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Samsung UNJS9500 series review: A great high-end LCD TV, but it can't keep up with OLED

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In the cosmic battle for TV picture quality supremacy, it's the light side versus the dark side. LED LCD versus OLED. Samsung versus LG. And the dark side wins this round.

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7.3

Samsung UNJS9500 series

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The Samsung UNJS9500 series produces one of the best pictures of any LED LCD we've tested, with excellent contrast, deep black levels and superb color and video processing. It can get brighter than OLED 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 sleek and attractive.

The Bad

The ultra-expensive JS9500 costs around the same as OLED TVs that deliver overall better image quality. Unlike OLED, its picture suffers when seen from off-angle, and blooming is visible in some scenes. It's only available with a curved screen.

The Bottom Line

Despite being an excellent example of LCD TV state of the art, Samsung's high-end JS9500 loses the picture quality battle against OLED TVs.

The JS9500 is Samsung's most potent Jedi warrior, its most expensive TV for 2015 and the one with the best picture. Its main advantage over our favorite TV of the year, LG's EF9500 OLED TV, is light output: it can get brighter.

Meanwhile one of OLED's big advantages is darkness; it can achieve perfect blackness on-screen, leading to better contrast and impact for all images, especially in the dark rooms and battle stations where theater-quality images are best experienced. Its picture is also substantially better from off-angle seating positions to either side of the sweet spot directly in front of the screen, and I like the fact that it's flat instead of curved.

At press time, both the Samsung and the LG cost the about the same at 65 inches -- a very expensive $5,000, £7,500 in the UK or AU$6,000 in Australia. But even if Samsung were to slash its price, OLED's advantages would probably make it worth the extra money for the high-end audience.

On the other hand, for truly high-end buyers who want an even larger screen, like the 78- and even 88-inch sizes offered by Samsung, OLED simply isn't an option. Even if you can find LG's 77-inch OLED TV for sale anywhere, it's likely going to cost a kidney or three.

For an LED LCD the UNJS9500 is superb, and in extremely bright rooms it might be the best choice on the market. But for just about everywhere else, all of its high-end features and picture enhancements can't keep up with OLED. Don't underestimate the power of the dark side.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch UN65JS9500, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have nearly identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

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Sarah Tew/CNET. Screen image copyright 2011 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.

Design

The JS9500 looks every bit the expensive, futuristic TV that it is. The screen's metallic silver bezel is angled in sharply to resemble a modernist picture frame, and the contrast between the black screen and the silver edge serves to accentuate the curve. The frame isn't quite whisper-thin, but it's thin enough and unadorned but for small Samsung and SUHD logos.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The TV is a good deal thicker and heavier than many of Samsung's other LED TVs of the same screen size, not to mention LG's OLED models. That's because it uses a full-array as opposed to edge-lit LED backlight. Looking down from the top is one of the few ways you'll notice the thickness. From there you can also see the camera. A finger-press press causes it to pop out and swivel toward the viewer disconcertingly, like an exogorth emerging from an asteriod. This is no cave!

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Many people who can afford a TV like this will want to wall-mount it, which in my book looks pretty awkward with a curved TV (unless you happen to have a curved wall too). If you instead elect to use the stand you'll find it accentuates the curve. Two large, silver metal legs splay forward slightly and draw attention away from the low-profile central pedestal, which is hidden cleverly under the curved panel's apex.

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Sarah Tew/CNET. Screen image copyright 2011 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET. Screen image copyright 2011 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET. Screen image copyright 2011 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET. Screen image copyright 2011 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.

Features

Key Features

Display technology LCD
LED backlight Full-array with local dimming
Resolution 4K
Refresh rate 120Hz
Screen shape Curved
Screen finish Glossy
Smart TV Tizen
Remote Motion
3D technology Active
3D glasses included 1 pair

It's almost impossible to think of a feature Samsung missed with the JS9500. The main thing that sets it apart from most cheaper TVs is full-array local dimming, my favorite LCD TV picture quality enhancement.

Local dimming is a technology that allows LCD TVs to dim or brighten specific areas of the screen independently from one another, which helps increase contrast. "Full-array" means that LEDs that provide illumination are mounted behind the screen, as opposed to along the edges, which allows more precise control of the dimming, improved brightness and better contrast.

Lesser Samsung TVs, such as the JS9000, JS8500 and JU7100 have local dimming as well, but they're all edge-lit, and the JS9500 offers significantly more zones, which again should improve the preciseness of the dimming. Unlike Vizio however, Samsung won't specify the exact number of zones.

