Samsung UNKS8000 series review in China (UN65KS8000) 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV

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Samsung UNKS8000 series review in China (UN65KS8000) 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
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THE GOOD The Samsung KS8000 has a good picture for bright rooms, accurate color and superb video processing. Samsung incorporates unique devices and smart home control features, tied together with a simple remote and interface. The design is sleek and minimalist.

THE BAD It’s more expensive than some TVs that perform better. It also lacks analog video inputs.

THE BOTTOM LINE A bright image and plenty of smart extras will help the Samsung KS8000 gain some followers, but its picture falls short of the competition.

For the last couple of years Samsung, the world’s number one TV maker, has used “SUHD” to induce you to pay more for its high-end TVs. The S doesn’t stand for any particular word, according to the company, but the UHD is an abbreviation for Ultra High Definition, aka 4K.

The KS8000 series reviewed here is currently Samsung’s least-expensive SUHD TV for 2016, promising improved picture quality over the company’s cheaper 4K TVs. In our tests its image was impressive in some ways, but not up to the overall level of some competitors from Sony and Vizio. The S doesn’t mean “superior” picture quality, at least with this TV.

The S could stand for “smarter” though. The KS8000, along with many 2016 Samsung TVs, has the ability to control your devices with its included remote, and can recognize many just by plugging them in. It can also control SmartThings Smart Home gear, like lights and thermostats. And of course it delivers streaming video from the usual sources like Amazon and Netflix, with a new simpler interface.

For most buyers, however, those extras aren’t the highest priority. The KS8000 is an appealing, capable television with plenty of features and great style, but people who prize picture quality can do better for the price.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch Samsung UN65KS8000, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Samsung also makes a few closely related models. The KS8500 series is basically the same as this TV but with a curved screen. The step-up KS9000/KS9500 series add a few more picture-affecting features, that may provide some improvement, but we doubt they’ll be significantly better than the KS8000 in picture quality. See Features below for more details.

Device control: Easy setup, but needs more support

Samsung’s new control system comes closer to emulating a good universal remote than any TV we’ve seen. The biggest advantage is ease of setup: Simply plugging in a device during initial TV setup is often enough to get the TV to recognize it and completely set up control using Samsung’s TV remote. This unique auto setup ability worked for a little over half the ones I tried. That’s not bad, but it’s hardly “universal.”

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For supported cable boxes, control is particularly impressive and allows you to ditch your cable company clicker for most commands. My Fios box was automatically integrated into the TV’s Home menu bar complete with its own Fios icon. The TV’s on-screen display let me select the box’s own guide (also accessible by pressing the remote’s “channel” button), its DVR recordings or its main menu, all easily navigable using Samsung’s TV remote.

The TV remote can also pause and fast-forward through commercials, although it relied on a pop-up menu instead of dedicated buttons, and the all-important forward-skip isn’t available — just fast-forward. You can also set up favorite channels on the Home menu that tune your cable box, and direct-dial channel numbers using another (tedious) pop-up.

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Other devices, when they’re detected and controllable, work well too, but many I tried are left in the cold, either not detected at all or unable to be controlled via the remote. Here’s the results for all 16 devices I tested for this review.

Other downsides? You’ll need to plug your stuff directly into the TV, so if your setup incorporates an AV receiver it won’t work. The system mostly relies on infrared commands sent from Samsung’s remote, so you’ll need line-of-sight to control most devices (if your stuff is hidden in a cabinet, it won’t work).

In the end I’d stick with my Harmony, but people with simpler systems that use supported devices might be fine using just Samsung’s remote to control everything.

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Simplified remote, sleek TV design

Although it’s missing the cool motion control found on past Samsung clickers, the new remote’s design is very good. It’s small enough to fit anyone’s hand, yet feels substantial. Bumps, depressions and logical placement make finding keys by feel with a thumb as easy as on any clicker I’ve ever used. I’m an especially big fan of the raised flanges for volume and channel.

With a remote designed for universal control, however, I would have appreciated backlighting, as well as a few more keys–in particular dedicated fast-forward, rewind and skip keys.

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Samsung’s overall TV design is superb, as usual. The set is mostly black when seen from the front, including a very thin border on the top and sides of the screen. The bottom is thicker and silver, and matches the detachable stand legs. I love that you can choose two different positions for the legs — splayed far to the sides or closer to the center — depending on your furniture or personal preference.

