Samsung's best LCD TV brings a full array of nanocrystal LEDs

In a bid to beat the vaunted picture quality of LG's OLED TVs, Samsung created the JS9500, its best SUHD TV for 2015, which offers a full-array local-dimming backlight.

David Katzmaier
David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
3 min read

LAS VEGAS -- The eternal rivalry between Korean TV giants Samsung and LG has a new front: SUHD vs. OLED.

SUHD -- the S doesn't stand for anything, according to Samsung, but the UHD is longhand for 4K -- is Samsung's branding for what it claims is its best LCD picture quality yet. More than one company representative told me that, despite being based on LCD, the JS9500 SUHD TV rivals the picture of OLED, the best TV technology ever . The models I saw in person did look very good for LCD, but I'll have to wait until I get them into the lab next to an OLED TV to know for sure.

Samsung has announced three series of high-end SUHD LCD TVs for 2015, consisting of nine total models, and the JS9500 will be the most expensive (although pricing has yet to be revealed). Its main step-up over the other two series, JS9000 and JS8500, is a full-array local-dimming backlight with "hundreds" of zones (Samsung wouldn't specify exactly how many), which should deliver brighter highlights and deeper black levels than the edge-lit backlights found on the other two. The JS9500 comes in just two big sizes, 88 inches and 65 inches, and both have curved screens.

The 88-inch SUHD TV revealed at CES 2015. Sarah Tew/CNET

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 1,000 nits in light output, compared with 300-500 for a typical LED LCD TV. 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 of 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.

Samsung shows off high-end SUHD TVs (pictures)

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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.

As you might imagine, Samsung packed the JS9500 with its best features. It has a full-fledged OneConnect box that allows upgrades of both connectivity and processing, as well as an eight-core processor. It also has a cool-looking "chamfered bezel" that sets the screen back slightly from the edge -- a design decision that might also have to do with the thicker panel required by the full-array backlight.

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 last 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.

Samsung Tizen operating system for smart TVs (pictures)

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The JS9500 shares with many 2015 Samsung sets an all-new Smart TV system powered by Tizen, Samsung's open-source operating system used on smartwatches 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 gameplay via the TV itself.

Watch this: Samsung shifts Smart TVs to Tizen

As we mentioned 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. We're fairly certain the JS9500 will come at a hefty premium, albeit probably not as expensive inch for inch as OLED TVs.

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