Samsung UN65HU9000F “2nd day” review

We just bought ourselves Samsung’s 65 inch, Ultra High Def 4k 120hz Smart TV… Ooer.

This is a stunning piece of hardware. We picked the variant with the “one connect” external box. You plug everything into that rather than the TV itself. This has all kinds of advantages.

The display is HUGE. It really is a little bit of a home-theater experience. There are some fantastic presets for picture settings and some clever nuances like three settings for auto-levelling sound (off, standard and night).

For our first night of viewing we broke out an eclectic series of tests.

We plugged in the Xbox one and threw in a Pacific Rim bluray; we threw in a DVD of old 40s, black and white, Sherlock Homes, Heaven Can Wait on DVD and finally Rio on Blu Ray.

Then to streaming, Amazon Instant Video (AIV): The “One Connect” box that comes with our particular model has build in apps, so we tried AIV on both the Xbox and the TV.

I wrapped up the night with a short session of Thief on the Xbone.

Tonight I tried watching a few more shows using solely the TV – some HD YouTube videos, “The Pacific” on AIV and Falling Skies S04E01 on AIV on the TV and on the Xbox.

I have to get this out of my system first: This thing is huge. I almost feel that the sales people tricked us by showing us a 55in TV in the store and then actually shipping us the side of the titanic. When I ambled out of the bedroom into the living room this morning I didn’t manage to catch myself before I’d startled back a couple of feet into a slightly defensive lurch and yelled “WHAT THE” out loud while pointing at the TV.

The picture quality is … look, I’m not sure how else to describe it but confusingly amazing. That’s a good thing, I’m enjoying it. Those moments where you catch yourself in an ape-like posture one hand scratching your crown the other pointing at the TV like maybe it’s actually a leopoard about to eat you, or simply peering quiverlingly at the TV and demanding “WHAT? HOW?”

More to the point: My wife is animatedly talking about the amazing picture quality. END REVIEW.

I don’t know whether its the definition, the technology in the “one connect box” or the curvature of the TV, but everything we’ve watched, even the sherlock homes episodes, had an extra vibrance and depth of clarity to them.

It borders on being a bit too much, honestly. We watched Pacific Rim, which we hadn’t seen before, and we weren’t sure if it was a Syfy rip off; all the scenes had this almost “live action” feel to them.

But then you’d get a special effects scene where that effect continued onto the CGI and ZOMG MIND BLOWN THE HECK AWAY.

“The Pacific”… Just… Wow… You could almost smell the brylcream.

The picture setting defaults are pretty good; “Dynamic” I haven’t figured out what I’ll use that for but I suspect games like Arkham, “Standard” is the default and is quite nice, “Natural” makes things look a little less “what the camera man saw” and “Movie” which reduces the obviousness of the extremely high resolution and gives it a bit more of a theater quality at the cost of some contrast etc. So far we’ve mostly used Natural.

The TV’s built in speakers are pretty good, and there are some smart sound presets. We’re particularly pleased with “Clear Voice” and “Movie”. When Rio started we had the TV in Clear Voice and the intro song was squashed and flat. We switched it to the other settings but Movie really gave it a sense of surround sound with a nice bassy feeling that didn’t actually rumble the floor (the downstairs neighbors started tapping along with the music! JK)

There were also settings for level balancing with three quick defaults: Off, Normal and Night time. I was particularly pleased to find the night time setting and it did a really good job.

Much of what the TV is capable of is controlled by the “one connect” box: they put all the processing stuff into an external box, you link that directly to the tv but everything else plugs into the one connect. This means no fumbling behind the TV trying to find an HDMI port.

The current box does it’s job reasonably well. The menus etc are responsive and comprehensive, and mostly in actual English. There are two remotes: One “universal” giant thing and a tiny mouse-like thing which has a motion sensor so that you can use it as a cross between a remote and a laser-pointer mouse cursor. It’s a nice idea although when you’re trying to use the arrow buttons and it detects your hand movement to press the button… well it takes getting used to.

The “ooo” moments with this unit start as you unbox it. It feels a bit like unpacking luxury in some of the small details. They’d also purposed some of the packaging as an unloading buffer – you need to lay the tv flat to fit the stand/mounting bracket, and a big chunk of the packaging helps with that. We’re considering keeping that, it’s so useful, but it’s a giant piece of packaging… Uhm…

And just when I thought it was being too good to be true, the TV quite happily connected to my Sony DR-50 Bluetooth headphones and conveyed beautiful, wonderful sound quality to them.

