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Samsung S95D OLED TV review: I pulled my hair out so you don’t have to

Samsung S95D OLED review
Samsung S95D QD-OLED TV
“The most bright room-friendly OLED TV we've tested.”
Pros
  • Exellent brightness
  • Eye-popping color
  • Snappy operation
  • Great gaming features
  • Awesome for bright rooms
Cons
  • Anti-glare treatment is polarizing
  • Blacks may appear lifted in bright rooms

I have never, in all my years as a tech reviewer, seen such intense feelings over a TV. That TV, of course, is the Samsung S95D QD-OLED — Samsung’s flagship OLED TV for 2024. We’ll get to the controversy and hoopla in a moment, but first things first: the Samsung S95D is one hell of a TV, one of the brightest — and definitely one of the best of the year.

Everyone who passed through the studio while I was working on this review was blown away by the S95D. All around, its picture is excellent. With or without the lights on its brightness capabilities excel, color accuracy is great and well-saturated, and its highlights just pop. It features Samsung’s One Connect box (that I’m a big fan of), which allows a single-cable connection to the TV to massively reduce cable clutter, and some respectable built-in sound for a TV with rear-firing speakers and eight bass transducers lining the back.

It’s a well-rounded, premium TV. So what’s all the controversy about, then? Unveiled at CES 2024, the Samsung S95D showed off a feature that has since caused quite an uproar, albeit mostly among TV enthusiasts who have mucked up the conversation around this TV: its anti-glare/anti-reflective technology. Designed to help dissipate any ambient light reflecting off the screen, the tech spreads it out across the screen’s surface, making for a less-harsh viewing experience, especially in bright rooms where traditional OLEDs tend to struggle. However, the dispersion does have an effect over the entire screen, and there’s a vocal minority that would prefer a more localized effect like in most other TVs.

These are all valid points of view, to be sure, and I’m going to get into all of this in the review. So, let’s get started.

Video review

Samsung S95D OLED TV Review | The Most Versatile OLED TV?

Overview and features

Before I get into picture quality, let’s cover some basics. The S95D is a QD-OLED TV, which means it can fundamentally produce higher color purity and a slightly wider color gamut, with better saturation in very bright colors than a WRGB OLED panel. That enhanced performance is not something so easily seen on its own. But if you put this TV next to, say, an LG G4, you can see the difference in some cases — especially in the way it handles reds. Whether you like that is up to personal preference. But from a measurements perspective, this TV technology does have the ability to produce stunning and accurate color.

The S95D comes with Samsung’s One Connect box, which (long the bane of many custom-installation professionals) allows for a single-cable connection to the TV. Power, video, everything. One cable. This can be an advantage, so long as you can hide it the box itself, but it does allow you to reduce cable clutter and makes for a neat and tidy setup. I’ve been a fan of the One Connect box for some time, but it isn’t always a big help to everyone. But that’s how this TV comes, so there it is.

The S95D runs on Samsung’s proprietary Tizen smart TV operating system, of which I have never been a big fan. Some of that is because it takes too many clicks to get to picture settings and such — a problem suffered more by reviewers than the average user. That said, I will give Tizen points for being really snappy. The TV boots up quickly, and the smart TV interface is immediately usable, which is more than I can say for the experience you get from the LG G4 running webOS.

Samsung S95D OLED review
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

But for my review, ultimately, I connected an Apple TV 4K streaming box, even if the TV does not support Dolby Vision. (No Samsung TV does.) I just prefer the experience on the Apple TV over what’s built into Samsung TVs, which, sorry Samsung, that’s just how it is for me.

The Samsung S95D comes with the company’s solar-rechargeable remote. It’s kind of small, but never having to worry about batteries is pretty great. It’s also pretty small, which is good, but, that makes it a little easier to misplace. Additionally, the buttons are not backlit, although there really aren’t many buttons to try to keep track of anyway.

I also didn’t enjoy assembling the stand that comes with this TV. But once you’ve jumped through those hurdles, it is extremely solid and supports the TV really well. Oddly enough, though, it does have just the slightest lean back — at least the test unit we were sent does.

Sound quality

In a lot of our TV reviews, we usually recommend a good soundbar to pair with your TV, because most TVs have terrible sound out of the box. The speakers built in to the S95D, however, surprised me. On the back of the TV are panels of rear-firing speakers lining the edges as well as eight bass transducers that deliver some decent low end.

Samsung S95D OLED review
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

This speaker system works best if the TV is wall-mounted. (I’ve heard it that way, and it is impressive.) But it also can work well if the TV is stand-mounted, too. It just helps if the TV is placed in close proximity to the wall behind it, because it relies a great deal on reflection of the audio waves to sound its best.

