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I watched Avatar on Samsung's S95C OLED and it's spoiled every other TV for me

Exceptional contrast and low-light scenes that are surprisingly distinguishable make this one of the best OLED TVs yet.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
The Samsung S95C OLED TV
June Wan/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Samsung S95C is no longer the latest OLED model from the company, but it's still one of the best for high-contrast, brightly-lit OLED visuals.
  • While the S95C doesn't have the same matte-treated display as the new S95D, it still sees notable improvements from the last generation like the higher brightness and refresh rate.
  • If you want the best OLED TV from Samsung right now, this is the one to buy. Otherwise, wait out for the S95D, which we're expecting to be a top TV contender in 2024.

Samsung makes a lot of TVs; there's practically an offering for every display type, size, and visual preference. But the one that's always stood out to me is its OLED model.

See, OLED panels on TVs, much like the displays on high-end phones and tablets, are notorious for delivering inky blacks and high-contrast visuals. Naturally, those dim-lit scenes in movies and games are more lifelike, true-to-color, and very immersive to watch. 

Also: Samsung's S95D OLED is the best TV of CES 2024 and best in the world right now

On the flip side, there's also a common problem with OLED panels, and that's brightness (or lack thereof). Sunlight, overhead lamps, and just about any other outside source of luminance can easily blow out the liveliness displayed on an OLED panel. 

But that all changes with Samsung's S95C. This, from what I've seen, may just be the best (and brightest) OLED TV on the market right now and is likely your best option before manufacturers begin to roll out their 2024 models later in the year.

View at Amazon

How's the design?

What jumped out at me when first unboxing the S95C was its width, or lack thereof. The Infinity One Design, as Samsung calls it, is composed of a panel that measures just 0.4 inches thick and the company's redesigned One Connect Box, receptive to multiple HDMI ports, USB-A, and even Dolby Atmos via eArc, now housed on the TV stand itself versus the back of the display. 

Together, you're looking at a sleek and fashionable centerpiece that instantly modernizes the environment that it's in. 

Samsung S95C. next to the Pixel 6 Pro

The thinness of the TV matches that of the Google Pixel 6 Pro.

Rebecca Isaacs/ZDNET

The unfortunate thing is that with the 14.2 x 11.7 x 11.1-inch stand attached, it almost defeats the purpose of the TV's thin width because you'll have to accommodate furnishing space for the stand and not the display itself. Therefore, I recommend mounting the S95C instead and extending the One Connect Box down into a drawer, which Samsung provides a cable for. 

I will give Samsung some points for leaving just enough room between the base of the stand and the bottom of the TV for a soundbar. For all the visuals that you're getting with the S95C OLED, the back-firing speakers simply won't cut it if you're hoping to be engulfed with bass and the rumblings of car explosions; you'll need a quality soundbar to match. And, ideally, one of Samsung's that supports its surround-sound-like Q-Symphony technology.

Viewing experience

As I mentioned earlier, the S95C OLED impressed me the most with its notably accurate visualization of dimmer scenes, particularly in some parts of Avatar: The Way of Water. Throughout the movie, there are several scenes that take place in forests and darkened environments, yet I didn't have any trouble distinguishing the Na'vi (the blue people, for the unfamiliar) from the extraterrestrial props of Pandora.

Also: Best Samsung TVs you can buy: 8K, OLED, and more

Most of this is credited to the "QD" bit of the S95C's QD-OLED display. Samsung's meshed together its self-illuminating Quantum Dot technology with OLED in order to emit more precise colors in varying levels of contrast. That's a geeky way of saying that whether you're watching a brightly-lit scene or a darker one, you'll be able to see most, if not all, the colors that the director wanted you to see.

A scene from Avatar 2 playing on the Samsung S95C OLED TV

Being able to discern every piece of leaf and droplet of sweat is glorious.

June Wan/ZDNET

The amount of detail that's retained in the darkness and little to no blooming is quite a feat, but it's also the TV's understanding of when to keep pixels turned off instead of automatically boosting the exposure or brightness that puts the S95C high-up the list for me.

Also: The best outdoor TVs for summer streaming

Generally speaking, I found the native color profile of the S95C a little more jarring than what I was used to. My first reaction when playing a 4K sample was both positive and negative; I loved how sharp the images looked, but the overload of saturation led me to make a beeline to the display settings to tone things down.

An image of flowers on the Samsung S95C OLED TV

The S95C features an Ambient Mode that sets an animated screensaver when the TV is left idle.

June Wan/ZDNET

Adjusting the TV settings is mostly made easy thanks to a carousel of presets for audio output, Picture Mode, Bluetooth devices, and more. I say "mostly" because you still have to dig into the "Expert Settings" tab to actually fine-tune aspects like sharpness, color, and tint. 

And if you're not a fan of Samsung's AI-based motion smoothening and deblurring, which can work against action movies fixed at 24 frames per second (fps), you can adjust the two in the same tab.

ZDNET's buying advice

The bottom line for the Samsung S95C (2023) is that it's the company's best OLED TV yet, and fixes most of the issues that plagued last year's model, including the brightness issues and lower refresh rate. 

There's also a good chance you're cross-shopping between the S95C and LG's G3 OLED. If you value the flexibility of TV mounting and freestanding, having multiple input sources in a tidy, hidden-from-plain-sight compartment, and consider yourself a gamer, then the Samsung is the better choice.

Samsung sells the S95C for a starting price of $2,299 for the 55-inch model, with larger options available. If you're seeking one of the best OLED TVs on the market, and don't want to wait until the matte-treated version comes out later this year, this is the model to invest in.

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