Not everything was sweetness and light, and I’m going to go through the list of amazing things we’ve discovered about the tv and how some of them fall short of having the amazing potential they show:

The visual quality is almost /too/ good for some shows; it gives them an uncanny, live-action quality (my wife to refers to is as “what the cameraman saw”) that you /might not like/. It’s almost disconcerting. In Pacific Rim you can see the fibres of the uniform the marshal wears, and I don’t know if they were expecting you to be able to because it makes it /look/ like a costume.

When we were watching “Heaven Can Wait” I noticed some serious video anomalies. I suspect that these are either from the upscaling or they are an issue with the compression used on the DVD. The TV has a quick-access picture-scale button, as you would expect, and I only saw the problem in some scalings.

This device is Android friendly, ish. Samsung’s vision of Android is clearly king here. It wasn’t overly friendly with the Kindles – I managed to get screen sharing to work for just a few seconds. But then I think my Kindle is either dying or has a virus.

It talked to my Amazon Basics bluetooth keyboard, but the apps I tried it with (netflix, amazon instant, etc) all had their own custom on-screen keyboard and ignored alpha keys, the only keys that worked with the arrows keys. Ha! Since the keyboard has a deliberately low-power, low-range it was unfair to expect it to do well sitting on the couch a comfortable distance from godzilla.

My Galaxy S3 was able to screenshare with it and do other things, but I got a pop-up telling me that “Streaming video while using ScreenSharing may interfere with video quality”.

WTF check on aisle 6:

“Streaming video while using ScreenSharing may interfere with video quality”.

The menus on this thing are scary. I found, tucked a way, a menu entry telling me that I had to go to vod.divx.com and register in order to be able to watch DivX videos on the TV. I decided to use my phone to do it. The vod.divx.com site has a “No phones” icon and a disclaimer that it does not support use on mobile devices.

Once I’d registered, on my phone – you asshats – it told me I had to download a video, upload it to my device and play it there.

I was going to download the video, move it to usb stick, plug the stick into the one connect box and play it from there, but the download gave me an error and I can’t find a link to it any more. A big ..!.. from me to the divx people.

There are some really amazing features tucked away in the plethora of menus, but there are so many categories, sub-sections and options that it’s intimidating, and some of the most useful options – such as sound levelling – aren’t easy to get to.

I’d really like to see a “basic menus” option, or a way to make “favorites” of options so that you can very quickly change settings that actually matter to you.

There are some “gimmicky” features this TV has – PIP will be nice for folks who watch sports, I guess. But there’s this “multi-link” mode where you can split-screen between watching whatever it is you’re watching and doing something else. Your choices are: Web browser, YouTube, Settings and Apps. I’m really in two minds about this feature so far.

The TV has a camera for gesture control. In short: It’s shit.

Lastly there’s the software. There was a DISTINCT difference in quality between using YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video on the Xbox //over// using them on the TV.

Running the apps on the TV tended to lead to small drop outs of audio, and in Netflix and AIV the video quality just wasn’t as good as watching the same thing via the Xbox.

The good news is – this is a connected TV and there are software updates, maybe they can do something about this. And, the “one connect” boxes can be replaced with upgraded versions down the line.

A portion of this TV’s price is anchored in the capabilities of the “one connect” box – which basically means the wireless functionality (well below ‘strong’) and the apps (very poor, and full-screen UI for navigating around them is fairly poor, plus there was no XFinity for us comcast users).

Based on that – I have to, unfortunately, say that the device is a little overpriced, possibly by about $250-500.

But on the other hand, I’m so blown away by the TV itself, and there could be software updates that fix the issues I’ve mentioned, so I think it still just scrapes by.

I’d rate this TV 15/10 if it weren’t for the complexity of the menus, the fiddliness of the remote, the weakness of some of the apps and the awkwardness of the full-screen UI, the boggling attempt at a full-screen web browser and the failure of the device to detect any of our basic cable channels.

Instead I’m going to give it 9/10: ditch the camera, do a bit of work on the software on the one connect, and, then Samsung, you have won the TV industry.

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