scenes the Panasonic's bright areas spilled over into adjacent dark areas noticeably, creating a distinct clouding effect and spoiling much of the impact its otherwise deep black levels conveyed. The F9000's blacks remained free of such blooming to a large extent, owing, I assume, to its more precise local dimming. It also managed to maintain the brightness of highlights, an area where the Panasonic struggled in comparison. The F9000 didn't manage the level of contrast seen on the plasmas, but it was still very good.

Shadow detail was solid enough, but nonetheless represented a relative weakness. In the very darkest areas, the TV obscured some of the near-black areas, for example parts of the hillside and some of the school's structure during that Chapter 14 assault. Each of the other sets looked more detailed to a certain extent. I actually preferred the F9000's look to the overly bright shadows of the S64, but not to any of the others. I tried adjusting the local-dimming setting to try to reclaim that detail, but it didn't help. To put it into perspective, however, this negative is niggling indeed, and I highly doubt it would be noticeable outside a side-by-side comparison.

I mentioned above that Cinema Black, the setting designed to dim the letterbox bars independently, is available on the F8000 but not the F9000. Comparing the bars of each TV, I didn't see much difference, and in many scenes the F9000's bars actually appeared deeper.

Color accuracy: As evinced by its dead-accurate measurements, the F9000 has no issues in this area. Turning to the tour de force "Tree of Life," colors looked excellent during Chapter 5, from the flesh tones of the wife's face to the vibrant greens of the grass and trees. At times, certain hues, like the face of the son at dinner (51:18) picked up a slightly more pinkish look than on the Sony and ZT60, but that's really splitting hairs (and again invisible aside from a side-by-side comparison).

Honestly, between the F9000, the two smaller LCDs, and the ZT60, it was tough picking a subjective winner for color. The two Samsungs generally showed a very slightly more lifelike and exciting look, while the ZT60 was a bit more subdued, and the Sony split the difference.

The F9000's advantage over the Panasonic WT600 showed up mostly in improved apparent saturation and punch, a direct effect of its superior black levels. The Samsung also looked closer to reference color temperature in whites and bright areas, where the Panasonic tended a bit toward blue.

Upconversion from 1080p to 4K: With the prevalence of 1080i and 1080p sources, I don't specifically test 1080p TVs for their ability to convert incoming sources to their native resolution (a process known as upconverting). Since there are almost no 4K sources, on the other hand, this ability is marketed as important for 4K TVs. I'm skeptical of those marketing claims because, in reality, both of the 4K TVs in my lineup upconvert well enough that any differences between them are minor.

The real important piece of information, judging from those two TVs and how they compare with the 1080p TVs in my lineup, is that 1080i and 1080p sources played back on the 4K-resolution screen don't look appreciably better, and in fact can sometimes appear slightly worse. In other words, from what I've seen so far, 4K at 65 inches does nothing to improve the look of today's HD sources -- from Blu-ray to broadcast TV.

Blu-ray is the highest-quality HD source currently available, and in my book, "Samsara" is one of the highest-quality Blu-rays. Details are exquisite and the languid cinematography enables the viewer to really home in on the finer areas -- and, in my case, look for differences. Chapter 4, where the monks painstakingly assemble their mandala from brilliantly colored grains of sand, is a feast for the eyes, but it was impossible in most scenes for me to distinguish any difference in detail between the 4K and the 1080p TVs. The grains looked equally detailed on all of the sets, as did most shots I compared, from a woman's wrinkled face to the script in a prayer wheel to the houses on a mountainside -- you name it.

At times, for example the stone face and carved, weathered facades in Chapter 5, the same-size S64 1080p plasma actually appeared a bit sharper, especially in the finest textures. That sharpness advantage also appeared in the rooms in Chapter 6, and the statues in the churches in Chapter 7, for example. I had to stare hard at the TVs to pick out the differences, but in these and other scenes, if there was any sharpness advantage it went to the 1080p TV, not to the 4K sets.