Unfortunately we have sound-absorbing slat-wall material in the review studio, so we did not get the best sound out of the S95D. Fortunately, I still have Samsung’s flagship Dolby Atmos soundbar, which remains one of the best soundbar systems you can buy. And it, along with Samsung’s Q-Symphony sound utilizing the TV speakers as enhancement, provides one hell of an at-home cinematic experience.

Nit Nerds, activate!

Those of you who are familiar with my video reviews, I like to do a deep dive into a TVs picture performance with a section I call Numbers for Nit Nerds. But if you aren’t concerned with such things as peak nits and delta E numbers and white balance errors, feel free to skip this section. I’ll be getting to the picture quality takeaways in a moment. But, for you nit nerds out there, I think you’re going to find this pretty interesting.

Samsung S95D OLED review
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

The S95D measured very well. I did need to change the color temperature setting in Filmmaker mode to Warm 2 to get the best white balance, so I suggest you do the same if you want the most accurate picture. But in SDR Filmmaker Mode I got about 200 nits, and of course you can seriously brighten that up if you want.

White balance was admirable — a little heavy on blue, so a bit cool, but no outrageous errors. Color accuracy was excellent, too. And grayscale, on the whole, was quite good. In HDR, again, dark room for measuring. I got about 1,450 nits from a 10% and 5% white window — a little lower than some measurements I’ve seen elsewhere.

When the lights are up, really up, you may notice that black areas aren’t as inky as OLED TVs made with WRGB type OLED panels.

EOTF tracking was solid top to bottom under normal testing conditions. (You can tell I’m alluding to something, right?) HDR color accuracy was great, and the grayscale was very good, if not the best we’ve seen from an OLED TV. Color gamut in HDR was outstanding — 100% of DCI P3 and about 90% of BT. 2020 and the color volume was super impressive — even the brightest colors remain really saturated. That’s that QD-OLED tech at work.

Another thing I noticed is that when testing this TV’s peak brightness: The TV maxes out its capabilities when it sees a window pattern. But when the whole screen is lit up, I don’t think you’re getting 1,400 nit peak highlights. Also, this TV does throttle the brightness after about 20 seconds with an excruciating test pattern like this. You can see it dimming aggressively if you push it too hard. And you can see that it does get hot when pushed hard — I measured a temperature increase of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit before the TV started to force a dimming down.

Samsung S95D OLED review
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

And this intense test window also caused a bit of image retention, though it goes away pretty quickly. Again, real content is not likely to cause this. This is a torture-test reaction. But if you watch, say, hockey, with the TV set to be the brightest it can be, so the APL is super high, and you pause it, or the image lingers a bit, you might catch auto brightness limiter coming in briefly until the picture moves again.

For more discerning viewers, there are a couple of things to consider. When the ambient lights are up, really bright, you may notice that black areas aren’t as inky as OLED TVs made with WRGB type OLED panels. Frankly, it’s never bothered me. Once the screen is lit up with content, the contrast is still so good that I can look past large swathes of dark areas not being as inky. The advantage of pixel-level dimming is still evident, making it a more contrast-y picture on the whole than most LCD-based TVs with backlights.

Anti-glare coating

With the nerdy numbers out of the way, let’s address the elephant in the room. The S95D’s anti-glare technology, which some like to describe as a “matte coating” or “matte finish,” is not a matte finish in the sense that the panel appears to have texture to it, like Samsung’s The Frame TV does — a trick that helps that TV’s image really look like art on canvas.

No, this anti-glare technology doesn’t go that far. It does, however, keep the TV screen’s surface from looking like a dark mirror.

Samsung S95D OLED review
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

I think it makes sense that Samsung would want to offer an OLED TV that could look great in conditions under which OLED TVs typically suffer — namely rooms with a lot of light in them. Part of the solution to that challenge was to make a bright OLED TV, which Samsung has done with the S95D. (More on that later.) The other part was to dissipate ambient light, rather than have it direct-reflected, by ditching the mirror-like effect common on OLED TVs.

The result is the following: Whether the light source is direct and concentrated — like a bright light bulb or sun-flooded window sitting right behind you — or more generalized, room-filling light, the S95D spreads that light over a large amount of screen surface area, thus having a more gentle, less invasive effect. But it occurs over most of the screen.

