iTWire has background articles on QLED technology here and here. This review covers the launch of the Australian product line-up, prices, an overview of the Samsung TV design and ecosystem and one of the first Australian, hands-on reviews.
Samsung’s QLED 2.0 is the first TV sold in Australia to achieve both 100% colour volume (Samsung calls this perfect colour), near perfect black (Elite Black+), 240Hz motion rate, and the Q9 has 2000 nits brightness (Q7/8 have 1500 nits) – well above the HDR 1000 standard.
Carl Rose, vice-president, Consumer Electronics, Samsung Electronics Australia, said, “Samsung’s QLED category is a milestone in TV technology. It is the pinnacle of Samsung’s home cinema experience thanks to the true-to-life picture quality, incredible brightness, and image detail. QLED delivers an amazing visual experience through a refined and stylish design but also an incredibly intuitive and easy-to-use smart TV interface that anyone can experience – regardless of their understanding of TV technology.”
Buying a premium TV is a luxury reserved for a select few. If you have the budget then there are only two technologies to consider – OLED from LG and now Sony and Panasonic, and QLED, exclusively from Samsung.
Samsung’s lowest cost QLED entrant is the 55” Q7 at $4499 and it goes up to $39,999 for an 88” Q9.
- Q7 flat 55” - $4499
- Q7 flat 65” - $6499
- Q7 flat 75” - $10,999
- Q8 curved 55” - $5499
- Q8 curved 65” TV - $7499
- Q8 curved 75” - $12,499
- Q9 flat 65” - $9499
- Q9 flat 75” - $14,999
- Q9 flat 88”- $39,999
To the untrained eye, it is hard to see the difference between the top-of-the-range 65” flat screen Samsung Q9 QLED and LG G6T OLED. Neither will leave much change from $10,000.
I recently witnessed controlled tests where QLED appeared to produce a slightly superior image to OLED, it was brighter, great blacks, natural, yet punchy colours and at least the flat screen had less screen reflectivity. But remember the LG GT6 is last year’s model (and soon to be superseded) and the QLED is brand new and available from 17 April.
For the moment, let’s assume that OLED and QLED, two very different TV display technologies, both produce premium, 4K pictures. So, in the end, the purchase decision will come down to brand credibility, desirability, room/décor fit, and something I call the TV ecosystem.
With the QLED Version 2.0 (2017 range), it seems that Samsung sat down with its designers and asked the question: what do we need to win in this space? Here are a few of the new features.
Curved or flat?
Samsung still believes that curved, big screen TVs have a place in Australian homes. So much has been written about curved screen benefits to justify their existence that I will simply say that in my experience I prefer flat screens.
However, during the review, seated about three metres from the TV my wife remarked that the curved screen seemed to draw her into the picture a little more.
Interestingly Samsung’s flagship Q9 series only comes with a flat screen and I suspect that this is more to do with a design issue – the use of edge LED lighting (curved screens use top and/or bottom lighting).
Wall, furniture, or easel mount?
Most TVs sit on a TV cabinet/credenza – wall mounting makes sense, especially in smaller areas, but introduces some complexities. Samsung has developed a 100% flush wall mount for Australian homes that perfectly fits the standard 600mm wall stud spacing plus adds a much-needed fiddle factor to allow for fine adjustment to level the set.
In addition, it has taken away the need for multiple cables – aerial, power, HDMI, network and more and placed them in an external breakout box that connects to the TV via a semi-transparent, “InvisibleConnect” optical fibre cable. Power is still required, but it can also piggyback to a wall-mounted Samsung sound bar that uses the same bracket. Very neat.
If you are placing it on a cabinet or sideboard, you have the supplied “legs” or you can buy a very fashionable “gravity” stand. This is a cone-shaped central pillar that has concealed cable management system as well.
Or the Studio easel mount that looks like a tripod, again with cable management. Great for room corners.
Whatever you choose, the back of the set looks just as good. The flat screen is a better wall mount proposition but curved will also mount.
