Samsung UE55KS9000 review

Samsung dazzler shoots for the HDR stars

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Our Verdict

With the UE55KS9000 Samsung is aiming to get maximum impact from the high dynamic range (HDR) technology that's sweeping the TV world. Throw in UHD resolution, an improved smart system and gorgeous design, and the £2,099 price starts to look more than reasonable.

For

  • Truly spectacular HDR pictures
  • Stunning curved design
  • Much improved smart interface
  • Excellent SDR performance

Against

  • No 3D support
  • Backlight striping with HDR
  • Curved screen is divisive
  • No 'Evolution Kit' support

Having caught its rivals with their guard down last year with its HDR- and UHD-capable 'SUHD' TVs, Samsung set out this year to make its mark by delivering a startlingly large range of TVs designed to unlock the full potential of the new era of high dynamic range video, with all its lovely extra colour and luminance benefits.

I'll get into the specifics of why Samsung reckons the UE55KS9000, is so well set up to deliver HDR's full beauty later, but first there's the striking matter of the TV's design to consider.

Like its bigger brother, the Samsung UE65KS9000, the UE55KS9000 really is a looker. Samsung has shifted from the relatively large, angular screen frames it introduced in 2015 to a much sleeker, more minimalist look for 2016, and it's a move I for one applaud; the new frame design is so incredibly thin it almost looks like the TV's pictures are being created out of thin air.

The design prowess even extends to the set's rear thanks to a smooth, rivet-free design, and a bold gleaming silver strip that stretches out from the point at the centre of the rear panel where the eye-catching silver stand is attached.

The UE55KS9000's connections bring us the first evidence of the set's bold AV ambitions. All of its four HDMIs (found on an external One Connect box) are built to the HDMI 2.0a specification, meaning they're capable of taking in HDR and UHD video at up to 60 frames a second.

Samsung UEKS9000

The set also has three USBs for playing back video, photo and music files from USB drives, is really easy to connect to your smartphones and tablets, and carries both wired and integrated wireless network connectivity for streaming multimedia from networked DLNA-enabled devices or accessing Samsung's expansive online services and features.

Particularly important among these online services are the Amazon and Netflix streaming apps, as these further the UE55KS9000's picture ambitions by now supporting high dynamic range as well as UHD streams.

Samsung also has a strong track record of delivering the catch up apps for all the main UK broadcast services, and this support remains undiminished for 2016. It's slightly disappointing, though, that Samsung hasn't yet joined its big rivals in placing its broadcast catch-up services in an easy to use 'wrapper' like Freeview Play.

For all its design and smart TV prowess, the star attraction of the UE55KS9000 has to be its picture features. Samsung's going all out to make sure the set hits the Ultra HD Premium recommended specs set by the UHD Alliance.

Samsung UEKS9000

High-expectation specs

In practice, that means the TV uses a 10-bit panel rather than an 8-bit one to ensure it handles the enhanced colour and luminance of HDR sources with suitable subtlety and dexterity. It's also the first LCD TV with an edge LED lighting system that's capable of hitting HDR-friendly peak brightness levels of 1000 nits.

At the other end of the light spectrum the UE55KS9000 is claimed to deliver black levels down to 0.05 nits, while its colour range is reckoned to cover 96% of the so-called DCI-P3 colour space used in digital cinemas - well in excess of the Ultra HD Premium 90% requirement. Samsung has achieved this by moving back to quantum dot colour technology after dabbling in 2015 with a proprietary 'Nano Crystal' system.

The TV can also support the SMPTE ST2084 EOTF (electrical optical transfer function - basically the way a screen converts digital data into light). Plus, of course, the UE55KS9000 carries a native 4K Ultra HD resolution of 3840x2160 pixels - something that's basically standard now on most mid-range and all high-end TVs.

With HDR proving consistently to have an even more explosive impact on picture quality than UHD resolution, the sort of specs the UE55KS9000 boasts raise hopes of some pretty mouth-watering next generation picture quality. Before finding out if delivers on this promise, though, I need to cover three features the UE55KS9000 does not have.

Samsung UEKS9000

First, there's no 3D playback. Samsung has ditched 3D from all of its 2016 TVs, citing a lack of consumer interest and desire to focus on other TV technologies. This doesn't alter the fact, though, that there are 3D fans out there with extensive 3D Blu-ray collections who may not be very pleased at all that they won't be able to play those discs any more if they buy a UE55KS9000.

The UE55KS9000 also doesn't support the Dolby Vision take on HDR, which adds active metadata designed to optimise a source to the specific abilities of your TV. Even though Dolby Vision is not part of the Ultra HD Premium recommendations, having it available on the TV would've been icing on a very sweet cake.

Finally, unlike equivalent Samsung models from the past few years, the UE55KS9000 can't have its processing and features upgraded in future years by buying a Samsung 'Evolution Kit' or adding a new One Connect box.