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4K HDR TV reviews
« on: Wed June 29, 2016, 08:44:08 AM »
Sony X930D Review: 4K HDR Arrives, for a Price
by JOHN R. QUAIN Jun 17, 2016, 8:18 AM
SONY XBR55X930D
 
THE GOOD
Accurate colors
Solid array of smart-TV features
Good HDR performance
THE BAD
Lack of inky blacks compared to OLED
Annoying remote control
VERDICT
Making a strong case for 4K HDR TVs, the 55-inch Sony X930D delivers an excellent picture, but its remote control could be better.
7/10
VERY GOOD

$1,998.00  Amazon
On the leading edge of a new wave of 4K TVs boasting HDR capabilities, Sony's 55-inch Bravia X930D demonstrates the startling possibilities of the new video format — as well as the potential for confusion among shoppers.

HDR stands for high dynamic range, the ability of a TV to display more colors, better contrast ratios and higher brightness levels compared to standard HD and 4K ultra HD sets. The Sony Bravia X930D uses quantum dot technology to produce what the company claims is a 30 percent wider color gamut. So the TV commands a premium price, around $2,000, for supporting the new format. However, with a paucity of HDR content currently available, you may want to wait before buying this or any HDR set.

What Is HDR?
To take full advantage of the HDR abilities in the Sony Bravia X930D, you need HDR video content, of which there is very little at the moment. It's available from only a handful of services, such as Vudu, Amazon Video and Sony's own Ultra streaming service.

More confusing for buyers, Sony is not using either of the HDR labels — Ultra HD Premium or Dolby Vision — that are appearing on other sets to designate support for the new, wider-color format. Sony's sets are branded with the company's own "4K HDR" logo. A Sony spokesperson pointed out that it means the TV is compatible with HDR discs and all streaming services offering HDR content (also referred to as HDR 10).
The Achilles' heel of the Sony Bravia X930D is its remote control.

While the Bravia set will not play Dolby Vision material (a proprietary version of HDR), the set will be compatible with Dolby Vision discs, because those discs will also contain a standard HDR version, according to Sony. (For more on HDR, read our primer here: http://www.tomsguide.com/us/hdr-tv-explained,news-22227.html)

Design: Solid-straight
The Bravia X930D uses an edge-lit LED design, which keeps the set slim, save for the bottom portion in back that contains the solid-state electronics and video processing. The whole package is still under an inch and a half thick, and it rests on a very steady center-pedestal, wedge-style stand for easy tabletop placement. However, you'll have to hide the set's massive external power brick (something more common on laptops rather than TVs) somewhere under the table.

Connections for the X930D include Ethernet, four HDMI ports, three USB ports and hookups for RF/cable, composite video, component video and digital audio output. It has built-in Wi-Fi and supports Wi-Fi Direct.

Performance: Intense colors
There is no question the Sony Bravia X930D presents a strikingly improved HDR picture when presented with original HDR content. The 4K HDR version of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was charged with brilliant, intense colors, with shockingly blue Electro truly lighting up the screen. While bright, the HDR video did not lose any detail in reproducing a notably more luminous picture.

Confirming the set's HDR benefits, a test music video we use to examine extended color displays looked outstanding. It revealed more of the audience in the shadows, including subtle skin tones and facial expressions that were hidden in the darkness on other sets. Reds looked deep and rich, without blowing out details like the folds in a crepe dress.

On the downside, in stretching the contrast range and boosting brightness levels, the X930D sacrifices some degree of blackness, so that letterbox bars, for example, look more gray than black. And, as with even the best LCDs, there's a loss of color saturation — though not excessive — when you move out of the optimal center viewing area. Actors' faces will lose some of the HDR detail and will appear pastier.

The Sony X930D has a welter of preset video modes, including Vivid, Standard, Cinema Pro, Cinema Home and several photo modes. There are also Sports, Animation, Game and HDR Video modes. The X930D should automatically recognize HDR content and switch color mapping and brightness settings accordingly. However, some raw HDR video may lack the metadata signals to tell the set to switch modes, in which case you can choose the HDR video setting. (Leaving the set in HDR video mode, however, when watching standard HD fare will produce some strange results, with blown-out oranges and reds.)

The majority of material available is still in HD, and the X930D does well upscaling the resolution to 4K levels. In Cinema Home mode, the set will also try to improve color saturation by using some of its extended-color HDR skills. It did not distort the flame-throwing guitar in Mad Max: Fury Road, for example, although it could not quite match the fiery realism of an OLED set, such as the LG Signature G6.

The Bravia set also handled challenging scenes in Blu-ray versions of Gravity and The Martian. Stars shone brightly in the sky, without streaking, and while there were some halo and flaring effects around bright objects on dark backgrounds, they were minimal, especially considering this is an edge-lit set.

Audio: Hollow sound
To complement the multiple picture modes, the Sony X930D has plenty of preset sound modes, too. You can choose from Live Football, Standard, Cinema and Music modes. There's also a ClearAudio+ setting intended to enhance the immersive experience. Other special features include Voice Zoom to boost mumbling actors and a sound-restoration setting that tries to bring some of the high frequencies back to compressed streaming videos.

The 4K HDR version of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was charged with brilliant, intense colors, with shockingly blue Electro truly lighting up the screen.
All of the audio settings produce distinctive effects, and which one you prefer is largely a matter of personal taste. However, no matter which setting is selected, there's an inescapable hollowness to the sound. So, as with most flat panels, a soundbar would be a welcome enhancement.

Interface: Irritating remote
Sony uses Google's Android TV interface to handle smart-TV streaming features and search functions, and to organize items like input and picture settings. It's bright, clear and generally well organized, especially for our smartphone-addicted generation. Some items are still difficult to locate, however, such as media on a USB stick that only showed up under the video menu. In theory, using Android TV means the X930D will stay up to date with continually upgraded apps. However, we did note that the Vudu app in Android TV did not yet support HDR downloads.

The Achilles heel of the Sony Bravia X930D is its remote control. It's a conventional wand-style remote that supports Google's Voice search with a built-in microphone, and it now has a sealed membrane keypad, which should resist spills. But the remote has retained its frustratingly poor layout. There are two concentric circles of buttons around the Select/Enter button. The inner circle comprises the standard four-way directional buttons used to move through menus, but around those buttons is another circle of buttons, including Action Menu, Guide and Discover.

The result: More often than not, you'll hit the Discover button when trying to hit the down menu button. It's a frustrating experience and one that isn't ameliorated with extended use.

Bottom Line
If you're looking for a 4K set capable of handling the bright HDR future, the 55-inch Sony Bravia X930D is certainly a capable performer with accurate colors. For a TV of this caliber, it's also competitively priced, and the inclusion of Android TV to run its apps is a hedge against future obsolescence. Some shoppers will surely hesitate to take the HDR plunge, however, as the nascent format sorts out issues with varying levels of HDR support. Until TV manufacturers coalesce around one HDR brand — Ultra HD Premium, Dolby Vision or some other logo — consumers may be reluctant to pay for the brighter picture.
7/10

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Vizio P65-C1 display review: Dolby Vision HDR and an Android remote control
« Reply #1 on: Wed June 29, 2016, 09:02:14 AM »

The Vizio P-series displays are the first we've seen to offer Dolby Vision HDR. The picture is great, but there's no TV tuner.

AT A GLANCE
Vizio P65-C1 65-inch entertainment display

The P-Series by Vizio are displays, not TVs. They lack tuners, but they deliver excellent Dolby Vision HDR playback for less than the HDR 10-only competition. The smart features are sequestered on the...

Jon L. Jacobi
Freelance Writer, TechHive Jun 28, 2016 3:00 AM

If you’re looking for entry into the wonderful world of HDR (High Dynamic Range), you’re not going to find a cheaper ticket than the Vizio P-Series displays. Prices start at only $1000 for the 60Hz, 50-inch model, and they’re definitely worth a look-see: Dolby Vision HDR viewed on the $2000 (available at Best Buy), 65-inch class P65-C1 reviewed here is a vastly superior experience compared to the average LED/LCD TV with standard dynamic range (SDR); i.e., everything else out there.

Vizio’s P-Series display with its six-inch Android tablet that serves as the remote and the smarts.
But before you rush out to buy, know that Dolby Vision is so far implemented only with online streaming services such as Netflix and Vudu, and the P-Series don’t yet support the HDR 10 used by Ultra HD Blu-ray. HDR 10 support via a firmware upgrade is promised, but hadn’t arrived at the time of this review.

Also, because Vizio is positioning the P-Series as part of its SmartCast Internet of Things/smart-home entertainment ecosystem (which is based on Google Cast), the company made some—shall we say—interesting design decisions.

It’s not a TV
Vizio's most interesting decision was to make the P-Series entertainment displays, not smart TVs. There’s no over-the-air tuner, only limited media playback from USB mass storage, there are no apps on board, and there's no on-screen user interface beyond basics such as volume, input switching, and aspect ratio.

The six-inch Android tablet used to control and configure the P-Series displays, as well as provide smart functionality, sitting in its conductive charging stand.
Instead, Vizio relies on a 6.0-inch Android tablet to adjust advanced picture settings, and the aforementioned Vizio SmartCast provides “smart TV” features. “Smart” meaning streaming, browsing, playing games, and anything else you can do with a smart TV or tablet. As long as the app supports Google Cast, you can mirror it on the display. Note that you can also download and install the SmartCast app on your existing Android or iOS device and ditch or re-task the included tablet.

The P-Series have their own ethernet and 802.11ac adapters for direct streaming. What’s being displayed is only chosen and controlled via the smart device. The display and the device must be on the same network, as with all Google Cast setups.

Vizio also includes a pleasantly simple standard remote. Simple was to be expected given the minimal on-board features, but it could, or should have been even simpler; the included channel-change buttons have no function on the tuner-less P-Series.

Specs
The P65-C1 weighs approximately 62 pounds and its chassis is 2.5-inches deep at its thickest. You'll need at least 12 inches of depth if you intend to set the display on a horizontal surface (versus ditching the stand to hang it on the wall). The screen itself  is 3840 x 2160 pixels (4K UHD/2160p) and measures 64.53 inches diagonally (65-inch class).

Vizio
The back of the Vizio P-Series display. Note the lack of a co-ax connector. The Y component connector accepts composite video.
Our model featured five HDMI ports: Four of these are HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 support and one is HDMI 1.4. An upgrade to HDMI 2.0a is promised on the website, which will probably be part of the HDR 10 compatibility roll-out since it's a requirement. ARC (audio return channel) is supported for outputting audio to receivers and sound bars.

Also included are two USB ports, one 3.0 and one 2.0, though there’s not much that can done with them. You can play files from USB media, but it’s all automatic upon insertion with no pause, play, or skip controls. Component and analog audio inputs are present, as well as analog and digital (optical) audio outputs. Composite video signals are accepted by the green component (Y) connector, though the docs don’t hint at this.

Picture
The P65-C1 produces more accurate color than your average LED/LCD display. Vizio uses a different red/green dye on top of tuned blue LEDs to great effect, though I’d still rate accuracy lower than OLEDs; the Sony D-series which use a similar system; and especially Samsung’s SUHD TVs with their sheet of quantum dots. Note that all those TVs are considerably more expensive than the P-Series displays.

