Ultra HD 4K TV Review

 

Samsung 65KS9800 65" Curved 4K SUHD Smart TV

 

MSRP: $5999, Street $3999

 

| Updated - September 21, 2016 |

| Richard De Jong, Editor |

 

Over the 10 years of reviewing Samsung TVs, I have come to respect their high picture quality and their overall performance. And with each year's new series, I have come to expect a step up, especially with their flagship models. And the 2016 top-of-the-line KS9800 4K UHD TV definitely does not disappoint in raising the bar.

 

To put it simply, the picture is better, more brilliant and colorful than previous models. To explain why can get a bit technical, but much of the picture quality improvement can be distilled into two terms: HDR, (High Dynamic Range) and Wide Color Spectrum.

 

Without geeking out, a TV that is HDR capable can display better contrast with higher levels of brightness and deeper darks. Wide Color Spectrum means the display can render a wider range of lifelike colors. Basically, the TV has more crayons (billions) in its box. Importantly, both features, HDR and Wide Color Spectrum are easily perceived.

Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV

When the first 4K TVs appeared in the marketplace in 2012, their jump in resolution, (four times more pixels than the then popular HDTVs, was noteworthy). But with the advent of HDR (with Wide Color Spectrum) capable 4K TVs, along with the increasing availability of 4K + HDR mastered content, the promise of a noticeably improved picture is coming to fruition.

 

The Samsung KS9800 series sports these two features and its picture can dazzle, especially when displaying 4K mastered HDR Ultra HD Blu-rays and streaming content. More on that later.

 

Beyond the HDR + Wide Color Spectrum flair, this curved TV supplies a full complement of features that is de rigueur for a high-end Smart TV these days, including Wi-Fi, voice control, and a slick interface with an armful of apps.

 

Of course, all that performance and those features command a premium price for the 65-inch, quantum dot 65KS9800 (street price under $4000) that is being reviewed here. Granted, a pittance when compared to the Samsung 88-inch 88KS9810 (about 20 grand) or the 78-inch 78KS9800 (only around 10K).

 

Since the specifications are similar for all three models, this review of the 65KS9800 can apply to the monstrous 88KS9810 and the slightly less gigantic 78KS9800.

 

Overall Rating: 9.1

 

Performance: 9.3

The video performance of the Samsung 65KS9800 is top notch. Playback of native 4K HDR content can be simply stunning. If I were to pick a nit, despite the display’s full array backlighting, the picture tends to washout the farther off axis you are sitting. The audio from the integrated 4.2 channel speaker system is functional but does not do the picture quality the justice it deserves.

 

Features: 9.6

Wi-Fi, a voice activated remote, Bluetooth, screen mirroring, smart view, the list of features goes on. And with an app store full of streaming content providers from the well-known like Netflix and YouTube and the less famous like MUBI, this Smart TV can keep you perpetually entertained. The 65KS9800 does not include an integrated video camera for Skyping and controlling the TV by hand motions.

 

Ease of Use: 9.0

Of course, with all those features comes a learning curve. Luckily initial set-up is fast and the Samsung designers have streamlined the user interface and the remote control, making basic navigation and common tasks easy to accomplish.

 

Value: 8.5

At the time of this writing, on the Samsung website, the 65-inch KS9800 curved 4K SUHD TV is listed at $4000. I’m finding it at online retailers for a few hundred dollars less. Even then, it’s a hefty price tag compared to other HDR capable 4K TVs in this marketplace. For example, the Samsung HDR capable KS9000 65" SUHD TV is about $1500 less. Granted, its screen is flat and not curved and the display is edge-lit and not a full array backlit, but with the extra cash you could buy one of those Dolby Atmos soundbars.

 

Ratings Caveat

Please remember that all these ratings are relative to the state of the art and marketplace at the time when the review was posted.

 

Performance

 

When discussing the picture quality of the 65KS9800 – an Ultra HD TV with premium features like Wide Color Gamut and HDR – it’s informative to break the analysis into sections.