Smart TV: So-so app support, slick integration

With an all-new design yet again, Samsung’s homegrown Tizen-based smart TV system is very good for a TV, but app coverage isn’t as comprehensive as Android TV (on Sony sets) or Roku TV. If your streaming tastes go beyond the basic apps, you will probably still need to connect an external devicelike a Roku or Apple TV.

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4K streaming with HDR is available from Netflix and Amazon. There’s a Vudu app (as of press time it hadn’t been updated to support 4K or HDR), an UltraFlix app with some niche 4K content and, of course, 4K support on the YouTube app.

Other apps are hit or miss. You get Hulu, Plex, both HBOs (Go and Now), Pluto TV, MLB TV and Pandora, for example, but Samsung’s system is still missing Showtime (or Anytime), Sling TV, Watch ESPN, CBS All Access, PBS, PBS Kids, Google Play Movies and TV and Spotify. Roku and Android TV have all of those, and many more niche apps than Samsung.

Samsung incorporates content more seamlessly than other TVs, though. Click the Home button and you’ll be able to browse content from within apps like Netflix and Hulu while your current video keeps playing in the background. The menu even serves suggestions and, on some apps, lets you resume stuff you were watching previously.

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Search is another strong suit and, like Roku, it incorporates results from Netflix and Amazon, complete with pricing. It also ostensibly supports your cable service, although that feature didn’t seem to work well in my tests. Searches for “baseball” and “evening news” came up blank, for example. At least voice recognition was decent.

Overall, Samsung’s new menu design makes finding content from apps, other devices and even your cable box easier than other TV systems, but most people will end up using their external device menus anyway.

KEY TV FEATURES

Display technology: LED LCD
LED backlight: Edge-lit with local dimming
Resolution: 4K
HDR compatible: HDR10
Screen shape: Flat
Smart TV: Tizen
Remote: Standard
3D capable: No

Features

The main image quality feature separating Samsung “SUHD” TVs from regular LED LCD TVs is Quantum Dots, which consist of microscopic nanocrystals that glow at a specific wavelength (or color) when given energy. Used as an additional layer in the traditional LED LCD TV sandwich, they enable the TV to achieve improved light output and color compared to other TVs and to the company’s 2015 sets, according to Samsung. According to our tests those claims have merit, but it’s also worth remembering that despite all those fancy marketing terms, at heart these are LED LCD TVs, not a different display technology like OLED.

The KS8000 has an edge-lit LED backlight with local dimming, and unlike Vizio, Samsung doesn’t disclose the number of dimming zones. It does say that the “Supreme UHD Dimming” found on step-up models like the KS9000 and KS9500 denotes even more zones, although we doubt that will deliver a big improvement in image quality. The same goes for the “Auto Depth Enhancer,” a processing feature on Samsung’s curved TVs like the KS9500 and KS8500.

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The set supports HDR (high dynamic range) content in HDR10 format only. It lacks the Dolby Vision HDR support found on Vizio’s and LG’s 2016 HDR TVs. It’s still too early to determine whether one HDR format is “better” than the other, and I definitely don’t consider lack of Dolby Vision a deal breaker on this TV–instead it’s just one more factor to consider. Check out my article on the HDR format war for more.

Like most other 4K TVs the KS8000 uses a 120Hz native panel. It offers Samsung’s Motion Rate 240 processing with black frame insertion to improve motion resolution. According to Samsung, the Supreme MR 240 feature on step-up models like the KS9000 analyses scenes before performing the insertion, which might deliver a slight improvement over the KS8000, but again we don’t expect it to be drastically better.

Unlike high-end TVs from LG and Sony this year, the KS8000 does not support 3D. Samsung has yet to make any announcements about support for its novel evolution kit upgrades, either for 2015 sets or for future upgrade kit support for its 2016 models.

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Connectivity

  • 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2
  • 3x USB ports (2x version 2.0, 1x version 3.0)
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • RF (antenna) input
  • Remote (RS-232) port (EX-LINK)

This list is mostly solid, unless you happen to own a legacy device that requires analog video (component or composite) or audio. The KS8000 is the first TV I’ve seen that doesn’t at least offer one analog input (audio or video).

Almost all of the ports are located on the external OneConnect Mini box, which connects to the TV via a 9-foot umbilical. The exceptions are the single USB 3.0 (labeled “IoT extend”), the Ethernet port and the RS-232 minijack, which requires Samsung’s EX-LINK cable.

And what is IoT Extend, you ask? It’s the port designed to accept the company’s SmartThings Extend control dongle. The dongles will allow the TVs to control SmartThings devices via an app on the TV, and are expected to ship this September. They’re available free to owners of this TV who redeem a coupon included in the box. Maybe the integration of the platform into TVs will push Samsung to iron out some of SmartThings’ glitches.

