Review: Samsung UN65MU9000 4K UHD LED-LCD TV Is Respectable Mid-Range Option

December 4th, 2017 · No Comments · 2160p, 4K Flat Panel, 4K LED LCD, Calibration, Connected TVs, electronic program guides, HDMI, HDR, HDR10+, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, UHDTV, voice command, voice control

 

For those who can’t swing the money for one of Samsung’s 2017 QLED 4K Ultra HDTVs, the company provides some mid-range 4K/HDR TVs that offer a respectable comprise.

One strong example is the Samsung UN65MU9000 we have reviewed here.

The MU9000 series is the first step down from the vaunted QLED (quantum dot) 4K television tier, and despite the QD omission, it does a nice job of presenting colors and deep black levels for an edge-lit LED-LCD TV. In fact, in some areas, it outperformed the black level isolation in darkroom conditions of the top-of-the line Q9F series we reviewed at the start of the year.

What We Liked

Deep uniform black levels with minimal light bleed-through from neighboring zones in dark rooms.

Wide color gamut exceeds the DCI-P3 color space premium 4K TV recommendations

Above average shadow detail

Very low lag times for 4K/HDR and FHD/1080p games, great with XBOX One X

Clear images with good depth qualities.

Reduced screen glare.

Strong upconversion of HD content, and acceptable processing of standard def (DVD) content.

Advanced smart TV interface from Tizen platform, controls other components, provides easy setup and access to a library of the most popular and advanced streaming apps.

Up-scale design produces one of the best-looking televisions in this price class.

What Could Be Better

HDR peak brightness doesn’t reach 1,000 nits; and ramps down very quickly. 

HDR specular highlights are visible but weaker than QLED models.

Some faint color banding issues, despite 10-bit panel.

Suffers some from typical LCD off-angle color and contrast degradation.

Sound is average and should be supplemented with a soundbar or surround sound speaker package.

No support for Dolby Vision.

The 65-inch Samsung UN65MU9000 ($1,797.99 as this was posted) and its 75- and 55-inch sister models are flat-screen edge-lit 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD TVs. We found the 65-inch test model to have a reasonable price for the screen size and one of the better overall pictures in the upper mid-range of 4K Ultra HD/HDR TVs. But it is up against some strong competition from Sony in the price class.

Read more of our review of the Samsung UN65MU9000 after the jump:

The Games TVs Play

For video gamers on a budget the 65-inch UN65MU9000 offers respectably low input lag running both 1080/60p (23.4 ms) and 4K/60p (24.1 ms) gaming content for highly responsive game-playing ability. Similar results can be expected from other screen sizes in this series. Game play in 4K/60 Hz HDR offers improvements in color and brightness, but only modestly brighter, when we tested the latest Forza Motor 7 4K racing game with HDR running on the new Xbox One X high-powered gaming console. But speed and responsiveness were excellent.

Design

Where the UN65MU9000 excels is in design and style. The set has a contemporary, upscale look with a stable silver Y-shaped metallic pedestal stand that, like many of the 2017 QLED models, integrates into the back of set to help hide the two primary cables (power and One Connect Mini box umbilical cable) that attach to the display. Samsung places a convenient wiring channel in the stand to keep these out of sight.

A separate cord is included for the outboarded One Connect Mini box that houses the TV’s source input connectors and links to the display via a shielded 9-foot umbilical cable (no thin optical cable like that used for the Q series TVs is offered with this series).

The screen is framed by an ultra-thin silver trim with rounded corners and black edging abutting the screen face. A small Samsung logo is positioned in the center of thin screen chin, and the back of the set is covered by an attractive charcoal gray plastic with horizontal textured lines along the surface. Matching panel covers conceal compartments housing the power and One Connect box contact points on the back.

Connections

The UN65MU9000 offers a good selection of source inputs.
Most of the source connections to the UN65MU9000 are handled through the One Connect mini box. These include: 4 HDMI 2.0a jacks, all supporting HDCP 2.2 and HDR; optical digital audio output (passes Dolby Digital/DTS multichannel or 2-channel audio); Ethernet port on TV; 3 USB inputs (two on the One Connect Mini hub, one on the display).

Thus far, Samsung hasn’t said if this year’s One Connect Mini box will be upgradeable via a change-out of hubs to support future input standards, like the forthcoming HDMI 2.1 specification.

Remote

Samsung uses a similar diminutive remote to that used with the QLEDs, except this is black plastic and keeps the more basic arched-back styling of last year’s SUHD TV remotes. The IR unit is designed to operate most the controls through the on-screen guide, and also operates many attached source devices. We found the TV recognized and labeled most of these source devices, even from other brands, while the remote handled basic operations. Setup for this was well labeled and guided us step-by-step to successful completion.

