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The name is pure marketing, but Samsung’s SUHD is really a step up. Here’s why

Don’t kill the messenger, but what you thought you knew about 4K UHD no longer applies.

We know, we know: Technology can be frustrating sometimes. But the good news is that if you’re not an early adopter who scooped up a 4K UHD TV in the last couple of years, your reluctance to buy into a bleeding-edge-new technology will end up paying off in the long run. Just hold onto that sense of reluctance, because in the near future, we’re all going to be able to enjoy the most significant advance in TV technology since the introduction of the flat screen — and Samsung’s SUHD TV is one of many bright, shining examples of that future. Literally.

In case you haven’t been keeping track, 4K UHD TVs were first introduced to consumers in late 2012. Since then, UHD has been touted as having four times the resolution of 1080p HD. Four times the pixels was supposed to mean four times the detail, and although we’ve always felt the improvement in picture quality was limited to large-scale TVs, we did see an improvement.

This new breed of UHD TVs boils down to two interlinked elements: Wide Color Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR).

Then CES 2015 happened, and it became clear that UHD TV was in the midst of being redefined. First announced at Samsung’s CES 2015 press conference, a consortium of manufacturers and content creators called the UHD Alliance has been formed to settle on a new definition and detailed specifications for UHD. And, wouldn’t  you know it, Samsung is one of the founding members of the group. No wonder, then, that the company’s SUHD TV lineup serves as a bellwether for the TV of the future.

Now to be clear: Nearly every other major TV manufacturer now offers a at least one model that can pull off the same new tricks Samsung’s SUHD can, they just call them something different. The reason we’re focusing on this SUHD TV here is because Samsung got its products on the street (and in our hands) first, so that’s what we have to show you. Now about those “new tricks.”

What differentiates the new breed of UHD TVs from prior generations boils down to two interlinked elements: Wide Color Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range. Both performance improvements come courtesy of new LED backlighting technology that allows for a much, much bigger color palette and, simultaneously, increased brightness, or luminosity.

Samsung’s JS9500 in our home theater testing lab. Image used with permission by copyright holder

The combined effects are stunning. These new TVs can produce fine color gradients that have never been possible in a television before — only at the cinema. How do we know this? Because Samsung pulled some strings with movies companies and had some movie clips remastered in HDR, with new colors to show it off, and we’ve got it right here in our testing lab. That’s what we’re showing to you here. Well, sort of.

We’ve done our best to expose the differences between standard HD and UHD with WCG and HDR in this video, but, as you can probably imagine, you can’t really see the full effect because for that we’d have had to record the video on a 4K camera with HDR, you would need a UHD TV or monitor with HDR to watch the video on, and the streaming video service you watch it through would have to support HDR. Obviously, since this technology is so new, none of those factors are in place.

But we can tell you that you should go check it out at your earliest convenience, because it really is worth seeing. And lest you think this technology is a long way from reality, know this: Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu are all commited to delivering 4K UHD content with HDR in the near future, and UHD Blu-ray, when it comes available late this year or early next, will offer consumers some of the most stunning images they’ve ever seen in their homes.

So there you have it. SUHD is Samsung’s take on the future of television, and while that four-letter acronym will never be stamped on anything other than a Samsung TV, it’s worth understanding what it represents, because this is what all the kids will be watching, long after tube TVs become a part of their history books.

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