Dolby’s rendering of Dolby Vision’s effect on a TV image.
HDR can mean either more life-like or more fantastic images, depending on the material and the artistic intent. Between the P65-C1’s wider color gamut and HDR, watching the Dolby Vision trailers, as well as streaming Pacific Rim and Mad Max: Fury Road, was an exceptional visual experience.

I’m used to good color, having never forsaken my old CCFL-backlit displays, but the contrast and impact of HDR on bright screen elements such as cannon fire, flames, colored lights, reflections, and the like is fantastic. As far as standard dynamic range material, that looked quite nice as well. But after looking HDR video, SDR color looked washed out. HDR is addictive, and the P-Series does it well.

With no HDR 10 available, the Ultra HD Blu-ray titles I tried looked good, but no better than on most 2160p displays. Neither is there any HDR up-sampling available for SDR, so we were kind of out of luck on that front.

Other than the slothful roll-out of HDR 10 support, my only real quibble with the P65-C1 was that motion scenes weren’t particularly smooth, even with judder reduction at maximum. This despite a 120Hz refresh rate and all the industry tricks on board. I’m hoping this was a firmware issue, as I’ve witnessed smoother motion from less-expensive Vizio displays.

Remote versus tablet
I can see the logic and the appeal behind Vizio’s offloading smart and configuration features, and can envision it meshing perfectly with the lifestyles of phone- and tablet-centric folk. As you can use your own phone or tablet, it can also help you keep your remote collection in check. 

But while I appreciate Vizio looking to the future with Google Cast and tablet control, I’m not 100-percent sure I like it. Alternating your gaze between displays seems a bit active and distracting for what’s essentially a passive, focused experience. The noticeable lag between adjusting a setting on the tablet and it taking effect on the TV didn’t help the experience. Also, super-fine adjustment was nearly impossible with the current app due to the lack of granularity in the sliders.

smartcast p series ir remote
Vizio
The standard P-Series remote has very limited functionality. The channel-change buttons, for instance, do nothing because the P-Series don't have tuners.
But I’m a bit set in my ways. In the end, it’s a matter of taste and habit. I’m just here to tell you that the Vizio P-Series control and streaming experience is a bit different from the norm, and you should take that into account.

Final thoughts
There can be few complaints about the P65-C1’s picture. It’s around the mean with standard material, but with Dolby Vision HDR? That looks good, and I mean Good with a capital G. The few bugs and omissions I’ve mentioned should be addressed shortly.

Obviously, if you want a tuner, or a traditional remote and on-screen interface, skip the P-Series. On the other hand, if you like the idea of a tablet-centric, cable, and internet-delivery approach, then hop on for the ride. But you might want to just trot alongside until the promised HDR 10 update is delivered. Especially as there’s not a ton of HDR content available yet.

DisplaysHome TheaterHome Tech
AT A GLANCE
Vizio P65-C1 65-inch entertainment display
 PCWORLD RATING
The P-Series by Vizio are displays, not TVs. They lack tuners, but they deliver excellent Dolby Vision HDR playback for less than the HDR 10-only competition. The smart features are sequestered on the included 6-inch Android tablet (or your smartphone).

MSRP: $2000

Pros
Dolby Vision HDR
Cheaper than the HDR competition
6-inch Android tablet/remote
Cons
HDR 10 support not yet delivered
More motion artifacts than other Vizio models we've seen

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LG OLED65E6 4K TV Review: Class On Glass
« Reply #2 on: Wed June 29, 2016, 09:09:16 AM »
LG has four OLED TV series available in 2016: the entry-level B6 series, curved C6 series, speaker bar-bearing and ‘picture-on-glass’ E6 series, and flag-waving ‘Signature’ G6 series. While all of these series look gorgeous in that way only OLED can and promise the stunning contrast-rich picture quality that’s OLED’s trademark, two series in particular seem to offer an especially attractive combination of price and design: the B6 series (which I should be reviewing soon) and the E6 series.

It’s the 65-inch E6 that’s under consideration here. And although I’ve lived with it for the best part of a week now, its remarkable ‘picture-on-glass’ design still raises the occasional head shake of wonder.
 
The way it mounts its mind-blowingly thin 2.7 mm OLED panel onto also super-thin but fantastically robust see-through glass panel really does make it feel from the front as if you’re watching pictures being conjured magically from thin air. From the side, much of the TV presents a profile that makes even the most up-to-the-minute smartphones look obese, with the ‘pictures from nowhere’ illusion only being broken when you get to the bottom third or so of the screen’s rear where things stick out further to accommodate the screen’s connections, tuners, electronics and so on.

The bottom edge of the screen also plays host to a substantial looking sound bar. Despite an attractive grilled finish this sound bar does inevitably look a bit out of place in the context of the barely-there screen above it. And no, you can’t detach it.

Sound effect

To be fair, though, the OLED65E6 does still need to be a TV rather than just a mute monitor. And given the immense difficulties associated with trying to get any sound worthy of the name out of a physics-challenging slim screen, LG’s decision to collaborate with audio experts Harman Kardon to deliver not just sound but potentially very good sound from a $6,000 TV makes at least some kind of sense. Provided, anyway, that you ignore the nagging suspicion that many of the sort of people who might buy an OLED65E6 will want or already have an external sound system to go with their flash new TV.

The OLED65E6 ticks the connection boxes you’d expect of such a high-end TV thanks in particular to four HDMIs, three USBs, and the now obligatory wired and wireless network options. The HDMIs are capable of handling everything the 4K/Ultra HD and high dynamic range worlds currently have to offer – including the best quality source money can currently buy, Ultra HD Blu-ray.

 
The LG OLED65E6. (Pic: LG)

The network options also do their bit for the TV’s cutting edge cause by carrying the latest apps from Netflix and Amazon Video, complete with 4K and HDR streaming support. In fact, the Netflix app doesn’t just support the ‘HDR 10’ open standard HDR format; it also supports Dolby Vision. A detailed but jargon-free explanation of HDR can be found here.

Dolby Vision

LG is currently the only brand in the UK that’s backing Dolby’s take on HDR, which – among other things – adds a layer of metadata to optimize pictures on a scene by scene basis, and introduces a degree of optimization for the particular TV it’s being watched on.

It should be said that at the time of writing Dolby Vision sources are fairly limited. In the US there’s VUDU (which, unusually, doesn’t also offer an HDR 10 option) plus Marco Polo on Netflix, while the UK only has Marco Polo! Amazon has committed to delivering Dolby Vision soon, though, and Netflix has promised to ramp up its HDR/Dolby Vision content considerably before the end of the summer.

There are currently no Ultra HD Blu-ray players that support Dolby Vision, though I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one turned up before the year’s out.

 
The rear end of the LG OLED65E6. (Pic: LG)

A couple more features worth stressing here are support for 3-D using LG’s passive system (you get a couple of pairs of glasses with the TV, but others can be added for very little money given that they don’t contain any electronics), and LG’s webOS smart TV interface. While many have tried to copy the classic webOS combination of slick navigation, easy customization and ultra-economical onscreen layout, no other brand has yet managed to match it.

Picture Quality
LG has been at pains to state that all of its OLED TVs for 2016 should perform pretty much identically. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the OLED65E6 is in fact quite a different picture quality beast to the previously tested OLED55C6.

The biggest difference is that the OLED65E6’s pictures look significantly brighter than those of the C6 – something which has the potential to prove very handy with high dynamic range content.

This brightness difference isn’t just some kind of illusion caused by, say, the glass-based design, either. The OLED65E6 measures a peak brightness of over 700 nits if you use its High Dynamic Range Bright setting, an increase of nearly 10% over the C6.

 
Corner detail of the stunningly slim LG OLED65E6. (Pic: LG)

This might not sound much on paper, but the difference is clearly visible when you’re watching HDR.

The extra brightness also gives the picture a cooler (bluer) look when watching HDR out of the box than you get with the OLED55C6 – though if this doesn’t suit you you can largely work around it via the set’s color controls.

More brightness helps

The results of the extra brightness with HDR are, as you might expect, mostly positive. HDR images look slightly punchier, slightly more expressive and slightly more detailed in bright areas, with slightly less evidence of the ‘clipping’ detail loss experienced in peak luminance areas that I experienced on the OLED55C6.

The impact of HDR silhouetting – where dark objects that appear against very bright backgrounds can appear lacking in detail and light subtleties – is also slightly reduced. Though this is something I’ll still have to come back to later.

While the extra brightness is certainly welcome and gives HDR even more punch versus standard dynamic range (SDR) content than it enjoyed on the OLED55C6, though, it doesn’t stop a more traditional OLED strength – black level response – from still being the OLED65E6’s really star attraction.

Provided you take care to keep the screen’s main brightness setting (as opposed to its OLED Brightness setting) within a fairly narrow 49-52 band, the OLED65E6 delivers black colors which are, in a word, black. Not grayed over, not slightly green, not tinged with blue, but black. And seriously, there’s no overstating the stunning impact such a ‘dark foundation’ has on picture quality.

 
WebOS in action. (Pic: LG)

For starters it proves definitively that HDR is not just about brightness. Its impact is about the whole luminance range from ‘true’ black right through to peak white, and at the black end of the spectrum nothing else – not even the most extravagantly clever direct-lit LCD TV – can hold a candle to what LG’s latest OLED TV is capable of.

Major step forward

I stress ‘latest’ OLED TVs because LG deserves serious kudos for how much it’s improved the black level performance of its 2016 OLEDs versus its 2015 models. For while 2015’s screens were capable of hitting almost perfect blacks, they were also prone to sudden shifts to grey when trying to handle ‘just above black’ picture information, and also sometimes displayed clear issues with backlight banding and inconsistency that could often lead to vignetting during some bright scenes. These issues have been almost completely dealt with for 2016, meaning that the OLED65E6 can now partner its beautiful black level profundity with new-found stability and uniformity, ensuring that it puts the boot even more forcefully into the tender areas of LCD rivals.

This is especially true this year, as LCD TVs of all types are finding it difficult to handle the extreme contrast demands introduced by HDR. The bottom line is that OLED’s ability to have every single pixel in its screen deliver its own light independent of its neighbors – even when you’re talking about a screen crowded with Ultra HD’s 3840×2160 pixels – is simply far better at putting HDR’s ultra-bright image elements right alongside HDR’s extremely dark image elements without the light elements ‘polluting’ the dark ones with light leakage.

No backlight flaws

Being able to see such HDR highlights as moons, torches and candles sitting side by side with pitch blackness without backlight clouds, stripes and blocks appearing around the bright stuff makes for a stunningly cinematic, immersive experience. In fact, I’ve had a number of people tell me that after seeing LG’s new OLED TVs in action they’ve started to feel critical of the black levels they’re seeing at their local cinemas!

 
The LG OLED65E6. (Pic: LG)

It’s also a joy to find HDR scenes that contain a mix of very bright and very dark elements not exhibiting so much as a hint of the more generalized backlight clouding you so often see with LCD TVs that use edge LED lighting.

In many ways, in fact, the OLED65E6’s combination of unprecedented brightness for OLED and unprecedented black levels by ANY display standard delivers dark HDR scenes more effectively and simply more beautifully than they’ve ever looked before.

