Samsung UE55JS9000 review

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Pros
  • Spectacular picture quality
  • Straightforward smart system
  • Impressively future-proof
Cons
  • It’s fairly expensive
  • Limited support for viewing angles
  • Some picture preset confusion

Key Features: 55in LCD TV with edge LED lighting; Native UHD resolution; HDR playback support; Tizen smart TV system; Multimedia playback from USB and networked devices

Manufacturer: Samsung

What is the Samsung UE55JS9000?

The UE55JS9000 is a 55in TV from Samsung’s new “SUHD” range. The JS9000 series sits just one step down from the flagship JS9500 range, and benefits from such key SUHD features as a native 4K UHD resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR) playback, an ultra-bright panel, and Nano Crystal colour technology.

Design and Features

The most distinctive – and potentially divisive – feature of the UE55JS9000’s appearance is its curved screen. It’s a far more prominent curve too, when compared to the relative shallow “bends” of some other brands of curved TVs. It gives the TV a very attractive look, especially when you add in the eye-catching “boomerang”-style stand and the bezel’s polished metallic-silver sheen.

The only issue is that the supposed advantages of curved screens are diminished somewhat at a 55in screen size, which is you’ll have to factor into your buying decision. We’ll cover this in more detail in the Picture Quality section of this review – or, for a more in-depth exploration of the pros and cons of curved screens, check out our dedicated feature.

As with Samsung’s flagship JS9500 TVs, the UE55JS9000 comes with an external “One Connect” connections box. This carries four HDMIs, three USBs, the set’s network port (and integrated Wi-Fi), as well as the tuner inputs for both terrestrial and satellite feeds, with Freesat and Freeview HD tuners built in.

Samsung UE55JS9000

The One Connect box doesn’t only carry the TV’s connections; it also squeezes in the majority of the TV’s brainpower. Alongside reducing the cable spaghetti going into the UE55JS9000’s screen, the One Connect gives you the potential to upgrade the TV with future Samsung features and chipsets – and, potentially, new types of connection – simply by replacing your original One Connect box with a new one. This is superb future-proofing.

Samsung UE55JS9000

Not that the UE55JS9000 isn’t already more forward-thinking than most TVs. For starters, with its SUHD brethren, these TVs are already capable of playing the new HDR technology.

HDR images contain a much wider luminance and colour range than those of old video standards. And as described in our reviews of other Samsung SUHD TVs – the Samsung UE65JS9500, for example – it’s a technology capable of offering arguably more immediate impact than a native 4K UHD resolution. Especially on relatively small TVs, where adding more resolution delivers less tangible benefits unless you’re sat close to the screen.

Other brands will be introducing HDR to a handful of their screens via firmware updates later this year. But none of those sets rival the brightness output of Samsung’s SUHD series, which is key for HDR tech. The JS9500 models claim a maximum brightness of 1,000cd/m2, while the JS9000 on test here claims 600cd/m2.

Samsung UE55JS9000

The Nano Crystal technology inside the JS9000 is also crucial for HDR playback, since it claims to produce a much wider colour range than typical LCD TVs. This amounts to 93% of the Digital Cinema Initiatives’ colour spectrum, which is far more than the range of the Rec 709 standard focused on by most TVs. Crucially, the UE55JS9000 employs 10-bit panel driving rather than the usual 8-bit, meaning it can resolve more colour gradations.

In addition, Samsung has introduced a new video-processing system to try to optimise all of its new core panel technologies. This includes processing for converting/upscaling non-UHD and non-HDR sources to the screen’s “next-gen” capabilities.

The UE55JS9000 is lit by an edge LED system rather than the direct LED one of the JS9500 models. This is the chief reason for its maximum brightness falling significantly below that of its more expensive siblings.

However, it still benefits from a local dimming engine, complete with Samsung’s excellent Cinema Black feature. This essentially deactivates the light that feeds the areas of the screen filled with black bars in films with a wider aspect ratio than the screen’s 16:9 one. This means you’re not distracted by light inconsistencies and fluctuations seen in normal edge-lit LCD TVs, which can stand out in such dark areas.

Samsung UE55JS9000

Wrapping up the UE55JS9000’s hugely impressive feature list is its new Tizen smart system and 3D playback. Sadly, this isn’t supported by any free 3D glasses – but as we’ll see, it’s actually worth buying a few pairs if you have even a passing interest in 3D.

Setup

Setting up the UE55JS9000 is a mixed bag. On the upside, it features a huge wealth of setup options that give you control over almost every part of its video-processing engine and colour/contrast/sharpness features. It also makes more of an attempt to automatically adjust its pictures in response to different types of incoming content. This is welcome, given how many different content types (standard definition, HD, Ultra HD/4K, HDR, non-HDR, and so on) the video market now contains.