Like its fellow SUHD models, the JS9500 boasts a nanocrystal-enhanced LCD structure, said to improve color and light output, and HDR capability, which is designed to deliver better contrast in the form of brighter highlights, among other improvements.

Nanocrystals seem very similar to Quantum Dots, but Samsung doesn't want to use that term, instead 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 high-dynamic range content. HDR video, not to be confused with HDR in 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.

Like nearly all current 4K TVs, the JS9500 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.

The cavalcade of features extends beyond the picture. The built-in is for Skype and other apps, and also enables Samsung's motion control. The latter involves waving your hand around to try to control the TV, but I didn't test this feature.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

More interesting in my book is the OneConnect connection box, which houses most of the inputs and offers a modicum of future-proofing. In future model years you'll be able to buy new OneConnect boxes that may offer improved connectivity, processing and software. The latest version, model SEK3500U ($400 in the US), connects to to compatible 2013 and 2014 Samsung TVs and delivers an octa-core processor, Tizen Smart TV, the new remote, HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 inputs, and the VP9 and HEVC codecs.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

In a time when lots of TV makers are dropping 3D to cut costs, Samsung keeps it in the mix. The JS9500 only includes a single pair of active glasses, however, which seems a bit stingy on a TV this expensive.

Like many Samsung sets the JS9500 is also compatible with external hard drives and apps that use the Vidity system to store copy-protected movies, including HDR and 4K titles available from M-Go. The company sent me a Western Digital My Passport Cinema drive to test with the TV, and it worked as expected, although downloads for M-Go took hours. Like eight of them.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Smart TV: Samsung's 2015 TVs use the Tizen operating system found on some of its smartwatches 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 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. Between the two is prominent space for an ad that disappeared and reappeared every few days, making its absence almost as annoying as its presence.

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Sarah Tew/CNET. Screen image copyright 2011 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.

I mentioned the improved basic menus above, and the new design of the deeper menus is also 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 whatever Samsung wants to push -- at press time for the JS9500 review, that was PlayStation Now, GameFly, a game called Piercing Blow Special, Pandora and Crackle, among others -- as well as icons leading to more "apps" and "games" in addition to search and the Web browser.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Once you click "apps" you're greeted by a friendly, clear list of app tiles neatly categorized and searchable. I prefer its design to the app store for LG's Web OS and Android TV, the Google-designed system used by high-end Sony and Sharp TVs this year. The selection is superb, second only to that of Roku TV among Smart TV providers.

Samsung used to offer cross-platform search, but not anymore. Searching using the main magnifying glass icon gave me results from the app store, YouTube and the Internet, but didn't find TV shows or movies from any of the apps. You can still search within individual apps, of course, 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.

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET. Screen image copyright 2011 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.

Oodles of other smart features are onboard. Game streaming can be had courtesy of Sony's PlayStation Now as well as GameFly, allowing streaming gaming and control via external controllers. Samsung's Multi Link Screen feature (above) 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 for now 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.

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 10 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 (or game console for that matter), instead of using the inbuilt system. It's also worth noting that on the JS9500 I experienced a couple of crashes during my brief test period, and load times weren't always the fastest.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

4K streaming apps: I checked out 4K streaming on the built-in Netflix and Amazon apps and they worked as expected. 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 both services are ramping up their selection, especially of original TV series.

Samsung TVs don't have access to the 4K streams of Vudu yet; currently they're exclusive to Roku 4, so the best you'll get out of Samsung's app is Vudu's (still superb) HDX quality. It does have UltraFlix, however, and as mentioned above it can stream a small selection of 4K movies from M-Go, and even download some to the optional hard drive for improved quality. Some titles are even available in HDR.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

New for this year, the YouTube app can also deliver videos in 4K resolution. 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 difficult to tell from looking if they were actually in 4K.

The best way to tell in my experience is by using Florian Fredrich's 4K resolution pattern. (Friedrich runs 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.) The JS9500 delivered every line of the pattern, although it took more than a minute to bump up to 4K level; prior to that, the pattern revealed that the stream was only in 1080p. As usual with streaming, your mileage will vary.

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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. 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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: The JS9500's One Connect input box is silver and larger than the black One Connect Mini boxes included with step-down 2015 Samsung sets. And while those TVs offer a few connections on the back of the sets themselves, the only jacks on the JS9500 are found on the separate box, which connects to the TV via a 6-foot umbilical.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

They include four HDMI, 2 USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, an Ethernet port, the optical digital audio output, the RF antenna port and a connector that breaks out to the analog AV ports. 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 also support HDMI 2.0a for forthcoming HDR devices, namely 4K Blu-ray players.

