We’re more used to manufacturers unveiling whole ranges of TVs at CES, but Samsung broke with tradition this year and gave its whole TV focus to a single set, in the form of its flagship KS9500.
A curved, 4K HDR set, it’s the company’s first official Quantum Dot display and comes with a improved user interface and IoT smarts. Read on for our first impressions.
Samsung hasn’t been shy in its support for curved screens and so it’s no surprise that its flagship set features a gently curved design.
While we’re still not convinced on any viewing benefits from a curved set, there’s no doubt that they look nice, and the KS9500 certainly cuts a striking shape.
This is helped by the fact that Samsung has managed to do away with the bezel here, telling us that the very, very slim border around the screen is actually the frame that holds the display.
It’s not just the front view that’s been considered though – Samsung has implemented what it’s calling a “360-degree design”, so there are no visible screws on the front or back.
Instead, the back panel has a smooth, unblemished finish, with all ports once again situated in Samsung’s separate One Connect box. The single connection between the box and the TV and power input are hidden behind a removable panel.
It’ll be available in 49, 55, 65 and 78in screen sizes.
More after the break
The KS9500 is the first Samsung TV to be officially labelled up as using Quantum Dot colour technology, even though its 2015 Nano Crystal tech was basically just that.
Why it’s decided to do this after pushing the Nano Crystal message so hard is a little unclear – Samsung says there are some small differences between the two, but it seems that ultimately it was a case of changing the name to help make things clearer for consumers.
The panel in the KS9500 is a 4K, 10-bit display with support for HDR. It’s an edge lit set, which is somewhat strange for a flagship TV, but with a peak brightness of 1000 nits, it’s capable of brightness levels we’d usually expect from a direct-lit picture.
This helps to increase the contrast levels between the light and dark in pictures, plus makes the screen punchy no matter the lighting levels in the room.
This is supported by Samsung’s Ultra Black technology, which aims to reduce glare and reflections. Even on the very bright show floor, it managed to do a reasonable job at keeping them at bay, particularly when compared with its 2015 sets.
Picture quality on the whole looked very impressive indeed. We saw a range of demo clips of various bright objects and scenarios, and pictures looked sharp, vibrant and full of detail.
The colour palette appeared a little on the warm side – a red stiletto that was being filmed and displayed on the screen was a touch overdone for our more neutral tastes, though we’re not sure what picture processing technology could have been having a negative effect.
HDR content was as impressive as ever, giving more depth to images and offering up improved detail in the dark and light areas of a scene.
A video taken from the inside of a holiday home and looking out of a window was able to highlight both the vibrancy of the fabrics inside while still showing detail and depth to the clouds in the sky.
A video of waves crashing on to a beach was able to pick out subtlety and texture in the spray, where a non-HDR set looked much flatter, and unable to display the same nuances.
We’d want to wait until to we get the set into our testing rooms before we pass much more of a critical opinion on it, but from our short time with the set, it certainly seems Samsung is set to build on its successes of 2015.
With its 2016 TVs, Samsung has introduced an improved Smart Hub, which aims to deliver a simpler, much more streamlined approach in getting you to your content quicker.
A bar appears along the bottom without interrupting what you’re watching, which allows you to flick between channels, on demand content, sources and settings in one place.
There’s a two-tier design, so when you have something highlighted, you’ll get a second window above it with suggested content.
Depending on what you have selected, this could be favourite channels, sources or settings based on usage, and in the case of on-demand content, suggested programs to watch. These appear right within Samsung’s UI, without the need to launch a separate app (though this depends on the service provider allowing this).
Samsung also has a new feature called Smart Control, which will automatically recognise any hardware connected to the TV over HDMI and set it up for you, allowing you to control it using the Samsung Smart Remote included in the box.
For example, it will allow you to navigate around your Xbox menu, and even control your set top box guide (though we only saw this demonstrated with American services, we understand UK services are still TBC).
Samsung says Smart Control should work with a large majority of external hardware, but that it’s working on the compatibility of more all the time.
Finally, Samsung has built in Internet of Things hub technology on the KS9500, and all of its 2016 SUHD TVs. This allows you to use your TV to control over 200 SmartThings devices, from light bulbs to door bells, plus you can set 'routines' for things to happen automatically at certain times of the day or with certain behaviour.
The whole interface certainly looks as slick as we’ve come to expect from Samsung, with the new functionality really looking like a good addition to the experience and ease of use.
From our short time with Samsung’s KS9500, it certainly looks to tick all the boxes of a flagship TV, while aiming to follow on from all the manufacturer achieved last year. With a combination of great picture quality and slick usability, we can’t wait to take a closer look.
MORE: CES 2016 highlights