Can a TV really be worth £5,000?
Image quality: 9/10
Overall Rating: 8/10
There’s no doubt that Samsung is the dominant force in televisions these days, thanks to its seemingly relentless ability to produce quality TVs at truly affordable price points. Scary stuff for the competition. However, it does not have much cache as a truly high-end brand. Enter the Samsung UE55C9000, which has clearly been designed as a cost-no-object statement TV. When this TV was first released last year, the official RRP was an eye watering £7,000, but now it’s been out for a while it can be had for a mere, £4,500 on most online sites, and just £4,000 on one. So a right royal bargain then.
But cripes – that’s still a lot of money. Can anything Samsung come up with justify that figure? As a starting point it’s a healthy 55in, which makes it more than most rooms would be able or willing to accommodate. If you can deal with it though, its huge diagonal width can be offset against its depth – a mere 7.98mm – which is truly amazing when you see it in the metal. This is achieved through the use of edge LED dimming. The metal also impressive hands on, with a super classy aluminium finish.
As it’s so outrageously skinny, there’s simply no space for connections on the rear so all ports are moved to the base. The advantage of this base is that it provides a bit more room for speakers than your average flat TV, enabling a greater depth and base to the sound. A TV like this certainly deserves a full surround set, and indeed Samsung offers a matching set, but if you don’t want to turn on your amp than at least you have some half decent sound.
Round the back you’ll find a decent four HDMI ports, the first of which is Audio Return Channel capable so you can send audio that comes direct to the TV to an external amp via a single compatible HDMI cable.
You’ll also find a LAN connection, as the TV naturally features Samsung’s @Internet TV services – which are fine if you like that sort of thing on your TV. To be honest, I’ve not touched them once since I first checked them out, but if you are a LoveFilm streaming fan you won’t mind that you can access it directly.
Other connectivity includes a Freeview HD tuner, but as this hasn’t yet reached the airwaves round my house I couldn’t test it.
Sky HD though looks fantastic on this set, with punchy colours and bags of detail.Dynamic mode of course needs to be avoided but the standard and movie modes are ideal for watching in bright and dark environments respectively and both can be improved further by running through some standard calibration discs.
One thing we noticed was that enabling the LED Motion Plus feature, made the image a tad darker, so you’ll have to calibrate again if you turn it on again. Motion performance on this screen is of a generally high standard. The Motion Plus settings are certainly necessary however to keep images smooth and we did notice some image break up when this was turned off.
Gamers will want to switch to Game mode, as this disables all image processing in order to reduce input lag and increase responsiveness
Watching from a fine source such as the Oppo BDP-93EU, and you’ll find images to be vivid and fantastically clear, and vivid. The TV will cope with 24p content on discs and players that support it, which will help to remove image judder.
Black levels are of course crucial to make a cinematic picture and we found these to be pleasingly the right side of dark. Dark tones levels can be set within the menus to help with this, as while LCDs are generally brighter than plasma we’d still want to keep the lights down for proper movie watching, in order to get the most from the picture.
Images are helped by a smooth even grey scale ensuing detail is retained in the darker areas. The colours are excellent – managing to be intense without overdoing it – as long as the aforementioned Dynamic mode is avoided.
Naturally, the Samsung UE55C9000 is 3D capable and one pair (yes, one pair, how stingy), comes in the box. It’s of the active variety, so the glasses contain an LCD over each eye that opens and shuts in sync with the images transmitted by the TV and this method means that you get full high definition 1080p images sent to each eye.
3D was noticeably brighter than it I’ve seen from Panasonic TVs and even Samsung’s own plasmas and with a huge 55in display 3D images are suitably immersive. Playing back Ice Age 3 and Avatar in 3D, there’s a pleasing sense of depth to the picture. However, there’s a problem – and yes, it’s crosstalk. This is the phenomenon where images from the left and right eye overlap. It makes for a slightly blurry, less sharp 3D experience than I would have liked, and for this sort of money, it’s a little disappointing.
So does the picture quality justify spending between £4,500 and £5,000 on a TV. The simple answer is no of course not. You can certainly get similar image quality for around £2,000 and Panasonic’s VT30 series due later this year will also have a 55in option.
So where does all the money go? Part of it is lavished on the oh-so-thin design, which has to be seen, or if you’re looking at the TV side on, practically not seen to be believed. There’s the impressive speaker and connection base and then finally, there’s the remote control. Frankly this is a ridiculous object – it’s touch screen and laden with icons, and at first you’ll be impressed by its whizzyness. But the layout is baffling and its unresponsive to the touch and to add insult to injury it’s battery last no time at all, so when you pick it up to use it it’s dead. It’s a stupendous waste of money. Samsung should junk it, lower the cost and put development time into creating a control system for iOS and Android devices that work over Wi-Fi. Sort it out Samsung.
If you do have a dead battery you might have cause to use the of-sexy control panel. While most TVs have buttons that run along the bottom of the bezel or along the side, the UE55C9000 has a slick control panel that slides out of the front of the base when you place your hand near it. It’s seriously cool and a little but Bang and Olufson.
It can also be seriously annoying. I tried to place my Wii remote sensor in front of the TV speaker base, only to find that every time I put the sensor there, the control panel would slide out, pushing it forward and onto the floor. Annoying and amusing at the same time, depending on your mood.
What we have here is a fabulous TV that’s clearly overkill for all but the terminally in need to show off. The design is stunning – a sliver thin, hang-on-the-wall set that sci-fi dreams were made of just a few short years ago. Feature wise it’s loaded, with Smart TV functions such as LoveFilm streaming and DLNA streaming. Image quality wise, we’d say only the high-end Panasonic VT series has an edge over it, and overall it’s a fantastic, stunning picture, great for regular TV and magnificent with Blu-ray and games.
However, it’s clearly a design statement from Samsung, and for all but the most cash rich, there’s no sensible reason to spend this much. We’d drop down to the Samsung 8000 series and if you’re prepared to put up with a bit of bulk go for a Panasonic plasma instead.