Picture quality

The Samsung UNJS9500 is among the best-looking LCD TVs I've ever tested. Its full-array local dimming allows it to produce contrast that exceeds just about every other LED LCD, including previous Samsungs, and most other aspects of its picture, from color to video processing to 3D, are as excellent as expected from such an expensive Samsung TV.

On the other hand it fails to beat its OLED archival from LG in a few key areas, including black level, uniformity (OLED doesn't suffer from blooming) and off-angle viewing. OLED is dimmer in highlights and especially on full-white screens, but it's still plenty-bright for just about every viewing situation. Even with HDR content that can best take advantage of the JS9500's prodigious light output, I liked the picture with OLED 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: Thanks to its multi-zone local dimming, the UNJS9500 can achieve some of the deepest black levels I've seen on any LCD-based TV. On the other hand it can't match the perfect black of OLED, and like all local dimming LCDs its black level and contrast can be impaired by blooming and off-angle issues.

Watching the stylized darkness of "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," the JS9500's high-contrast prowess was more than evident. Dark areas looked inky and true, just a couple of shades brighter than the OLED TVs in my lineup, and darker than any of the others. The Sony and Samsung were exceedingly close, but I'd still give the black level edge to the Samsung in most scenes, while the Vizio was somewhat brighter than either one, and the Panasonic by far the brightest (worst). The JS9500 exhibited excellent pop and fidelity that, if not for the superiority of OLED in my dark room, would make it the best performer of the year in terms of sheer contrast.

Blooming occasionally reared its head, typically in black or very dark areas next to very bright ones. One example came at 32:45, where the diver splashes into her own reflection amidst an otherwise completely black screen. The area immediately around her appeared slightly brighter than the surrounding blackness. The same scene on the other LCD TVs a bit showed less blooming, although as I mentioned their black areas were brighter. Overall the JS9500 controlled blooming quite well, and it almost never bothered me during testing as long as I sat in the sweet spot directly in front of the screen. From off-angle (see below), it worsened significantly along with other aspects of picture quality.

Shadow detail was very good on the Samsung, but not noticeably better than on any of the others, including the OLEDs. Again shadows and dark areas looked more realistic in general on the OLED TVs thanks to their deeper blacks, but the Samsung was the best of the LCDs in this area.

Color accuracy: According to my measurements and observations the JS9500 was quite accurate before calibration, with just a slight plus-blue bump in the mid-bright areas, and after calibration is was even better and very consistent.

The demanding black-and-white of Sin City looked great, if a tiny bit reddish-blue, while the Vizio and the OLEDs appeared a bit plus-green in comparison (pick your poison). One Samsung advantage was that near-black areas remained more neutral, with less of the bluish cast than the other LCDs. In the end all of the TVs were very accurate, however, and I doubt these difference would be noticeable outside of a side-by-side lineup.

Seeking brighter, more natural color I turned to the "Samsara" Blu-ray. From the temples in the deep green jungle to the monks' robes to the skin brownish skin tones of the tribesmen, colors looked very impressive on the Samsung, if not appreciably different from any of the others. As I saw on the JS8500, the nanocrystals didn't seem to help with the standard HD gamut (Rec 709) color, which is used on just about all content available today.

The JS9500 also performed very well on advanced color tests, scoring average Delta errors of 1.28 for saturation, 1.59 for luminance and 1.97 for the color checker (anything less than 3 is considered excellent). It also delivered 91.13 percent of the P3/DCI color space, the wider color gamut that's in line to replace Rec. 709. Aside from the Sony XBR-75X940C (93.98 percent), that's wider than any of the wide-color TVs I've tested so far, including the LG 65EF9500 OLED (87.53 percent), the LG 65UF9500 LCD (85.95 percent) and fellow SUHD, the Samsung UN65JS8500 (90.46 percent).

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

Video processing: The JS9500 offers the same basic suite of processing adjustments as Samsung's other 2015 TVs we've tested, and they performed basically the same: 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, since it employs black frame insertion, 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.

Input lag was superb at just at 25.33ms in Game mode. In Movie mode after calibration, on the other hand, it came in nat a sluggish 143.97ms.

4K sources: Actual 4K movies and TV shows are still scarce enough that I didn't spend nearly as much time testing 4K sources as I did 1080p, but they're getting more common. I enjoyed a variety of 4K clips from numerous sources, including Netflix and Amazon streaming, YouTube streams and downloads, and 4K demo boxes and files (primarily supplied by TV makers).