The OLED65E6 handles very dark parts of the image even better than the OLED55C6 I tested. This is because it doesn’t suffer with the same strange blocking and glowing noise that occasionally intruded on the very deepest blacks on the C6 model. Just occasionally I spotted a momentary flicker of residual blockiness over the blackest picture areas, but these incidents are so rare that they’re hardly worth mentioning – in fact, you might well never see them unless you particularly go looking for them.

 
The LG OLED65E6. (Pic: LG)

While the OLED65E6’s black levels are undoubtedly the star of the show, they also contribute to a gorgeously vibrant but also consistent, balanced and natural color range. What’s more, neither the stunning black levels nor lovely colors lose their intensity when viewed from an angle – another key advantage OLED claims over LCD screens.

LG’s latest OLED TV also does a good job of showing off its native UHD resolution with the growing number of 4K sources we’re getting – especially the most pristine option of Ultra HD Blu-rays. There are TVs that deliver a more emphatic sense of sharpness – Samsung and Sony’s best models come to mind in particular. But the sharpness level of the OLED65E6 never seems at all forced, and its clarity is there in more subtle ways – in shadow detail and dark color tone handling – thanks to the way its OLED nature can manipulate light and color on a per-pixel basis.

Dolby Vision Vs HDR 10

I covered the way Dolby Vision HDR looks versus the open standard HDR 10 format on LG’s OLED TVs in my review of the OLED55C6, so I won’t go into the same amount of detail here. Briefly, though, while the HDR 10 approach on the OLED65E6 is markedly brighter and thus more instantly eye-catching, the Dolby Vision approach ultimately looks better thanks to superior color saturation and resolution, and more detail in bright areas.

While the OLED65E6 is even better than the OLED55C6, though, it still isn’t perfect. The biggest issue is that there can still be noticeable ‘clipping’ of subtle detail and tonal information in the brightest parts of HDR pictures despite this TV’s slight brightness boost over the C6 series. This can leave peak whites looking a bit ‘flared out’, and the brightest colors can become a touch monotone.

 
Profile view of the LG OLED65E6. (Pic: LG)

The slight lack of native brightness chiefly responsible for this clipping also means that occasionally HDR images of extreme contrast can look slightly unbalanced, with dark areas like the shadowy sides of people’s faces becoming a touch too dark. In fact, as noted in passing earlier, where a relatively dark image element appears against a much brighter backdrop the dark area can start to look a little like a silhouette rather than a natural part of the image.

Noise issues

Next, like the OLED55C6, HDR feeds on the OLED65E6 can suffer with some quite noticeable color noise. During Chapter 7 of Exodus: Gods And Kings for instance, background walls can look a little fizzy – especially the walls of the alley Moses walks through at the very end of the chapter.

There’s also occasionally noise in bright areas of pictures. Again using the Exodus Ultra HD Blu-ray as a source, during the early battle scene some shots of the sky exhibit subtle but noticeable color banding and blocking noise. This noise can take on a quite unnatural color tone, too.

For instance, blue skies can be infiltrated by areas of a block-looking faint purple tinge, while shots of distant mountains sometimes take on a slightly green look.

Finally, the OLED65E6’s motion handling isn’t the best. There’s noticeable judder around with no motion processing in play, but LG’s motion processing tends to generate some quite distracting side effects like shimmering halos around moving objects and, in some settings, recurring momentary pauses. Choosing a custom mode for the video processing and then setting judder and blur to around their three levels delivers a pretty good compromise, though.

 
Stand detail of the LG OLED65E6 TV. (Pic: LG)

So I can finish the picture quality section on the positive note the OLED65E6 so richly deserves, let’s quickly consider its performance with standard dynamic range and 3-D sources. Where SDR footage is concerned it’s crazily good for the most part, boasting a beautifully balanced contrast performance, gorgeously rich but nuanced colors, and almost nothing to distract you from the glory of what you’re watching save for the same motion issues and occasional color noise mentioned earlier. And even that color noise is much less common than it is with HDR.

LG does provide an HDR Effect picture option designed to give standard dynamic range sources a lift in luminance range. However, this tends to increase the appearance of noise and the loss of detail in the brightest areas while also causing a little detail to be crushed out of dark areas.

3-D performance

Combinations of passive 3-D technology and a native Ultra HD screen have repeatedly delivered excellent 3-D results, and so it proves again with the OLED65E6. The passive system means there’s no flickering of the sort often experienced with active 3-D TVs, and there’s only a relatively small amount of ghosting noise too. This lets you better appreciate the sharpness of good quality 3-D Blu-rays, and joins with the screen’s outstanding contrast in helping you perceive a large but also natural sense of space in 3-D images. In short, watching 3-D on the OLED65E6 is a genuine pleasure – not something I can sadly say of most 3-D-capable TVs.

Gaming lag
I measured the amount of time it takes the OLED65E6 to render images at just over 30ms. This is a good result for a TV – especially a UHD TV – and shouldn’t have too drastic an impact on a typical gamer’s abilities.

 
The LG OLED65E6 ships with two remotes. This is the more button-lite ‘smart’ option. (Pic: John Archer)

Sound Quality
I suggested earlier that I could imagine many people would want to partner an OLED65E6 with a separate audio system rather than using the speaker bar attached to the OLED65E6’s bottom edge. But actually, if you don’t already have a separate audio system you may just feel that the OLED65E6 sounds good enough not to bother getting one.

For starters it produces a startlingly expansive, dynamic soundstage capable of comfortably filling a pretty decent sized living room with clean, open and detailed audio. The mid-range is particularly impressive, delivering vocals with clarity and authenticity while simultaneously having the power and range to comfortably shift up a few gears for action scenes.

There’s also a seriously potent amount of bass in the sound stage for an integrated TV audio system, and this is delivered without overwhelming the rest of the mix or causing unpleasant phutting or rattling noises. To sum all this up, the OLED65E6 is comfortably the best sounding TV I’ve tested so far this year.

Verdict
The OLED65E6 is another superb 2016 OLED television from LG. In fact, it’s even superior in a trio of key areas to the previously reviewed OLED55C6.

That’s not to say it’s perfect; its lack of brightness versus LCD can cause detail loss in bright areas, dark HDR image elements against bright backdrops are sometimes left looking like mere silhouettes, and there are occasionally curious color noise issues, especially with high-contrast HDR material.

For the majority of the time, though, the OLED65E6 produces pictures so downright gorgeous that finding reasons to justify the set’s $6,000 price could become a borderline obsession among serious AV fans.

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LG OLED55C6 Review: Another Step Closer To Perfection?
« Reply #3 on: Wed June 29, 2016, 09:16:14 AM »
John Archer

For many people – including Ridley Scott and Francis Ford Coppola, apparently – OLED technology is quite simply the future of television. The way every pixel in an OLED screen can produce its own light level and color tone independent of its neighbors just feels like a more logical next step than current LCD TV technology, where even the most expensive options have to share external light sources across some or even all the pixels in their pictures.

This pixel-level control OLED makes possible has become if anything even more important now that we’ve entered the era of high dynamic range video, with its vastly more extreme light control demands.

Last year’s OLED TVs, though, showed that while OLED was indeed phenomenally promising as a TV technology, it still had a few issues to iron out (check out my review of the LG 65EF9500 for more on this).

Cue LG’s OLED55C6: the first OLED TV I’ve seen from LG in 2016, and one which LG claims delivers big improvements in most if not all the areas of weakness identified in 2015.

 
LG’s OLED55C6 is the first TV we’ve seen from LG’s 2016 OLED range. (Pic: LG)

The OLED55C6 sits in the bottom half of LG’s new OLED range. This doesn’t mean it’s as compromised versus high-end models as you’d normally expect, though. LG is adamant that its core panel design and picture technology is more or less identical to that used in the higher-end E6 and G6 OLED models, even though the C6 doesn’t enjoy the incredible looking ‘pixels on glass’ design of its more expensive siblings.

The OLED55C6 also doesn’t benefit from a ‘sound bar’ audio solution like the E6 and G6 models, though, so while its pictures may not differ all that much from LG’s premium OLED offerings, its sound surely will.

Curve ball

One other way in which LG’s C6 series stands out from its siblings is in its use of a curved screen. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is arguably a matter of taste – though curved screens are not generally ideal options for rooms that require wide viewing angles, or rooms where bright light sources are likely to be reflected on the screen. (For more on the issues around curved TVs, check out Curved TVs: 6 Reasons You Should Buy One – And 6 More Why You Shouldn’t.)

Whether you like the curve or not, though, there’s no denying that the OLED55C6 is a seriously beautiful TV. Its screen frame is remarkably narrow and benefits from a lovely silver outer trim, while the screen’s depth is mere millimeters for around half of its rear area – an OLED trademark that never ceases to blow your mind.

Yes, LG’s E6 and G6 models look even more dazzlingly trim, but let’s not forget that at the time of writing I’ve found the OLED55C6 available for ‘just’ $3,000 (under the terms of a current $1,000 rebate promotion) while the equivalent sized E6 model will set you back $4,000 and the smallest G6, the 65-inch OLED65G6, will set you back the best part of $8,000. Those sort of savings could pay for a heck of a lot of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs!

Connectivity

The OLED55C6’s connections are solid rather than amazing. There are three HDMIs when ideally there would be four, and while LG’s website suggests that all the HDMIs are built to the latest HDMI 2.0a spec, only two of them on my test sample proved capable of handling 4K HDR feeds from a Panasonic UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

Elsewhere there are three USBs (one 3.0) for recording to USB HDD from the TV’s digital tuner or playing multimedia files stored on USB devices; an RS232 port to aid integration into a wider home control system; plus the now ubiquitous wired and wireless network options.

The OLED55C6 can use these network connections to both stream content from networked DLNA-capable devices and access the online apps available through LG’s webOS 3.0 smart platform.

WebOS

There are rival smart TV platforms – most notably the flawed Android TV system (reviewed here) – that offer more apps than webOS, but LG seems to cover most of the key ones, including the 4K and HDR versions of Amazon and Netflix.

What’s more, the brilliantly straightforward presentation of the webOS menus together with LG’s ‘point and click’ magic remote design makes exploring LG’s online service feel slick, straightforward and even quite fun. And fun is definitely not a word I customarily associate with smart TV systems.

The Netflix app is particularly important to the OLED55C6 since it supports the Dolby Vision HDR format (albeit currently only on Marco Polo) that LG has introduced to its high-end  TVs in 2016.

Dolby Vision differs from the normal open standard HDR 10 format (which the OLED55C6 also supports) in a number of ways, but the most important ones are that it requires source material to be mastered to a much higher brightness level than HDR 10, and that it carries an extra ‘dynamic’ layer of information that optimizes the HDR images on a scene by scene basis. Dolby also works closely with the TV brands that integrate its technology to add a degree of optimization for the specific characteristics of the screen you’re watching.

I’ll look briefly at Dolby Vision and HDR 10 in the performance section, though I intend to cover the differences in more detail in a future article.

Ultra HD Premium green light

While we’re on the subject of high dynamic range, it’s important to stress that the OLED55C6 – in keeping with all of LG’s 2016 OLED TVs – meets the recommended specifications of the Ultra HD Premium ‘standard’ defined earlier this year by the AV industry’s Ultra HD Alliance (more details on Ultra HD Premium can be found here).

