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

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

Samsung UN65JS9500 CNET review calibration report

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