In general, the UN65JS9500 looked great with 4K, but then again so did the other sets. I used a 4K distribution amplifier to compare them all directly, and basically all of the image quality differences I saw were the same as with 1080p sources.

I also checked out a variety of 4K test patterns from both my DVDo test pattern generator and courtesy of Florian Friedrich, and the LG OLED looked as good as 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 JS9500 was clean. It's one hiccup came in the moving text test, where the bottom line didn't scroll as smoothly as on some sets.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

HDR sources: The only current source of HDR widely available is still from Amazon video, which offers a handful of original series in the format. Having checked out earlier offerings "Bosch," "Mozart in the Jungle" and "Transparent" in previous reviews, I began the comparison between the three HDR-capable sets in my lineup (the Samsung, the Sony, and the LG 65EF9500 OLED) with "The Man in the High Castle."

This title looked better than some I've seen from Amazon, and compared to the standard version, I appreciated the brighter, more realistic highlights, for example from the lights inside the garage and the planning room at the beginning. On the other hand, compared to the standard dynamic range version, the HDR version showed loss of detail in bright areas, for example the map on the table, on all three of the TVs (a fault of the production, I'm guessing, not of the TVs).

I thought the HDR version looked better overall on the OLED than the Samsung. Yes, the LCDs delivered brighter highlights -- measuring the brightest part of the projector lamp at 1:23, for example, netted 439 nits on the OLED versus 887 on the Samsung and 1271 on the Sony -- the Samsung's more aggressive gamma and brighter highlights made it pop more then the OLED overall. But colors often seemed too too garish and reddish on the Samsung, for example with the skin tones of the martial artists in the following scene, and I noticed loss of shadow detail in the shadows (in addition to lighter black levels and some blooming). The Sony meanwhile looked the most balanced, although its black levels were the brightest (worst).

Here's where I mention that I don't calibrate for HDR sources (yet) so I conducted these comparisons in the default settings, and the differences with the Samsung I noted could mostly (theoretically) be fixed in calibration. It's basically impossible to objectively judge things like color and gamma because there's no way to tell what the producers intended the show to look like. It doesn't help that each HDR TV seemed to differ significantly in its default settings, and each allowed different picture adjustments.

I also have access to a few HDR clips of Hollywood films from LG and Samsung, and watched them on all three TVs (via separate USB devices). In every case I thought they looked better than the Amazon content, and the best, were downright spectacular, with a realism that made me hunger for more HDR to watch. "A Million Ways to Die in the West," particularly the sweeping western vistas and the scene of Charlize Theron tough-talking a criminal, were breathtaking.

Again, highlights displayed by the LCD sets were quite a bit brighter than what I saw on the OLED, while the OLED was able to maintain its perfect black levels compared to the grayer blacks of the LCDs. Side-by-side in my dark room the LCDs again had the advantage in pop and contrast -- the LG OLED looked dim by comparison -- but once I turned off the LCDs and my eyes adjusted to the OLED, it looked spectacular, with tremendous contrast. That said, the very bright LCDs never seemed too bright even in my dark room as long as I kept a nice close theatrical seating distance.

HDR is still in its infancy and even these high-end TVs still have some kinks to work out. In the meantime, my main takeaway so far is that both LCD and OLED can deliver great-looking HDR, with the same kinds of strengths and weaknesses that each display technology brings to standard dynamic range content. If I had to choose just one for HDR reproduction right now, I'd still take OLED despite its dimmer highlights, mainly because of its black level and off-angle advantages, and lack of blooming,

Off-angle and screen uniformity: The worst aspect of the UN65JS9500's image quality appeared as I moved off-angle, to either side of the sweet spot, directly in front of the screen. Black levels brightened and blooming appeared more quickly than on any of the other TVs in my lineup, hampering the Samsung's superb contrast and fidelity. Colors also shifted more noticeably, becoming washed-out and reddish/blue faster than on the others. The JS9500's off-angle woes were most visible in a dark room and/or with darker material, but they were still evident with bright content as well.

In comparison the Sony and Vizio held up somewhat better from off-angle, and the Panasonic shifted the least -- although, as the worst performer overall, it still didn't beat the other LCDs' contrast no matter how far I moved from the sweet spot. No LCD TV looks its best from off-angle, but the JS9500 was particularly susceptible. Perhaps that's due to its curve, or its panel type, or maybe even those fancy nanocrystals, but regardless, the picture-quality buff in your family will want to sit dead-center.

