- Stunning screen
- Huge range of features
- Great picture and sound quality
- Backlight inconsistency
- 3D crosstalk
- Flawed touchscreen remote
- Review Price: £5600.00
- Four HDMIs
- 3D playback
- Freeview HD tuner
- 55in screen
- 1080p HD Ready
Arguably more than any TV before – including stuff from the likes of Loewe and B&O – the UE55C9000 is more an objet d’art than a TV, wearing innovation, opulence and ‘because we can’ bravado out there on its gleaming, frankly unbelievably thin sleeve. It’s the sort of design statement that deep-pocketed people with gorgeous homes and images to keep will simply have to own – regardless of whether it’s actually any good or not!
The pictures accompanying this review really don’t do justice to just how astonishing a sight the UE55C9000 is. The main reason for this is, of course, its truly spectacular combination of an almighty 55in screen with a depth of just 7.98mm. This depth makes the TV more or less as deep as your average pencil.
Not surprisingly, supporting such a large screen with such a slim chassis means that chassis has to be seriously well made. So the bodywork is constructed from brushed titanium, with a metallic chassis and bezel that appears hewn – with immense skill and care – from a single block of metal. Again, words or pictures can’t remotely do justice to just how iconic this finish looks when applied to such a slender form.
If we appear to be banging on about the design, we make no apologies for it. For the simple fact of the matter is that the way the UE55C9000 looks is the single most important thing about it in terms of what it stands for and who it’s made for.
The stunning screen comes bolted onto a similarly stunning desktop stand (upon which the screen can be rotated), though an ingenious wall mount option is also available. The stand supplied with our set is more interesting than most, too, because it has all the set’s connections built into it. This is actually hardly surprising when you start contemplating the problems of trying to fit any jacks into a screen 8mm deep.
Sockets include four HDMIs (all built to the v1.4 spec), two USBs, an antenna jack, and an Ethernet port that allows you to do various things we’ll get into later. Some of the sockets available, such as the Ethernet port, a SCART port, a D-Sub PC port and the component video port, are only usable via provided mini adaptors.
As you might guess from some of these connections, the UE55C9000’s slenderness isn’t remotely the only thing it’s got going for it. In fact, Samsung has squeezed one heck of a feature count into the UE55C9000’s unbelievably slender form.
Probably the single most significant – or trendy, depending on your point of view! – feature is 3D playback. This really is built in too; the necessary 3D transmitter exists within the TV, rather than being some bolt-on extra unit. It’s a pity, though, that even for £5,600 (or as much as a grand more at some places online) Samsung only includes a single pair of active shutter 3D glasses with the TV (confirm they’re included!) when we wouldn’t have minded two sets finished in Swarovski crystals for that sort of money!
The set also sports a Freeview HD tuner, of course, and the Ethernet port or provided USB Wi-Fi dongle additionally allow you to stream in multimedia content stored on a networked DLNA PC. These two network connections also allow you hook into Samsung’s ever-expanding and now really rather excellent Internet@TV online platform. Recent additions of Twitter and, especially, the BBC iPlayer have really boosted this service, with other key services including Facebook, LoveFilm, YouTube and the Picasa online photo album service.
Heading into the UE55C9000’s extremely pretty onscreen menus, there are plenty of tools to help you calibrate the picture to suit your tastes – as you would expect on such a large, premium TV. You can adjust the black tone, the extremity of the dynamic contrast system, the extent to which the TV pushes shadow detail, the picture’s gamma level, Wide or Native colour space settings, a flesh tone adjustment, an edge enhancement tool, and last but certainly not least, Samsung’s LED Motion Plus system. This uses processing to reduce judder and blur from the picture, and helpfully features a series of preset ‘strengths’ (including our preferred Clear mode), as well as allowing you to tweak the relative strength it applies to its separate judder and blur components.
Other bits and bobs worth knowing about the UE55C9000 are that the technology driving the extraordinarily thin screen is, of course, edge LED, with a full HD resolution. And its 3D technology is, as you’d expect, the ‘premium’ active shutter, full HD system.
One rather key thing we’ve not mentioned about the UE55C9000 yet is that it also breaks new ground with its remote control. In fact, it comes with two remotes: one cute but simple pebble style one that just gives you access to volume and channel adjustments, and an anything-but-simple touchscreen remote, with full colour display and Wi-Fi connection to the TV.
This ability to ‘talk’ with the TV allows you to enjoy a rather cool trick, whereby you can watch pictures from the TV on the remote. In fact, you can watch one channel on the remote and another on the TV! The decently large, clean screen also ‘does an iPhone’, in that the picture rotates automatically if you turn the remote on its side.
The remote can even ‘learn’ the controls from your other remotes, and lets you set simple macros, where a single button press kicks off a series of pre-programmed control signals.
Sounds good, right? Pity, then, that it’s a real chore to use. It’s painfully easy to select the wrong onscreen ‘button’, as they’re often crammed very close together, and it’s often difficult to recall exactly where you’re supposed to go to find the option you want. We actually found ourselves turning fairly quickly to the remote control of a Samsung C7000 model we had lying around!
The 55C9000 gets back on track with its 2D picture quality, however. We’d been worried that the set’s extraordinary slimness must inevitably lead to picture quality compromises, but this really isn’t the case – or at least, not as much as we’d feared.