This means it can reproduce more than 90% of the digital cinema world’s DCI-P3 color spectrum, has a native UHD resolution, provides 10-bit color depth, can handle the new BT.2020 color representation/container, can deliver more than 540 nits of peak brightness, and can deliver a black level response of 0.0005 nits.

For a much more in-depth look at HDR, check out HDR Made Easy: A Jargon-Free Guide.

The last two figures on the UHD Premium spec list, incidentally, were introduced specifically to cater for the individual talents of OLED screens versus LCD ones; LCD ones, by comparison, have to deliver more than 1000 nits of brightness and less than 0.05 nits of black level to satisfy the Ultra HD Premium requirements.

This difference is important to take on board, as to some extent buying an HDR-capable TV comes down to a choice between OLED’s unprecedented brilliance at delivering the dark end of the expanded HDR light spectrum, and LCD’s talent for handling the brighter end of things.

Picture Performance

Settling down to watch the OLED55C6, I couldn’t resist pushing it to its HDR and 4K limits right from the off with a selection of Ultra HD Blu-rays. And in some ways, the results are a dream come true.

Not surprisingly the TV’s best trick is its black level response. For starters, its self-emissive OLED technology allows it to deliver deeper black colors than any LCD screen. In fact, there are times when the OLED55C6’s black performance gets mighty close to looking perfect – and that’s not a word I use lightly.

The OLED55C6’s stellar black level performance is also far more consistent than it was on LG’s 2015 OLED TVs. So long as you have the TV sensibly set up (which means in particular never setting the main Brightness setting to below 49 or above  52 – more on this later), you’re now hardly ever troubled by the light banding and sudden infusions of grayness that cropped up on last year’s OLED sets.

The greatest thing of all about the OLED55C6’s delivery of darkness, though, is how the screen’s inky blacks can sit right alongside punchy HDR light peaks without suffering any light contamination at all. The distracting light ‘columns’ or halos that creep into often many inches of the blackness surrounding a bright object with all LCD TVs just aren’t an issue here. This makes the HDR effect during dark scenes feel more intense and means you are vastly less likely to become distracted from what you’re watching by sudden reminders of the TV technology that’s creating your pictures.

As well as making dark HDR scenes look vastly more natural and involving, the OLED55C6’s incredibly precise light handling also results in beautifully expressive shadow detail reproduction and a more consistent color tone that avoids the infusion of coolness you can get with LCD TVs when their images are affected by the light ‘leakage’ issues mentioned earlier.
Dark HDR has never looked better

In short, the beautifully rich, believable, detailed and dynamic look to dark HDR scenes on the OLED55C6 entirely justifies the decision of the UHDA to establish a different set of ‘rules’ for OLED when defining its Ultra HD Premium standard. In fact, for the vast majority of the time, my overwhelming feeling was that the OLED55C6 is the first TV I’ve seen that really delivers dark HDR scenes the way they’re supposed to look.

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Re: 4K HDR TV reviews
« Reply #4 on: Wed June 29, 2016, 09:17:44 AM »
There are, though, a couple of reasons why I had to qualify that last statement with ‘for the vast majority of the time’. First, very occasionally a particularly inky part of an HDR image or a specific dark background color tone can cause the OLED55C6’s images to break down into a peculiar blocky, slightly glowing noise that blots out almost all detailing in the affected areas.

A particularly good scene for seeing this is Chapter 7 of the Exodus: Gods And Kings Ultra HD Blu-ray, where the close-up shots of Nun talking with Moses reveal ‘black hole’ noise on the back of nun’s head as well as a dull yellowish glowing noise over the background walls.

If you use the HDR Bright or Vivid options LG provides alongside the default HDR Standard picture mode this noise becomes more obvious and widespread; for instance, you can also start to see some purplish blocking over Nun’s shoulder.

To put this issue into perspective, I didn’t see it show up at all while watching standard dynamic range content, and it really does only affect the most extremely dark HDR moments. So it’s hardly a common occurrence. But it’s there, and once you’ve seen it you may find it hard to resist looking for it again.

Another issue with the OLED55C6’s mostly magnificent delivery of dark HDR content is that parts – usually, thankfully, only backgrounds – of the image occasionally exhibit low-level color noise; a sort of speckling effect with certain very dark color tones that can occasionally momentarily draw your eye away from the main action.

Brightness limitation

I should return in this section of the review, too, to the Brightness setting situation mentioned earlier. The thing is that for all the obvious and very welcome improvements LG has delivered to the handling of black level with its 2016 OLED TVs, you still have to be extremely careful with the OLED55C6’s ‘Brightness’ setting. Set it lower than 49 and dark areas start to exhibit significant detail crushing; set it higher than 52 and the screen’s amazing black level takes a dive, as a strong grey tone suddenly takes over the picture.

This doesn’t matter in some ways so long as you’re aware of the situation, though it does mean that you won’t be able to enjoy the maximum 800 nit brightness peaks LG is claiming for its OLEDs this year in any sensible picture set up scenario. Don’t forget that the Ultra HD Premium specification sets 540 nits as the desire brightness output for HDR on OLED, and this is pretty much the figure the OLED55C6 hits in its HDR Standard mode.

To be clear it’s the main Brightness feature I’m talking about here, not the separate ‘OLED brightness’ option.

While LG’s latest OLED screen is for the most part in its LCD-killing element with dark scenes, though, experience suggests that the OLED55C6 might be on less confident ground when it comes to expressing the upper end of the HDR luminance spectrum. Or to put it another way, OLED has traditionally struggled to get anywhere near as bright as LCD.

Big brightness improvement

The first thing that struck me about watching bright HDR content like Deadpool’s bridge sequence or The Revenant’s stunning vistas of a wintry American wilderness, though, was just how much LG has improved its OLED brightness compared with last year’s models. Even in the set’s least bright ‘Standard’ HDR mode the OLED55C6 gets past the 540 nits peak brightness requirement of the Ultra HD Premium specifications, while the Bright HDR mode manages to hit peaks approaching 700 nits.

As you would expect, this marked brightness boost versus 2015’s panels helps the OLED55C6 deliver a much more impactful HDR experience during both dark and bright scenes alike. There’s increased intensity in the image’s brightest peaks and a general opening up of the luminance range that helps the TV present a much wider proportion of HDR’s expanded range.

The OLED55C6 also delivers an even richer color spectrum than last year’s OLEDs, which joins with the increased color ‘volume’ opened up by the screen’s greater brightness to deliver more impact from the wide color gamut technology that accompanies pretty much all the HDR sources we’ve seen to date.

To cut a long story short, the OLED55C6 is a much more all-round accomplished HDR performer than any of 2015’s OLED models and confirms that OLED can no longer be thought of as only being capable of delivering half of the HDR story.

Brightness constraints

That said, there’s no hiding the fact that the OLED55C6 still can’t get close to the peak brightness levels of this year’s leading LCD TVs, some of which are capable of hitting 1000 nits and more (during a recent hands-on with Samsung’s imminent new KS9800 series I saw the 65-inch model pumping out almost 1400 nits). This does mean that the OLED55C6 doesn’t express the full impact of the upper end of the HDR luminance spectrum in the same sparkling way that LCD can.

In other words, bright image peaks don’t leap off the screen quite so much, and very bright whites and colors can appear shorn of some of the finest shading and toning details you get with screens capable of delivering more native brightness.

It’s possibly because of this loss of subtle toning at high brightness levels that the Dolby Vision HDR modes on the OLED55C6 default to a markedly lower level of overall brightness than LG chooses for standard HDR 10 footage. Dolby Vision defaults to an ‘OLED Brightness’ setting of just 50, while the LG HDR modes go for the maximum 100 setting.

Personally – and perhaps surprisingly given its relative lack of brightness – I preferred the look of Dolby Vision HDR to LG’s own HDR 10 settings. The Dolby images look more balanced, more detailed, more consistent, more controlled, slightly deeper in the black level department, more richly colored and more subtly toned.

It’s possible, though, that not everyone will agree with my preference for Dolby Vision HDR on the OLED55C6, as the enhanced finesse really does come at the expense of quite a bit of the brightness that some consider to be HDR’s most defining feature. With this in mind  – along with the appearance on my test TV of strange brightness fluctuations during Marco Polo’s opening credits when watching it in Dolby Vision – it’s perhaps a shame that Netflix basically forces you to watch the Dolby Vision stream of a show if it’s available, rather than giving you the choice of a standard HDR 10 feed instead.

Overall, though, I’d say LG’s addition of Dolby Vision to its 2016 TV range feels like a welcome – and smart – move.

Getting back to how the OLED55C6 handles general bright HDR footage, there’s a noticeably warmer, yellower look to peak whites using either of the sensible Standard or Bright HDR Modes (the Vivid option, which seems designed to try and deliver a more LCD-like image, looks forced and noisy) than I’ve seen on any good quality HDR LCD TV.

One final slight HDR issue is that the screen can exhibit gentle silhouetting from time to time, where dark objects appearing against a bright HDR backdrop lack a little shadow detailing and definition.

Standard dynamic range performance

With standard dynamic range content the OLED55C6 is almost scandalously good. Now that it’s using an OLED panel that’s been designed with HDR in mind, the 55C6 handles the much-reduced brightness and color demands of normal day to day video content at a canter, exhibiting flawless black levels, gorgeously balanced and natural colors, and strong (if not quite class-leading) amounts of clarity and detail with native 4K footage.

To be fair, some of this year’s best LCD TVs have looked fantastic with standard dynamic range content too. But there’s just something about OLED’s truly gorgeous black levels that’s especially hard to resist.

It seemed to me, too, that LG has improved its upscaling of HD content for 2016. Such images pictures look a little sharper and a little less noisy than they did last year – though there’s still not quite as much refinement as you get with upscaled images on the best Sony, Samsung and Panasonic 4K TVs.

The OLED55C6 also carries an HDR Effect setting that attempts to inject a little HDR life into standard dynamic range content. However, while this certainly expands the brightness range  it doesn’t seem to work in tandem with the color reproduction, leading to a slightly bleached look to pictures that will likely lead most people to leave the feature switched off.

Motion handling

The only remaining general issue to report with the OLED55C6’s 2D pictures is that the screen doesn’t handle motion particularly well. There’s some noticeable judder around – especially with 24p movies – if you don’t use LG’s motion processing, yet this processing causes pretty distracting issues like haloing, flickering and even momentary pauses.

I found a decent compromise solution that involved choosing the User motion setting and setting both the judder and blur components to ‘2’. But this is an area where LG could certainly improve – especially considering that OLED is supposed to be inherently better at delivering motion than LCD.

3D Performance
If Samsung is to be believed, nobody cares about 3D anymore; as reported here, LG’s great rival hasn’t included 3D support in any of its 2016 TVs. Actually, even one of LG’s 2016 OLED ranges, the B6 series, doesn’t offer any three-dimensional action. The OLED55C6 does, though – and it makes a pretty good job of it, too.

As ever with an LG TV, the OLED55C6 uses the passive 3D system, which means you don’t have to worry about the fatiguing flickering you can get with active 3D pictures. Also, while the OLED55C6 doesn’t deliver a completely crosstalk-free experience there’s much less sign of the tell-tale double ghosting issue commonly seen with active 3D solutions.

