(Pocket-lint) - With Samsung's flagship QLED TVs this year costing an arm and a leg, many would-be Samsung TV buyers are being forced to turn their sights instead to the brand's much more affordable MU range.
We've seen the MU7000 model, which offers bucket loads of features for a fair price. But this review is about the step-up MU9000 curved screen model in the same series. Is it worth the extra cash, or are you better off ditching the curve for the better-priced MU7000?
Samsung MU9000 review: Design
- 4x HDMI in
- 3x USB multimedia port
- LAN and Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth headphone support
The MU9000's most striking design feature is its curved screen - especially now that curved screens are becoming increasingly hard to find in the wild.
While curved screens come with performance strings attached, there's no denying that they look the part. You only have to spend a few minutes watching in-store punters browsing rows of TVs to see how much curved screens still lure people in like months to a flame.
Samsung has enhanced the core allure of the MU9000's curve nicely too, with a gleaming silver boomerang-style stand and a skinny screen frame that still manages to squeeze in a lovely combination of black and silver colour elements.
As with Samsung TVs these days, the design prowess extends to the set's rear, which is as elegant and minimalist as the front. The rear also benefits from a dearth of cable spaghetti, since the MU9000 continues the now long-running - and actually pretty sensible - Samsung trend of providing most connections on an external One Connect box that attaches to the TV via a single cable.
Connections on that external box are plentiful too, including four HDMIs, three USBs, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi/Ethernet network support.
Samsung MU9000 review: Picture features
- HDR Support: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+
- Processing Engine: Samsung's proprietary picture engine, an HDR+ SDR-to-HDR conversion system, depth enhancement for the curved screen.
The MU9000 sports a native 4K resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) playback across three formats: the industry standard HDR10 platform, the HLG broadcast platform, and the new Samsung-created HDR10+ system.
If you haven't heard of this latter platform, it's a new creation designed to add extra scene-by-scene data to the HDR10 platform, so that TVs can play HDR better. Amazon and 20th Century Fox are the only content brands currently committed to making HDR10+ content, though.
There's no support for the other dynamic HDR system on the block, Dolby Vision.
The MU9000 isn't one of Samsung's new QLED designs, which use metal-coated Quantum Dots to enhance brightness and colour. But its edge-lit, locally dimmed LED lighting system still packs a punch. Samsung reckons it can pump out 1,000 nits for small brightness peaks (a claim that's backed up by a measured 700 nits of sustained light output when using a 10 per cent white HDR window - note, however, that you need to use the local dimming setting on high to hit 700 nits; the figure drops considerably, to around 600 nits, if you use one of the other local dimming settings).
As you'd hope with a reasonably high-end HDR TV, the MU9000 uses wide colour gamut technology capable of delivering more than 90 per cent of the so-called DCI P3 digital cinema colour range.
A variety of picture processing options are provided, including optional motion compensation and noise reduction, a system for converting standard dynamic range (SDR) to HDR, and a proprietary depth enhancement circuit that tweaks the image to make it look better on the TV's curved screen. This last feature can't be switched off, but fortunately doesn't seem to do any harm to the picture.
Samsung UE55MU9000 review: Smart features
- Eden 2.0 smart system
- Netflix, Amazon, Now TV, and key UK catch-up TV
- Voice-control system
The home menus of Samsung's Eden 2.0 smart TV platform are economical in the amount of screen real-estate they take up, yet provide plenty of instant content links and a logical structure via the use of two contextual layers of icons.
Navigation around the menus is a satisfyingly slick process, and it's easy to customise which content icons are given pride of place on the home screen.
Online apps available cover all the important bases, including Netflix, Amazon and YouTube in 4K and HDR; along with Now TV and separate apps for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
The MU9000 also boasts something pretty much unique for the smart TV world: a voice control/recognition system that actually works. You can access and manipulate almost every feature of the set by speaking just one- or two-word commands, so you no longer need to learn a whole new language before the TV will listen to you.
The only thing missing from the MU9000's smart system is a handy, feature-adding wrapper - such as YouView or Freeview Play - for the terrestrial TV catch-up apps.
Samsung UE55MU9000 Review: Picture quality
First impressions of the MU9000's images are pretty dazzling. It delivers HDR sources with a level of brightness and dynamism that seems to punch above the measured 700 nits of brightness, giving plenty of intensity to the brightest image peaks and much more life-like intensity to bright exteriors.
To some extent the sense of dynamism in the picture is down to the MU9000's ability to deliver pretty deep black colours by LCD standards. This is a strength Samsung LCD TVs can usually be relied on to provide.