Samsung S95D OLED review
Left: LG G4 OLED; Right: Samsung S95D Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

My guess is that most folks will prefer more diffused light over a more intense, focused reflection. But from the comments I’ve been reading about this TV, many enthusiasts would prefer the opposite — to have just one part of the screen affected, leaving the rest of the screen looking better.

Now, as many commenters correctly pointed out in my Anti-glare vs. Glossy OLED video, I didn’t talk about how the Samsung S95D looked in those dim, light-controlled conditions. And perhaps that was a mistake. I wanted to talk about the S95D’s merits as a bright-room TV on its own (it’s become my daily driver, actually), figuring I would get to the dim or dark-room performance here in this review. And I will below.

Picture quality

Let me start with a little summary that’s going to put the S95D into perspective. Every single person I showed this TV to has been nothing short of gobsmacked — just smacked all up in their gob — at how gorgeous the picture quality is. I brought in friends, family, neighbors, and professional videographers and imaging professionals, and they all were like, “Dayum, that TV looks amazing.” With the lights on, in total darkness, everyone says this TV is straight fire.

I think that fairly represents what most folks are going to think of the S95D. The TV tends to be a bit brighter than what’s considered accurate in SDR, even in its Filmmaker Mode picture preset. And then of course you can really juice up the brightness by picking a brighter picture mode or just turning up the OLED light level.

Samsung has also introduced a new color booster setting which, again, strays from accuracy by juicing up color saturation, but that’s a look a lot of folks like, so it’s nice to have the option available. And as a bonus, it doesn’t just completely toss accuracy to the wind — it’s just a little extra oomph that is likely to delight a lot of viewers.

And as for the S95D’s anti-glare performance in really bright rooms goes, the treatment makes the image more watchable than with glossy screens, I think. But there’s no denying that the TV will lose some of its contrast as the light is scattered. But I maintain that in harsh lighting conditions, this is still the most watchable OLED TV on the market.

Everyone I showed this TV to thought it was incredible.

In dim rooms (with, I’d say, about 70% to 75% of the lighting scenarios I tried) while moving light sources around to various places in the room and varying the intensity by three different levels, I found the S95D looked great. We’ll investigate how it looks compared to an OLED TV like the LG G4 (stay tuned), but black levels looked inky, contrast was outstanding, and the image has luster.

Is that luster slightly, marginally less than competing glossy OLED TVs? Yes, it is observable in a comparison. But in isolation I think the S95D looks excellent in most scenarios. It may not be the brightest OLED TV on average (I think that award will have to go to the LG G4), but it is more than sufficiently bright for dim-room applications.

Samsung S95D OLED review
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

HDR highlights have pop, and colors are bright and well-saturated. More to the point, most of the time I watched this TV I did not see an obvious hazy, smearing effect even though the measurements show objectively that it is happening.

I’m going to keep watching and testing, but the motion resolution on this TV hasn’t bothered me yet. After around three weeks into watching this TV, I’ve just enjoyed it a bunch.

Samsung S95D OLED review
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

But what’s Game Mode like on the S95D? The picture may be a little over-brightened, super-enjoyable on balance. I’m not a big gamer and I’m not going to pretend to be qualified to say that this is an excellent gaming TV. But I’ll say that I think the game mode and game dashboard is pretty great.

Final thoughts

So, is the Samsung S95D a reference-grade OLED TV? No. Is this TV going to summarily win shootout matches with other OLED TVs under the most ardent of expert scrutiny? Probably not. But is it an excellent TV that is likely to land in more homes than other similarly priced OLED TVs? Yeah, I think it will.

In regards to the S95D’s anti-glare feature. I was wrong if I ever said that the anti-glare screen on this TV was going to be indistinguishable from a glossy OLED TV in most conditions. In a totally dark room, I think most would have a hard time identifying it. But when light is involved, you can see a difference if you have a keen eye. So, for the record, I admit it: The anti-glare screen does visibly alter the image in many different viewing scenarios.

But I stand by my take that the anti-glare is a net positive in most situations and is going to be a benefit to the most amount of customers. But I also agree with the many commenters of my Anti-glare vs. Glossy OLED video — that a version of the S95D without the anti-glare treatment would be a great idea (Samsung, we’re looking at you).

But let’s be clear: We’re talking about Samsung’s flagship QD-OLED TV here. It starts at a baseline of awesome. After that, the scrutiny has to go deep to find its flaws. And I’ll do my best to show you those when I put this up against the LG G4 and perhaps some other OLED TVs. On the whole, though, it is beautiful.

Caleb Denison
Digital Trends Editor at Large Caleb Denison is a sought-after writer, speaker, and television correspondent with unmatched…
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