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Samsung SUHD TVs chase OLED with quantum dots, moth's eyes

Last year LG's OLED TVs ruled the picture-quality roost, but archrival Samsung has been hard at work beefing up its LED LCD-based SUHD sets to compete. They've also added Smart Home and improved home-theater control.

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung's high-end SUHD sets get brighter, more colorful
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Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung's high-end SUHD TVs may have trailed behind LG's OLED models in overall picture quality last year, but 2016 is a whole new ballgame, and Samsung this time brought its quantum dots.

No, I don't expect the new SUHD TVs to beat out LG's just-announced OLEDs, but they do offer some interesting picture-quality improvements on paper, including improved color and better bright-room performance. The latter is achieved by...wait for it...emulating a moth's eye.

The biggest changes, however, have to do with with control. New for 2016, all of its SUHD TVs will be able to act as a hub for SmartThings devices, from lights to security devices to cameras. The sets will include a free USB dongle that allows them to interface with those devices, turning the TV into a central control point in the home.

The company's redesigned Smart TV system also commands home-theater equipment, allowing the remote to control cable boxes, game consoles and more. Samsung claims the system will automatically recognize devices you plug in and control them without having to perform complicated setup. Watch out, Logitech Harmony.

Better color and bright-room picture quality

Compared to last year's SUHD sets, new models like the KS9500 are said to deliver improved color, thanks to redesigned nanocrystals, which the company is now calling quantum dots. Unlike other TV makers at the show, however, Samsung's reps didn't yet specify an exact percentage of coverage for any color gamut. For more info, check out Quantum dots: How nanocrystals can make LCD TVs better.

Here's what Samsung's press release has to say about moth's eyes. "New Ultra Black technology also significantly reduces light reflection, further enhancing picture quality with minimal glare. Inspired by nature, Ultra Black absorbs natural light the same way that a moth's eye enables it to see better at night."

And what about Wikipedia? "Moths' eyes have an unusual property: their surfaces are covered with a natural nanostructured film which eliminates reflections. This allows the moth to see well in the dark, without reflections to give its location away to predators." Awesome.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Like last year's SUHD TVs, these are HDR compatible and claim an extremely bright 1,000 nits of peak light output, around double what LG's OLED sets can produce. In our HDR tests last year, however, we still preferred OLED despite LCD's brightness advantages. Unlike LG's OLEDs, however, Samsung's SUHD TVs will not support the Dolby Vision HDR standard.

The one TV we've received details on so far, the KS9500, has an edge-lit local dimming LED backlight, a step-down from the full-array backlight of its numeric predecessor, the JS9500, For that reason we'd be surprised if it delivered the same level of picture quality. On the other hand, Samsung's reps did tell us a full-array model would be in the offing as well, the KS9800, but we haven't received any more details at the time of this writing.

The 9500 also has what the company is calling a bezel-less design. In person and pictures, however, there's clearly something around the edge of the picture. We asked Samsung's spokesperson for an explanation and were told: "Samsung's KS9500 SUHD TV is bezel-less. What you are seeing is the actual frame of the TV - where the frame meets the screen."

In other words, instead of the all-picture look you'd expect from a bezel-less design, what you get is a bezel by another name: "frame."

Check out the videos below for more on Samsung's new Smart TV and SmartThings control features.

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung's new Smart TVs surface content and ease setup
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Now playing: Watch this: Samsung TVs can control your SmartThings
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Except for concept products like the 170-inch modular TV, a 98-inch 8K model and the ultra-thin SUHD, the KS9500 is basically the only new TV model Samsung showed at CES 2016. Samsung's reps told us to expect further details on its full lineup of televisions at its traditional spring showcase, and if previous years are any indication, there will be pricing leaks with more detail before that.

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