Curvalicious: Samsung OLED TV reviewed
4.7Overall Score

Price (RRP): $10,999
Manufacturer: Samsung

Finally they are here: OLED TVs. OLED is a newish panel technology and stands for Organic Light Emitting Diodes. LEDs emit light when an electrical current is run through them. OLEDs use organic materials for this purpose. Each pixel in an OLED TV generates its own light – there are no backlights. That allows the TV panels to be even thinner than other technologies, and in some versions can even be flexible.

The Samsung KA55S9CAM takes advantage of this by offering a curved face. The 55 inch (a hair’s breadth short of 140cm) panel is 12mm thick, but is curved so that the centre of the TV is about 4 or 5 centimetres further back than the edges.

Normally we give dimensions for TVs without their stands attached, which is what you need if you plan to wall mount it. But this one isn’t really suitable for that function. There are no rear mounting points, and the TV is pretty much stuck in its stand. This TV, stylistically, makes a statement.

The curved screen makes a style statement, but the inherent image qualities of OLED mean the design offers little discernable picture benefits.

Stylish – even extravagant – it is. The TV panel is surrounded by a wider metal frame that doubles as the stand. There’s about 100mm of free space between the edge of the panel and the exterior frame. It seems to serve primarily a decorative function.

The rear of the TV is smoothly finished. There’s an inset in the centre back for just two cables (a panel clips over the top to hide these). One is for power and the other is a special cable by which the panel is connected to an external box of electronics. This measures 360 x 25 x 80mm and has the aerial, USB, HDMI and other connections around its edge. It contains the TV’s electronics as well, except for the actual screen driver. This is powered by the same cable by which it feeds a signal to the panel.

The rear of the television is a smooth expanse of black plastic, with inputs for a power cable and a proprietary lead for connecting the complementary electronics component.

Samsung says that the TV may be upgraded in the future in a similar manner to its other high end TVs’ ‘Evolution Kit’ upgrades. In this case it would be a matter of replacing this external unit.

The TV offers full HD resolution. Built into the frame is a camera for use with the various Smart functions, including Skype and Samsung’s Smart Interaction features, including Voice and Motion Control. It is fully internet-enabled and has the usual Samsung control options, which is to say very advanced ones. In addition to a regular IR remote you get a smart touchpad remote, which allows quite efficient navigation on the Smart screens. Android and iOS apps provide for control from phones and tablets and there is also a level of voice and motion control. All this control and the Smart stuff is identical to Samsung’s current high-end LED LCD TVs, so you can read about it in our previous review (https://gadgetguy.com.au/product/samsung-ua55f8000-3d-lcd-tv/). In short, though, this TV’s smarts are up there with the very best currently available.

Performance

But that’s not really the major point of interest with this TV. That is the panel. And that, in turn, has two quite separate points of interest about it. One is the curve, the other is the OLED.

Of course, the curve is made possible by the OLED, but does it enhance the picture in any way? I didn’t really think so. Nor did it detract much either. One thing about OLED is that even at extreme viewing angles the picture remained balanced in colour and contrast, more so than the best of LED LCDs. However at those extreme angles the picture was more distorted geometrically by the curved screen than by a flat screen.

Straight on or at moderate angles there was little difference in viewing compared to a flat screen. But one thing it will do: if you buy one of these TVs the curve and the general styling will certainly attract attention from your visitors, even those normally indifferent to televisions.

Colour and contrast

As for OLED, the technology’s strengths were clearly evident. Initially the picture looked pretty harsh, but that was only due to the ‘Sharpness’ control being turned up too high. Bringing that down to its proper level made the picture look smooth and attractive. There were perhaps certain expectations about OLED colour performance being particularly dazzling, or something. But that wasn’t the case at all. The colours were just right, not greatly different from a top-end TV based on different technology. Which, when you think about it, is as it should be.

As we’ll see, though, the real strengths of OLED – amazing blacks and exceptionally switching fast speeds – are what set this TV apart from the regular LCD/LED crowd.

The colour, brightness, contrast and speed credentials of OLED technology are evident in Samsung's 55 inch S9.