Isn't it interesting how many things in life are touted as either New and Improved or Old Fashioned? A decade ago, having a non flat screen was starting to become an object of scorn; but when I asked Cleveland Plasma / Cleveland AV owner Chris Majoros what the big thing in TVs displayed at the CES show was last January, he said, "They got curved, man! It's everywhere!" Interestingly, Samsung's new curved-screen HU9000 could probably be described as both New and Improved and
Old Fashioned- but in a distinctively high tech way.
The HU9000's curve actually improves the image for viewers who watch at short distances from the screen, since it keeps the edges more on axis up close. I have worked with some large screen LED LCDs which, because of the highly directional color and contrast performance, only looked their best from 10 feet away or more because at close distances the edges of the screen became increasingly off axis. However, the curve can be a bit strange at normal distances and for viewers not perfectly centered on the screen. While I didn't have a lot of room to walk around and view the set at extreme angles, it did appear the the HU9000 was just about as directional as most other LED LCDs, with faces turning flat and purplish and contrast washing out off axis. However, with it's curved screen's slightly enhanced performance for up close viewing, the HU9000 earns 2
points for viewing angle in my TV ranking
A strong point of Samsung's recent flagship LED LCDs has been their ability to keep the screen inky black in moderate ambient light, and the HU9000 was quite remarkable in that regard. Despite the glossy screen, reflections were minimal in most situations. That, combined with the HU9000's very strong maximum brightness, combine for an outstanding score of 7
Out of the box, the HU9000's Energy Star rated Standard mode was downright scary bad. Thankfully, a very simple switch to Movie mode transformed the HU9000's picture into a thing of beauty, with excellent depth, well balanced shadow detail, and bright and punchy whites. Skin tones were noticeably pink, but not to an obnoxious degree. While this may be due to a bit of sample to sample variation, I did not feel that the HU9000's pre-calibration movie mode had an overly greenish cast, as I have with other recent LED LCDs. Only after spending too much time watching in the overly blue and garish Dynamic mode did the HU9000's Movie mode look drab or dingy.
The HU9000's screen was commendably uniform for an edge lit LED LCD. Displaying a white screen showed that it was just slightly brighter at the sides. With a dark gray screen, uniformity continued to show good performance, with barely perceptibly more green in the middle. I could also see that the bottom was slightly brighter, but these flaws were extremely minor. Black uniformity was a non issue, because with the zone dimming blacks were totally dark except around the regions where there was content. The blacks also appeared quite neutral, with no annoying bluish or purple cast that can plague many displays with similar technology, leading to a black score of 4
Zone dimming LED LCDs by nature trade off some stability for contrast, though the HU9000's dimming action was well tuned and not distracting in most situations. I did notice, however, that the HU9000's dimming could lead to variable white crush depending on the size of the bright object displayed. For example, with the Smart LED dimming control turned on, white crush appeared in small white objects but not large ones unless contrast was reduced into the 80's. With Smart LED off, there was no white crush on any size pattern up to a contrast setting of at least 98. As with many other displays, the 10 point white balance adjustment progressively mistracks as the contrast is reduced from it's maximum position. This can lead to an unavoidable tradeoff during calibration: either keep the contrast high and live with some white crush of small objects in the image, or reduce the contrast and live with a little less pop and have a much tougher time calibrating the 10 point adjustment. I took both approaches and, after evaluating the performance of each, settled on an in between contrast setting of 93. The HU9000's backlight stability rating of 2
reflects generally good but occasionally compromised performance.
As with the HU8550, the HU9000's single pixel wide horizontal lines were soft with 1080i or 1080P test patterns, though admittedly it looked much better with most content. This led to a resolution and detail score of 2
The modified ANSI contrast ratio measured 1,761:1, with black at .028 fL and white at 49.3 fL. However, that is the absolute worst case scenario for a zone dimming display; most content will have much better contrast. In fact, measured with an APL window, which better simulates dark movie scenes, blacks improved to .002 fL for a contrast ratio of 24,650:1. Full on/off contrast was unmeasurable since full black screens were totally dark. Actual contrast will vary by content, but will be between the above two numbers in most situations.
The HU9000 measured very well after calibration, with nearly ruler flat grayscale and gamma tracking. Color saturations were very good, though a tiny bit of mistracking in the red saturation sweeps can be seen, with full purity reds measuring well but paler shades measuring a bit too pure. This led to a couple of skin tone simulation patches measuring a delta E of around 2, which could be just visible. This is excellent performance, perhaps falling just short of the best in the industry and leading to a color score of 9
The HU9000 was a real pleasure to watch, with a very natural sense of depth and shadow detail resulting in a depth score of 5
. The picture was vibrant and punchy, though visible contrast did depend a bit on the calibration route taken. I ultimately settled on a pop ranking of 6
. Skin tones were no longer pinkish as they were in uncalibrated Movie mode, though they were a bit on the rich side of natural. The picture could be a bit grainy with NR off, but mainly up close. Turning NR on auto fixed this with no apparent side effects, leading to a smoothness score of 3
. There were no artifacts in the panning buildings in The Dark Knight, and thankfully I never saw any Dirty Screen Effect. Motion and pans looked very natural, with no uncalled for stuttering or Soap Opera Effect. The zone dimming was effective during movie playback. Fluctuations are unavoidable, but they usually did not intrude on my enjoyment. Black bars were quite stable and not distracting.
I found the HU9000 to be an engaging display, one that I believe is sure to please not only the average Joe but most enthusiasts as well.