LAS VEGAS -- If you thought "Ultra HD" was the epitome of TV nomenclature hyperbole, "SUHD" is here to prove you wrong. Samsung told us the "S" doesn't stand for anything -- just a premium brand, as in the "Galaxy S" phones -- but it seems the company really means "Super."
Eschewing OLED, Samsung has instead announced three series of high-end SUHD LCD TVs for 2015, consisting of nine total models. The series detailed here, JS8500, will be the least-expensive and the only one with flat, as opposed to curved, screens. We're not big fans of curved (or overpriced) TVs, so the JS8500 is the early front-runner among the three for our favor.
So what makes them "S"? In two confusing words: quantum dots. The dots themselves are actually nanocrystals -- really, really small crystals -- applied to the blue LEDs that comprise the backlights of these LCD TVs. They emit specific wavelengths of red and green which, combined with the blue LEDs, can achieve brighter images and a wider color gamut than conventional LED-backlight technology.
Samsung says its SUHD sets achieve up to 2.5 times the light output of standard LED LCDs, although I'm guessing the high end of that number applies only to the full-array JS9500; the edge-lit JS8500 should be dimmer.
It also says their color approaches, but doesn't quite achieve 100 percent coverage of, the DCI color space, which is significantly wider than the Rec 709 color space used for almost all in-home content today (in other words the wider gamut isn't much use today, despite Samsung mentioning one-off collaborations with Fox in its press materials). Beyond the dots, SUHD TVs also employ a new panel technology designed to further improve contrast in bright rooms.
That all sounds great, and we're excited to test the SUHD TVs in the lab, especially given the excellent color we saw from Sony's Quantum Dot TV. But we still don't expect SUHD to beat the picture quality of OLED. They're still LED LCD TVs, after all, with all of the flaws of that technology.
While it does include hardware-based local dimming from its edge-lit LED backlight, the JS8500 is missing a few extras compared to Samsung's two higher-end series of SUHD sets, the JS9500 and JS9000 . It lacks their full-fledged One Connect box, making due with the One Connect Mini that allows upgrades of only the connectivity, not the processing of its big brother. It also makes due with just a quad-core processor as opposed to 8 core.
Thanks in part to exclusive deals, all of Samsung's 4K UHD TVs get access to more 4K streaming video services than other brands. They include Comcast, DirecTV and M-Go. The latter requires one of Samsung's UHD video packs to allow downloads of select 4K movies. Of course they also get 4K streams from Netflix and Amazon, and offer the HEVC decoding and HDMI 2.0/ HDCP 2.2 connectivity found on all major-brand 4K TVs.
The JS8500 shares with many 2015 Samsung sets an all-new Smart TV system powered by Tizen, Samsung's open-source operating system used on smart watches and a few phones. Highlights include a simpler, one-screen user interface, enhanced video sharing with Samsung phones, a Sports Live app with live games and stats on the same screen, a new Milk Video platform with clips from the web and content partners, and an alarm function that provides time, weather and other wake-up accouterments. Potentially more useful is the ability to work with PlayStation Now, providing console-free game play vis the TV itself.
In case you're wondering, Samsung didn't announce pricing on this or any of its other 2015 TVs; it typically waits until March, right before the TVs ship, to do so. For what it's worth, however, a Samsung rep told CNET informally that he expects the step-up JS9000 to sell for around the same price as the 2014 HU9000, which might mean the JS8500 will be priced equivalent to the HU8550. We'll see.