Samsung S95C QD-OLED 4K TV Review - OLED Nirvana
Samsung's S95C is a top contender for the best TV of the year.
BY AUTHOR: RYAN WANIATA
It’s a fantastic time to invest in a premium TV. OLED displays, already renowned for their excellent contrast and perfect black levels, have gotten a lot brighter in 2023, allowing them to better compete with their juiced-up LED counterparts under any lighting conditions. It’s fair to say that Samsung’s decision to get back into the OLED TV market last year with the acclaimed S95B QD-OLED TV has been a driver of this innovation.
This year’s S95C is even better and brighter, once again utilizing a mix of OLED’s revered display technology and a layer of quantum dots, which are used in some of the brightest TVs on the planet for enhanced colors and searing highlights. The results are spectacular. This isn’t just a great-looking TV, it’s one of the very best TVs you can buy.
Fantastic contrast and off-axis viewing
Rich, inky black levels
Brilliantly bright and accurate colors
Impressive HDR highlights
Excellent gaming features
No Dolby Vision or DTS support
Lengthy setup meets rugged good looks
Set some time aside to put the S95C together, because it’s gonna take a while. Pulling the panel from the box, I kept finding more pieces to the jigsaw puzzle, including the multi-piece, V-shaped stand mount. A word of advice there – the stand is made of stout (and heavy) metal so don’t drop it on your bare foot like I did.
Once you’ve got the TV mounted, it’s time to set up Samsung’s One Connect box, a separate panel for the inputs and power port that connects to the TV over a single wire for a clean look. Samsung helpfully includes multiple ways to mount the thin box, including on the panel itself, on the mounting stand, or set as a separate entity on your TV console. Both long and short connection cable options are included to fit your desired configuration.
The breakaway design helps keep the panel thin and uniform across its charcoal backside, with only a few speaker drivers at the bottom disturbing the sleek lines. The panel’s profile isn’t quite as laser thin at the top as my LG C1 OLED, but it also doesn’t bulge out at the bottom and feels sturdier. Up front, thin bezels across all four sides complete the smart, modern styling.
I can’t move on without also mentioning Samsung’s adorably small remote, which is intuitive, surprisingly functional, and brilliantly offers solar charging as an endless power supply.
Inputs and formats
The S95C is as loaded in the inputs department as you’d expect at this price. You’ll get four, full bandwidth HDMI 2.1 inputs (one with eARC) which support VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and 4K content at up to 144Hz for high-frame-rate gaming. Other inputs include three USB ports, Ethernet, coaxial connection, and digital optical output. You can connect headphones over Bluetooth 5.2 or stream content over AirPlay 2 and Chromecast.
The TV supports PC or Mac connection via HDMI or wirelessly with Samsung Software. OLED panels, especially of the QD-OLED variety like the S95C, have gotten flack for their lack of PC text clarity due to the unique way in which their subpixels are arranged, so you probably won’t want to use this display as a monitor for most applications. That said, it’s certainly usable, and I didn’t notice much difference from my LG C1 OLED.
As for video formats, the TV supports HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) HDR, but not Dolby Vision, which is unfortunate. Prized for its ability to adapt to HDR content frame by frame, Dolby Vision has become a go-to format for plenty of production studios, especially for streaming. Samsung’s HDR10+ also adapts quickly to different HDR scenes, though, and you’ll find it and its more basic predecessor as an alternative with most 4K HDR content.
On the audio side, the S95C provides Dolby Atmos passthrough but, like many LG TVs (including my C1), it does not support DTS audio. There are workarounds, but if you’ve got a large Blu-ray collection, this is a bummer and means you’ll want to connect outboard components to a compatible receiver or soundbar first.
Solid interface and smart features
Roku OS and Google TV (formerly Android TV) are often the preferred smart interfaces for plenty of reviewers and users alike. I get it, they’re ultra-simple and circumvent a lot of the clutter you’ll get with first-party interfaces like LG’s webOS and Samsung’s Tizen.
That said, Tizen has come a long way over the years, and the latest iteration is beautifully designed. The biggest test for me is whether it’s a bigger pain to use the built-in software or a streaming box, and while I don’t love that the TV seems to keep trying to serve me Lifetime movies, Samsung’s latest version passed the test there and offers some cool extras, to boot.
The TV reads all your connected devices instantly, and connects quickly to new devices like a laptop or console. The apps that weren’t automatically added were available in the app store, and best of all, I haven’t found one yet that didn’t allow me to log in via a QR code with my phone, skipping the ridiculous point-and-tap logins.
Samsung Health offers “hundreds” of free hours of workouts and even fitness tracking if you add a separate camera. And although the built-in sound isn’t much to write home about, if you’ve got a recent Samsung soundbar with Q-Symphony, you can use the bar and TV speakers in concert. The best feature, though, has to be the built-in Gaming Hub.
Groovy gaming support
Gamers are going to love this TV, not only for its speedy refresh rate and high-bandwidth inputs, but also for the ability to connect a variety of gaming controllers directly and source cloud gaming (i.e. stream games) from multiple services in the Gaming Hub – no console required.
The Hub currently supports Nvidia GeForce Now, Amazon Luna, and Xbox Cloud Gaming. Other handy features include the ability to switch games without jumping back to the home screen, view recent games, play music, watch “related content,” and more.
