Samsung’s UN65HU9000, our first 2014 television review, represents a significant improvement over the UHD 4K TVs we looked at last year. In addition to 3840 x 2160 resolution the HU9000 boasts improvements in signal processing, Smart TV functionality, user interface, and remote control.
Most of all, we’re extremely impressed at the level of performance.
Check out our findings after the break
Styling and Design
The 65-inch curved screen stands out as a bold styling statement, making the UN65HU9000 the first UHD 4K TV to utilize the bend, which initially appeared on Samsung and LG’s 55-inch OLEDs. The screen bezel is thin, albeit not as narrow as Samsung’s pencil width size high definition LED LCD TVs, though comparable to other brands of UHD 4K TVs.
The curved back has standard VESA type spacing for standard wall mounting. Of course, the bend makes the edges stick out further than flat panels, but not as much as you would think. According to our measurement it’s about 2.5-inches.
The HU9000 uses the 2014 Samsung One-Connect box which houses the “brains” of the display, including Smart TV functionality, GUI, signal processing and all inputs. A single 9-ft. interconnect cable is run from the box to the display.
This length of cable presented an immediate issue, as many of our test sources are about 20 ft. away from where we hung the display for a long term evaluation of a curved screen. We had to resort to mounting the One Connect box to the wall mount, not the most ideal situation. A Samsung spokesperson says they are working on developing a longer cable that can carry 4K signals, but for now attaching the box to a wall mount or back of the TV via Velcro appears to be the only solution.
We did quite a bit of research into curved screens to determine if there was any advantage or disadvantage. Papers obtained from the NY University School of Optometry found there is a phenomena called the Horoptor Line, which are points in space which an image of an object will land on the same area of retina of the left and right eye. Wikipedia calls it “the locus of points in space that yield single vision.”
The author of the Horopter Line paper states there is no practical advantage.
We did find one advantage: due to the limited viewing angle of LCD panels the angle from viewing the right side of the panel from the left, or the left side of the screen while sitting on the right, has less severe artifacts in the form of brighter blacks and darker white thanks to the curve. Considering we measured off-axis viewing of just 15º for each side (30º total) before the contrast drops off (and quickly, at that), we consider this a benefit over comparable UHD 4K flat panels, since they’ll likely have an even narrower viewing cone. More on the curve further down.
Going down the feature list of the 2014 Samsung UN65HU9000, video enthusiasts looking for a top grade edge-lit LED LCD can check off all the right boxes: UHD 4K resolution, local dimming, cinema black (for shutting down the LEDs adjacent to letterbox black bars), HEVC/H.265 decoding, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, advanced Smart TV features, all new advanced remote, voice and face recognition with personalization, advanced guide and much more.
The new remote combines small form factor with more hard buttons, a Wii like tilt-sensor for the cursor and a touch pad to scroll up/down when using the HU9000′s as well as left, right , top, bottom and“enter” buttons. It’s a huge improvement over last year’s pad remote. A conventional full size RC unit is also included.
3D is alive and well on the HU9000. We tried animated movie clip and found it excellent without visible flicker or crosstalk, and with good depth. Samsung includes 4 pairs of active glasses.
The HU9000 uses a 3840 x 2160 resolution LCD panel with edge-lit LEDs. They can be set for local dimming (in left and right side strips). Samsung does not state the number of dimming zones.
The Samsung includes a built-in HDTV camera for hand gesture control, facial recognition and Skype video calls. There’s also voice control, enabling personalization for up to 20 persons’ preferences.
The audio on the HU9000 has a large number of controls too, which helped clarify the dialog. Important, as the speakers, typically of thin TVs, are not strong performers. Samsung offers wireless connection to many of its soundbars, providing easy connection and much better audio and dynamic range. The Samsung UN65HU9000 current sells for $4297.99 on Amazon
As we mentioned above, all connections are made to the One Connect box and then a single proprietary 9 foot cable connects the box to the HU9000. Inputs include 4 HDMI 2.0 jacks, 3 USB connectors, Wi-Fi, 1 RF (antenna) input, 1 Component video input and 2 composite AV shared (one shared with the component input).
Improvements Samsung incorporated this year include a new LCD panel, better signal processing, and more zones in its edge-lit LED local dimming (but again, Samsung won’t provide a zone count, an unfortunate industry trend).
After performing picture settings and calibration, the white level at 100 IRE measured a very bright 53.3.5 ft. lamberts. The black level at 0 IRE was a mediocre 0.032 Ft. lamberts. This was a native contrast ratio of 16,712:1. Lighter areas called “clouds” on the dark screen could be seen.
We received a tip from Samsung that the clouding could be reduced by taking a clean microfiber cloth and rubbing the screen as if we were cleaning it, but without screen cleaning fluid. We used the cloth from a Philips Screen Cleaner and the trick worked. It did not eliminate, but greatly reduced the level of the clouded areas that appear near the corners and edges.