 

Hunger Games Ultra HD Blu-rayTo begin, let’s take the ideal conditions (for consumers), playing a 4K mastered (with HDR and Wide Color Gamut) Blu-ray on a player like the Samsung UBD-K8500 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player. The experience can be startling.

 

Depending on the scene, the first thing you may notice is how much brighter the fire or a street light is – the HDR effect. Or in a pastoral or forest scene, you may be struck by how much more vibrant the colors are. Perhaps, there are greens that you have never seen on a TV – Wide Color Spectrum. And if you are cozying up to the TV, you might be shocked that your favorite actor doesn’t have a perfect complexion. Blame the detail visible with 4K resolution.

 

Of course, not all 4K Blu-rays are created equal and if it hasn’t been mastered with skill and care, the KS9800 will reveal its warts. But overall, the picture quality with 4K content is definitely a big step up from HDTVs playing Blu-rays.

 

Next in the progression is the playback of streaming 4K content from providers like Netflix and Amazon. Both are adding to their 4K catalog, with some of the best titles emanating from their original series like Orange is the New Black (Netflix) and Transparent (Amazon).

 

To keep the streaming bit rate down, content providers need to compress the 4K files more than 4K Blu-rays. Be that as it may, the consistently best example of 4k + HDR content that my eyes – and stomach – have had the pleasure of experiencing is Netflix’s Chef’s Table series. The shots of the food are absolutely mouthwatering.

Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV, Chef's Table

When upscaling 2K content to its 4K display, the 65KS9800 performs well, not surprisingly, Blu-rays look best. Even then, I warn that you not raise your expectations too much. This Samsung SUHD TV, with all of its high tech processing, cannot transform a poorly lit and grainy beast into a 4K vibrant beauty.

 

The audio from the integrated speakers is surely serviceable for sports and soaps. But if you are spinning 4K Blu-rays with immersive audio enhancements like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, then acquire a substantial sound system.

 

Of note, currently, the 65KS9800 does not pass through Dolby Atmos audio, which is curious because Samsung has recently released two Dolby Atmos soundbars. For now, you will need to divert the Atmos audio from your 4K Blu-ray player into an Atmos compatible receiver.

Setup

 

After you unbox the 65KS9800 and plug all your devices into the One Connect box, the initial setup is quick and easy as Samsung guides you through a few steps. The longest one takes a couple minutes as the TV identifies the components you have attached to the box.

 

In that spirit of simplicity, I suggest you go into the Settings menu, then to the Picture sub-menu. The first item on the list is Picture Mode. Choose Movie from the four options and stop futzing around.

 

In the past, Samsung reps have stated that, “the Movie mode provides the most accurate image possible and is factory-calibrated to be closest to D6500 Kelvin with Rec 709 (HD) color space and 2.2 gamma." If your TV is in a brightly lit room, you can leave the Mode set to Standard, but if you dim the lights in the evening, I would definitely switch to Movie.

 

You may have noticed in that last paragraph the Movie is calibrated to Rec 709 (HD) color space. But this 4K TV can display a wider range of colors. When this 65KS9800 senses an incoming HDR signal from a 4K Blu-ray, it automatically shifts into high gear. The Backlight is pushed to the max of 20, Contrast is pinned to 100. Even though the Picture Mode still indicates Movie, the settings have changed to display HDR and Wide Color Spectrum.

Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV, Jessica Jones

If the KS9800 does not sense an HDR signal, you may still want to use those settings on 4K content, such as 4K UHD streams from Netflix or Amazon. The solution is to go into the Picture Settings menu and choose Special Viewing Mode and turn on HDR+.

 

Your settings will change to Backlight to 20 and Contrast to 100. If you wish, you can adjust them as well as any of the other Picture settings. I nudged Color up to 57 and made sure Sharpness was set to zero, but pretty much left the rest alone.

 

I hoped that Samsung would be more enlightening in their documentation of this feature, but they were not. Therefore I reached out to a Samsung representative and he states that when you switch to the HDR+ Special Viewing Mode, the TV's image processors analyze the non HDR image and extrapolate how best to display the content with a higher dynamic range and a wider color spectrum.