Breathtaking picture quality
Before we get going, a few quick notes: I did most of my testing using Filmmaker Mode and Movie Mode, with minor adjustments including setting the color from Warm 2 to Warm 1 for daytime viewing (just my preference), and disabling ambient light settings.
Put simply, the S95C is the best 4K TV I’ve ever seen. And as someone who’s extensively covered the TV extravaganza that is CES in Las Vegas for multiple years, I’ve seen some beauties.
I should caveat by saying I’ve not yet experienced top rivals like LG’s latest “Gallery” OLED TV, the G3. Utilizing LG’s best WOLED display tech, which adds a white subpixel (hence the “W”) to juice up the nits, the G3 supposedly gets even brighter than Samsung’s model by most metrics, peaking at well over 1400 nits in HDR. That’s comparable to plenty of top-quality LED TVs, though it won’t match the very brightest out there. (Sony’s A95L QD-OLED, which is not yet available for review, is also likely to be a major contender.)
Samsung’s TV peaks below 1400 nits in HDR by most measurements, including those taken by Rtings, but it covers more of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut, at nearly 100%. Put in plain English, the S95C is capable of displaying virtually every micro shade of color HDR content can throw its way. And baby, do these colors sing.
Moving to the S95C from my still-fabulous, but quickly aging C1, I didn’t see a massive difference at first. Out front were the familiar inky black levels and depth-drilling contrast created by OLED’s emissive technology, which allows each individual pixel to turn on and off independently for incredible control.
Then I put on Spider-Man: Homecoming in 4K HDR, and right from the torch in the film’s first production logo, I was hooked. Soon I was lost in blazing spectral highlights; splashes of white-hot sunlight sparkling on the water, the lustrous sheen of metallic armor, and even the blaze of a lampost all popped out from the background. This thing has some serious punch, making it especially excellent for daytime viewing when compared to the increasingly mortal OLED displays of a few years back.
It’s the S95C’s jaw-dropping color reproduction that really takes this TV to the next level. At first, I felt like things were maybe a bit overcooked, but soon I was able to appreciate what the full spectrum of Samsung’s bold color reproduction can do with top-tier content. Honestly, I don’t want to go back. Every bit of showy 4K HDR video I could find seemed to pull me deeper into the action, from MCU epics to top-tier demo reels and nature films.
Watching the ocean episodes on Netflix’s Our Planet was the culmination. I paired the TV with JBL’s Bar 1300X Dolby Atmos soundbar, and the combo seemed to virtually pull me in, from the mind-blowing contrast in the sea’s blackest depths to the electric-neon coral reefs where I almost had a surreal flashback of my own Hawaiian snorkeling adventures. This is voyeuristic realism at its best. It’s hard to imagine displays getting much better than this, even though I know they will.
From grueling test patterns to good ole SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) TV broadcasts, the S95C continued to impress and prove it’s more than just a showpiece for 4K HDR. The AI upscaling is excellent, especially for 1080p content and 1080i broadcasts, offering only faint hints of blurring around ultra-crisp news reporters and talk show hosts. The NBA playoffs look smooth as silk. Unlike most LED TVs, the S95C’s OLED panel looks fabulous even far off to the side.
The TV isn’t infallible, of course. The brutal test that is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in HD is still just that, and some of the darker details disappear in a sunlit room. With an SDR peak brightness of around 600 nits, the S95C may knock out my C1 there, but it’s on par in this department with plenty of budget-friendly LED TVs. If you’re one for watching ultra-dark films in the light of day, you might be better off with a scorching LED TV, such as Samsung’s QN90 series. I also noticed a few moments of film stutter, where the image seems to hold on too long in panning, though it rarely bothered me.
Even in its toughest tests, the S95C’s luscious color volume, rich contrast, and striking black levels look spectacular. Make no mistake, this is a heavy-weight TV in any light. That’s something you couldn’t say about OLED TVs even a short time ago. Welcome to the future.
Comparison and Competition
LG’s G3 is the obvious first comparison, which claims even better brightness, but slightly less overall HDR color coverage. While I haven’t seen it yet, it’s been getting similar acclaim and is likely to be in the running with the S95C as the best TV of the year. Unlike Samsung’s TV, it also supports Dolby Vision.
Sony’s A95L should also be available soon. Another QD-OLED, the A95 sports Sony’s acclaimed picture processing and is sure to be at the top of the list in this very competitive race for the best premium OLED. If you can’t wait, the A95K is currently available.
Those are my top three suggestions, and if you have the money, I can’t imagine you’d possibly be disappointed with any of them. That said, you can save a lot of cash by going with older models, such as last year’s S95B or the new step-down model, the S90C. Those options don’t get quite as bright, but will still look fantastic.
If you need something brighter than the S95C (perhaps you’re a daytime TV junkie), you could also consider a premium LED TV such as Samsung’s QN90C Neo QLED or QN90B which won’t offer the same excellent contrast or off-axis viewing, but will get blazingly bright across content with fabulous colors at a much lower price.
What can I say? This is one of the top TVs on the market. Its mix of OLED contrast and black levels and the searing highlights and color reproduction provided by quantum dots combine for a gob-smacking blend of display skills. Sure to be in contention for the best TV of the year, the Samsung S95C is a fabulous way to invest in your home theater, and the best TV I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy yet.