The OLED55C6’s 3D images are reasonably detailed too, as the screen’s native UHD resolution counters the resolution reduction you see with passive 3D solutions on HD-resolution TVs.

All in all the OLED55C6 gives a timely or forlorn (depending on your point of view) reminder that 3D at home can actually be really good fun when it’s done right.

Sound Performance
The OLED55C6 doesn’t benefit from one of the integrated sound bars you get with LG’s new E6 and G6 OLED ranges – but it still sounds better than you might expect for a TV that’s thinner than a smartphone over much of its rear.

Voices sound convincing and accurately placed, and the soundstage spreads across a surprisingly wide area without losing cohesion. The audio somehow sounds direct enough to feel like it’s coming towards you out of the TV’s front too, rather than being pushed out of the TV’s rear.

There isn’t much bass to speak of, though, which can cause distracting thudding noises and leave action scenes sounding a bit thin and harsh. There’s also a limit to the volume levels the TV can achieve – though this limit is just about high enough to satisfy a typically sized living room.

Gaming performance
OLED technology is still, in theory at least, susceptible to image retention, where leaving a bright image element on screen for too long could eventually lead to a shadow of that image element being left permanently behind. So I guess you should exercise care about how long at a time you play games with graphics elements that always appear in the same place.

I would stress, though, that I didn’t see even a hint of image retention during my time with the OLED55C6, despite watching lots of ultra-bright, color-rich HDR footage on it.

There’s good news regarding the screen’s input lag (the time it takes to render image data). I measured this at just 32ms using the TV’s Game preset, which is a great result for a UHD TV and should have minimal effect on your gaming abilities.

Verdict
The OLED55C6 is not a perfect TV. HDR can cause some thankfully rare glowing, blocking noise in extremely dark scenes; there’s more generalized color noise at times too; and there’s noticeable clipping of colors and white shades with very bright HDR content.

Some may not like its curved screen, either, even though it does a decent job of soaking up the sort of light reflections that can cause so much trouble with glossy curved screens.

At the same time, though, the OLED55C6 represents a significant improvement over LG’s already strong 2015 OLED TVs, and as a result produces pictures that for much of the time simply take your breath away. Its mostly stellar delivery of dark HDR content in particular leaves all LCD rivals looking amateurish by comparison.

In other words, while there’s still plenty for LG to keep working on, the OLED55C6 does nothing at all to diminish the impression that OLED represents the future of television. Over to you, LCD guys…

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Sony XBR-75X940D 4K TV Review: Big Love
« Reply #5 on: Wed June 29, 2016, 09:22:04 AM »
John Archer

So far 2016 has been a disappointing one for TV technology. The high dynamic range (HDR) technology that promised so much has turned out to be a mixed blessing at best and a bit of a disaster at worst thanks to the way it ruthlessly exposes any frailties a TV may have.

The $6,500, 75-inch Sony XBR-75X940D (KD-75XD9405 in the UK), though, offers a much-needed beacon of hope. The thing is, it’s the first 2016 TV I’ve tested that combines lights placed directly behind its screen (rather than around its edges) with local dimming, where different clusters of LEDs can output different levels of light to suit the requirements of the image being shown. This sort of configuration has consistently delivered the most satisfying results with standard dynamic range images, and if anything its ability to deliver more localised lighting than edge LED TVs looks even more important in the new HDR age. Especially when you’re talking about a screen as huge as 75 inches.

Design

Considering it uses a direct LED lighting engine the 75X940D is impressively thin – both round the back and across its screen frame. This makes for a stark contrast with its predecessor, the 75X940C, which featured huge wings to left and right and a chunky wedge shaped rear in order to accommodate an array of six extraordinarily powerful speakers.

While I personally had a soft spot for the 75X940C’s monolithic massiveness, I suspect most people will probably consider the shift to a much slimmer look for the 75X940D a good move. Certainly it makes the set much easier for a typically sized living room to accommodate, and actually it also means you feel more focused more on the screen’s pictures.

Obviously the 75X940D’s lack of its predecessor’s ‘hi-fi’ speakers mean it won’t sound as good. But I guess there’s a fair chance that anyone spending $6,500 on a 75-inch TV will also have some sort of separate audio system.

Connections

The 75X940D’s connections are plentiful – as you’d expect of Sony’s flagship TV for 2016. The set’s four HDMIs are equipped for 4K/UHD and HDR playback, three USBs are on hand to play multimedia from USB drives or record from the TV’s tuner to a connected USB HDD, while Wi-Fi and RJ45 network connections enable both streamed media playback from networked DLNA-capable devices and access to Sony’s Smart services.

As with last year’s Sony TVs, the 75X940D’s smart features are powered by Google’s Android TV system (along with the YouView catch-up TV system in the UK). The 2016 Android TV system runs more slickly and more stably than last year’s version, and there have been one or two minor but welcome feature tweaks. However, I continue not to be a fan of this system overall, as it still suffers from an over-abundance of underwhelming apps and an overbearing, dictatorial and uncustomisable interface.

Picture features

The 75X940D’s direct LED lighting and local dimming system are powered by Sony’s latest X1 chipset and 4K X-Reality Pro video processing engine – an engine which also takes care of the set’s upscaling of non-4K sources and a suite of color-enhancing features associated with Sony’s Triluminos wide color spectrum technology.

Triluminos is obviously helpful in dealing with the enhanced color demands of HDR, and Sony claims the 75X940D can deliver comfortably more than the 90% of the ‘DCI-P3’ commercial cinema color spectrum demanded by the industry’s so-called Ultra HD Premium seal of picture quality approval.

Even more important where HDR performance is concerned is the 75X940D’s X-Tended Dynamic Range Pro technology, which boosts contrast and peak white performance by reallocating power from dark areas to bright areas. Sony’s step-down X930D models tried using this technology with their edge LED light systems too, with rather hit and miss results. But experience suggests the technology should work much more effectively in the direct LED lighting domain.

The 75X940D is claimed to surpass the 1000 Nit peak brightness requirement of the Ultra HD Premium recommendations – though it’s important to stress that Sony has not pursued Ultra HD Premium ‘certification’ for, it claims, marketing reasons. Reasons perhaps based round the fact that Sony prefers to talk about ‘4K’ rather than ‘Ultra HD’.

While we’re on the subject of HDR (which I explain in jargon-free terms in this separate article), it’s worth adding that while the 75X940D does not and will never support the Dolby Vision HDR system, it should be able to add compatibility via firmware updates with both the open standard ‘dynamic HDR10’ system the industry is currently exploring and the so-called Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) broadcast HDR system if and when that finally deploys.

Unlike any of Samsung’s 2016 TVs (as reported here), the 75X940D supports 3D too – though none of the necessary active shutter glasses are included for free, which is slightly disappointing for an $6,500 TV.

Picture Quality
With my heart in my mouth I fired a few Ultra HD Blu-rays into the 75X940D. Would it suffer with the same sort of distracting backlight problems other TVs have displayed this year?

Mercifully, while it isn’t totally free of backlight flaws, they’re subdued enough to make Sony’s giant screen instantly the first TV of the year that’s made HDR consistently lovely to behold.

The screen’s contrast range is truly spectacular. Gorgeously deep black colors by LCD standards share screen space with exceptionally punchy whites and bright colours that extend far beyond the luminance range we’ve been stuck with for decades with standard dynamic range content.

Crucially, though, the 75X940D doesn’t only deliver on the extremes of HDR’s potential. Sony’s light handling engine is also good enough to deliver shadow details right down to near-black levels as well as avoiding any hint of clipping/detail ‘flare out’ in the brightest areas. In fact, the 75X940D handles subtle greyscale differentials and light shifts impeccably at seemingly every stage of HDR’s expanded brightness range.

The finesse of the 75X940D’s light handling joins forces with the precision and range of Sony’s Triluminos technology, too, to deliver exquisitely the wide color gamuts we’re seeing with pretty much every HDR source. In fact, its combination of stunningly dynamic, vibrant colors with breathtaking tonal subtlety makes the 75X940D the most consistently brilliant exponent of wide color gamut technology I’ve seen to date.

Color prowess

With richly colored HDR material like The Lego Movie and Deadpool on Ultra HD Blu-ray the results are utterly spectacular. But crucially the 75X940D’s color finesse is just as effective in making more subdued, naturalistic-looking movies like The Revenant feel more three dimensional and real.

The exceptional mix of dynamism and color tone finesse in the 75X940D’s HDR pictures also helps it deliver the maximum impact from its screen’s native 4K resolution and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Also, while I don’t believe you have to have a massive screen to really enjoy the benefits of 4K, the 75X940D’s 75-inch enormity certainly doesn’t do its 4K charms any harm…

It’s worth adding, too, that Sony’s usually strong Motionflow processing continues to impress on the 75X940D. Even on its gentlest, most natural-looking Clear setting it reduces motion blur enough to ensure pictures still retain 4K levels of clarity even during action scenes.

Not perfect

For the vast majority of the time the 75X940D’s 4K HDR pictures look simply imperious. But as I noted briefly before, even this mighty TV’s local dimming/direct LED light engine isn’t able to avoid all backlight distractions. Really extreme HDR content such as the infamous Chapter 7 of the Exodus: Gods And Kings Ultra HD Blu-ray, which features bright torch and candlelight appearing against almost completely black backdrops, can reveal gentle light ‘halos’ that stretch out for a good couple of inches beyond a bright object’s boundaries.

Crucially, though, these halos are relatively low in intensity and relatively localised versus the light striping and blocking issues witnessed on this year’s edge-lit HDR TVs. The boundaries of the ‘accidental light’ areas are also far less defined and thus noticeable than they are with Sony’s 65X930D set too. All of which makes the 75X940D’s light flaws far less likely to distract from the general splendor than they are on any edge-lit rival.

Very occasionally I did see a more distracting issue whereby the appearance of an intensely bright HDR object over a large proportion of the screen could seemingly cause the whole color tone of the image to change momentarily. But such moments only cropped up on a handful of occasions in the course of watching seven or eight Ultra HD Blu-rays.

Brightness versus backlight flaws

One other little issue worth mentioning is that the 75X940D’s HDR pictures aren’t quite as explosively bright and rich in their portrayal of light ‘peaks’ as those of Samsung’s UN55KS9500. But there’s never any question that the Sony is doing HDR justice, and personally I’d sacrifice a touch of brightness peaking every time if the pay off is less blatant backlight flaws.

Much as I’d love to watch nothing but Ultra HD Blu-ray – or, failing that, streamed 4K HDR via the Amazon and Netflix apps – it’s a plain fact that for now we all have to spend much of our time watching lots of standard dynamic range and HD sources. So it’s great to find that the 75X940D is nothing short of stunning with such content.

The reduced intensity of standard dynamic range images means all the slight backlight flaws noted with HDR sources vanish, leaving you with essentially immaculate black levels that still look full of detail and natural color tones. Also, while colors look markedly more subdued than they do with HDR/Wide Color sources, the Triluminos technology and Sony’s exemplary processing ensures that SDR pictures still look vibrant and natural without losing any color balance or finesse.

