Samsung S95C OLED TV
“The S95C is the best TV Samsung has ever made”
- Incredibly bright colors
- Perfect black levels
- Pristine overall picture
- Great upscaling
- Awesome for gaming
- Mediocre sound
- No Dolby Vision support
I’ve been looking forward to this review for months. Since visiting Samsung Display at CES 2023 earlier this year and learning about significant improvements to its second generation of quantum dot OLED (QD-OLED) panels, I’ve been expecting the S95C would offer everything that made 2022’s S95B such a beautiful TV, plus higher brightness, sleeker design, and better features.
My expectations were lofty, but I’m tickled to report that I’ve not been disappointed. The Samsung S95C is a wonderful TV in the truest sense of the term. In fact, I am convinced the S95C is the best TV Samsung has ever made. Now I just need to convince you — and, strangely enough, Samsung — that it’s true. So, let’s get into it.
Setup and operation
TV’s are about more than just picture quality. I’ve always said that if the best picture quality in the world came in a TV I hated living with, then I didn’t want it. I think we deserve to love living with something that cost so much money. With that in mind, here’s some non-picture quality stuff first.
Despite having experienced a little frustration assembling the S95C’s pedestal-style stand, I’m going to say the effort is worth it. The all-metal stand is robust, stable, high-quality, and leaves ample space below the bottom of the TV for a soundbar, which is important because this TV deserves at least one of those.
The stand also acts as a holding platform for Samsung’s One Connect box, which I’m happy to see has escaped the confines of Samsung’s 8K QLED tier. I am a fan of the One Connect box, as you may recall from prior Samsung TV reviews, and I think this latest version is Samsung’s best implementation yet. I understand custom A/V installers don’t care for it, as it doesn’t play nicely with their typically elaborate and highly customized installation plans. But for those of you installing your own TVs, whether on a stand or wall-mounted, the ability to host all connections separately and run one cable, including power, to the TV is user-friendly in a way that I wish all TVs were. Like to swap out gear often? This arrangement makes it easy.
Since we’re talking about the One Connect box, now is a good time to mention that this TV will pass through Dolby Atmos via eARC — but it does not support DTS passthrough. DTS is a common audio format on many Blu-rays, so if you want the best sound from your Blu-ray player and you aren’t interested in the Dolby alternative, you’ll need to run your disc player through your audio device first, then to the TV. Frankly, I don’t understand the lack of DTS support.
This TV also has an ATSC 3.0 tuner in it, which is good in that it is future-proofed for the latest broadcast standards. But much to the chagrin of the interest group that pushes ATSC 3.0, I have yet to see any real benefits come through for us TV watchers at home. I think broadcasters will get it there eventually, though.
I am not a big fan of Samsung’s Tizen or LG’s webOS.
As for Tizen, Samsung’s Smart TV OS, let me just be clear about a personal bias I have here: I prefer Google TV and Apple’s tvOS, and I still think Roku is a solid choice for many folks. I am not a big fan of Samsung’s Tizen, or LG’s webOS for that matter. Tizen is now better than it was before, and I appreciate that a lot of work has gone into it. But it tries to do too much, it feels unnecessarily complicated, and the TV is sluggish at times because of it.
I will make one exception here, and that’s Samsung’s embedded cloud gaming hub, which I think is of legit value to anyone who is ready to give up on consoles and just game from the cloud.
If I owned this TV, I would use one of my HDMI ports by plugging in a Chromecast with Google TV dongle. That’s me, though. You do you.
Speaking of HDMI ports, you get four full-bandwidth HDMI 2.1 ports, so no limitations in terms of connectivity, which is great news for gamers who want to get the most out of their next-gen console. There’s no support for Dolby Vision, be it for games, streaming, or disc playback, though.
This TV does a great job of auto-labeling all game systems, goes into low-latency gaming mode automatically, and offers a comprehensive gaming dashboard to boot. The TV also supports variable refresh rate (VRR) and it goes up to 144Hz, all while maintaining an input lag right around 9 milliseconds. I’ll get into gaming picture quality a bit in a moment, but from a gaming features standpoint, this TV is loaded.
I’m going to go ahead and issue a hot take: This is the best TV Samsung has ever made. Period. As far as I’m concerned, this is Samsung’s real 2023 flagship. Funnily enough, though, Samsung doesn’t agree with me. Stick around till the end, and I’ll explain that little bit of inside baseball a bit more. For now, let’s talk about why this is the best TV Samsung has ever made.
Look back one year: Samsung’s S95B QD-OLED was an amazing TV. A real turning point for Samsung, in my opinion. Ironically, that TV almost didn’t get made. I’m glad it did, though, because it was wildly popular, and so Samsung Electronics decided to expand the line. This year, not only are there two tiers of QD-OLED, the S95C and S90C, but there is also a 77-inch screen size, which, not going to lie, I wish I had.
Perhaps more important, though, is that Samsung Electronics used Samsung Display’s newest QD-OLED panel. One of several benefits of this new panel is that it allows this new QD-OLED model to get significantly brighter than the first generation of this technology.
As a reminder, the S95B peaked at 1,000 nits of pure white brightness. This TV peaks at just shy of 1,600 nits, a 60% increase. Now, that is notably higher than the measured peak brightness results some other YouTubers and publications are getting, which could mean a few things. It could mean this review unit is a golden sample — which I wouldn’t put past Samsung giving me. But, Samsung turned around the shipment on a replacement TV (the first one arrived damaged) so fast that it would have to have been vetted in advance. It’s possible. It’s also possible I just got lucky with the quality of the sample I got.
