Decked out in polished black glass, aluminum and brushed steel accents, there’s no denying that the 65-inch Series 9 Curved Ultra HD LED TV is a stunner.
The premium materials that make this Samsung look so good also make it solid (and heavy) as a rock: With its stand attached it weighs just under 27 kilograms (hanging that on a wall, should you choose to do so, could require some serious engineering). No matter whether you opt to mount it or leave it sitting on its stand, this flagship device will dominate any living room.
As its name suggests, the Series 9 UHD TV comes with a curved display. This curvature of the viewing surface, along with Samsung’s Depth Enhancer technology, is said to provide greater depth of field and greater viewing angles than a traditional flat panelled LED television can afford. But after spending close to a month watching television and digital movies and playing games on the hardware from various positions throughout my test lab, I can’t say I noticed a discernible difference between what the Series 9’s curved display and depth-creating software provides over a regular big-screen display. What was apparent, however, was the quality of the images. This television’s upscaling technology made everything I threw at it look better than it had a right to: low-quality digital broadcast television content, 1080p Blu-Ray video and 3D games pushed out by my PlayStation 3 (the set comes with four pairs of 3D glasses) and video streamed by Google’s Chromecast and an Apple TV all looked great – as good or better than I’ve ever seen on a television display.
But the real treat the Series 9 has in store for viewers is what the display can do with 4K content. Streaming episodes of Breaking Bad in 4K resolution from Netflix to the the Series 9’s 3840 x 2160 pixel display gave me an education in the future of home entertainment. If or when 4K video becomes the norm rather than the exception – which is a few years down the road at least – our eyeballs are in for an immersive ultra-clear treat with true-to-life colours and deep, rich blacks.
Sadly, the future isn’t here yet. Without a lot of 4K content to watch, it is difficult to justify spending $5,500 for a living-room screen. As with most new technologies, the this ultra-high-definition tech comes with a steep price that will no doubt drop as more brands with comparable products enter the market. Proof of this can be found in any Walmart, where displays that might have cost close to $1,000 four or five years can be had for under $300.
Unless you’re a person that needs to have the very best of everything as soon as it becomes available, the lack of ready-to-watch 4K content means you’re better off waiting to buy a television with these features. That said, first isn’t always best. While the Series 9 cuts a stunning profile and comes packing near-term future-proof viewing technology, the smart TV software baked into the system was far from stellar. The television’s menu system stuttered and at times even froze, forcing me to restart the unit as if it were a balky old Windows PC.
There was also a notable lack of coherence in the software’s third-party app integration. Some apps like Netflix and Skype (the later capable of making video calls due to a webcam built into the top of the Series 9’s chassis,) looked beautiful and worked well. Not so for the weather app, which was a hot mess. None, however, shared a similar interface and this could make for a long learning curve for some users. When you consider the fact that a $100 device like an Apple TV comes with a unified, easy to use graphic user interface, there’s no excuse for a device costing roughly fifty times more not to offer the same level of user-friendliness.
Sadly, the problems with controlling the Series 9 do not end here. The remote Samsung ships can also act as an on-screen digital pointer: the movements of the remote in your hand will be mirrored by a dot on the screen’s UI to show you what you’re pointing at. In my testing the pointer often became lost or refused to budge despite my frantic waving, which is certainly a disappointment.
One last interesting feature is Samsung’s a solution to tidy up the nest of wires and cables you need to connect your home theatre devices to the set. All the ports are housed in a separate enclosure dubbed the One Connect that has only one proprietary cable you need to conceal. The One Connect hub has an optical audio connection, USB 2.0 ports and a high-speed USB 3.0 port, a connection for a cable or satellite box, audio and IR out ports, four HDMI ports and an Ethernet port. All this connectivity ensures that it’ll likely meet the current and future home theatre needs of most users.
With a gorgeous curved display, clever depth-of-field enhancement technology, built-in applications and the capability to playback video in resolutions up to 4K, the 65-inch Samsung Series 9 Curved UHD LED TV provides one of the best viewing experiences I’ve ever encountered. But with its $5,500 asking price and a number of irritating shortcomings, even early adopters can afford to avoid this high-end piece of hardware… at least until it sees a significant price drop or feature improvement.