I showed the "Samsara" comparison using the three 65-inch sets to a lot of other viewers as well around the CNET office, and all agreed that the differences were subtle to nonexistent. None was able to pick out the 4K TVs until they walked right up to the screen -- close enough to see pixel structure on the 1080p plasma. For me, that distance is about 4 feet.

I tried a few other films on Blu-ray, including "Brave," a spectacularly detailed animated Pixar title, and the action-heavy "Skyfall," but in every case the only advantages in detail -- subtle and infrequent as they were -- were enjoyed by the 1080p TV.

I also checked out HD sources on television, including the recent Jets vs. Patriots game via my Fios connection at 1080i, and it was more of the same. The 4K TVs did a good job of converting the lower-resolution sources to the higher-resolution screens without introducing artifacts, but there was no magical increase in detail -- visible differences were again extremely subtle, and most of the time I simply couldn't tell them apart. Turning to some worse material on TV, including a daytime talk show and Obama's midday address regarding the Healthcare.gov site issues, differences in detail were again nonexistent.

Oppo

On the chance that the 4K TVs' upconversion was the culprit, I also hooked up an Oppo HD-105, a high-performance Blu-ray player capable of upconverting 1080p to 4K resolution. I couldn't perform true side-by-side comparison of the F9000's upconversion (for that I'd need a second F9000) but the observations I could perform, based on watching same same sequences on the F9000 with the Oppo's upconversion turned on and then off and comparing them with the other TVs simultaneously, were enough to convince me the TV's processing wasn't the problem. There was no noticeable increase in detail regardless of whether the player or the TV handled the upconversion, and in both cases the 1080p TV looked basically just as detailed.

Video processing: The F9000 is capable of delivering true 1080p24 film cadence, as expected from any TV at this level. Unlike most other such LED LCD TVs, however, it can also deliver full motion resolution -- 1,200 lines according to our test -- at the same time. In other words, you don't have to engage the oversmooth Soap Opera Effect (SOE) to get optimum motion resolution .

On the other TVs, no mode offers true film cadence with zero smoothing and full-motion resolution. The Sony's Cinema Smooth: Clear mode comes closest, with the same excellent motion resolution score, but it has a touch of smoothing. The same goes for Motion smoother: weak on the WT600, although at 900 lines, its motion resolution score is a bit worse than on the other two. Granted the differences are slight, and both of those competitors come close to the F9000's ideal, but neither quite matches it.

Watching some of the difficult motion tests from the FPD benchmark disc, differences emerged between the F9000 and the others. The striped shirt of the girl swinging on the rope broke up into macroblocking frequently, while on the others (especially the F8000) it did not. The F9000 also didn't look as clean as the F8000 in the license plates of the passing cars and the swinging metronome. On the other hand, the WT600 generally looked blurrier in these sequences than the F9000, however, even when I engaged its strongest Motion Smoother modes (the ones that introduce the Soap Opera Effect). While both 4K TVs looked worse than the F8000 and the plasmas on most of these motion tests, between the two I'd pick the Samsung. (Note that since my motion test is based on a 1080p Blu-ray, it's not ideal for judging the F9000's true motion resolution. It is the best I have at the moment, however, so I included the numbers anyway.)

Of course if you're a fan of smoothing you might also appreciate the F9000's 10-point dejudder control under Custom for Auto Motion Plus, which enables you to dial in as much Soap Opera Effect as you like.

I did discover a strange quirk of the Custom setting when I fed the Samsung Blu-ray upconverted to 4K from the Oppo player, however. The Samsung slipped in and out of smoothing seemingly at random, introducing the SOE some of the time and other times producing correct film cadence. For now (at least until Samsung fixes Custom with a firmware update sometime before real 4K sources become available), I recommend sticking with an Auto Motion Plus setting of Off or Clear if you don't want SOE in 4K mode. The Panasonic WT600's smoothing, for its part, behaved consistently.

The new LED Clear Motion setting under the Auto Motion Plus menu reduces light output very slightly, and unlike on the F8000, it didn't improve the look of our motion tests at all. For that reason, I left it turned off.