Picture quality

The KS8000 performs very well in bright rooms and with brighter material, but in demanding home theater environments it didn’t look its best. Black levels are relatively light, and Samsung’s dimming didn’t perform as well as the competition to enhance contrast. Uniformity along the edges is also an issue, especially noticeable with letterbox bars and HDR material.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV’s picture controls worked during calibration.

Dim lighting: The KS8000 was a middling performer in my lineup in a dark room. Its black levels weren’t as deep as the LG OLED, the JS9500, the Sony or the Vizio, leading to a more washed-out look in dark scenes. During “The Revenant,” for example, the letterbox bars and shadows were noticeably lighter in the Chapter 4 scene where Hugh reassures his son Hawk at the campsite.

I also noticed more blooming on the KS8000, where bright areas would spill over and illuminate the letterbox bars and other dark areas, hurting the perception of contrast. The bottom edge of the TV, right next to the bottom frame, also often appeared brighter than the rest of the image, especially below a highlight. I chalk this issue up to limitations with the KS8000’s edge-lit system, and it’s something the edge-lit Sony and the full-array Vizio handled much more cleanly.

The KS8000 did outperform the JU7100 and the LG LCD at delivering a deep black, however. Its shadow detail was also very good, beating the Vizio in particular at exposing the full range of shadows.

Bright lighting: One of Samsung’s biggest claims for its 2016 TVs revolves around light output, and the KS8000 certainly delivers an extremely bright image. With SDR sources it beat all of the other TVs in our lineup with the exception of the Sony and the JS9500.

With HDR sources it trounced all of them with an incredible 1300-odd nits peak, but unlike some others (such as the Sony), the KS8000 can’t maintain this HDR peak continuously. I took multiple measurements over a minute of feeding it the static window pattern I use to measure, and it peaked at between 10 and 21 seconds in, then fell over the remaining course of the minute, hitting a stable level of around 580 nits (still brighter than the Vizio’s HDR peak).

When I asked Samsung about this behaviour their reps claimed it was related to the power supply, and correctly pointed out that real program material (as opposed to test patterns) moves and fluctuates in brightness and almost never asks the TV to continually blast out the brightest levels over extended periods of time. HDR highlights, for example, typically consist of glints of sunlight and other bright patches that come and go quickly.

LIGHT OUTPUT COMPARISON

Light output in nits
TV Mode (SDR) 10 percent window (SDR) Full screen (SDR) Mode (HDR) 10 percent window (HDR)
Samsung UN65JS9500 Dynamic 958 411 Movie 884
Sony XBR-65X930D Vivid 926 492 HDR Auto 923
Samsung UN65KS8000 Dynamic 618 480 Movie 1346
LG 55UH8500 Vivid 610 403 HDR Bright 601
Vizio P65-C1 Vivid 502 572 Calibrated Dark 468
Samsung UN65JU7100 Dynamic 496 478 [did not test] N/A
Samsung UN65KS8000 Movie 480 478 Movie 1346
LG 65EF9500 Vivid 431 146 Cinema 399

Samsung talked about its moth’s eye-inspired screen finish on this set, and it does indeed dim reflections more effectively than the glossier JU7100, JS9500, and all of the other TVs in the lineup with the exception of the even more matte UH8500. It didn’t preserve black levels quite as effectively as those other Samsungs, however, nor the LG OLED or Sony. Still, the combination of the new screen finish and brighter image makes the KS8000 one of the best bright-room TVs I’ve ever tested.

Color accuracy: The KS8000 was among the best sets in my lineup at reproducing accurate color, running neck and neck with the Sony for overall winner in terms of measurements — and both so close to ideal, they were basically a wash.

The measurements didn’t lie during “The Revenant.” The Samsung rendered the natural beauty of the outdoor landscapes, the green trees and the blue rivers and skies extremely well, and kept the white of the snow neutral and correct. As usual, however, all of the TVs in my lineup were capable of very accurate color, and it would be tough to pick a winner outside of a side-by-side comparison.

Video processing: The Samsung performed like a champ in this category, delivering superb motion resolution at the same time it handled the 24-frame cadence of film correctly. To achieve that combination, which no other TV in our lineup could, I set the Auto Motion Plus control to Custom, with Blur Reduction 10 and Judder Reduction zero.