When viewed from the sweet spot screen maintained uniformity well across its surface, with only very slightly darker edges visible in full-screen gray test patterns -- about the same as the other high-end LCDs, aside from the Panasonic, which had noticeably darker edges. With very dark screens the bottom section of the Samsung's screen appeared just a bit brighter than the top (unlike the Sony and Vizio, which remained even), but this issue wasn't nearly as visible as the OLED's dark uniformity irregularities. As usual these screen uniformity differences were much more difficult to spot with program material rather than test patterns; aside from blooming, and I had no issues with the JS9500's uniformity.

Bright lighting: Samsung touts the light output capabilities of the JS9500, and indeed this TV can get exceedingly bright. With the potential exception of HDR material, however, there's little need for such a bright image in a normal, moderately lit room. On the other hand, if your room gets very bright, the JS9500 is one of the best TVs available.

It wasn't the brightest in my lineup, however. According to my measurements the JS9500's brightest picture mode, Dynamic, hit 607 nits (aka cd/m2, a unit of light output) with a standard 25 percent window test pattern. That's short of the searing 1051 nits achieved by the Sony XBR-75X940C, and short of the 1000 nits claimed by Samsung (I don't blame Samsung, however, because that claim is based on measuring a much smaller area of the screen than a window pattern), but still blinding by TV standards. The only TV I've tested that beats it is the 2014 Sony XBR-65X950B, and the only current TVs I haven't tested but could envision being comparably bright are Vizio's Reference series and maybe the Hisense ULED.

As for other TVs I've tested, the closest contenders in descending order of brightness are the Panasonic TC-55CX850U at 509 nits, the LG 65UF9500 (an LCD) at 507, and Vizio's 2014 P652ui at 455, LG's 65EG9600 (curved OLED) at 444, LG's 65EF9500 (flat OLED) at 433 and Samsung's own cheaper SUHD, the UN65JS8500 at 415.

If you're comparing against OLED it's worth remembering that with a larger portion of the screen occupied by bright content, an LCD like the Samsung will maintain brightness, while an OLED will dim significantly, getting around 65 percent dimmer, compared to about 32 percent dimmer for the JS9500.

Is OLED's loss with brighter material a big deal? Not in my book. Even if you watch nothing but hockey and downhill skiing -- two examples of real content where the screen is mostly filled with white -- you won't notice much or any dimness unless you have an LED LCD side-by-side for comparison.

Screen shape also affects bright-room performance. In my experience the main benefit of curved screen is to help reduce reflections. A flat TV "catches" more of the surrounding reflections, increasing the chance that a particularly bright object, like a window or a lamp, is reflected back to the viewer. Curved TVs, like the JS9500, miss more of those reflections. On the other hand the curve can actually increase the apparent size of reflected objects it does catch, for example a bright shirt worn by a viewer, stretching them into funhouse mirror shape.

In terms of screen reflectance, the JS9500 is very good, doing an excellent job maintaining black levels under the lights. It didn't deaden reflections quite as well as the semi-matte screens of the Panasonic or Vizio, however, and among its glossier competitors, namely the OLEDs and the Sony, it showed the brightest reflections of in-room objects, such as brighter furniture or a viewer's white shirt.

3D: The JS9500 produced a very good 3D image, albeit not quite as impressive as that of the EF9500 OLED TV. Watching my standard 3D Blu-ray, "Hugo," the Samsung's kept crosstalk (that ghostly double image that I consider the worst 3D artifact) at a relatively low clip. Difficult areas like the GK Films logo and Hugo's hand as it reaches for the mechanical mouse showed only the faintest of ghosts, about the same as the Sony and less prominent than the Panasonic. As expected the EF9500 OLED was the best, with basically no crosstalk visible in any scene I watched.

The OLED was also superior at letting the full brightness of the film through. The Samsung was superb in in this regard as well, however, outpacing the Panasonic and (surprisingly, given its exceedingly bright 2D image) the Sony. Color accuracy was also very good.

I'm not a fan of Samsung's flimsy glasses, especially with their poor fit over my regular eyeglasses, but at least they're light enough to be comfortable for extended periods.

Geek Box

Test ResultScore
Black luminance (0%) 0.005Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.29Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.993Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.758Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.988Good
Avg. color error 0.487Good
Red error 0.476Good
Green error 0.183Good
Blue error 0.878Good
Cyan error 0.118Good
Magenta error 0.492Good
Yellow error 0.772Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) PassGood
Motion resolution (max) 1200Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200Good
Input lag (Game mode) 25.33Good

How We Test TVs

samsung-un65js9500-02.jpg
7.3

Samsung UNJS9500 series

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 10Features 10Performance 9Value 4