The breakout box and InvisibleConnect cable
All the smarts and connections needed for the TV have been placed in a small breakout box that connects to the TV via an almost invisible 5m optical fibre cable. The logic is that (a) the TV can be much thinner and (b) the box can sit neatly tucked away with the other devices like Blu-ray, Cable TV STB, Xbox or PlayStation, AV amp etc.
The Box has 4 x HDMI inputs, Optical out, Ethernet, 3 x USB, Wi-Fi, Wi-Di (Miracast), Bluetooth, Antenna, and more.
It is also “smart” in that it recognises hundreds of different add-on devices and adds these to the OneRemote and to the TV menu.
Smart Hub is the easiest, smartest TV interface to use
Samsung uses its own Tizen operating system and its smart hub has gone from good to brilliant with the latest version. For starters, it and the breakout box automatically detect connected devices and content sources and displays them in a clean ribbon bar that can be customised.
It allows for preview of programmes and content without leaving the original content. One can watch TV while browsing Netflix.
Smart Hub has a few new tricks up its sleeve as well, including the ability to listen to a song playing on TV and identify it on the spot. You can then save it for later or stream it on an app like Spotify or Pandora.
Beyond sports and music, you’ll find all the typical content providers.
OneRemote to rule them all – about time!
If there is one feature my wife appreciates, it is the ability to control everything from one remote. This deceptively simple, but ultimately powerful device, can control almost anything you can connect. It automatically detects devices on the same home network and goes to a cloud repository to program the remote.
And there is an App for that – SmartView smartphone app offers full control too
Although not tested, Smart View and allows you to control — as well as turn on and off — your TV with your smartphone. But there is more. If there’s something going on that your TV thinks you need to know, it will let you know about it.
How does the picture look?
Before we get into the picture – it is as good as I have seen from any premium TV – a little more explanation of the 100% colour volume claim. It means the Q series can display DCI-P3 colour space accurately and are capable of reproducing 100% colour volume. This means they can express all colours at any level of brightness – between 1500 and 2000 nits.
Colour volume refers to the depiction of colour at different levels of brightness. For example, a leaf can be perceived as different colours from yellowish green to turquoise, depending on the brightness of the light. Samsung’s QLED displays can capture even subtle differences in colour pertaining to brightness, colour detail that cannot be easily depicted in 2D colour space models.
This innovation is a result of Samsung’s adoption of a new Quantum dot alloy material, which makes it possible for the TV to express a significant range of colour with great detail.
The new Quantum dots enable Samsung’s QLED range to express deep blacks and rich detail regardless of how light or dark the scene is, or whether the content is being played in a brightly lit or darkened room.
To the test. – Q8, 65” curved
First, any visual test can only be subjective – this was not lined up beside its competition or even a lowly HD screen. Second, you need at least two different viewers to compare notes. Third, you need a variety of ambient lighting conditions to verify the brightness claims.
My normal TV is an ageing 55”, HD, Sony Bravia that, at the time, was selected because it had the best picture of all on display at JB Hi-Fi. I still think this is the best way to select based on picture quality.
My co-tester — my wife — and I selected Star Trek Beyond from a range of 4K, HDR, content provided, played on Samsung’s UBD K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray. The sound was provided by the matching curved Samsung MS6501 sound bar.
In hindsight, the choice of movie, as entertaining as it was, may have been wrong for the test. It was set in deep space, beautiful black uncharted nebulas, menacing colours — all artificially CGI created — but overall there were no “real” scenes to see natural bright daylight, leafy trees and green grass.
Blacks: Very good, almost perfect black. There was no evidence of light seeping out of any LCD gates, and no characteristic LCD glow to the screen – 4.5 out of 5.
Colours: Where bright colours were displayed, they were true to life with full gamma – 4.5 out of 5.
Brightness: The test room had natural light and curtains to control that. Admittedly it was a bleak rainy day outside but we tested in conditions from complete dark, under harsh old style electro-lights, with a spotlight on it, and in natural light. I think Samsung is onto something here with its adaptive brightness – 4.5 out of 5.
HDR: Hight Dynamic Range is dependent on receiving metadata from special HRD content. Switching from it on and off showed a definite improvement in shadow definition and reduced over-exposure of bright areas. The Q8 has 1500 nits, well above the HDR1000 standard - 4.5 out of 5.