You still feel an almost visceral impact from the native 4K pixel count with non-HDR 4K sources too, thanks again to the size of the screen and the precision of Sony’s processing, while even HDR sources look at least halfway 4K – and impressively free of noise – once Sony’s classy upscaling has done its work.

The 75X940D handles the third dimension well for the most part, too. There’s a marked drop off in sharpness versus the TV’s 2D performance, but its brightness and color intensity work brilliantly in countering the dimming effect of the active shutter 3D glasses, while its beautiful contrast performance works wonders in building a convincing sense of space and scale.

3D ghosting

The only 3D problem, predictably, is that there’s some crosstalk ghosting noise around sharply contrasting objects in the foreground or background. The ghosting is subdued enough in appearance not to routinely prove a distraction, but at the same time you certainly can’t ignore it on a screen as big as this one.

Gaming on the 75X940D is an almost obscene amount of fun given the size and quality of pictures on offer. So it’s pleasing to find that when using the set’s game picture preset it only takes the TV around 30ms to render its images. This is an impressively low figure by 4K TV standards, and shouldn’t lead to too many reaction time deaths on Call Of Duty or Battlefield.

Wrapping up the 75X940D’s performance is its audio. Clearly this falls far short of the stunning efforts of its predecessor thanks to it not being able to draw on the same in-your-face speaker system. But while the sound can appear a little indirect at times and lacks both deep bass and extreme trebles, it sounds clear and detailed, while also suffering with less harshness than Sony’s much slimmer step-down 65X930D models.

Verdict
Sony’s 75X940C was arguably my favorite all-round TV of 2015, and I’m pleased to say that while it’s not completely flawless, the 75X940D stands a chance of seeing off the competition this year (though to be fair, the incoming LG OLED TVs and Samsung KS9800 (KS9500 in the UK) might have other ideas).

So good is the 75X940D, in fact, that I can’t help but feel frustrated that Sony doesn’t broaden the market for it X940D technology by offering it in smaller screen sizes. Maybe next year…

If this review has been of interest to you, you might also be interested in my reviews of the Sony 65X930D, Samsung UN55KS9500 and Panasonic 50DX750 TVs, plus Deadpool and The Revenant on Ultra HD Blu-ray.

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Samsung UN55KS9500 4K HDR TV Review: Blinded By The Light
« Reply #6 on: Wed June 29, 2016, 09:27:46 AM »
John Archer
If you’re looking for the definition of a bleeding edge TV in 2016, you’ll struggle to find a set that fits the bill more accurately in every way – not all of them good – than the $2,500 Samsung UN55KS9500 (known as the UE55KS9000 in the UK/Europe, where its UK price is £2,099.).

For starters, despite not being from Samsung’s flagship TV range for 2016, the UN55KS9500 looks seriously cute in its new ‘360-degree’ livery. For the set’s front, Samsung has stepped back from the deliberately chunky frames introduced in 2015 in favor of a much less divisive ultra-thin frame that doesn’t distract your eye from what you’re watching and looks supremely elegant when the TV’s in ‘furniture’ mode’.

The TV’s rear, meanwhile, features a smooth rivet-free design given added panache by a strip of glinting metal and the boldly angular metallic stand mount.

To be honest I’ve yet to be persuaded that many people really care much about how the back of their TV looks. Though I guess that the fact that the UN55KS9500 continues Samsung’s love affair with curved TV screens means there’s marginally more chance that some of the TV’s rear will be visible from some seating positions than would be the case with a flat TV.

The TV’s connections are bang up to date. An external connection box holds four HDMIs (all equipped to handle 4K/UHD), two USBs, satellite and terrestrial tuner inputs and an optical audio jack, while the main TV sports an Ethernet port, a third USB and the jack for hooking up the external connections box.

No longer upgradable

However, unlike the past few generations of high-end Samsung TVs, the UN55KS9500’s connections – along with its processing and smart features – cannot be upgraded by future upgrade kits. You won’t be able to insert an Evolution Kit into the TV’s rear or buy a new ‘One Connect’ external connections box a year or two down the line and suddenly have your old TV working like a new one (though apparently Samsung’s older TVs will still be supported by hardware upgrades, for now at least).

No other brand offers a similar type of hardware upgrade path, so I guess ditching it doesn’t put Samsung at a disadvantage versus its rivals. Still, I can’t help but miss that feeling of comfort you used to get from knowing that your TV would be able to move with the fast-changing times.

Getting swiftly back to what makes the UN55KS9500 a truly cutting edge TV, it’s the first edge LED TV launched to the consumer market capable of delivering 1000 nits of brightness. Even Samsung’s JS9000 pace setter from 2015 (reviewed here) was only capable of hitting between 600 and 700 nits.

This matters because of high dynamic range (HDR): the new picture technology introducing pictures of unprecedented brightness, contrast and, in most configurations, color range. For a full explanation of HDR, check out this dedicated feature.

It’s all in the nits

Pretty much all of the first generation of HDR Ultra HD Blu-rays we’re seeing are being mastered to 1000 nits, so Samsung’s argument is that the UN55KS9500 is the first edge LED TV capable of fully expressing HDR’s luminance advantage. (It won’t be the last, though; all of Samsung’s 2016 ‘SUHD’ TVs, right down to the 7000 series, will support 1000 nits of light output.)

This is undoubtedly a very persuasive argument. After all, as discussed in the recent review of the Panasonic TX-50DX750, if a TV can’t deliver 1000 nits it will have to use extremely complicated processing to essentially ‘down convert’ an HDR signal to meet the screen’s luminance capabilities – processing which can potentially result in issues like detail crushed out of black areas, clipped (flared out) peak white areas, and uncomfortable dark/bright combinations in very contrast-rich shots. With the Samsung UN55KS9500, hopefully none of these problems need arise as the TV can track HDR’s gamma curve exactly, right through to the 1000 nits mastering point.

Samsung’s drive to nail HDR hasn’t been limited to brightness, though. The brand has also returned to Quantum Dot technology for the UN55KS9500’s color handling after a dalliance with a slightly different Nano Crystal approach last year. This is because Quantum Dot can deliver a wider color range that hits around 96% of the so-called DCI-P3 color space (as used in digital cinemas) that’s become the de facto current target for HDR TVs.

The UN55KS9500’s brightness and color achievements both clear the bar set by the recently announced Ultra HD Premium set of performance recommendations – and Samsung wraps up its Ultra HD Premium compliance by also employing 10-bit color depth and combining the 1000 nits of peak brightness with a black level response of 0.05 nits or less.

The UN55KS9500 is the first edge-lit LCD TV to earn the Ultra HD Premium badge – though again, all of Samsung’s SUHD TVs for the year will also meet the Ultra HD Premium targets.

As well as radically reworking its picture technology for its 2016 TVs, Samsung has also revamped its Tizen-driven smart TV platform based on extensive consumer research. And the results are mostly very impressive.

The single most welcome move is the addition of a second tier of links on the home page above the main tier introduced last year. For the most part this second tier provides secondary links derived from the option selected in the main bottom tier.

Tiers of joy

For instance, if you’ve got Live TV selected in the bottom tier the upper tier will show links to the electronic programme guide, the Channel listings, your recordings, and a list of the most recent channels you’ve watched (since research suggests most of us tend to predominantly stick with the same six or seven channels). Or if you choose Amazon or Netflix on the bottom layer, the upper layer expands to show high resolution links to featured and recently added shows from those service’s on-demand platforms.

A similar two-layer system is used to good effect on the latest Apple TV box (reviewed here), and it really does make Samsung’s new smart TV system feel vastly more ‘joined up’ and intuitive than last year’s effort.
The new smart engine also runs more consistently slickly than its predecessor, and seems far more stable (less prone to crashing) than last year’s system was during the first few months of its life.

Also much appreciated is how easy it is to customize the latest Tizen Smart TV system. You can move any apps you like up to the main home page list, as well as effortlessly adjusting the running order of this list to make it easier to get to your favorites fast.

It’s frankly a relief, too, to find Samsung finally giving up on its efforts to deliver gesture control with its TVs. Especially as Samsung has apparently focused instead on greatly improving both its voice recognition system and the smart remote control you get with 2016’s SUHD TVs.

Where the voice recognition is concerned, the system now recognizes what you say with improved accuracy, and no longer requires you to speak to the TV like a robot or using very specific grammatical patterns for it to get the gist of what you’re saying. You can use your voice to input data into the TV’s search engine or issue basic instructions such as ‘open Netflix’.

It’s a shame, though, that the search engine isn’t sophisticated enough to look inside key apps. For instance, if you say ‘Show me Mozart In The Jungle’ the only results thrown up are YouTube promo videos; you don’t get links to the episodes in the Amazon app.

Talking things through

I also suffered a few strange inconsistencies; for instance, once when the TV correctly heard me say ‘Open Amazon’ it opened a list of Amazon options including the Amazon Instant option I was after (though sadly I never got it to recognize Amazon Instant and directly open that app). But on another occasion, even though onscreen text confirmed that the TV had heard me say ‘Open Amazon’, I got a message saying the TV hadn’t understood what I’d said.

Experience suggests Samsung will iron out these issues over time, though; the main thing is that for the most part the voice recognition is much more usable and thus likely to be used than it has been on Samsung TVs before.

The new ‘smart’ remote Samsung’s created – again, apparently, following extensive consumer research – is a revelation. First, it feels beautiful to hold – robust, well balanced and comfortable. Second, Samsung has sensibly streamlined the control methods it offers, ditching the well-meant but ultimately fiddly ‘point and click’ system seen on last year’s Samsung smart remotes in favor of a much more straightforward combination of a touch pad and simple set of navigation buttons.

There are only a handful of buttons on the smart remote, delivering just the controls and features Samsung’s consumer research shows most users regularly use. What’s more, these buttons are laid out intuitively and ergonomically.

The single coolest trick of the smart remote, though, is its ability to automatically deliver control over any of your connected devices. Samsung claims the TV is able to auto detect more than 90% of the world’s source technologies – taking in everything from subscription TV receivers to Blu-ray/DVD players and even games consoles – and can then enable the smart remote to offer at least a degree of control over those source devices when you select the relevant input on the TV.

Universal appeal

The small button count of the Smart Remote means there are, of course, limits to what it can deliver when it comes to using it to control other devices. But the basic features most people will most regularly use on their connected sources were always covered on the source kit I was able to try.

In some cases the onscreen prompts Samsung provides to help you figure out how your source device’s features have mapped to the Smart Remote’s buttons could have done with being a little more comprehensive, but overall the smart remote’s universal control feature works startlingly well.

One final aspect of the UN55KS9500’s smart features worth mentioning in passing is its promised support for the Internet of Things. This isn’t available yet, but at Samsung’s unveiling of the UN55KS9500 at the Consumer Electronics Show in January the brand suggested that its new high-end TVs – including the KS9500s – would eventually be able to communicate with other IoT devices around the home. Scenarios shown included controlling your home’s lighting via the TV, as well as calling up onto the TV screen a feed from a security camera. I’ll cover this IoT functionality in a separate article when the feature goes live.

What, no 3D?

Before getting into the key matter of the UN55KS9500’s picture quality, I should stress that while Samsung’s latest TV has lots of new features, the removal of Evolution Kit support isn’t the only ‘old’ feature that’s been cut. There’s also no 3D playback.