Colours, for a start, are impressive, combining excellent saturations and vividness with some natural tones. What’s particularly good about this is that you can get a surprisingly natural colour response without having to spend much time calibrating the TV; just avoid the dynamic preset, and make sure the colour temperature is set to Normal or Warm. Actually, this is just as well given that Samsung hasn’t pursued endorsements from either the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) or THX – something that might have been nice with a TV as high-end as this.
Also impressive about the UE55C9000’s 2D pictures is how sharp they look. The vast size of the screen lets you fully appreciate the extra detail, clarity, texture and sharpness of good quality HD sources – especially as there’s gratifyingly little trouble with LCD’s usual motion blur problem.
The blur is particularly reduced if you employ Samsung’s LED Motion Plus system, though this isn’t a feature we’d necessarily recommend using for much of the time. It tends to generate some obvious processing side effects, including the classic ‘disappearing ball’ phenomenon when watching tennis or cricket. The Clear setting is the only Motion Plus setting we’d personally use, as anything more potent also produces flickering and haloing artefacts.
Our biggest concern with the UE55C9000’s pictures had been that it wouldn’t produce a deep and consistent black colour. But while it’s certainly not perfect in this regard, with definite greyness and some cloudy patches at the screen’s edges if you don’t keep the brightness and backlight settings pretty low, nor is it remotely as bad as we’d feared.
One last point worth stressing is how excellent the UE55C9000’s standard definition processing is. A 55in screen will leave no hiding place for weak tuner and upscaling efforts, yet standard definition images remain consistently enjoyable, sharp and noiseless thanks to Samsung’s upscaling processing.
Turning to the UE55C9000’s 3D pictures, the news is more mixed. On the upside, we were hugely impressed by how bright and colour-rich pictures remain with Samsung’s adequately comfortable active shutter glasses perched on your nose. In this respect, the UE55C9000 is clearly ahead of Panasonic’s plasma 3D images – and arguably ahead of any other 3D brand using any technology.
The vastness of the UE55C9000’s screens plays its part, too, in immersing you in a 3D world, especially as its size and Samsung’s decent native motion handling combine to let you appreciate the extra detail and resolution afforded by full HD 3D Blu-rays. The set helps Sky’s 3D broadcasts look sharp too, but there’s a noticeable crispness gap between Sky’s ‘half HD’ 3D resolution and full HD 3D.
The problem with the UE55C9000’s 3D pictures is a predictable one: double ghosting around the edges of some objects during 3D viewing (AKA crosstalk noise), especially if they’re in the mid to extreme distance. This is visible to some extent with all 3D sources, giving you a general sense that things don’t always look quite in focus even if your eyes aren’t particularly drawn to the crosstalk areas that are creating the slightly soft overall appearance.
No 3D display we’ve seen is completely free of crosstalk, but Panasonic’s plasma models suffer from it less. So we guess you’re looking at a decision between the extra brightness, crispness and colour of the Samsung UE55C9000 vs the reduced crosstalk of the Panasonic. Personally, we find crosstalk noise more overtly distracting than reduced brightness and slightly more muted colours. But we’d suggest you audition both if 3D really matters to you.
Though of course, in the UE55C9000’s case, its 3D capabilities are unlikely to be as important to you as its astonishing form factor. In fact, having 3D probably just seems like a handy bonus to many of the 55C9000’s likely buyers.
Given the frankly ridiculous slimness of the UE55C9000, we expected its sound to suck. But surprisingly, it’s really not bad. The trick is that Samsung has built 2 x 15W speakers into the stand rather than the screen, and these produce rather impressive amounts of volume and dynamic range. There’s even a bit of bass, and this appears without muddying the mid-range or crowding out trebles. These trebles can become a little sibilant with dense soundstages, but this doesn’t alter the fact that the UE55C9000 is one of the better sounding flat TVs in town.
The UE55C9000 is tougher to stick a final mark on than any other TV we’ve reviewed. On the one hand, part of us says any 55in TV costing a minimum of £5,600 should be a near-perfect performer. Yet the UE55C9000 suffers some backlight inconsistency and 3D crosstalk. Plus the touchscreen remote is flawed at best.
On the other hand, the UE55C9000 is so stunning aesthetically that this is arguably all that matters, with its picture and sound quality just a nice, thick layer of icing on a cake that well-heeled aesthetes will already have been unable to resist.
In the end, it’s this sense of irresistibility to its target market that has persuaded us to lean towards giving the UE55C9000 a final mark of 9. It won’t be for everyone, but then it was never designed to be. It was clearly always intended to be a ‘statement’ product for designer homes, and even if you take the view that such products aren’t really any more than vanity projects, there’s no denying that Samsung has succeeded in achieving its aim with the UE55C9000 quite magnificently.
Score in detail
3D Quality 8
2D Quality 8
Sound Quality 8
|Max. Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Digital Tuner||ATSC, DVB-C (MPEG4), DVB-T (MPEG4)|
|Refresh Rate (Hertz)||240Hz, 200Hz|
|Height (Millimeter)||873mm, 59.6mm|
|Width (Millimeter)||1296mm, 103mm|