Smarts

Samsung provided the familiar Tizen on-screen guide design from last year with a scrolling banner of favorite apps and input sources at the bottom. Samsung continues to provide a nice library of all of the most popular streaming apps, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Vudu, Fandango and YouTube, among others, although the full collection of available options is less extensive than on Roku TVs or televisions based on the Android TV platform, like Sony’s.

Samsung nicely provides 4K/HDR streaming support with the latest apps for such services as Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, UltraFlix and most recently, Vudu (now doing HDR10 through the app on this TV).

Samsung helps to simplify app and programming selection with voice control that launches apps and even helps to adjust TV settings, but you’ll need to learn the proper vocabulary to have some commands recognized. This isn’t Samsung’s more elaborate Bixby system, found on its 2017 smartphones.

Picture Performance

Pre-Calibrated P3 Color Gamut Using SpectraCal Calman HDR Workflow developed by Florian Freidrich.

 

The test model also presented a colorful high dynamic range (HDR) picture (HDR10 profile), although its average peak brightness was below the QLED models. The color gamut just surpasses 90 percent of the Digital Cinema Initiative P3 color space recommendations for professional theaters, which is lower than QLED models but still within “Premium” Ultra HD certification standards.

The television produces very nice overall picture quality with deep black levels and no noticable light bleeding into letterboxed borders. In this regard, the MU9000 was actually better than we saw in some QLED models with room lighting turned off. The set also provides nice smooth motion processing (when activated) for sports and live video, and presents movies, particularly Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray versions, quite well.

Picture sharpness is a little softer than Samsung’s step-up models, but it’s still clear and handles movies and other 24 fps originated content well when motion smoothing is turned off.

Where the Samsung UN65MU9000 slightly misses the mark is the ability to produce peak HDR highlights exceeding 1,000 nits (the threshold set by the Ultra HD Alliance for premium HDR) in “Movie” mode. Although, it measured 657.3 nits of average peak brightness in a 10 percent D65 white window pattern, which is better than many mid-range 4K TV models.

In other window patterns, the peak HDR brightness measured: 476 nits (25%); 431,7 nits (50%) and 424.3 (100%). Readings were taken using Calman 5 software from SpectraCal with custom HDR workflow and UHD Blu-ray test patterns by Florian Freidrich, and a SpectraCal C-6 HDR Colorimeter in a dim room setting.

Colors and specular highlights got a discernible boost in quality when the TV shifts into HDR mode.

Samsung said the MU9000 and other Samsung 4K/HDR TVs this year ramp down brightness quickly to protect the TV and reduce power consumption. For most content it isn’t necessary for a television to sustain a peak brightness level for very long to produce the desired effect, and even at 657.3 nits (in Movie Mode), the image is quite bright.

The TV also had very nice black levels, measuring as low as .0058 nits on a stationary black center target, and .01436 nits on a 0 nit black field with 10 percent white window patterns in each corner, but the local dimming system used in the set is not as precise as competitive models with full-array local dimming systems or Samsung’s Q8 or Q9 edge-lit QLED models. This causes some detail crushing and loss of color accuracy in dark shadowed areas of a picture. Still, its shadow detail is a step better than in the step-down MU8000 series, due to the inclusion of Samsung’s Precision Black local dimming circuitry that enhances detail and black level.

Calibration

As is typically the case, the Samsung UN65MU9000 needed to be switched from the default “Standard” Energy Saving picture mode for the best performance. In the Picture Settings menu we found the optimal mode to be “Movie” and under “Expert Settings” the “Color Tone” setting was changed to “Warm2” to come closest to the ideal 6500-degrees Kelivn color temperature that produces the most natural overall look.

To use 4K and HDR content through external devices, the set’s “HDMI UHD Color” settings needed to be selected and turned on in the “General” settings menu for use with any connected 4K source device, like an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, 4K/HDR streaming adapter or a cable box with HDR support, if you are lucky enough to have one.

We also made sure that  the “HDR+” setting was deactivated. This feature simulates the brightness and color effects of high dynamic range content when viewing standard dynamic range (SDR) content and embellishes it in HDR content, but we found the results to be unacceptably blown out and unnatural looking.

Pre-Calibration (above) And Post-Calibration Readings of Rec-709 Using The ISF Workflow in SpectraCal Calman.

The UN65MU9000’s settings weren’t too far off the marks measuring in Calman using the ISF workflow for SDR/Rec. 709 content. Here, 1080p images looked bright with relatively accurate colors.

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HDR

Pre-Calibrated HDR Using SpectraCal Calman HDR Workflow.

 

Samsung continues to support a few flavors of high dynamic range (HDR), including the basic HDR10, plus its own version of dynamic HDR10 metadata called HDR10+. The latter adds tone mapping, brightness and black level enhancement on a scene-by-scene basis, like rival Dolby Vision. The company said content supporting HDR10+ could begin to appear from undisclosed partners in 2018. But Samsung still omits Dolby Vision support, which continues to gain ground with supporting studios and hardware manufacturers. The UN65MU9000 also supports Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) HDR, which provides on-the-fly HDR for live broadcasts, although no one has yet announced support on the content side for the United States.