Peak motion resolution was achieved in the Auto setting, although I’d avoid that with film-based sources unless you’re a fan of the Soap Opera Effect. The LED Clear Motion setting cleaned up the image even more, but caused flicker and dimmed the image, so I left it turned off.

The Samsung’s Game mode, easily accessible from the main Picture menu (a welcome change), measured an excellent 22ms of input lag, among the best I’ve ever tested.

Uniformity: The KS8000 was the worst TV in my lineup in this category. Its extreme top and bottom edges glowed brighter than the rest of the screen. The effect was visible in all kinds of scenes, particularly dark ones but also very bright ones. As I mentioned above, it appeared in movies with letterbox bars, but I also saw it in other program material. I wouldn’t call it a deal-breaker, but it might be enough to bother some viewers.

From off-angle the KS8000 wasn’t any worse or better than the other LED LCDs in the lineup, although its blooming and uniformity issues became more visible from seats to either side of the sweet spot directly in front of the screen.

HDR and 4K video: Despite the massive differences in light output, the KS8000’s HDR strengths and weaknesses were very similar to those of its standard dynamic range image. Its lighter black levels and less-uniform screen were even more visible with HDR since it calls for a maxed-out backlight setting, and overall its HDR image fell short of the Sony and Vizio.

I didn’t spend much time comparing the other sets in my lineup, since HDR comparisons are a bit of a pain (among other issues, I don’t yet have the equipment to distribute identical HDR images to multiple TVs via HDMI), and those two are the Samsung’s most direct competition among the sets I have available now.

I began with Marco Polo on Netflix, which still looks great but lacks the punch of some other HDR content. The Samsung delivered somewhat more accurate color than the Vizio — which looked relatively purplish in dark scenes — but the Samsung’s more washed-out blacks and shadows led to a reduced perception of contrast, and overall I preferred the look of the Vizio. The Sony looked better than either one, with a less washed-out image than the Samsung due to better black levels, punchier highlights than the Vizio and more accurate color, in particular skin tones, than both.

The HDR version of “The Revenant” is the best-looking home video content I’ve seen, period, and its natural skies and sunlight really benefit from the increased dynamic range. It looked very good on the Samsung, with plenty of punch in highlights, but that washed-out effect was visible again in darker areas. The Sony, despite also being a high-brightness, edge-lit display with maxed-out backlight settings, again delivered superior black levels and shadows to the Samsung, for much better pop and contrast.

I also preferred the Vizio to the KS8000 when I compared them with the HDR versions of “San Andreas,” streaming in Dolby Vision from Vudu on the Vizio and spinning on 4K Blu-ray to the Samsung. The Samsung showed a light output advantage in bright, outdoor scenes and highlights, but that was more than overcome by the Vizio’s deeper black levels, which led to better contrast and punch in most scenes.

The Samsung does have one setup advantage with HDR from Samsung’s UBD-K8500 4K Blu-ray player, however. With most TVs (including the Sony), you need to manually change a certain picture setting or the image will suffer artifacts, the most obvious of which is banding in gradations. That’s not necessary when you connect the UBD-K8500 to one of Samsung’s 2016 HDR TVs.

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On Samsung sets this setting is called “HDMI UHD Color” and you can set to either On (for HDR devices) or Off (for other devices). A Samsung rep told me that I could leave it set to the default Off setting and HDR from the K8500 player would be rendered properly, automatically. In my tests it worked. With the TV in Off the telltale skies and dust from “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” were free of banding, while on the Samsung JS9500 from 2015 I needed to turn the setting On to get the same result. If I left it Off on that TV, or didn’t turn on the equivalent settings on other TVs like the LG EF9500 or Sony X930D, the image didn’t look right. Notably, LG’s 2016 TVs automatically detected the Samsung player as well.

The Samsung was also able to pass the full resolution of 4K from YouTube, and played through a suite of 4K test patterns from Florian Friedrich with no issues.

GEEK BOX

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.007 Good
Peak white luminance (100%, SDR) 180 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.23 Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.352 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.452 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.647 Good
Avg. color error 1.112 Good
Red error 1.431 Good
Green error 0.449 Good
Blue error 1.421 Good
Cyan error 1.511 Good
Magenta error 0.966 Good
Yellow error 0.891 Good
Avg. saturations error 1.3469 Good
Avg. luminance error 1.98 Good
Avg. color checker error 2.3348 Good
Percent gamut Wide (DCI/P3, HDR) 93 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200 Good
Input lag (Game mode) 22.03 Good
Price: US$446 Now  Buy
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