As usual with Samsung, you'll need to select the Auto 1 setting under Film Mode if you want correct 1080i deinterlacing of film-based sources; the default Auto 2 failed our test.

In Game mode the Samsung showed a decent input lag measurement of 56.5ms. Renaming the input "PC," unlike with some past Samsungs, didn't improve that score.

Uniformity: As long as you keep local dimming engaged, the F9000's dark-field uniformity is very good, if not quite at the same level as the Sony. Turning it off reveals some minor clouding, although nothing as bad as what we saw on the F8000. There were no other major uniformity issues in bright or dark fields, although compared with the perfection of the plasmas, very minor brighter areas could be seen along the edges, for example in letterbox bars.

From off-angle the F9000 and the Sonys lost fidelity (mainly black depth and color purity) at about the same rate -- much faster than the WT600, which was among the best LCDs I've ever seen in this department. Of course, the plasmas didn't lose any fidelity from the side, and maintained perfect uniformity across the screen.

If you're planning to sit close to your 4K TV in an attempt to drink in as much extra detail as possible, it's worth noting that at close range, the far edges and corners of the screen suffer minor losses in fidelity since they're somewhat off-angle relative to the prime seating position in front of the middle of the screen. Again, the loss is much less noticeable on the WT600.

Bright lighting: The F9000 has the same screen finish as the F8000, and behaved the same under the lights. Like any glossy LED-based LCD, its main issue in bright rooms is reflections. Bright objects caught in its screen, for example a lamp, a white couch, or even a white shirt work by a viewer, reflect from the mirrorlike screen finish all too well and can prove quite distracting. Reflections appeared dimmer (better) on the matte-screen Panasonic WT600, as well as on the plasmas.

The F9000 is still a better performer in bright rooms than the plasmas, however, because of its superior light output. Blacks looked slightly punchier on it (and the F8000 and W900A) than on the Panasonics, including the ZT60.

Sarah Tew/CNET

3D: As I mentioned above, it's kind of disappointing that the 4K Samsung uses active 3D and not passive. With passive 3D in 4K, judging from what I saw on the Sony XBR-X900, for example, you get the best possible 3D experience with no crosstalk, comfortable unpowered glasses, and none of the jagged edge and visible line artifacts that can plague 1080p passive 3D TVs, especially from close-up.

On the other hand, the F9000 did deliver excellent 3D quality for an active TV, showing as little prevalence for crosstalk as the F8000 did. During "Hugo's" most crosstalk-intensive scenes, such as Hugo's hand (5:01), the tuning pegs on the guitar, and head of the guitarist (7:49), and the outlines of Hugo and Isabelle as they talk at night under the snow (17:01), the ghostly double image was as faint and unnoticeable as on any active TV I've seen, outdoing the Sony, the WT600 (which also uses active 3D), and the ZT60 in this regard.

The F9000's 3D image in default Movie mode (we don't calibrate for 3D) was quite pleasing in other areas, too, showing plenty of light output and even slightly better color than on the F8000. The dimmer WT600 and ZT60, on the other hand, didn't have the punch to overcome the active glasses' tint, and so seemed duller in comparison despite their deeper black levels. Shadow was also solid on the F9000 in 3D.

Panasonic and Sony's throw-in 3D glasses fit much better than Samsung's. The flimsy temples of the Samsung 5100GBs barely kept them secure on my head, especially when I wore my prescription glasses, and the design let in a substantial amount of light from the side. At least they were very light. Of course, if you're springing 5 grand for an F9000, you can likely afford better 3D glasses, too.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0017 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.2 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.865 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.978 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.008 Good
Avg. color error 0.510 Good
Red error 0.764 Good
Green error 0.707 Good
Blue error 0.793 Good
Cyan error 0.338 Good
Magenta error 0.299 Good
Yellow error 0.156 Good
1080p/24 cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i de-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200 Good
Input lag (Game mode) 56.5 Average

Samsung UN65F9000 CNET review calibration results

Samsung_UNF9000_35822864_35822865_25.jpg
7.3

Samsung UNF9000 series

Score Breakdown

Design 10Features 10Performance 8Value 5