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Samsung promises brighter future with a slew of new SUHD TVs, starting at $1,500

The biggest TV maker in the world has unveiled the largest selection of TVs this year, with five new series of its premium-priced SUHD TVs. The company says they're brighter than ever. Here's what we know so far.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung is nuts for nits.

The world's largest TV maker has rolled out five new series of its high-end SUHD TVs today, encompassing up to four sizes each. They range from a $1500 43-inch set up to a $20,000 88 incher, and can get brighter than ever before.

Now before I delve into the details it's worth remembering a couple quick points. First off, nits in this context aren't lice eggs, they're real units of light output that have been co-opted into a marketing term. Second, I haven't tested any of these sets so I can't judge their actual number of nits (ewww!), but none of them use the OLED display technology I've liked so much in the past. They're all LED-backlit LCD TVs, augmented by Samsung's SUHD flava.

SUHD, which doesn't stand for anything in particular according to the company, denotes Samsung's more expensive TVs. It encompasses the following features in 2016.

  • Quantum Dot color (96 percent of DCI-P3)
  • 1,000-nit peak brightness
  • Ultra Black reflection-reducing screens (Moth's eye)
  • Local dimming LED backlights
  • Automatic device control via remote
  • SmartThings integration

I'll start with the first three, which are related to picture quality. Samsung's Quantum Dot displays deliver better brightness and color, according to the company, and come within 4 percent of covering all of the DCI-P3 color space used in today's best HDR (high dynamic range) content. That's similar to the color claims made by other TV makers on high-end sets, including OLED models.

But the biggest differentiator is brightness. Samsung is claiming a "1,000 nit" number for all of these sets. That's very bright. The spec is aimed directly at OLED TVs, which are about half as bright. Samsung touts this as a big advantage in brighter rooms as well as with HDR. In my testing so far, however, I've still preferred OLED overall, even with HDR, and OLED is plenty bright for most rooms.

Samsung's new Ultra Black screens are also said to help reduce reflections, absorbing light in the same way that a moth's eye does to allow it to see better at night. And all of these SUHD sets offer some level of local dimming, our favorite picture quality enhancement for LCD TVs; see the chart below for details.

In the latest TV format war, Samsung is only supporting one HDR standard. That means these TVs will not be able to play Dolby Vision HDR TV shows and movies, just HDR10. Meanwhile TVs from Vizio and LG will support both formats. Although the majority of current HDR content is in HDR10 and not Dolby, I still see the lack of full HDR support as a competitive disadvantage for Samsung this year. Check out my article on the HDR format war for more.

Smart Hub gets more control

The SUHD sets also get a revamped Smart TV suite in 2016, the chief feature of which is the ability to recognize certain devices automatically as you plug them in, and program the remote accordingly, eliminating setup. The auto setup feature works with more than 90 percent of set-top boxes, Samsung says, as well as most other devices, including Roku, Apple TV and game consoles. Support for DirecTV boxes is coming in June.

Think smart TV is dumb? Samsung aims to change your mind by controlling your gear

Samsung has also added more sources to the Smart menu bar, with "streaming, Blu-ray, gaming, cable and more, allowing users to surf content as though they were channel surfing," according to the press release.

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung's 2016 smart TVs control your gear, from cable...

At CES 2016, Samsung talked a lot about integrating its SmartThings Smart Home platform directly into the TVs, allowing control of devices like lights and security cameras from the TV screen. Today it outlined more details: all of its 7, 8 and 9 series TVs in 2016 will act as SmartThings hubs, with all of the functionality of the external hubs that currently sell for $100.

To do so the TVs will need to use an external device, a USB dongle called the Extend, and it won't be available until summer. Instead the TVs will include a coupon in the box that entitles the owner to get a free Extend once they come out.

Here are all of the SUHD TVs, complete with UPP pricing.

Samsung's 2016 SUHD TVs

Model Size Price Available Shape Local dimming
UN49KS8000 49 inches $1,499 May Flat Edge-lit
UN55KS8000 55 inches $1,799 Now Flat
UN60KS8000 60 inches $2,299 May Flat
UN65KS8000 65 inches $2,799 Now Flat
UN49KS8500 49 inches $1,699 May Curved
UN55KS8500 55 inches $1,999 Now Curved Edge-lit
UN65KS8500 65 inches $2,999 Now Curved
UN55KS9000 55 inches $2,299 Now Flat Edge-lit with more zones
UN65KS9000 65 inches $3,499 Now Flat
UN75KS9000 75 inches $6,499 June Flat
UN55KS9500 55 inches $2,499 Now Curved Edge-lit with more zones
UN65KS9500 65 inches $3,699 Now Curved
UN78KS9500 78 inches $7,999 May Curved
UN65KS9800 65 inches $4,499 June Curved Full-array local dimming
UN78KS9800 78 inches $9,999 May Curved
UN88KS9800 88 inches $19,999 June Curved

The main takeaway here, aside from those relatively expensive prices, is that the "8" SUHD TVs have similar picture quality specifications, with the "500" model names indicating curved screens. The step-up 9000/9500 TVs have something called "Supreme UHD Dimming," which Samsung says offers "many more dimming zones" than the standard "UHD Dimming" feature on the "8" models. More zones generally means better image quality, but unlike Vizio, Samsung does not disclose the number of zones.

The best TV will be the KS9800 series, which, like last year's JS9500, offers a full-array local dimming backlight (all of the others are edge-lit). For that reason we expect it to deliver superior picture quality, although whether it will beat the best OLED sets, or high-end offerings from Sony and Vizio, remains to be seen.

We'll have more details on Samsung's new TVs soon. In the meantime, here's a great overview from FlatpanelsHD, complete with information for Europe, too.

Updated April 13 with mode Smart Hub and SmartThings details, and April 14 with mode details about picture quality differences.