Samsung has decided the time is right to remove 3D from ALL of its 2016 TVs, as I’ve covered in a separate story. This will clearly upset 3D’s small but vocal band of supporters, especially those (including myself, actually) who’ve amassed large collections of 3D Blu-rays. But Samsung is adamant that it doesn’t believe interest in 3D is still sufficient to warrant continued support on its TVs from here on in.

Picture Quality

Based on my recent experience with the Panasonic 50DX750, I approached the UN55KS9500’s spectacularly bright pictures with a degree of trepidation, wondering if the set’s backlighting system would join the Panasonic’s in struggling to handle the extreme amounts of brightness demanded by high dynamic range content. And while the UN55KS9500 often delivers the most spectacular pictures I’ve seen on a TV so far, it turns out that there is indeed a price to pay for the set’s stunning HDR light show.

First, the good stuff. Starting with the fact that Samsung’s push for unprecedented amounts of brightness from its new SUHD TVs has resulted in HDR pictures (fed in from a Samsung Ultra HD Blu-ray player) that deliver quite simply the most dynamic, vibrant and punchy images ever seen on an edge-lit LCD TV. In fact, the only other TVs I can think of that even get close to the brightness appeal of the UN55KS9500 are Samsung’s own JS9500 TVs from last year, which used direct LED lighting (where the LEDs sit behind the screen).

Samsung has always taken the view (in opposition to LG’s OLED-based argument that black level response is at least as important to HDR as brightness) that expressing HDR properly is all about brightness, and to some extent the UN55KS9500 bears this view out.

Using the Movie preset that Samsung claims delivers the most accurate HDR performance, pictures from my new-born collection of Ultra HD Blu-rays combine wonderfully vivid highlights such as flames, sun-lit skies and street lights with sensationally vivid, rich colors – to an extent that comfortably exceeds even the impressive brightness and color efforts of the Panasonic 50DX750.

It’s not just in the extremities of its HDR delivery that the UN55KS9500 excels, though. For instance, its 10-bit color depth helps it deliver exquisite stripe-free color tone blends across every level of HDR’s huge brightness range. It also reveals stellar amounts of shadow detail in dark areas. And it handles HDR’s expanded brightness range with seemingly flawless accuracy when it comes to balancing dark and light content in particularly contrast-rich HDR frames.

I’d thought that the Panasonic 50DX750 had done a good job in this respect too, but running it alongside the UN55KS9500 reveals a few areas – both bright and dark – where the Panasonic loses details that are clearly apparent on the Samsung TV thanks to the way its extra brightness lets it track the full HDR gamma curve more accurately.

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Re: 4K HDR TV reviews
« Reply #7 on: Wed June 29, 2016, 09:28:06 AM »

OLED questions

So striking is this benefit of the UN55KS9500’s brightness, in fact, that it raises some interesting questions about how well LG’s upcoming new OLED TVs will handle HDR given their significantly reduced brightness. This is certainly something I’ll need to look closely at when the first of LG’s OLED TVs arrive for testing in the next few weeks.

Overall, watching HDR delivered by Ultra HD Blu-ray on the UN55KS9500 really does feel like somebody has finally turned the lights on in the TV world. Strangely the effect feels even more dramatic than it did on last year’s JS9500s, despite those TVs on paper being able to deliver around the same amount of brightness.

So dazzling are the thrills of HDR that you almost forget that with Ultra HD Blu-ray they’re being partnered with a native 4K/UHD resolution. Forcing myself to focus on this aspect of the UN55KS9500’s pictures the good news continues, as it becomes clear the TV is doing a pretty stunning job of maximizing the impact of its UHD pixel count. Detail levels with the crispest Ultra HD Blu-rays – particularly The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – are just spectacular, especially when all those pixels are being partnered as they are here with the huge range of color subtleties the UN55KS9500 can deliver.

While I’m not convinced that every Ultra HD Blu-ray disc released so far delivers on the full impact 4K/UHD can have on a picture, I have no doubt that the UN55KS9500 does everything in its considerable power to unlock 4K’s potential.

What’s more, Samsung’s latest generation of upscaling processing, for converting HD sources to Ultra HD, is its best yet. In fact, the extent to which it manages to add in detail while subtracting source noise is borderline miraculous when you think that the processing is having to add more than six million pixels of extra image data in real time.

Now for the bad news. In order to hit the 1000 nits of brightness Samsung deemed necessary to deliver the most ‘true’ HDR experience from its edge LED TV, the brand has had to make a fairly radical and, for me, problematic change to its backlight arrangement.

Backlight alignment blues

For the past few generations Samsung has favored a horizontal lighting system, where the edge LED lights are placed down the TV’s sides. This approach tends to make it much easier to control the backlight so that dark scenes can enjoy a deep and even black level response. Apparently, though, the only way currently to reach 1000 nits from an edge LED system is to switch to a vertical edge LED lighting arrangement, where the lights fires down the screen rather than across it.

Also used to generally unhelpful effect by LG LCD TVs, the problem with this vertical lighting approach is that it can lead to more distracting ‘stripes’ of extraneous backlight pollution around stand-out bright parts of the picture than you tend to see with a horizontal light configuration.

This is especially true if you’re watching a wide aspect-ratio film with black bars above and below the picture, as your eye is routinely distracted by superfluous brightness in the black bars. But you can also sometimes spot obvious light stripes or inconsistencies around very bright objects within the main image frame. In other words, the backlight blocking and bleeding isn’t only an issue if what you’re watching has black bars above and below it.

It’s not just vertical stripes of light that betray the difficulties current edge LED lighting technology has with delivering HDR’s extreme brightness levels either. Sometimes the whole brightness tone of the image and any black bars that might be above and below it can shift quite dramatically as a film or TV show transitions from a very dark to a very bright shot and vice versa.

The UN55KS9500’s backlight issues are at their most noticeable when you’re watching predominantly dark scenes containing lots of motion, such as Max’s frantic attempted escape from his cave-dwelling captors at the start of Mad Max: Fury Road. But they can raise their heads to some extent at any time when you’re watching a dark scene.

Unlike 2015 Samsung HDR TVs, while the UN55KS9500 automatically shifts the settings for each of its picture presets when it detects an HDR source, it doesn’t lock you to those settings. So there are things you can try if you want to reduce the potential distractions caused by the workings of the vertical edge lighting. Turning off the local dimming element of the lighting, for instance, can eliminate the striped look to HDR pictures – but also leads to an uncomfortable general reduction in black level response that I don’t think most modern TV buyers will feel comfortable with.

You can also reduce the backlight setting as much as you like. But of course, as soon as you start reducing the backlight you’re starting to reduce the picture’s brightness below the key 1000 nit value Samsung has worked so hard to deliver, reducing the accuracy of the HDR experience. And in truth you’d have to reduce the backlight by at least 50% before you really started to hide its problems.

The end of dark room viewing?

One other rather different approach to reducing the distractions of the backlight stripes and clouding while watching HDR is to turn the lights in your room up. This isn’t something I’d normally recommend that anyone do for a serious movie-viewing session, but the extra brightness HDR delivers means pictures can still look punchy with some ambient light in the room while the chances of you being distracted by the backlight machinations will be considerably reduced.

At the time of writing, HDR content is, of course, pretty hard to come by. There are a few HDR Ultra HD Blu-rays now if you invest in a player, and Amazon is streaming a few of its shows in HDR. But the simple fact is that if you buy a 55KS9500 today you’ll be watching standard dynamic range content on it for most of the time. Which makes it a pity that Samsung hasn’t managed to get its SUHD Remaster technology up and running in time for this review.

The SUHD Remaster system is intended to expand the brightness range and color gamut of standard dynamic range content to HDR-like levels, and so will clearly be of interest to anyone who finds themselves smitten by the next-level picture thrills HDR can deliver. At the moment, though, the 55KS9500 just lets you watch Standard Dynamic Range content using the limited brightness and color values we’ve been used to for so many years. I will try to update this review with a paragraph on the SUHD Remastering system when it goes live.

Standard Dynamic Range performance

As for how standard dynamic range content is handled right now, if considered against the SDR performance of other LCD TVs the UN55KS9500 does spectacularly well. Being able to reduce the backlight to around its nine or even eight level without spoiling the light balance of the picture (something you can’t do with HDR) pretty much removes the backlight distractions noted with HDR, even in the black bars that appear above and below films with aspect ratios wider than 16:9.

For the cleanest, purest black level results I’d also recommend that the Smart LED local dimming system be set to Minimum while the contrast is set to around 85. With these adjustments made the UN55KS9500’s black levels become really quite beautiful for the vast majority of the time, while dark scenes still retain an impressive amount of shadow detail for an edge LED TV.

Colors too look natural and full of definition and tonal subtlety with SDR content, while UHD and HD SDR pictures alike look spectacularly detailed and textured.

You may remember that right back at the start of this review I mentioned that the UN55KS9500 uses a curved screen design. This is worth coming back to before wrapping up on the TV’s picture performance, for while I’m not convinced the curve adds anything significant to the viewing experience unless you’re sat in just the right place, new filtering technology applied to its screen (based around the structure of a moth’s eye) does a far better job of soaking up onscreen reflections than any curved screen I’ve seen before.

This is a big deal because for me the biggest argument against curved TVs has been the way they distort any onscreen reflections across more of the screen area than flat ones. (For more on the pros and cons of curved TVs, check out Curved TVs: 6 Reasons You Should Buy One – And 6 More Why You Shouldn’t.)

The last parts of the UN55KS9500’s performance to consider are its input lag (the time it takes to render its images) and its audio. Where input lag is concerned, my measurements came in at under 30ms when using the Game picture preset. This is a great result that should have minimal negative impact on your gaming experience.

As for audio, the sound produced by the UN55KS9500 is actually very impressive for such a slender screen. Samsung has managed to fit separate subwoofer, mid-range and tweeter drivers into the TV, and uses an angled section along the rear of the bottom edge to push the sound forward rather than just down.

The result of all this is a soundstage that can go loud without distorting; delivers a good sense of depth behind the screen; enjoys an open and well-rounded mid-range; produces good levels of treble detail delivered without harshness; and even serves up a reasonable amount of bass to underpin everything.

Verdict
Samsung has developed a healthy habit in recent times of bursting out of the traps each year with ground-breaking TVs that set new bars for rivals to aim for (and usually fall short of). In some ways the UN55KS9500 continues that tradition by delivering an HDR experience the like of which hasn’t been seen before – certainly from a relatively affordable edge-lit LCD TV.

It’s important to stress just how great non-HDR pictures can easily be made to look too, and when you add in the set’s surprisingly potent audio for such a thin TV as well as a significantly improved smart TV engine, there’s no doubt Samsung really has come close to delivering another stellar television.

It’s just a shame that in pushing for the extreme brightness Samsung believes HDR needs it’s moved to a backlight system that can lead to significant distractions when you’re watching the very HDR content the UN55KS9500 is so keen to master.

To be fair, I can imagine many people deciding that a bit of backlight inconsistency that pretty much fades away in a bright room is a small price to pay for the glories Samsung’s HDR performance delivers elsewhere. But for me, as somebody who likes to get totally lost in what I’m watching, while I’m excited by most of what the UN55KS9500 has to offer the distractions caused by the new backlight system are at least enough to remind me that even when you’re talking about a TV as advanced as the UN55KS9500, we’re still in truth only at the start of the HDR TV age.