However, the UE55JS9000 is rather low on picture preset options and, at the time of writing, its automatic picture-adjustment system is flawed/bugged.

The shortage of picture presets makes it much more likely that a high-end user will need to recalibrate a few of the four main presets provided, rather than finding one out of the box that’s already pretty close to their preferences.

Also rather confusing is this sets move to automatically switch to a default Movie preset when it detects HDR content, but then have a different version of the Movie preset available for watching non-HDR content. Surely it would have been simpler and more helpful for users to have an HDR setting that’s simply called HDR?

Samsung UE55JS9000

Samsung’s current firmware underlines this problem by keeping the Movie mode active when you switch back from HDR content to normal video – even if you had previously been using a different preset for that normal video source. This is particularly unfortunate, as the Movie preset the TV uses for non-HDR content isn’t particularly effective.

In addition, a software bug results in the TV sometimes retaining the Movie mode settings used for HDR when you switch back to normal video, rather than switching to the Movie mode settings for non-HDR. Confused? You’re not alone.

The good news for those not keen to manually set up a mode for HDR playback is that the default HDR version of the Movie preset is pretty good in most ways. It would be better if it turned off all the TV’s noise-reduction routines when it detects a UHD HDR source, and it seems a bit odd too that it doesn’t put the Cinema Black feature on as standard. However, it still does a good job overall of “selling” HDR without overcooking it.

It’s also worth pointing out that Samsung has a good track record of fixing the type of operating problems we’ve been talking about via firmware updates once it’s aware of them. Which it now is.

Other, more general, setup advice we’d offer would be to use the Smart LED local dimming feature on its Medium setting to get the best balance between black levels and backlight uniformity. You should also reduce contrast to around 82 from its maximum default; leave the Dynamic Contrast feature off since it can cause luminance instability and isn’t really needed; and that you don’t run the backlight higher than around its 13-14 setting to improve backlight uniformity.

Use the Cinema Black option to reduce backlight inconsistencies when watching ultra-wide film formats and turn off noise reduction for UHD and good-quality HD sources. It’s also worth experimenting with the mid-strength level of the motion processing, since it does a surprisingly good job of removing the sort of motion blur and judder that can stand out so much in a UHD image.

Picture Quality

In some areas, the UE55JS9000 could do more to help users get the best from it right out of the box. However, the bottom line is that this TV is capable of delivering outstanding pictures from almost any source.

Particularly startling is its contrast performance. It can combine really bright colours and whites with deep, rich blacks to a degree that we haven’t seen before on an edge-lit LCD TV – aside from the previously reviewed UE65JS9000. This is especially apparent using the set’s Dynamic picture preset, with which bright elements such as stars and window lights look so intense that they almost feel like they’re erupting from a hole punched through the LCD panel. Even when using a more restrained setup – as you should – the image still looks phenomenally rich.

Samsung UE55JS9000

It should be stressed that the UE55JS9000 doesn’t pump out nearly as much contrast and brightness as Samsung’s flagship JS9500 series, with their direct rather than edge LED lighting. However, we can’t think of any other brand of edge LED TV out there right now that’s capable of delivering as much raw brightness and contrast as the JS9000 series.

As well as being an excellent achievement for an LCD TV in itself, this brightness is particularly handy for a TV capable of handling HDR content.

The fact that the UE55JS9000 can produce such a bold blend of darks and lights within the same frame is made even more impressive by the fact that dark scenes don’t suffer much at all with backlight clouding or stability issues. Even images that contain bright-white content against deep-black backdrops tend to look evenly lit and convincing.

Black levels don’t look forced, either. There’s enough shadow detail visible in dark areas to ensure they don’t look hollow or flat, revealing that the impressive black-level response isn’t being achieved by removing excessive light from the image. Instead, much of the credit for the UE55JS9000’s strong black levels lies with the native quality of Samsung’s new SUHD panels.

This isn’t only down to SUHD panels pumping out more brightness and contrast than other LCD TVs, though. Their Nano Crystal colour technology also makes its presence felt in the UE55JS9000’s pictures – in the shape of colours that combine bold saturations with excellent blend and tone subtlety.

Samsung UE55JS9000

There’s no sign of “striping” in even the subtlest of colour blends, and combinations of richly coloured landscapes and busy city scenes in our test 4K UHD footage all look almost three-dimensional thanks to the screen’s ability to render even the tiniest of tonal differences.

This outstanding colour reproduction helped the UE55JS9000 deliver maximum thrills in our HDR clips of Exodus: Gods And Kings and Life Of Pi, reminding us again of why we feel that HDR could become a bigger deal than 4K UHD resolution.

The combination of a good native response time and mostly strong motion processing mean the UE55JS9000’s outstanding UHD, 10-bit sharpness remains largely intact when displaying scenes with plenty of action.

