If a flat-panel TV can be zaftig, then the 65-inch Samsung KS9800 4K Ultra HD TV fits the bill. It's a little thicker than many flat panels, but its curved display is enticing, especially with the set's high dynamic range (HDR), support for extended colors and better contrast.
The Samsung KS9800 is a full-featured 4K TV that supports the Ultra HD Premium HDR specification. This quantum-dot LCD set also boasts a full-array backlighting system, which helps improve black levels and reduces the occasional (but subtle) light flashing you may witness in scene transitions on other sets. But it's not just the picture that will knock your socks off — so will the price: about $4,000.
Design: Curved backside
Perched on a huge, center-mounted, V-shaped pedestal (like the one for Samsung's KS9000), the KS9800 is imposing.
Its shiny black body is attractive but not quite as steady on the stand as smaller screens are.
To keep most of the connections out of sight, there's only a USB, Ethernet and proprietary One Connect port on the KS9800's derriere.
The One Connect plug leads to an external, 8-inch-long box that you can tuck under a counter with four HDMI, one RF and two additional USB ports. Sitting in a room, its lined backplate and dominant curve definitely catch your eye. But once you're ensconced in front of the set, the curvature of the screen doesn't seem so severe, although it does reduce the number of available optimal viewing positions.
Performance: Excellent balance and poise
It's difficult to find any faults with the Samsung KS9800's picture, especially watching 4K movies and videos. Stainless-steel counters in the lab of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 look like you could reach out and touch them. Color gradients are delivered seamlessly as well, without any obvious banding.
Conversely, warmer colors are rendered with finesse: A singer's red dress in a 4K HDR music video was appropriately saturated yet looked soft, while a musician's stand-up bass revealed details like the grain of the wood.
The Samsung KS9800 also easily handled tricky scenes in a 4K HDR disc of The Martian. Shots of dawn on Mars were subtly rendered. There was no appreciable light leakage around bright objects on a dark background. There was some slight loss of detail in black surfaces or shadows, but I'm nitpicking. Off-axis viewing was pretty solid with colors remaining relatively steady, especially considering the display's curve.
4K content is still relatively scarce, but, the Samsung KS9800 did an excellent job upscaling standard HD fare. In its best preset movie mode, this set delivered excellent screen uniformity, revealing pinpoints of light against dark skies without generating halos around the objects. The Samsung KS9800 adroitly handled a challenging scene in Gravity of an astronaut spinning out into space, without creating flares or blooming every time the helmet-mounted lights flashed across the screen.
Even upscaled, fast-paced action sequences such as the opening car-motorcycle-and-train chase in Skyfall were ably tracked by the KS9800 without creating any excessively blurred edges or odd image artifacts.
Audio: Pleasing reproduction
Given the poor state of audio generally found on even the most expensive TVs, I was pleasantly surprised by the Samsung KS9800's sonic abilities. It delivered a very pleasing sound with a predominance of midrange, which most listeners prefer. It was also able to deliver more punch on the bottom end for explosions and bass drums.
Switching between various preset audio modes, the Samsung KS9800 wasn't able to yield a lot of separation between instruments when playing music, and it didn't generally deliver a big, open surround-sound effect. However, the sound seemed well-matched to the intimate — if a 65-inch TV can feel intimate — curvature of the display.
Interface: Too clever remote
Samsung includes the same minimalist remote control that the company ships with other premium sets. I found the remote confusing and so must early testers, because when you first boot up the TV there are instructions on how to use the volume and channel controls. The raised tiny chrome bars toggle up and down to make the adjustments, and you need to select numbers using a pop-up, on-screen menu. I found the design too clever by half, but design-conscious owners may appreciate it.
Samsung promises the mini remote can handle some mighty tasks, acting as a universal controller for anything you plug into the set. I didn't have a chance to test many devices connected to it, but a 4K Blu-ray player and media box I tried worked. So with some practice, owners may find the smaller remote control a boon rather than a bust.
Samsung's smart-TV interface is certainly a benefit. In addition to offering support for all the major streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon and Vudu, the icons along the bottom of the screen are easy to follow. And whenever you select an input or feature, a second row of options on top changes automatically for quick access.
If you add Samsung's Extend USB stick (free with purchase of the TV), you can use the KS9800 to control compatible smart-home devices, such as the motion sensors, lights and cameras from SmartThings (also owned by Samsung).
With its latest flagship TV, Samsung seems to have set itself a goal of delivering the most balanced TV picture it could muster. The company has done an excellent job with the 65-inch, curved KS9800. Sure, this set doesn't deliver the knockout punch that OLED displays can achieve, but this panel is brighter and offers a strikingly well-balanced picture with truly impressive abilities. The $4,000 price tag may be off-putting, but if you want one of the best curved 4K sets available, Samsung's KS9800 won't disappoint.