 

As he says, the picture will not achieve the peak brightness of a native HDR program, but it will be brighter than without HDR+ activated. His suggestion is to turn on HDR+ and see if you prefer it over the Standard or Movie Picture Modes.

 

You might decide that HDR+ mode is a little too aggressive, especially when playing HD content. My experience was that it was better suited to 4K material, though not all of it. If you don’t like the results of HDR+, turn it off.

 

The raw fact of the matter is that 4K, especially HDR, is new territory for TV manufacturers, filmmakers, content providers and consumers. We’re still in early days and not everyone is communicating in the same language.

 

Even the TV calibrators are still honing their techniques and tools to fine tune these Ultra HD TVs. I would strongly recommend leaving any serious tweaking to the experts.

 

I haven’t even mentioned the many other features that the Samsung KS9800 provides. It will take time and study to register apps and become acquainted with your new small remote control with voice recognition. Though if you own a smartphone, most of those tasks will be familiar.

Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV Dimensions

Features

 

The most prominent feature of the Samsung 65KS9800 is its curved screen, which provides a gentle arching profile. The sales pitch claims the curve offers better viewing angles, but if you stray too far off axis, the curve begins to cut off part of the screen. Also, the picture becomes washed out. With that said, if you position yourself anywhere within 45 degrees off axis, you’ll be sittin’ pretty.

 

Curved screens can also catch reflections from all sorts of angles and this TV does just that when it is turned off. But when it’s on, those reflections are not noticeable. The TV does not swivel on its stand.

 

In the last few years, Samsung has been employing a component that makes connecting all the devices to the TV easier and neater. The One Connect box has four HDMI inputs, two USB ports, an RF input for an antenna or cable and a digital optical audio output. The box then attaches to the back of the TV with one cable that transmits audio and video signals as well as commands. The TV is plugged into a power outlet and sends power to the box through the cable.

 

On the back of the TV are another USB port and a LAN port, if you prefer a wired connection to your router. The TV also includes an integrated Wi-Fi adaptor.

 

Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV remoteRather than listing all the apps available with this Samsung, let’s just say the store is well stocked with a wide variety of usual and lesser known suspects. Of note, Skype is no longer part of the gang. Then again, this high-end TV is lacking a built-in camera, which also means the TV cannot be controlled with hand motions.

 

Over the years, the Samsung designers have honed and simplified the TV’s interface by decluttering the screen and just placing the most essential items within one push of a button. Their efforts are paying dividends though as a reviewer, I am not your typical TV watcher as I constantly find myself navigating to the Settings menu.

 

The Samsung 65KS9800 is also not capable of displaying 3D content. Though it does offer picture in picture which is handy if you want to watch two football or fùtbol games at once.

 

A 4K TV is a wonderful vehicle for displaying still images in Ultra HD. The slideshow interface is simple with three speeds and ten effects and the ability to add a music background. Viewing your images on a glorious 65-inch screen rather than a 5-inch phone or a 24-inch monitor can be quite revealing and satisfying.

 

And finally, the Samsung team has researched and refined the slim (6.5” x 1.5”) remote control, distilling it down to only seven buttons, two toggle switches and a built-in microphone. I applaud their efforts though I still wish it was backlit.

Conclusion

 

The Samsung 65KS9800 curved Quantum Dot display with a bevy of high-end image processing technologies delivers a brilliant, vibrant HDR-fueled 4K picture. Add in a 4K Blu-ray player and a Dolby Atmos sound system and you have the foundation of an impressive 65-inch home theater.

 

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Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV

Hunger Games Ultra HD Blu-ray

Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV, Chef's Table
Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV, Jessica Jones
Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV Dimensions

Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV remote

Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV

Hunger Games Ultra HD Blu-ray

Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV, Chef's Table
Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV, Jessica Jones
Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV Dimensions

Samsung 65KS9800 SUHD TV remote