Review: Samsung 65" curved 4K Smart-TV

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 14:09 09/07/2014

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REVIEW: I had a couple of weeks to play with Samsung’s top-of-the-line 65 inch 4K television and to mull its three major innovations.

4K televisions have four times the resolution of HD televisions, with a screen resolution of 3840x2160 pixels. As well as being one of the first 4K televisions priced under $10,000, Samsung’s HU9000 television also has one of the concave curved screens that the Korean firm is heavily promoting through television advertisements at the moment.

Its other notable feature is that the “brains” of the television and its cable-inputs are contained a separate box that plugs into the screen, rather than being built into the screen itself. The idea is that the television will be able to be upgraded with faster processors, better connectivity options and newer software, without the need to replace the costly screen.

As you would expect from its size and specifications, the HU9000 provides a stunning picture when viewing native 4K content.

But it was not that easy to tell the difference between true 4K content and films on Blu-ray that the TV “upscaled” to 4K resolution. That’s a good thing; the benefits were brought home in being able to see the detail of rain drops splattering off the pavement in the closing scene of Midnight in Paris on Blu-ray.

HD content was more than passable upscaled on the 65in screen. Standard definition programming pushed through an analogue connection on an old MySky box looked as mediocre as you’d expect, proving the adage, “rubbish in, rubbish out”.

It is not yet clear whether 4K will take off as a broadcast television standard (more on that at the end of this review). But the bottom line on 4K is that as well as perhaps future-proofing your TV, you will get immediate enjoyment from the higher resolution if you watch a lot of programmes on Blu-rays.

The benefits of the HU9000’s curved screen are probably best described as subtle. Samsung says it provides a more “immersive” experience and, rather counter-intuitively, a wider effective field of view. After staring at one on and off for two weeks, trying to decipher the physics and reading screeds from overseas experts on the subject, I’d have to say: “um, could be”.

Despite the curve, the television can still be wall-hung.

The concept of having the brains of a television contained in a separate box is an appealing one, but if the trend catches on, it will mean consumers will need to check they are getting the latest gizmo.

This television was supplied with a unit that contained a quad-core processor and HDMI 2.0 inputs; the latter are important to get the most out of fast-moving 4K action scenes.

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Some other considerations:

❏ The HU9000 is a 3-D television and is supplied with two active-technology glasses, but we found the 3-D experience somewhat disappointing, pushing distant objects into the background rather than pulling the foreground towards the viewer. That may be down to the 3-D footage supplied through Samsung’s app store, but if 3-D is important to you, “try before you buy” and ask the salesperson for a demo.

❏ A soundbar is a must if you are spending this much money on a television. That’s if you want to hear the whispered dialogue on Games of Thrones without waking the kids up with blood-curdling screams when someone is skewered through the neck a few seconds later.

❏ The standard remote-control supplied with the HU9000 looks pretty cheap, but it also comes with a rather nifty wand that projects a cursor on screen and is great for accessing its “smart” online functions. Some have found the wand unwieldy; we liked it.

❏ Easy of use more generally - access to menu systems, smart functions and settings - was good, but could still be more intuitive. Television makers are packing more features into TVs and interface designers are playing catch-up.

❏ The build-quality appears excellent. Samsung strived for years to attain brand-parity with the likes of Japan’s Sony and Panasonic. In this and other products it appears to have succeeded.

My biggest surprise was that I quickly got used to having this monster of a television in the living room. When the review was over, my own 32in television, which I’d previously thought ample, looked the size of a postage stamp. I was relieved to find my family adjusted back to our old television within 24 hours, however.

Now back to the 4K debate: Sky Television says its next-generation of MySky boxes is likely to include support for 4K, but it doesn’t have a release date. In any case, specifying a 4K chipset might just be a cheap insurance policy for the pay-TV firm; it doesn’t mean it is committing to actually broadcast programmes in the higher resolution.

Freeview chief executive Sam Irvine doesn’t believe broadcasters will begin transmitting shows in 4K until they start delivering programming over ultrafast broadband. That is because of the amount of satellite or terrestrial wireless transmission capacity needed to support the resolution.

There is a smattering of 4K content online. United States internet television company Netflix has been an earlier pioneer, streaming a remastered version of hit show Breaking Bad in 4K. The World Cup final in Brazil is also being shot in 4K through a collaboration with Sony.

But the risk is that if 4K doesn’t gain momentum, it could become a just a step on the road to even-higher resolution 8K televisions which may go into mass production as early as 2017.

That said, there is no disadvantage to getting a TV that offers 4K aside from the extra cost and , once again, immediate benefits when watching Blu-rays.

Samsung Model UA65HU9000, current lowest price: $7998.  

Score: ★★★★

- The Dominion Post

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