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Samsung UE55C9000 3D TV Review

Samsung UE55C9000

Rating: ★★★★★

Designed with money-no-object flair, the models – available in 40, 46 and 55-inch sizes – combine the very latest in LED backlighting techniques and picture processing modes with 3D capability.

They are, in every sense of the word, ‘statement’ products.

These models currently have no equal when it comes to design and build quality. Finished in gleaming aluminium, the Samsung UE55C9000 reviewed here is just 33.9mm deep. At first glance the screen appears to be an optical illusion. In reality, it’s an astounding piece of consumer electronics engineering.

The back-panel is sheet metal with no overt air vents. There’s a consequence to the slimness, though. The back panel rim is too slim to support AV inputs, so they are relegated to the rear of the stand. This in itself is pretty thin, so the set is supplied with a selection of adaptors, which come with pinch-locks to secure them in place.

Adapters

There’s scant space between some of the ports. Once you’ve added the Scart and LAN adaptors it is very difficult to remove them, as there’s barely room to squeeze the locking lugs to allow you to pull them free. Having an adaptor for an Ethernet cable also seems odd, as the rim does appear to be deep enough to support a native connection.

The four HDMI leads can be connected directly. To the side are USB ports to accommodate the supplied Wi-Fi dongle. This can be used to take the set online and/or to connect to the set’s touchscreen remote.

It’s worth noting that the set ships with a low-profile WMN1000B wall mount. This enables you to hang the screen like a painting (the set weighs 20.4Kg).

Wall mount

Samsung UE55C9000: Features

The UE55C900 is full to the brim with features. It is fully network compliant and also offers access to the brand’s own content portal, Internet@TV.

Internet@TV

So not only can you access your media across your home network, pulling digital still images, music and video from PCs and NAS devices (there’s support for JPEG, MP3, DivX, MKV and AVI extensions), you can also browse YouTube, check-in with Facebook and stream movies from LoveFilm. Samsung’s own App store offers a range of simplistic games and more choices are promised for later this year.

UI streaming

Series 9 sets also ship with Samsung’s ambitious Wi-Fi-enabled ‘Touch Control’ remoteThis can be used in various ways, from standard controller to streaming TV viewer. For the latter to work you need to pair the remote to the Wi-Fi dongle, or your network at large.

Samsung UE55C9000: Ease of use

Ease of use is generally good. The user interface is, for the most part, extremely well designed and attractive. Navigating the set’s features is aided by some lovely artwork. Unlike Panasonic’s TV listings interface, the EPG is clean and attractive. Only the Wi-Fi implementation really needs a rethink.

The supplied touchscreen remote looks like the bee’s knees, but proves to be a headache to use and some regular users might not persevere after initial frustrations.

While the set has an extremely well designed and intuitive user interface for most of its functions, the Wi-Fi component is impenetrable and some of its dialogue boxes are laugh-out-loud obtuse.

User interface

The remote is not really worth the hassle of trying to partner with the set because it falters with general usability. The touchscreen requires you to scrutinise every finger dab, as it’s incredibly easy to hit the wrong part.

The right-hand side of the directional navigator is positioned alongside the ‘Exit’ button and it’s very easy to quit a command inadvertently after connecting with the wrong graphic. The battery life is also limited: it can only just manage a day’s use, and once depleted has to be recharged via a USB wall socket.

Remote

Samsung UE55C9000: Picture quality

The 2D picture clarity of this set is startling. Detail levels are phenomenal. If it’s in the source material you’ll see it on the screen. This revelatory approach will have you searching for the very best source hardware you can find.

The set uses edge-mounted LED backlighting (hence the screen’s astounding slimness), and illumination is pleasingly even. As a result, black levels are deep and consistent, and colour fidelity high. As with all LCDs, perceived black levels are higher in a well-lit room than in a darkened environment (plasma, of course, is the opposite), but there is no impression of creeping greyness.

Pictures from the Freeview HD tuner are terrific and improve even further with Blu-ray.

The set has excellent deinterlacing, with no jaggies. Black level and greyscale is excellent. Simon Lee, Samsung’s R&D chief suggests 45 as the ideal brightness level for the screen, although you might be tempted to edge it a little lower.

Judging from the Belle-Nuit testchart, the black level really should be pitched around the low to mid-30s, although for general viewing this will appear too dark. Around 42 brightness should suffice for most purposes.

One area of traditional weakness for LCD is motion resolution, and multiple solutions have been used over the years to improve this (high frame rates, black frame insertion, flickering backlights and so on). The UE55C9000 shows how far these techniques have come.

Using a motion resolution test pattern developed by the Advanced PDP Development Centre, there is a noticeable drop-off in clarity during movement, but it is modest. Average motion resolution drops from 1,080 lines to between 850-950 depending on the settings deployed on the screen. You lose a little more clarity with very fast motion.

A secondary test pattern, which comprises scrolling English and Japanese text, fairs well. Only when luminance drops to 30 per cent does significant image blur becomes apparent.

Test pattern

It’s worth noting that there is no mode on the set which offers 1:1 pixel matching. Every viewing option features an element of overscan. Given that there is no need for overscan when playing Blu-ray, we feel there should be at least one mode that offers it.

Samsung UE55C9000: 3D performance

There is clearly already a formidable rivalry between Panasonic and Samsung when it comes to claiming best overall 3D performance.