The MU9000's brightness and wide colour gamut combine to give HDR images a gorgeously intense and rich colour palette, in addition to helping its pictures hold up more successfully in bright room situations than those of most similarly priced rivals.
All of these bold HDR strengths make switching back to viewing standard dynamic range pretty painful. With this in mind, you may be tempted to try Samsung's HDR+ processing engine, which expands the colour and brightness range of SDR sources to make them look like HDR.
The results aren't totally convincing, however, as colours often look slightly "off". Raising the content's base light level can lead to source noise being exaggerated, too. It's easily the most aggressive HDR upscaling system in the TV world right now, thus we can imagine it scratching the itch of at least some HDR-loving users.
The MU9000 excels at bringing out all the extra sharpness and detail associated with native 4K content playback. In fact, its 4K images are among the very sharpest and crispest around - and this sharpness is now (unlike previous Samsung generations) delivered out of the box without looking excessively grainy, or suffering with ghosting around sharply contrasted edges.
The sharpness remains pleasingly in tact during action scenes too, thanks to Samsung's impressive motion processing. This reduces judder and blur, without causing much in the way of unwanted side effects - so long, anyway, as you don't use the highest setting of the TV's motion processing engine, which makes everything look like a soap opera.
It's not just with native 4K sources that the MU9000's sharpness catches the eye. It upscales HD sources to its 4K pixel count extremely well, removing noise and quadrupling the number of pixels in the picture without leaving the results looking heavily processed or rough and ready.
One last key strength of the MU9000's pictures is how quickly the TV can render them. Switching the set to its Game picture preset yields a lag time of barely 10ms - one of the lowest figures in the TV world. This will come as music to the ears of gamers looking for a TV to do double duty as a fast-reacting gaming monitor.
Samsung MU9000 review: The not-so-good stuff
While the MU9000's pictures are capable of looking spectacularly good for £1,400, they can sometimes be impacted by a trio of issues.
First, dark parts of HDR pictures can suffer with pretty noticeable clouding problems when you're using Local Dimming on the High setting that otherwise gives the most satisfying HDR results. If a predominantly dark scene contains a couple of bright HDR elements, you can routinely see four fairly large clouds of light along the image's top edge that draw your eye away from the main action.
Turning the Local Dimming setting down to a lower setting makes these clouds almost disappear. However, this also means that black levels don't look as deep and rich, while the brightest parts of the picture no longer look nearly as punchy. In other words, the picture no longer looks HDR proper.
Issue two finds the picture losing contrast and colour quite severely if you're forced to watch the screen from an angle of any more than 25-30 degrees. This is a common failing with LCD TVs, to be fair, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still warrant a mention.
Finally, the curved screen has a nasty habit of distorting any onscreen reflections right across its surface. It's possible that the curved screen could also be contributing to the backlight issues, since keeping light where it should be is inevitably more difficult when you're trying to curve uniformly all of an LCD screen's many layers and elements.
Samsung MU9000 review: Sound quality
For a TV that doesn't boast any visible speakers, the MU9000 sounds pretty decent. There's a pleasingly full, smooth flavour to its sound which stops anything sounding excessively harsh, and helps voices sound both believable and well integrated into their film or TV show backdrop.
There's a solid amount of bass around to underpin the mid-range, too, that is capable of kicking up three or four gears to meet the demands of a swelling action scene and avoiding the flat, thin sound often heard with affordable flat TVs.
The MU9000 proves again that while OLED might have the competition licked where black level performance is concerned, when it comes to HDR-friendly levels of brightness at affordable price points, LCD still packs a powerful punch.
That said, issues with reflections on the MU9000's curved screen and some unusually (by Samsung standards) noticeable backlight clouding flaws ultimately make it only a good rather than great TV. With that in mind, the not-curved and more affordable MU7000 is the more logical purchase.
Alternatives to consider
Although it can't hit the same black level depths and contrast extremes of the more expensive MU9000, the flat-screen MU7000 arguably delivers more consistent and thus immersive pictures - despite costing significantly less.
Read the full article: Samsung MU7000 review
This 55-inch Sony model costs £300 more, but it rewards your extra outlay with almost twice as much brightness as you get with the UE55MU9000. This helps it deliver some stunningly impactful HDR pictures. It uses an innovative double light plate design to improve local light management too - though despite this you can still sometimes see gentle backlight blooming around stand-out bright HDR objects.
Read the full article: Sony XE93 review