Next we activated the Smart LED (Samsung term for local dimming) to standard position. The black level dropped to just 0.0014 ft. lamberts: it’s very, dark and inky and at the limit of our Minolta meter and appears dead black with minimal room lighting. With the Smart LED engaged the dynamic contrast ratio measured 38,214:1. For viewing letterbox movies, activating Samsung’s Cinema Black feature shuts off the LEDs adjacent to the black bars, making then completely dark. It was set to “off” for our testing and reactivated for the rest of our viewing evaluations.
We checked out the upconversion using our HQV DVD and Blu-ray test discs, and just like in the last few years with Samsung’s HDTV, this UHD 4K model passed all of the tests.
Motion resolution with the Auto Motion Plus (Samsung’s name for its 120 Hz motion estimation/motion compensation) circuit “Off” came in at 320 lines of resolution using our FPD test disc, as is the case when any LCD TV resorts to a 60 Hz refresh rate. In the Auto Motion Plus Custom mode we moved the Blur control to 10 while keeping the Judder control at 0. With this setup, motion resolution came in at full 1080 lines PPH, matching plasma performance. With the control at this setting you do not see the Soap Opera Effect on film based 24 Hz content, but get the high motion resolution on video based programs such as news, sports and a number of TV series which are recorded by video cameras.
There is a backlight scanning mode called LED Clear Motion. It caused the image to flicker; we turned it off and kept it off throughout our tests and evaluation.
In Warm 2 setting, out of the box, the HU9000 produced a color temperature of 7315K at 20 IRE and 6830K at 80 IRE. Samsung’s 10-point calibration controls got us very close to the D6500K standard across the entire range: 6445K for 20 IRE and 6515K at 80 IRE.
At the “-2” mode Gamma came in at 2.4, our preferred setting as it confirms to Blu-ray studio post production value.
Color points were very close but not exactly to the Rec. 709 standard (noted for reference in parentheses) with the factory defaults: Red was x=0.638, y=0.334 (x=0.64 y=0.33); green was x=0.287 y=0.587 (x=0.30 y=0.60); and blue was x=0.155 y=0.056 (x=0.15 y=0.06). A color management system permits adjusting the HU9000 to get the TV even closer to this HDTV standard.
White and color uniformity is excellent. There were no faint vertical lines often referred to as “jail bars” that we’ve seen on other 4K displays.
Like other flat 4K panels with thin bezels, the sound quality is not good, After we wall mounted the TV we found the downward firing speakers performance even weaker, due to the lack of reflections from a table or TV stand. The one saving grace was the Clear Voice audio setting, which made dialog much clearer, permitting lowering the overall volume. Even so, we recommend a sound bar or sound system.
About the Curve
When we first looked at curved TVs we didn’t like them, seeing no advantage, and observing an inward/downward curve of the top and a corresponding upward one at bottom. Then we started to think about the human brain and how it corrects for visual distortions. Aim a camera slightly to left or right of center at a flat HDTV, and the image appears as a trapezoid in a photo, but to our eyes it’s still a rectangle. We started to wonder, if we live with a curved TV, will the distortion diminish… or perhaps even disappear? To test our theory we asked for, and were granted, a long term loan of the UN65HU9000 by Samsung.
The answer is yes. After about a month of living with it, the curve is barely noticeable. Is it “better” because of the curve? We find the images produced by the UN65HU9000 are very compelling and have dropped any objection to the curve as it does not detract from the viewing experience, and as stated earlier widens the optimal viewing area. Aside from that, it’s merely a form factor or styling choice.
We viewed a wide variety of source material including Netflix HD and 4K, Amazon Instant, Blu-ray discs, DirecTV and FiOS. The picture quality is nothing short of outstanding. After we calibrated and engaged the local dimming and Cinema Black the HU9000’s picture really popped, with rich uniform colors, excellent flesh tones and fine detail.
It provided a sense of depth we’ve never experienced with any previous LED LCD display. It is so good; it is the first LED LCD we would purchase as our main TV. That pretty much says it all.
Samsung supplied us a loan of its UHD pack of movies, which contains 5 major studio offerings and 2 documentaries in 4K. It’s currently offered for free by mail to purchasers of the HU9000.
We sampled GI Joe Retaliation and World War Z. The images were stunning, which we attribute to the combination of fine detail, excellent color and screen uniformity, and the 9000s high contrast ratio.
We also checked Netflix’s House of Cards. As we previously reported, due to congestion issues between Verizon FiOS and Netflix, (yet unresolved as of publication of this review) viewing needs to be done during off-peak hours (before 3 PM) to see it at 2160p resolution. When able to do so, the image quality is amazing, especially when considering it’s streamed.
HDTV content is upconverted extremely well. Native 720p content, which requires a UHD 4K TV to create 8 pixels for each original, appeared sharp and crisp.
Picking a rating was a long and difficult decision, as it is early in the model year and there are other new UHD4K TVs we’d like to compare against the UN65HU9000. Could there be a better overall performing UHD4K TV than this one? We don’t know yet, so we left a little room: HD Guru awards the Samsung UN65HU9000 4.5 out of 5 hearts.
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