But to be clear, I tested this TV after it had been running for quite some time in a 70-degree room. I mention that because it is true that as this TV warms up, it will throttle back the peak brightness a bit to protect it. Still, even after I adjusted the grayscale on this TV and it had been running for hours, I got 1,560 nits at multiple window sizes in HDR Filmmaker Mode.
In SDR Filmmaker mode, I got 250 nits. But if you venture outside Filmmaker mode to a brighter picture mode, you can easily get 600 nits. Full screen will still tap out at about 250 nits, though.
The point is, this TV does a great job combating glare and ambient brightness. Were it not for the slightly purplish tint to the screen when you hit it with direct light — emphasis on direct — then I’d say this is as good a bright room TV as any. But you do lose just a tiny bit of the deep blacks when you fire a light cannon at this thing. So if you do that a lot, well, OLED probably isn’t for you anyway.
But the peak white brightness isn’t the real story with this TV. It’s the peak color luminance. And in that regard, QD-OLED is coming up aces. I measured very impressive color brightness levels with little sacrifice to accuracy. This TV doesn’t just have a lot of general brightness punch; it has very specific color brightness, which gives it this super vivid vibe that, when combined with OLED’s perfect blacks, is simply unmatched by any other TV technology. It’s just such a treat for the eyes!
Finally, let me say that this TV in its unaltered Filmmaker modes, both SDR and HDR, came up with very impressive, accurate results. Except for bright white and two specific colors, everything tested under a delta error of 3, which means that errors can only be measured with equipment, not seen with your eyes. Again, perhaps it’s a golden sample, but it shows this TV is very capable of being calibrated to near perfection.
So we have excellent white brightness, excellent color brightness, excellent color saturation, excellent color volume, 100% of P3 color space, and 75% of BT.2020. What else is there to love about this TV? Well, its processing is also very impressive. There’s virtually no color banding, and motion is solid even without any motion smoothing turned on – if you have to have it, there is a black frame insertion feature, but you know I’m no fan of BFI. This TV is just ticking off all the boxes.
I watched a LOT of movies on this TV. I went back to Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and both looked outstanding. While I was on Disney+, I also checked out Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Now this is a flick that is rich in made-up colors — the opening sequence contains colors that only exist in the dark corners of the multiverse I imagine, and I’ve seen lesser TVs struggle to pull off the intense hues of red, purple, and blue in a way that didn’t look faked and strained. Granted, as viewed on the S95C you’re not getting Dolby Vision, but I have to say I didn’t feel like I was missing much ofanything. It dazzles, right to the very end.
Is there anything that is not awesome about this TV?
Of course, I also had to pull out the because are you even a TV reviewer if you don’t? There are some telltale scenes here, and the S95C passed them all with flying colors. It was here that I toggled between the TV’s active and static HDR tone mapping options — the static option means that the TV is reproducing HDR as the creators intended (this was a needed add by Samsung), while the active setting lets Samsung do its thing where it overly brightens images, abandoning technical accuracy for a presentation that’s based on what it thinks most folks like. And if you like zing, the Active mode will deliver. You get a brighter overall picture, but HDR highlights still stand out pretty well. I’m not here to judge what you like best, I just want to report that you have the options you want with this TV.
Is there anything that is not awesome about this TV?
Well, no, not really. Not for most folks. I suppose I could complain that as accurate as it is otherwise, the TV does tend to over-brighten things in Game Mode. But generally, the S95C offers a gorgeous gaming experience. I will whinge about there being no Dolby Vision support, but that will come as no surprise to those who follow Samsung’s stubbornness. I’m also a little perplexed that this TV doesn’t sound great on its own when there is literally an array of bass transducers lining the back. That gets the big shrug emoji.
Otherwise, this TV is exemplary. And it comes in a 77-inch option now! If you want one of the best TVs you can buy, this is one of them. This is — I’m sure of it — going to be one of my three top picks for best TV this year. I think the short list is going to be the LG G3, probably the Sony A95L — though I have yet to test it — and then it’s the S95C. This TV is a delight.
The only reason you should not buy this TV is if you constantly watch in a totally sun-drenched room, like to point studio lights at your TV while watching for some odd-ball reason, feel like not having Dolby Vision is a nonstarter, or watch a lot of sports channels or other channels with static elements for five to six hours a day every day without fail. Those are really the only reasons not to buy this TV. Otherwise, get it. It is superb.
Samsung, let your flagship fly
Here’s the thing, though. It could be better. I think this TV is being intentionally held back by Samsung. I know for a fact that Samsung Display designed this TV so that it could peak at 2,000 nits. This TV is not meeting its full potential. Why would Samsung hold it back? Well, I can only theorize. But I will say that Samsung doesn’t view this TV as its flagship. It is still pushing its 8K QLED line hard, and it is quite proud of its top-tier 4K QLED, the QN95C. So long as the S95C here isn’t the flagship, then it can’t be throwing shade at other TVs in Samsung’s lineup. So, I think its performance has been reined in just enough so that it doesn’t stomp on those top-tier QLEDs. That’s just a theory. I could be wrong. I suppose we’ll find out later this year when the Sony A95L comes out.
Until then, I’m going to enjoy this S95C for as long as I can. I don’t want to let this TV go. It’s such a joy to watch.