For the last couple of years Samsung, the world’s number one TV maker, has used “SUHD” to induce you to pay more for its high-end TVs. The S doesn’t stand for any particular word, according to the company, but the UHD is an abbreviation for Ultra High Definition, aka 4K.
The KS8000 series reviewed here is currently Samsung’s least-expensive SUHD TV for 2016, promising improved picture quality over the company’s cheaper 4K TVs. In our tests its image was impressive in some ways, but not up to the overall level of some competitors from Sony and Vizio. The S doesn’t mean “superior” picture quality, at least with this TV.
The S could stand for “smarter” though. The KS8000, along with many 2016 Samsung TVs, has the ability to control your devices with its included remote, and can recognize many just by plugging them in. It can also control SmartThings Smart Home gear, like lights and thermostats. And of course it delivers streaming video from the usual sources like Amazon and Netflix, with a new simpler interface.
For most buyers, however, those extras aren’t the highest priority. The KS8000 is an appealing, capable television with plenty of features and great style, but people who prize picture quality can do better for the price.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch Samsung UN65KS8000, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
Samsung also makes a few closely related models. The KS8500 series is basically the same as this TV but with a curved screen. The step-up KS9000/KS9500 series add a few more picture-affecting features, that may provide some improvement, but we doubt they’ll be significantly better than the KS8000 in picture quality. See Features below for more details.
Device control: Easy setup, but needs more support
Samsung’s new control system comes closer to emulating a good universal remote than any TV we’ve seen. The biggest advantage is ease of setup: Simply plugging in a device during initial TV setup is often enough to get the TV to recognize it and completely set up control using Samsung’s TV remote. This unique auto setup ability worked for a little over half the ones I tried. That’s not bad, but it’s hardly “universal.”
For supported cable boxes, control is particularly impressive and allows you to ditch your cable company clicker for most commands. My Fios box was automatically integrated into the TV’s Home menu bar complete with its own Fios icon. The TV’s on-screen display let me select the box’s own guide (also accessible by pressing the remote’s “channel” button), its DVR recordings or its main menu, all easily navigable using Samsung’s TV remote.
The TV remote can also pause and fast-forward through commercials, although it relied on a pop-up menu instead of dedicated buttons, and the all-important forward-skip isn’t available — just fast-forward. You can also set up favorite channels on the Home menu that tune your cable box, and direct-dial channel numbers using another (tedious) pop-up.
Other devices, when they’re detected and controllable, work well too, but many I tried are left in the cold, either not detected at all or unable to be controlled via the remote. Here’s the results for all 16 devices I tested for this review.
Other downsides? You’ll need to plug your stuff directly into the TV, so if your setup incorporates an AV receiver it won’t work. The system mostly relies on infrared commands sent from Samsung’s remote, so you’ll need line-of-sight to control most devices (if your stuff is hidden in a cabinet, it won’t work).
In the end I’d stick with my Harmony, but people with simpler systems that use supported devices might be fine using just Samsung’s remote to control everything.
Simplified remote, sleek TV design
Although it’s missing the cool motion control found on past Samsung clickers, the new remote’s design is very good. It’s small enough to fit anyone’s hand, yet feels substantial. Bumps, depressions and logical placement make finding keys by feel with a thumb as easy as on any clicker I’ve ever used. I’m an especially big fan of the raised flanges for volume and channel.
With a remote designed for universal control, however, I would have appreciated backlighting, as well as a few more keys–in particular dedicated fast-forward, rewind and skip keys.
Samsung’s overall TV design is superb, as usual. The set is mostly black when seen from the front, including a very thin border on the top and sides of the screen. The bottom is thicker and silver, and matches the detachable stand legs. I love that you can choose two different positions for the legs — splayed far to the sides or closer to the center — depending on your furniture or personal preference.
Smart TV: So-so app support, slick integration
With an all-new design yet again, Samsung’s homegrown Tizen-based smart TV system is very good for a TV, but app coverage isn’t as comprehensive as Android TV (on Sony sets) or Roku TV. If your streaming tastes go beyond the basic apps, you will probably still need to connect an external device like a Roku or Apple TV.
4K streaming with HDR is available from Netflix and Amazon. There’s a Vudu app (as of press time it hadn’t been updated to support 4K or HDR), an UltraFlix app with some niche 4K content and, of course, 4K support on the YouTube app.
