Regardless of what TV you end up buying, Full HD is bound to be supported, but if you have an Ultra HD TV, which the Samsung Series 9 certainly is, even this is considered a low resolution.
As such, just like the standard and high definition broadcasts, Samsung’s Series 9 TV has some hardware and software to help the machine work, upscaling the Full HD so that it looks better on a 4K Ultra HD screen.
And here, it actually works a treat, with the 1080p picture making an easier transition to the 2160p Ultra HD demands, less an issue compared to the 480p and 720p of the lower standards.
These might just seem like numbers to you, but this makes a big difference, and the bigger the picture is to start with, the less work an upscaling algorithm has to do to make the picture look better on a larger resolution.
We tested this using three titles this week, with the animated movie “Wall-E”, superhero flick “Iron Man 3”, and also “Tron Legacy” just for good measure since it has plenty of darks to test the screen out.
“Wall-E” was the starting point however, and here we can notice a little bit of colour degradation appearing as banding, with a hint of softness in the images, but for the most part, the video is clear, and if you’re sitting a metre or two back from the screen, you’re not likely to notice anything lost.
The same was true with “Iron Man 3”, which made it difficult to tell if this was a Full HD movie or not. Watching the up close shots of Robert Downey Jr, you couidn’t see too much detail being lost in the face, and generally any artefacts occurred when something was in motion, but it was gone in a flash and you were onto the next frame.
Much the same was true with “Tron Legacy”, which showed vibrant colours that weren’t overkill, but still looked bright and dynamic, while skin tones appeared natural, though ever so slightly cool, likely due to Tron’s blue cast on everything.
And again, the Full HD content was upscaled very nicely, with little lost to softness, usually only in motion where the odd artefact could be seen.
Simply put, at 65 inches, you’d be hard pressed to complain about Full HD being upscaled to Ultra HD. We couldn’t notice much of a reason to fuss, and you probably won’t either.
The scarcity of 4K Ultra HD
One of the downsides with a 4K TV is knowing that right now, in 2015, the content is practically impossible to come by, especially in Australia.
Some TV companies have worked out ways to delivering 4K to their customers, and Sony in America is probably the best example, making a few 4K UHD titles available to new TV owners via a specialised hard drive media streamer, but not all TVs get that.
If we recall, there’s even an online service that will let Americans purchase and download 4K movies from their homes, and given the size of Ultra HD movies and how they don’t fit on a conventional Blu-ray disc, this is a big deal, as it delivers movies in the right resolution to a TV craving that newer, higher definition that’s available.
In Australia, though, we’re not quite as lucky.
Somewhere between not having a finished National Broadband Network that delivers speeds higher than the rough 7 to 11Mbps Australians have had for decades on ADSL2+, and of course the lack of a Ultra HD media format, not to mention a lack of 4K movie files available to purchase locally, an Australian keen to playback 4K content is more or less out of luck.
Which is a shame, because Samsung let us play with some of this content this week, taking a gander at Labrador puppies frolicking in 4K, as well as a 4K file of the recent Star Trek title, “Star Trek: Into Darkness”.
In each of these, the quality was more reminiscent of what Full HD was like on a Full HD TV: exactly what you’re meant to be seeing, with sharp details, excellent visuals, and a clarity that only Ultra HD could deliver on a UHD TV.
No upscaling is needed for this to happen, but the files are much bigger, and while a Full HD movie might be 5 to 10GB, “Star Trek: Into Darkness” reached closer to the 40GB mark, which isn’t a small amount of data.
Fortunately, you don’t have to keep this on a thumb drive, and the TV will let you plug in a hard drive and store this movie here, loading it over USB 3.0 and playing back a large file with ease.
That said, as much as we valued these big 4K files, they’re often hard to find. What you can do, however, is subscribe to Netflix’s 4K account and receive an Ultra HD stream of various titles, including “House of Cards”, “Daredevil”, “The Blacklist”, “Breaking Bad”, and even a few movies, such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Jerry Maguire”, “Hitch”, and “The Smurfs 2”.
Granted, you should have a very fast connection to receive the Netflix 4K stream, but if you do — over the 15Mbps mark, with 21 to 25Mbps really suggested — you be able to pull in enough bandwidth to watch in 4K.
That being said, watching Full HD “House of Cards”, again, our experience was much like that of the Full HD movies on Blu-ray, with little lost in the way of detail or clarity, and only a hint of softness. You’d have to be pretty fussy to find the Full HD not acceptable here, because we were comfortable watching it without any problems.