Hands on: Samsung S9 Ultra HD TV review

A unique speaker-frame puts this 85-inch 4K resolution 3D LED TV in suspended animation

What is a hands on review?
Samsung S9 Ultra HD TV
The S9 really is a stunner

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If your goal is top-class Ultra HD at any price, Samsung's jaw-dropping S9 Ultra HD could be the one for you. Looking like it's suspended between goalposts - albeit exquisitely designed ones - this 85-inch product won't be right for everyone's living room.

That makes Samsung's claim that the S9 offers "Timeless Design" seem a tad positive, though there's no arguing with its ambition.

Those goalposts are actually speakers (they pump out 120W from the sides and, oddly, the top). They can be moved up or down, allowing you to mount the S9 in various arrays. But it looks best when left easel-like on the floor, ideally in a very large loft-type space.

Samsung S9 Ultra HD TV

That stand is striking, but could be a divisive design

With active shutter glasses, the 3D on the S9 looks good. There's plenty of depth to the image, but because the panel is so big and bright it we did notice a lot of flicker. That's no surprise under the harsh lights of the Las Vegas Convention Center, though we were viewing it in a shadowed area.

Samsung S9 Ultra HD TV

Image quality in 2D is outstanding, though 3D suffers some flicker

A slow-moving camera pan across a desert complete with night sky features loads of perspective and contrast, but close-up images of a woman in red against a bright white background were almost unwatchable because of that flicker. A close-up on a tiger, although featuring plenty of detail, wasn't quite as powerful as the 2D images nearby.

Samsung S9 Ultra HD TV

The stand can be adjusted to create different displays

There is, of course, one huge problem with the whole Ultra HD concept: there's nothing to watch. "Content is coming, but it's similar to HD - go back a few years and there wasn't that much HD content around, but now we've got so many channels, so many options," Dilen Thakrar, TV Product Manager at Samsung UK, told TechRadar.

Samsung S9 Ultra HD TV

Ultra HD impresses - now we just need something to watch

"Ultra HD will get there but until that happens you've got to have fantastic upscaling built into the TV, and that's our real focus here. How do you take HD content, upscale it, and keep it looking crisp? That's where the S9 comes into its own."

It needs to have some pretty special processing. Precision Black Pro optimises the backlight and Micro Dimming is here, too, but it's the Quad-Detail Enhancement tech that's most crucial.

"When you take a 1080p image and start to upscale it you;re going to get some holes, some missing pixels, so this circuitry looks at previous pixels and fills in the gaps," said Thakrar. "That's the real key to the engine that drives the S9." Smart Hub, active shutter 3D, and all other bells and whistles are also on board.

The S9 was shown-off near to Samsung's curved OLED 55-inch TV, but could we see the S9 updated in future to combine OLED and Ultra HD – as we've seen on both the Panasonic and Sony stands at this year's CES? "It's a possibility," says Thakrar. "With all of this technology there are eventual crossovers out there, but we're really happy with the OLED and Ultra HD products we have."

Samsung's certainly confident about the S9 since it also showed off a much weightier, thicker 110-inch version of the S9 that for now is just a concept product. The S9, however, is most certainly coming our way. "We'll be launching it this year, definitely," said Thakrar. "We'll concentrate on the 85-inch right now and see what to do with the 110-inch later."

The 55-inch S9 Ultra HD LED TV is due for release in late 2013.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.