As usual, Samsung's Movie mode proved to be the most accurate picture mode right out of the box. With no adjustment at all, the Movie mode already measured within reference standards, both in white balance and color points, using my X-rite i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer. (The Relax mode came in second, offering decent numbers that fell just outside of the reference range.) The Movie mode's red/green/blue color balance was excellent across most of the range;�the correlated color temperature average was 6,420 Kelvin (6500K is the
target), and the average gamma was 2.13. The largest grayscale Delta Error occurred at the darker end of the spectrum, but it was still only an error of 2.43 (anything under three is considered imperceptible to the human eye). All six color points also came in well under the DE3 target, with the largest Delta Error being blue at just 0.83. It's fair to say that calibration is not a necessity, but it's also fair to say that, if you're going to purchase such a high-end display, you should drop a few hundred dollars extra and get it calibrated anyhow,�to ensure that you're getting the best possible performance in all areas. As I mentioned in the Hookup section, the KN55S9C has all of the tools to perform an advanced calibration, and I was able to achieve nearly perfect results in both white balance and color. Performing just a quick calibration, I was able to lower the maximum grayscale Delta Error to 1.52, get a more desirable gamma average of 2.22, and make the color points even more accurate.
Now, on to black level. Oh, that glorious black level! Like plasma, OLED is self-emitting, meaning that each pixel generates its own light and doesn't require an external light source the way LCD TVs do. Plasma pixels require some priming to respond quickly enough to signal information, which is
why you don't generally see absolute black when a pixel is supposed to be "off." OLED pixels don't require that priming, and this OLED TV produces the closest thing to absolute black that I've ever seen. And right next to that absolute black, you can still have really bright elements, without the imprecise "halo" effect you see with local-dimming LED/LCDs. The result is a stunningly rich image with outstanding contrast and depth. During an aerial shot of the stadium in Sunday Night Football on NBC, the contrast�between�the truly black sky�and�the bright stadium lights was simply gorgeous.
I regret that I had to return my review sample of the Panasonic TC-P60VT60 plasma�before this OLED TV arrived, but I still had the step-down Panasonic TC-P60ST60�on hand to do some comparisons�...�and really, there was no comparison in the black-level department. Don't get me wrong, the ST60's performance is still absolutely amazing for the price, but the difference in black level between it and the Samsung OLED was not subtle. Back when I compared the ST60 and VT60, I talked about subtle improvements that the
VT60 offered in black level, but this OLED TV produced distinctly darker black levels in every demo scene from The Bourne Supremacy (Chapter�One), Flags of Our Fathers (Chapter�Two), and The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Chapter�Four). The only LED/LCD I had on hand was Vizio's M551D-A2R, another low-priced TV that earned high marks from me but could in no way rival the black-level depth and precision of OLED. Within those deep blacks, the KN55S9C was also able to reveal the finest, subtlest�black details.
Again, though, the real treat is just how bright the OLED TV can be in tandem with those great blacks. You don't have to limit image brightness to retain good blacks, as you do with an LED/LCD. At its default settings, the KN55S9C's Movie mode served up about 60 ft-L with a white window test pattern. The brighter Relax mode served up about 95 ft-L. I'm not sure you can relax in a dim to dark room with a TV cranking out 95 ft-L, but hey, that's what the adjustable Cell Light control is for. You really have the freedom to tailor the KN55S9C's brightness to suit your viewing preference and comfort level without having to worry about how the adjustment will hinder black level. I dialed back the Movie mode to about 50 ft-L, ISF's�maximum recommended brightness for a dim room, and it proved to be perfect for both daytime and nighttime viewing.
One thing I did discover during measurements is that, as we see with plasma, this OLED TV produces more light output in a white window than it does with a full-white field. I got the above numbers using an 18 percent window; when I switched to a full white field, the Movie's mode 50 ft-L dropped to about 20 ft-L. However, the real-world result is not nearly as dramatic a brightness reduction as what you see with plasma TVs. Plasma TVs can produce very bright elements to yield great image contrast, but throw a fully bright, white-heavy image up on the screen, and it dims noticeably, causing whites to look muted and even grayish. With this OLED TV, full-screen whites still looked very white and bright, much brighter than those of the Panasonic ST60. I was perfectly content to stick with the "dimmest" Movie mode for daytime viewing with zero concerns about image brightness, but there are also much brighter picture modes available to calibrate for daytime viewing if you desire.
The KN55S9C's great light output and contrast yield excellent results with�3D content, too. The OLED TV provided all the detail and crispness that I like in an active 3D TV, combined with the image brightness and complete lack of crosstalk that passive 3D can offer. In my demo scenes from Monsters vs. Aliens, Ice Age 3, and Life of Pi, I saw no crosstalk at all, regardless of where I sat in relation to the TV. The KN55S9C served up some of the best-looking 3D I've seen to date. The supplied SSG-5900CR glasses were light and comfortable to wear, although the highly flexible, wraparound frames can fall off easily if you're not deliberate in how you tuck them around your ears.