Crispness: There is no doubt that 4K, 3830 x 2160, images are clearer than HD – by sheer pixel volume alone. My wife’s comment was that the images were very crisp and clear and I concur – 4.5 out of 5.
Motion: There was a lot of fast moving action when an enormous swarm of enemy ships attacks the Enterprise. I looked very closely and there was no judder at all. 4.5 out of 5.
Ok, it got 4.5 out of 5 - the 5 out of 5 is reserved for the 2000 nit, Q9 that is amazing. Well, at least this year, until we see next year’s models.
Soundbar – Samsung MS6501 (US site)
Before we get to how it sounded, I am beginning to change my opinions on sound bars versus separate AV Amps and speakers. While the latter reached their technology peak some time ago, the former are still developing and the gap is very close now.
In fact, I would trade my expensive 5.1 AV amp/speakers for a sound bar especially Samsung’s amazing HW-950 5.1.4 soundbar with Dolby Atmos.
The MS6510 is a next generation 3.1 (L+R+Centre+woofer) sound bar that has overcome a lot of the directionality issues that plagued earlier technology. It emits a sound arc of about 160° (180° is half a circle). Stereo separation (directionality) is especially good.
Overall it has nine speakers and nine individual amplifiers – four x tweeters (L+R+centre), four x mid-range (L+R) and 1 x woofer. Frequency response is 38Hz to 20KHz (20-20 is the range of human hearing).
My only negative comment is that the claimed bass isn’t as good as I am used to – it is not bad, but the bar design is too small to make the most of an internal sub-woofer and porting and it could use an external sub-woofer for a truly immersive experience. You can add extra rear SWA-9000S speakers for 5.1 and it can be part of the Samsung multi-room Wi-Fi speaker system and stream music to the whole of the house or different rooms.
It has five sound modes (Standard, Music, Clear Voice, Sports, Movie) and for Star Trek, we tried all – standard was great for my wife and clear voice best for me. Still, whichever way you look at it, the sound was vastly superior to the Q8 TV system.
Finally, it can be controlled by the TV OneRemote and connects to the TV via Wi-Fi (Dual band), Bluetooth, or HDMI (from the breakout box). It can share the TV power cable, useful for wall mounting.
But what about the TV sound?
The TV has a 4.1 simulated surround sound, front-firing system with 60W total RMS. During the review, we switched to TV sound and while it was more than adequate for casual TV watching – news, serials etc., the sound bar excels at movies.
Samsung UBD K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player
It is also curved to match the TV and its key features include:
- Cinema quality at home: With HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology, it delivers dynamic Ultra High Definition content in exceptional quality on Samsung's HDR-capable 4K TVs.
- Decodes up to 7.1 sound (and Atmos feeds).
- More vivid and breathtaking colour: It offers twice the colour range and up to 64 times the colour expressions of Samsung's existing conventional Blu-ray players.
- Bring TV to life with UHD upscaling: It upscales content into higher definition video for display on UHD TVs, giving crystal-clear images and great resolution.
- Outstanding 4K streaming service: Access content from online providers such as Netflix as well as your favourite offline shows via the Internet.
- The ultimate universal disc player: fully compatible with CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs.
Since I started writing for iTWire in 2013 I have been to the annual TV launches of most brands and reviewed many premium TVs. Each year they get bigger, brighter, more features, better, whatever. Sorry, but the advances have been incremental rather than exponential.
Last year was the first time I coveted a TV – sorry Samsung, it was LG’s 65" GT6 OLED which I did not buy as it cost $10K.
This year I am coveting the Samsung 65" Q7 or Q9 and it is not just because the QLED equals OLED. It is more that Samsung has gotten its ecosystem right – sound, player, breakout box, InvisibleConnect, Smart Hub, OneRemote, and seamless integration with its Wi-Fi-based Internet of Things – SmartHome philosophy.
There is now a compelling reason, outside of picture quality, to buy Samsung QLED TVs.
The writer and his wife were guests of Samsung at the Old Claire Hotel, Kensington.