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Samsung UE55KS7000 and HDR+ upconversion
« Reply #8 on: Fri July 08, 2016, 08:38:20 AM »
Samsung UE55KS7000 review
By Jamie Carter
Above and beyond HDR

HDR+ is the key feature to get excited about in this sumptuously designed 55-incher, which 'upscales' to HDR while presenting 4K detail and Samsung's slickest smart TV platform yet. It's not perfect, but fed a diet of Hi-Def or 4K HDR, the UE55KS7000 purrs.

FOR
HDR+ upscaling
Subtle HDR images
Separate connections box
Slick, quick Smart Hub
AGAINST
Requires large TV table
Some backlight bleeding
Lacks YouView or Freeview Play
No 3D support

There's much talk about HDR and its status as the next great TV technology, but not often does the talk turn to luminance. The enabling tech for HDR – panels that cross the all-important threshold of 1,000 nits – is pretty rare, but that's exactly what this 55-inch Edge LED-lit TV from Samsung offers, and in terms of HDR's wonderfully nuanced and subtle, yet powerful and dynamic colouring, this is where the touch-paper is lit.

At the moment Samsung calls this tech HDR 1000, but don't get too fond of that name – the coming years will likely see incremental jumps in luminance, so in year or so we could be looking at HDR 1200 or HDR 1500.

For now the UE55KS7000 is compliant with what the TV industry is calling Ultra HD Premium, which sees a jump from an 8-bit depth standard to a 10-bit depth for HDR, expanding colour precision from 256 shades to 1,023 shades.

Samsung has created panels with more luminance by using its quantum dot technology and a 10-bit VA panel. Despite the presence of the Ultra Black mode, aka the 'moth eye' filter (as well as Precision Black local dimming), the UE55KS7000 does lack Direct LED backlighting, so the very finest in black performance is lacking. Still, as the entry-level model for the Ultra HD Premium badge, the UE55KS7000 is an key TV.

Design

It's always been a bugbear of mine that, when you've just paid good money for a TV that's sold on aesthetics as much as technology, the first thing you have to do when you get it home is find a screwdriver so that you can assemble your new toy.

Not so with the UE55KS7000, which comes with two triangular feet that simply clip to the bottom. However, while the absence of screws is welcome, because the two small feet are located very close to the corners of the TV it might not fit on many people's existing TV stands, especially those upgrading from, say, a 40-inch set to this 55-incher. I managed to perch the UE55KS7000 on my existing test bench of 10 years with only millimetres to spare.

Elsewhere the UE55KS7000's design is super-slinky, with barely a screen surround to speak of. At its slimmest there's a slither of silver frame on three sides, with the logo-adorned undercarriage significantly wider. Samsung calls this 'bezel-less', and it's hard to disagree. It's also worth noting that the back of the TV is just as sleekly designed, in case you want to place it in the middle of a room.

Samsung supplies a slender 'smart' remote control, which offers voice control as well as regular (though flat-mounted) buttons. It does look nicer than the regular design of remote, although one of those is also included (so too are a huge array of codes, so that either remote can act as a universal controller).

Smart Hub

It's all change for Samsung yet again in the world of smart TV, with the full-screen graphics and app grids abandoned in favour of pop-ups. If the one-touch access to oft-used apps is good, it's nothing compared to the 'accelerator' bar above, which flashes up further shortcuts.

It works like a dream for Netflix and Amazon Instant, where content you've recently been watching is available in less than a second, and loadable in just three touches. It all makes accessing content super easy and super slick.

Everything may have been joined up and seamlessly integrated into Smart Hub, but the sheer amount of apps, services and content available is what makes the Samsung UE55KS7000 a real standout. Netflix and Amazon Instant are a given, of course, but the review sample I tested also included all UK TV catch-up apps (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, 4OD and Demand Five, though neither of the roll-back platforms, YouView or Freeview Play), as well as YouTube, Deezer, TuneIn, Vimeo, Facebook, Red Bull TV and Mubi.

In another welcome move, PS4 controllers can be hooked up to the UE55KS7000 for playing apps and games, which include RF Real Football, Asphalt 8 and Despicable Me: Minion Rush.

Ins and outs

External connector boxes have been few and far between in recent years on all but flagship TVs, but the One Connect box supplied with the UE55KS7000 is impressive. Measuring 7 x 20cm, it sports four HDMI inputs and three USB slots, which is about as generous as it gets. On the TV itself is a connector for the One Connect box alongside a USB slot, a Common Interface slot and an Ethernet LAN for web access (although this should perhaps have been included on the box).

The UE55KS7000 is one of the smallest and most affordable members of Samsung's SUHD collection, a flagship group that comprises a bevy of curved and flat tellies that are all about HDR and image perfection. The 7 Series and above all have quantum dot panels that offer 1,000 nits luminance.

Either side of the UE55KS7000 are the 43-inch UE43KS7000, 49-inch UE49KS7000 and the 60-inch UE60KS7000. If you fancy a curved version, seek out the 43-inch UE43KS7500, the 49-inch UE49KS7500 and the 65-inch UE65KS7500, which are in other respects almost identical.

Although it has the requisite 3840 x 2160-pixel panel to guarantee Ultra HD 4K images, that's not the primary reason why the UE55KS7000 impresses; it's down to HDR, or specifically HDR10, which is the high dynamic range industry standard that Samsung favours.

Watch native HDR, such as Marco Polo in 4K HDR from Netflix, and the UE55KS7000 purrs. Kept in Movie mode, an 'HDR detected' message flashes up on the screen (a nice touch), which also indicates that the UE55KS7000 has automatically tweaked the picture parameters to suit – a marvellous idea.

Although the overall image is pinging with luminance, and ever-so-impressive in terms of detail, brightness and colour definition (reds in particular look simply awesome), HDR on the UE55KS7000 brings out subtle nuances in light particularly well. Natural light streaming through a window and lighting-up someone's face is a particular favourite of mine – it just looks so real.

Ditto overcast skies, which lends an eery, real-life look to outdoor shots. Switch to non-HDR versions of the same footage and these kinds of effects become invisible.

Impressive as the UE55KS7000's native HDR mode is, it gets better. In its Special Viewing Mode menu is HDR+, which expands the colour definition by analysing each frame, and using the extra-luminant 10-bit panel to its fullest. Almost everything looks good, and HDR-ish, but especially Blu-ray discs and HD TV channels.

Not that they're perfect; a blast of Euro 2016 football from a live HD TV channel impressed on brightness, colour and detail (Auto Motion Plus is worth toggling on), but I did spot some soft areas, scrubbed of detail, clinging to the players like a halo. Moving objects like these do tend to look a little odd, something that worsens as you go down the video food chain to standard definition, which the UE55KS7000 doesn't upscale all that well.

It's also worth steering well clear of the UE55KS7000's Sports mode, which made a Euro 2016 game an utterly unwatchable bright, luminous green. I'm not sure what's happened here, though Samsung's presets generally do fail to impress, and of the usual Normal, Dynamic and Movie modes only the latter was accurate. Although Movie mode can sometimes be a little dull, on the UE55KS7000's HDR panel it's punchy, yet subtle.

Although the UE55KS7000 is part of Samsung's flagship SUHD range, it's not as powerful as the top-of-the-tree UE65KS9000. The primary reason is the use of edge LED backlighting, which does bring some drawbacks. Chief among these is the slight crushing of blacks during high-contrast sequences, although during my review I was distracted only by some visible light shooting up from the bottom edge of the panel.

It was primarily a problem when I watched from a slight angle rather than head-on, when not only could I see torpedoes of light, but a navy blue tinge to blacks. During a Euro 2016 game the slow but frequent pan of the camera left and right also made the panel's structure pretty obvious – again, only when viewed from an angle. It's a known characteristic of the VA panel inside the UE55KS9500, and the flip-side to its generally impressive performance with black levels.

Since the UE55KS7000's head-on image is so involving in so many ways, it's seems churlish to criticise its angular viewing too much, but big screens like this are inevitably going to be watched from an angle in larger living rooms.

Sound

The audio from Samsung TVs has improved in recent years, and the UE55KS7000 is a step up from 2015's models. However, despite the increased bass, mid and high frequency on its 60W speakers the UE55KS7000 is able to deliver decent audio only for TV. In my tests I watched another Euro 2016 match and was impressed by the clarity of the commentary and the background audio, but a blast of Game of Thrones soundtrack lacked pizazz.

The UE55KS7000 is a good-value effort. Its ability with HDR is impressive, and while it may lack the extreme niceties of the UE65KS9000, it is half the price. For those largely watching the UE55KS7000 head-on rather than from an angle, it's arguably better value than anything more expensive in terms of native image quality. The inclusion of HDR+ is a boon for anyone wishing there was more native HDR material out there, while the all-around design is welcome.

We liked

HDR+ is a fine creation, and somewhat unexpected. Being able to create your own HDR-like footage offers a decent stop-gap while we wait for more native HDR material to find its way onto our TV screens. HD TV channels and Blu-ray discs benefit most from the HDR+ treatment, while Auto Motion Plus proves handy during HD sports broadcasts. Motion handling overall is impressive when watching in 4K, too.

Elsewhere the UE55KS7000's slinky design is worth a mention, as is the excellent 'smart' remote, while the inclusion of the One Connect box lends some installation flexibility. And top marks to the Smart Hub, and especially its 'accelerator' bar, which provides three-touch access to the last thing watched on Netflix or Amazon.

We disliked

Although the UE55KS7000's clip-on feet are something of a boon to a TV reviewer, it's a risky move to put those feet so near to the corners of the TV; it means folk will need a TV stand that stretches the entire length of the UE55KS7000 and many will have a stand or table smaller than that. The lack of a swivel will also annoy some, not only when it comes to placement, but also because the UE55KS7000 does have an issue with viewing angles.

The colour and black levels don't exactly drain quickly when watching off-centre, but the edge LED backlighting does start to become obvious, as does a slight blueish tinge to blacks. I was also somewhat disappointed with the upscaling of standard definition TV channels, a common issue with 4K TVs.

Other complaints are minor. The lack of 3D support seems a little churlish (even though most of us have moved on from that particular novelty), and for all the apps on the UE55KS7000, UK viewers would benefit from the inclusion of either YouView or Freeview Play, which competitor TVs from Sony (YouView) and Panasonic (Freeview Play) offer on similarly-priced and specified TVs.

Verdict

Short on HDR content? Create it yourself. What Samsung calls HDR+ is the key feature to get excited about on this, its entry-level 'true' HDR TV – aka UHD Premium – which offers detailed and involving, yet subtle, images imbued with luscious colour and throughly decent black levels.

It's not perfect – restricted viewing angles and visible edge LED backlighting see to that – but its great-value images are joined by Samsung's light-touch Smart Hub, which makes finding what you were watching on Netflix or Amazon so, so easy.

However, it's with native HDR or up-rezzed HDR+ material that this sumptuously designed 55-incher most impresses – feed the UE55KS7000 a Hi-Def or 4K diet and watch it purr.


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