The Samsung Series 9 is a 55in 3D LED television that is a mere 7.8mm thick across its entire panel, with a stunning side profile and excellent construction. Its picture quality is good and it has a huge range of integrated features that we haven't seen on any other television before. However, these unique features come at a very substantial price and there are aspects we're not in love with, like the fiddly touchscreen remote control.
Samsung Series 9: Design, connectivity and included accessories
Samsung has clearly put a lot of effort into the design and construction of the Samsung Series 9, and the end result is one of the best-looking televisions to grace our Test Centre. It is incredibly thin even for an edge-lit LED television, at 7.8mm deep across the panel. The television's bezel and base are constructed of polished brushed stainless steel and the entire panel is very well constructed. When moving the television on its swivel stand, it does not wobble or flex — given how thin the large is, this is an impressive achievement.
To cut down on the thickness of the edge-lit LED TV panel, all the electronic trickery of the Samsung Series 9 — the digital tuner, speakers, HDMI inputs, etc. — is hidden in the television's base. This means the stand can't be completely removed; when you're mounting the Series 9 on a wall, the stand attaches to the television's rear and increases overall thickness to around 30mm.
Another inclusion that speaks to the luxurious pretensions of the Samsung Series 9 is the included remote control. It's a similar shape and size to Samsung's regular LCD and plasma television remote controls, but instead of tactile buttons it uses a 3in colour touchscreen display — think of a high-end universal remote like the Logitech Harmony 1100i, except slimmer, sleeker and even more packed with features.
We both love and hate the Series 9's remote control. It looks great and it has some fantastic features — including using the 3in display as a secondary monitor while you're away from the big screen, which is a definite crowd pleaser — but it's simply not as easy or intuitive to use as a remote with real buttons. We got lost in the depth of menus when trying to navigate to functions like 3D playback and Internet@TV (Samsung's video-on-demand service), and the lack of QWERTY keyboard support for entering a Wi-Fi password is astounding.
The remote control also blazes through its battery life, running out of juice within a couple of days in our testing — it then requires charging via a connection to the television's base. It is very pretty though, and if you're content to spend some time learning its ins and outs it may prove to be a perfectly usable device.
The features list of the Samsung Series 9 is one of the lengthiest we've seen on a consumer LCD or plasma television. A 200Hz panel with edge LED lighting, 3D playback with 2D-to-3D conversion, twin HDTV tuners, a diverse video-on-demand and applications service, DLNA network content sharing, digital television recording and playback via a USB hard drive, JPEG photo and AVI movie support. There are few features we can think of that the Samsung Series 9 doesn't have. If you're looking for a future-proof television, the Series 9 is our new benchmark for included features.
As Samsung's most expensive and most technologically advanced television, the Samsung Series 9 has a comprehensive suite of connectivity options. Buyers will be pleased to find the usual four HDMI ports on the television's base, as well as break-out ports for composite and component video, Ethernet and DVI. We were surprised to find that wireless is not integrated into the television, but is instead enabled when plugging in an included USB dongle — taking up a USB port that could have been occupied by a USB hard drive or flash drive. Bafflingly, the television doesn't support Samsung's Skype camera.
Given the television's uber-thin design and fashion-before-function ethos, we were worried about the Samsung Series 9's ability to display a good quality picture with acceptable contrast and clarity. Thankfully the panel acquits itself well. It doesn't have the absolute best picture quality of any television we've seen this year — for that, we'd look at contenders like the Samsung Series 7 or Sony Bravia KDL-46HX800 LED TV — but it achieves good contrast and black levels and has excellent image processing that results in good sharpness and scaling quality.
When we ran The Dark Knight on Blu-ray through the Samsung Series 9, the television performed well in the movie's early high-contrast scenes. Black levels were good although not as deep as plasma, and we were pleased with the amount of detail visible in on-screen highlights. For high quality, high resolution content the Samsung Series 9 is a very good performer. The same can be said of its scaling of lower resolution content — broadcast digital television and DVD video is smoothly upscaled without introducing jagged artefacts or destroying detail.
The Series 9 has a native refresh rate of 200Hz and is able to display high quality video without any noticeable aberrations. Fast panning video and on-screen motion look consistently clean, with no visible jumpiness — this is a testament to the high quality of Samsung's image processing engine in the Series 9.
When adjusted for our test room's lighting conditions, the Samsung Series 9 didn't exhibit any uneven backlight cloudiness or light bloom — an impressive achievement for an edge-lit LED television. If you raise backlight levels and brightness to maximum it is visible, but unless you're viewing the television in a sunlit room this isn't necessary.
Like every 3D television of this generation, the Samsung Series 9 isn't flawless when it comes to displaying stereoscopic content. We tested Coraline and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and found a small amount of stereo crosstalk (indistinct double edges on 3D objects on-screen) and occasional breakup on moving objects against a static background. The Series 9 is one of the stronger performers we've seen when it comes to 3D content, but we wouldn't purchase it purely on its 3D credentials — but the same can be said of any 2010 television whether plasma or LED.
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