Other apps are hit or miss. You get Hulu, Plex, both HBOs (Go and Now), Pluto TV, MLB TV and Pandora, for example, but Samsung’s system is still missing Showtime (or Anytime), Sling TV, Watch ESPN, CBS All Access, PBS, PBS Kids, Google Play Movies and TV and Spotify. Roku and Android TV have all of those, and many more niche apps than Samsung.
Samsung incorporates content more seamlessly than other TVs, though. Click the Home button and you’ll be able to browse content from within apps like Netflix and Hulu while your current video keeps playing in the background. The menu even serves suggestions and, on some apps, lets you resume stuff you were watching previously.
Search is another strong suit and, like Roku, it incorporates results from Netflix and Amazon, complete with pricing. It also ostensibly supports your cable service, although that feature didn’t seem to work well in my tests. Searches for “baseball” and “evening news” came up blank, for example. At least voice recognition was decent.
Overall, Samsung’s new menu design makes finding content from apps, other devices and even your cable box easier than other TV systems, but most people will end up using their external device menus anyway.
Key TV Features
|Display technology:||LED LCD|
|LED backlight:||Edge-lit with local dimming|
The main image quality feature separating Samsung “SUHD” TVs from regular LED LCD TVs is Quantum Dots, which consist of microscopic nanocrystals that glow at a specific wavelength (or color) when given energy. Used as an additional layer in the traditional LED LCD TV sandwich, they enable the TV to achieve improved light output and color compared to other TVs and to the company’s 2015 sets, according to Samsung. According to our tests those claims have merit, but it’s also worth remembering that despite all those fancy marketing terms, at heart these are LED LCD TVs, not a different display technology like OLED.
The KS8000 has an edge-lit LED backlight with local dimming, and unlike Vizio, Samsung doesn’t disclose the number of dimming zones. It does say that the “Supreme UHD Dimming” found on step-up models like the KS9000 and KS9500 denotes even more zones, although we doubt that will deliver a big improvement in image quality. The same goes for the “Auto Depth Enhancer,” a processing feature on Samsung’s curved TVs like the KS9500 and KS8500.
The set supports HDR (high dynamic range) content in HDR10 format only. It lacks the Dolby Vision HDR support found on Vizio’s and LG’s 2016 HDR TVs. It’s still too early to determine whether one HDR format is “better” than the other, and I definitely don’t consider lack of Dolby Vision a deal breaker on this TV–instead it’s just one more factor to consider. Check out my article on the HDR format war for more.
Like most other 4K TVs the KS8000 uses a 120Hz native panel. It offers Samsung’s Motion Rate 240 processing with black frame insertion to improve motion resolution. According to Samsung, the Supreme MR 240 feature on step-up models like the KS9000 analyses scenes before performing the insertion, which might deliver a slight improvement over the KS8000, but again we don’t expect it to be drastically better.
Unlike high-end TVs from LG and Sony this year, the KS8000 does not support 3D. Samsung has yet to make any announcements about support for its novel evolution kit upgrades, either for 2015 sets or for future upgrade kit support for its 2016 models.
- 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2
- 3x USB ports (2x version 2.0, 1x version 3.0)
- Ethernet (LAN) port
- Optical digital audio output
- RF (antenna) input
- Remote (RS-232) port (EX-LINK)
This list is mostly solid, unless you happen to own a legacy device that requires analog video (component or composite) or audio. The KS8000 is the first TV I’ve seen that doesn’t at least offer one analog input (audio or video).
Almost all of the ports are located on the external OneConnect Mini box, which connects to the TV via a 9-foot umbilical. The exceptions are the single USB 3.0 (labeled “IoT extend”), the Ethernet port and the RS-232 minijack, which requires Samsung’s EX-LINK cable.
And what is IoT Extend, you ask? It’s the port designed to accept the company’s SmartThings Extend control dongle. The dongles will allow the TVs to control SmartThings devices via an app on the TV, and are expected to ship this September. They’re available free to owners of this TV who redeem a coupon included in the box. Maybe the integration of the platform into TVs will push Samsung to iron out some of SmartThings’ glitches.
The KS8000 performs very well in bright rooms and with brighter material, but in demanding home theater environments it didn’t look its best. Black levels are relatively light, and Samsung’s dimming didn’t perform as well as the competition to enhance contrast. Uniformity along the edges is also an issue, especially noticeable with letterbox bars and HDR material.
Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV’s picture controls worked during calibration.