The UE55C9000 offers a wide range of 3D viewing formats: frame sequential Full HD 3D (Blu-ray), side-by-side (Sky and other forward-thinking broadcasters), top and bottom and checkerboard.

As is clear from an exhaustive workout using Monsters Vs Aliens and various test discs, along with the Xbox 360 game of Avatar and the Sky 3D TV channel, the set’s 3D performance is very good indeed. Images have genuine depth and retain colour vibrancy despite the glass filtering.

The most contentious issue for Home 3D is crosstalk; this manifests itself as a double-image created when picture information in the left/right eye channels overlapIt can be avoided and/or disguised by fast refresh rates and response times, as well as through aggressive filtering via 3D glasses. But if you look for it, you will find it on most screens. Certainly, it’s evident on the Samsung UE55C9000.

Samsung bundles the 3D Blu-ray of Monsters Vs Aliens with its 3D glasses. The disc itself provides a couple of good test sequences. The opening church steeple sequence in itself is quite revealing of Crosstalk.

Image quality

To improve motion clarity and minimise crosstalk effects, Samsung has adopted a picture processing technique called Dual Black Insertion. The 60Hz per eye refresh rate is upped to 240Hz, but instead of a left/left/right/right image refresh (which is the approach used by Sony), we’re treated to a left/black-frame/right/black-frame on-going sequence.

Samsung currently offers a few different styles of 3D glasses and this set ships with a single pair of the SSG-2100AB Active Shutter model. Battery life is rated at 50 hours. They do not rob the screen of too much brightness and they are light, mainly because the LCD lenses are not fully enclosed in plastic rims. This does make them a little fragile, though, and our pair didn’t survive being accidentally sat upon in a darkened test room.

3D glasses

It’s interesting to note that the 3D as viewed here is brighter than you’ll find at your local multiplexThe filtering also translates to a difference in white balance.

Like Samsung’s first crop of 3D screens, the set can convert 2D material to 3D on the fly. This is a fairly contentious technology, and a number of different vendors have their own approach to this, but Samsung arguably does it better than any other current implementation.

The company uses a proprietary algorithm that analyses the incoming signal for depth separation; the image is broken down into 96 segments and then layered to create a stereoscopic 3D image. There are slight vertical black bars left and right, but the effect is often fine. The 3D is unpredictable, but if you stick to a high-quality source (Blu-ray or HD TV) you can get some good results; cinematic material generally looks better than studio fare. The finale of Lost was surprisingly effective.

Samsung UE55C9000: Sound and value

You might expect a blade-thin TV to have insubstantial audio, but the UE55C9000 confounds when it comes to sound.

Its speakers are cleverly located in its pedestal, facing forward across its width and unless you’re seeking them out, you won’t spot them. However, they deliver a well-rounded stereo spread. Naturally, there are a variety of processing modes, but for most use you can leave the screen on ‘SRS Movie’Power output is rated at 30w (2 x 15W).

In movie viewing we would still recommend utilising a separate multichannel sound system, but for every-day use the screen is fine.

Value

Value is more difficult to accessClearly, much of the cost of the UE55C9000 is tied up in that gloriously engineered chassis. Ultimately, this is not a screen you’ll audition if you’re on a budget.

This is for lovers of the extraordinary; viewers who hanker for something a little bit special. A number of brands exist in this niche, catering for well-heeled customers, but it’s unlikely that the likes of Loewe and Bang & Olufsen could have foreseen being shown a clear pair of heels by Samsung.

Samsung UE55C9000: Verdict

Samsung ue55c9000

The Samsung UE55C9000 is the most ambitious LED LCD TV you can buy. Beautifully designed, with leading-edge electronics, it’s a worthy flagship product from the world’s biggest TV maker.

Two-dimensional pictures are terrific, images are extra-sharp and the use of LED backlighting aids black levels immeasurably. The feature set, with well considered online and network capability, is also on the money.

The 3D compatibility almost seems like an afterthought, but performance is very good, although crosstalk artefacts are there if you want to look for them. Overall, this is a fabulous TV proposition.

We liked

The gorgeous design and finish on this set, along with the astoundingly sharp picture quality. The screen’s multimedia abilities impress, both in terms of networking stream and the richness of Samsung’s online content portal. The 2D to 3D conversion is also impressive.

We disliked

The Touch Control remote zapper is far too fiddly to use and its Wi-Fi implementation is wanting. Integrated Wi-Fi would make more sense than a dongle. There is also crosstalk evident in the set’s 3D image, which may be noticeable depending on the kind of 3D material viewed.

There is no zero-overscan, 1:1 pixel matching mode. And of course, you’re going to need deep pockets to buy into the Series 9 experience.

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Pros

  • Incredible image clarity
  • Freeview HD tuner
  • DNLA networking
  • High-end design

Cons

  • Touch Control remote
  • 3D crosstalk artefacts
  • Wallet-numbing price

Verdict

It’s expensive, but it very much looks the part. And if you’re more
interested in the visual performance than the aesthetics, there’s always
the brand’s step-down Series 8 range.

Overall, this is a
remarkable LED LCD screen. It exceeds expectations in most areas and
stands as a shining example of just how well Samsung can do high-end
screens.


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