As with most of its models in the past and present, Samsung is supporting HDR with edge-lit LED LCD TVs, which offer nice bright pictures, but tend to trail competing OLED TVs in black level capability. Despite this, the MU9000 did a very nice job with deep blacks that helped make colors richer and contrast wider, in both HDR and standard dynamic range (SDR).

The Ultra HD Blu-ray version of the BBC’s Planet Earth II sparkles with rich, realistic colors and bright highlights in sun-reflecting waters and through partial opague leaves.

Playing the Ultra HD Blu-ray version of “Alien Covenant” produced inky black deep space scenes punctuated with bright highlights from passing stars.

Video Processing

Samsung does a great job with video processing. Upconverted Full HD Blu-ray movies looked sharp and colorful, without significant artifact embellishment. The 65MU9000 also did a nice job with upcoverted stardard definition 480p content, like DVDs or old analog TV programs, other 4K UHD televisions don’t handle as well. Our DVD copy of Hitchcock’s black-&-white thriller “Psycho” was sharp and contrasty and background noise wasn’t overly exaggerated. We noticed some haloing around the white lettering on a black ground in the opening credits, but this is typical of the movie and of the black-&-white CRT TVs that original showed the film back in the day.

On Blu-ray’s the low-light background noise in the opening scenes of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” which we like to use as torture test, weren’t excessively jumpy.

Viewing Angle

Like all Samsung televisions, the UN65MU9000 uses a Variable Angle (VA) panel, which produces very good contrast and color when viewed straight on, but that begins to degrade as the angle from dead center widens to the left or right, top or bottom. QLED models improve this degradation somewhat, but the MU9000 begins to lose contrast and color at an angle as narrow as 20 degrees. This makes placement and sweet-spot alignment critical for the best viewing experience, and means party guests sitting to the side will not seen as good a picture. It also could impact picture quality if the set is mounted too high on a wall.

On the plus side, Samsung uses an excellent anti-reflective screen that does a very good job at reducing or eliminating screen glare and reflections that are visibly distracting in a number of competitive models in this price class.

Motion Handling

Like its video processing and upconversion, motion handling is excellent for an LED LCD TV. The TV provides a 120 Hz native refresh rate, which right off the bat is good, and embellishes that with motion smoothing circuitry that does a very good job keeping sports and live video, like news casts, sharp. We recommend you shut off smooth motion for movie watching, as visible soap opera effect intensifies as the motion blur and judder controls are turned up.

Sound Quality

The UN65MU9000 has a pair of down-firing speakers with 40-watts of total power. Dialog is acceptably clear and overall sound is adequate, but the sound stage is narrower and boxier than an inexpensive soundbar would deliver. If space and budget don’t allow that, the speakers get the job done.

Where It Fits

The UN65MU9000 slots between the MU8000 ($1,437 .99 for the 65-inch UN65MU8000) and the Q7 QLED series ($2,197.99 for the 65-inch QN65Q7 at this was posted). Picture quality is very similar to both series with the MU9000 having some slight advantages over the MU8000 in the area of brightness and local dimming black level. The Q7 models are a little brighter than the MU9000 and cover more of the DCI-P3 color space.

The QLED technology also improves the viewing angles slightly. The MU8000 series also has a more basic cosmetic design with the standard dual feet instead of the slick, cable-hiding Y-shape pedestal.

In this range, the MU9000 models are up against Sony’s X900E series, with direct LED backlighting that provides more accurate local dimming than edge-lit applications and produces a somewhat brighter picture for about $200 less. LG’s Super UHD LED LCD TVs, which like the UN65MU9000 are edge-lit LEDs, add LG’s alternative to quantum dots called “Nano Cell” technology. This approach produces brighter pictures than the MU9000 series and a slightly wider color space, but black levels, motion handling and video processing aren’t quiet as good.

Conclusion

The Samsung UN65MU9000 is a fantastic-looking TV from a design standpoint and the picture isn’t bad either, especially with Rec. 709, SDR content, which will make up the bulk of almost anyone’s viewing diet. Motion handling and video processing are excellent. Video game play is well above average, and Samsung continues to offer one of the industry’s most user-friendly and advanced smart TV user interfaces. The app selection covers all the major bases although some esoteric services might require an add-on streaming adapter.

The Samsung UN65MU9000 is a recommended mid-range 4K Ultra HD television.

 

We therefore award the Samsung UN65MU9000 four out of five hearts. 

 

The UN65MU9000 used for this review was a company loan.

 

By Greg Tarr

 

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