Another string to the UE55JS9000’s bow is its upscaling, at least of HD sources. Samsung’s processing is able to add in all the millions of extra pixels necessary to remap an HD image to the screen’s UHD resolution without making the results look noisy, soft or artificial.

The lack of noise in the upscaled images is a particularly big improvement over Samsung’s 2014 UHD upscaling system, and makes Samsung’s 2015 upscaled pictures arguably the most immersive and natural currently available in the UHD TV world.

Samsung UE55JS9000

While the UE55JS9000’s images are mostly superb then, there are a handful of issues of which you should be aware. First, the curved screen is of questionable benefit at the 55in size. It can deliver a slightly enhanced sense of immersion if you’re sat directly opposite, reasonably close to the screen, but outside of this “sweet spot” it can result in the image’s geometry looking slightly distorted.

Plus, the UE55JS9000’s slightly glassy front panel can cause objects reflected in your room to distort across more of the screen than would be the case with a flat TV.

The curve isn’t the only limiting factor of the TV’s viewing angle, either. From more than 30 degrees down the side the image starts to lose contrast dramatically, as well as exposing the workings of the TV’s light engine.

Our test sample also showed areas of light and colour inconsistency when fed a full-white test signal. While the UE55JS9000 delivers a remarkably bright picture versus its edge LED rivals, the JS9500 series is capable of retaining more brightness without compromising backlight uniformity.

As noted earlier, there are also issues with the TV’s current presets and automatic picture-optimisation systems.

However, the reality is that you can work around most of the UE55JS9000’s issues through its setup tools or careful positioning of either yourself or the TV. And in any case, for the vast majority of the time – especially when fully unlocked with HDR UHD content – the UE55JS9000’s pictures are nothing short of sensational.

3D Picture Quality

Samsung continues to show the rest of the 3D world – or, at least, the active 3D world – how it’s done. Using the active rather than passive 3D engine means the UE55JS9000’s 3D images are upscaled to UHD resolution, resulting in 3D worlds of exceptional detail and texture in which it’s easy to become immersed.

The screen’s outstanding dynamism, contrast and colour performance also prove successful in combatting the inevitable dimming effect caused by having to wear active-shutter glasses.

What’s more, this exceptional brightness is achieved while generating relatively minimal amounts of crosstalk ghosting noise by active 3D standards.

Finally, the UE55JS9000’s outstanding contrast performance helps it to produce a truly excellent sense of space in the 3D frame, even in dark scenes that often end up looking flat on other active 3D TVs.

Sound Quality

The UE55JS9000 sounds decent enough. For a TV with no forward-firing speakers it achieves good volume levels and a reasonably large soundscape, without distorting or sounding muffled. There’s a reasonable amount of detail in the audio presentation too, and the speaker configuration even has a crack at injecting a little bass into proceedings.

At the same time, though, the UE55JS9000’s audio efforts aren’t a rival for the class-leading sound performance you get from the massive forward-facing, magnetic fluid speakers built into Sony’s X94 and X93 UHD TVs.

Other Things to Consider

The UE55JS9000 is a superb gaming screen. Its super-bright, ultra-crisp, contrast-rich and boldly coloured images feeling tailor-made to get the best out of typical video game graphics. Plus, we measured its input lag – the time it takes to render images after receiving image data at its inputs – to be comfortably under 30ms. This is a truly outstanding result for a UHD TV.

Should I buy a Samsung UE55JS9000?

If you want a TV that combines genuinely stellar UHD picture quality with a unique degree of future-proofing – through its swappable One Connect box and currently exclusive (to Samsung) HDR playback – then the UE55JS9000 ticks all the boxes. Its smart system is pretty decent too, and it looks a million dollars in its shiny, curved body.

Samsung UE55JS9000

The UE55JS9000’s talents don’t come cheap, however, making us wonder if a flat version of the same set might have been more affordable.

Other flat-screen 4K UHD options to consider if you’re not attracted by the Samsung’s HDR-friendly picture characteristics and future-proofing features would be the Panasonic TX-55CX802 and, if you’re wanting to save significant cash, the Sony KD-55X8505C.

If money is no object then consider stepping up to the JS9500 series, since this range delivers even more ground-breaking dynamic picture quality thanks to its direct LED lighting engine.

Verdict

With its upgradable features and connections, stellar image quality and compatibility with both HDR and UHD pictures, the UE55JS9000 is an outstanding TV for those with deep enough pockets – and a living room setup that won’t often find people having to watch it from a wider angle.

Scores In Detail

2D Quality : 9/10
3D Quality : 9/10
Design : 9/10
Smart TV : 8/10
Value : 7/10

(trustedreviews.com)

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