First look: Samsung Series 9 85-inch 4K UHD TV

Samsung Series 9 85-inch 4K Ultra HD

The Video and Audio Center in Santa Monica (CA) has the distinction of being one of the few places where you can go and see HDTVs in an environment where there’s room for them, and you, to “breathe.” By that I mean the TVs are placed so that you can get up close and personal or sit back and watch in a similar manner as you would at home (no horrendous fluorescent lighting driving you insane, for example). And when the TV has 4K resolution and costs $40,000.00 — getting up close is pretty much all that one can hope for. Especially if the entire production run consists of only 250 units. On the other hand, the Sharp LC-75N8000U 75″ LED TV is our Editor’s Choice/Best Affordable 75-Inch TV.

So that’s why I came to the Video and Audio Center hours earlier than the event scheduled for 6PM. This was so I could spend a few minutes “up close and personal” with the S9 Series 85-inch 4K UHD TV sans the curious crowds of onlookers that would fill up the store and make it impossible for me to stand dead-on and unmoving across from that 85-inches of 4K high-def goodness.

Two technical Samsung guys were in the process of setting the 85-inch up, so I took the opportunity to inspect it physically. If you feel an edge of the frame, it feels pretty solid and it’s easy to believe that the weight, including stand, is 182 pounds. An inspection of the back panel showed expected inputs such as HDMI and USB inputs (4 and 3), but also a DVI audio in and an digital audio out. Plus there’s a RS232 port for control functionality. Those who are tired of rectangular TV “boxes” will find this attractive — the display sits, no make that “floats” inside a frame that sort of reminded me of the hanging seat surrounded by the framework of a swing set. This configuration gave the panel an “open-air” like look. I can see how it would fit into the decor of a room better than a standard flat-panel shape, because it showcases itself while not blocking the view of what is behind it. The 0.2-inch bezel means that the image is pretty much from edge to edge, which only makes the image seem larger.

Samsung Series 9 85-inch 4K Ultra HD set up

I waited patiently as the tech guys complete their work and sat down in one of the two easy chairs that had been arranged about 10-12 feet or so in front. One of the guys turnd on a demo reel which began to loop 4K native images of street, city, field and space scenes. That the view was awesome would be an understatement — taking the physical size of the display into consideration along with that of the resolution I’d say anyone who has this Samsung doesn’t need no “stinking movie theaters.” And yes I could stick my face almost right up against the screen and still not see pixelation.  Of course at that close range the fact that there’s technology to smooth the imaging (Clear Motion 1200) can’t be seen, but since I didn’t see a single smear earlier, I knew it was doing the  job.

Now since most of the content being displayed (for now) is going to be 1080p, what do Blu-ray movies look like. A few minutes of playing the BD of Captain America answered that question. The picture looked really, really good. Of course it’s bad to compare the movie against that played on a 1080p HDTV, but to me it did seem that the color palette was smoother and more natural. Also the actors outlined against the CG backgrounds had a more realistic appearance than when played on a now-conventional HDTV. I would have enjoyed watching more, but I had to leave so the store could be prepped for the event.

Samsung Series 9 85-inch 4K Ultra HD front on

Was I glad that I had come early to see the 4K UHD TV! There was over a hundred people clamoring to get face time with the display, making commandeering it as I did earlier impossible. So instead I got hold of Samsung’s Bill Dickey Senior Manager, LED TV Marketing, to ask a few questions. I didn’t bother asking the obvious — such as whether the “Smart TV” functions were similar to that of other models (they are), whether there is dual-core processor to speed up functions (no, it’s QUAD core and really helps “Smart TV” stuff to move at a rapid pace) or wireless connectivity (there is) or other “added” features like content sharing or screen mirroring (yes and yes). But I did wonder if it used the same Smart Touch Remote that you could talk into, or whether gestures at the screen would be understood and obeyed. I asked one of the Samsung techs standing nearby about this and got a thumbs-up.

Second from Left -- Bill Dickey, Senior Manager, LED TV Marketing, Samsung
Second from Left — Bill Dickey, Senior Manager, LED TV Marketing, Samsung

What’s the big appeal of 4K as Samsung sees it?

Bill Dickey
It’s the resolution that results when you have a big screen to watch. We know that screen size is the #1 issue when it comes to buying a high-definition TV, and when you take the same number of pixels from a picture that’s on a 46-inch and put it on a 65-inch, it’s not as compelling. So there’s a real benefit to having the greater amount of pixels from a 4K on a big screen for the viewer. Even with upconverted content the picture is going to look better on a 4K display when you have a large screen size.

Is Samsung involved in helping to promote more 4K content?

Bill Dickey
Samsung is talking to content makers and providers and we’re working on ways to increase the supply of 4K content for our customers to watch.

Can you provide some specifics as to the benefits of this 85-inch 4K TV?

Bill Dickey
Well size for one, 85-inches is big! We’re using a full array backlit rather than edge-lit, so there’s many more LEDs behind. There’s also local dimming for increasing contrast in dark scenes — it’s the best picture we’ve ever done. And the 3D is “active” as well.

There’s an impressive sound system too, right?

Bill Dickey
Yes. It consists of  3 sets of front firing speakers [20W x 2 / Woofer 20W x 2 / Center 40W], all built into the slim frame and powered by 120 watts. It’s all that’s needed for enjoying great audio.

I have to ask — why 85?

Bill Dickey
Our largest set last year was 75-inches and we felt that UHD picture quality really shines in large screen sizes, so why not go bigger? Samsung produces the panels and the reasoning was that our facilities could accommodate an 85-inch size so that’s what we did.

How many of these 85-inch 4K UHD TVs did Samsung make?

Bill Dickey
250 were made for the U.S. Market. The kind of folks who are spending this kind of money will probably like the idea that what they got was a unique piece that wasn’t being mass produced in great numbers.

Video and Audio Center front of bldg/Samsung 4K Event

Dickey had to return to answering questions from the crowd, so it was time for me to go. But while I left with a few cookies in a napkin, there were four people who shelled out $160,000.00 to take four of these 4K TVs home with them.

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Marshal Rosenthal

Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.

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