Like plasma and unlike LCD, OLED has a wide viewing angle; image saturation does not drop off as you move to the sides. The KN55S9C also passed all of my 1080i and 480i processing tests, produced a nice amount of detail with upconverted 480i sources, and served up a very clean image with little digital noise. Regarding motion blur, with the Auto Motion Plus function turned off, motion resolution was very similar to that of a standard 60Hz LCD TV, blurring lines down to DVD level in my resolution pattern on the FPD Benchmark BD. However, when I enabled AMP, regardless of which setting I chose, I got nearly perfect motion resolution in
the same pattern - identical to, if not better than, plasma motion resolution. This means you again have flexibility to choose whichever Auto Motion Plus mode you like. If you like the smoothing, de-judder effects of frame interpolation, you can use the Smooth or Standard mode. I personally prefer the Clear mode,�because it deals with the blur without adding any artificial smoothing effects in film sources.
In all honesty, I can't come up with a significant performance downside to the KN55S9C. It delivered everything I was expecting, and my expectations were awfully high. I'm sure, though, that some of our readers will lament the absence of an Ultra HD resolution at this high price point. Right now, there is no Ultra HD OLED TV on the market, but we have seen prototypes from Panasonic and Sony and will likely see more offerings at CES 2014. Having already reviewed a 55-inch UHD TV in the form of the Sony XBR-55X900A�I stand by my assertion that the benefits of the higher Ultra HD resolution are going to be very difficult to appreciate at this screen size and thus it is not really necessary. The KN55S9C's use of the separate One
Connect box means that you could potentially swap it out for a future One Connect box that supports native 4K input sources with HDMI 2.0.�Sure,�the source would be downconverted to a 1080p resolution, but I'd go so far as to argue that, given OLED's amazing contrast, the downconverted image could look better on a 55-inch TV than native Ultra HD on a mediocre edge-lit LED/LCD.
My only real complaint with the KN55S9C is the curved screen. While I was aware of the curve when viewing content (especially 2.35:1 movies), I didn't find it to be a distraction�...�and I do think the TV's design is eye-catching. Still, I feel that the curved design diminishes the "wow" factor of just how flat the OLED panel is. The bigger concern, though, is what the curved screen does to room reflections. The screen itself isn't as glossy and reflective as most of the high-end LCD and plasma TVs I've tested lately, but it's reflective enough that you can see general forms - and because of the curve, those forms get stretched and distorted across the screen, which causes them to take up more screen real estate and therefore be more noticeable. Seeing a lamp reflection on the screen is a bit distracting; seeing that reflection stretched all the way across the screen is annoying. You�definitely need to be mindful about where you position room objects in relation to the screen; try to keep them "outside the curve," so to speak.
Peruse the setup menu, and you will notice a function called "Screen Burn Protection," with a pixel shift and an automatic shut-off control akin to those found in a plasma TV. That's because OLED can be subject to image retention just like plasma. Given that this is a new display technology, we just don't know yet how susceptible OLED TVs really are to image retention. I didn't notice any short-term retention issues during my casual TV watching, and the pixel shift function is wisely turned on by default. Still, you need to be aware of this potential and approach this TV much like you would a new plasma TV.
Competition and Comparison
Currently, the only OLED competitor to the Samsung KN55S9C is LG's 55EA9800, which also has a curved screen and carries a $9,999.99 price tag. I haven't personally reviewed the LG TV, but at least one reviewer I trust,�at�HDGuru.com,
compared the two sets directly and gave the nod to the Samsung. Another competitor would be a high-end plasma like the Panasonic ZT Series�or VT Series�or Samsung's own PN8500 Series. The only LCDs I'd consider to be serious competition would be top-shelf models that use full-array LED backlighting with local dimming, such as the Sharp Elite PRO-X5FD, Sony XBR-55HX929, and perhaps LG's new 55LA9700 UHD TV.
Believe the hype, folks. That's what I take away from my time with the Samsung KN55S9C. Its performance is that good, truly the ideal�combination of plasma and LCD and just gorgeous to behold. Purely from a performance standpoint, it's easy to give the KN55S9C my wholehearted recommendation. Add in the issues of form factor and price, though, and it becomes more complicated. This is where your personal preference, passion, and income come into play. As much as I love the picture quality of this TV, I'd prefer a non-curved OLED TV where you can truly appreciate the thin form factor, but I know other people who love the curved design. The asking price is significantly higher than other excellent performers in the plasma and LCD realms; this TV is really targeted at the ultimate videophile who is willing to pay the price to be an early adopter and own the best of the best. The rest of us will likely drool from afar for a few years, impatiently waiting until the price comes down to a more realistic level. Based on what I've seen with the KN55S9C, OLED is definitely worth the wait.