First look: The Wall by Samsung

While Samsung’s QLED TVs score some decent news coverage at CES every year, the company’s more lifestyle-oriented products languish in relative obscurity. Take, for example, The Frame that came out last year: it was a gorgeous set-piece, but home entertainment enthusiasts just didn’t embrace it the same way they have traditional LED screens. 

But that all looks like it could change with The Wall, a new 146-inch modular MicroLED TV that, thanks to its sheer size and gorgeous self-emitting pixels, commands attention. 

The TV was shown off for the first time at Samsung’s First Look event at CES 2017, held Sunday, January 7, one day ahead of the South Korean manufacturer’s keynote. It was here that we were able to see the TV in action. 

And while Samsung wasn’t too keen on disclosing much about its monstrous new set, we were able to glean a bit of information about what the future of TVs might end up being should Samsung’s modular MicroLED screen succeed.

First off, what exactly is MicroLED? 

Before we talk about the TV itself, we should first run through what, exactly, MicroLED stands for, and why it’s so crucial to this TV. 

MicroLED (also referred to as micro-LED, mLED, and µLED) is a technology that shrinks traditional LEDs to a smaller size, and gives them the ability to produce their own light. Think OLED, but take out the organic part. 

MicroLED doesn’t require a discrete backlight, and there’s no need for LCD shutters. In turn, this creates a brighter, more contrast-rich television that can turn pixels off individually. 

When pressed about the differences between OLED and MicroLED, one Samsung spokesperson after another had the same response: MicroLED has all of the things you love about OLED with none of the tradeoffs.

Specifically, what Samsung is trying to impress on journalists at CES is that the TV has no problem with contrast or black levels, and yet retains the bright, high dynamic range-friendly whites of traditional LED screens. 

Of course, OLED's other issue – as with plasma TVs before it – is image burn-in. According to Samsung, because the The Wall uses a non-organic substrate, it should never have that problem. Ever.

But perhaps the neatest feature of MicroLED is that The Wall can be connected to other identical models to form an even bigger screen – if 146 inches wasn’t already enough for you. According to Samsung, there’s currently no limit to the size of the modular TV you can create, and although signal degradation will occur at a certain point, the spokespeople we talked to said they haven’t seen that happen yet.

Design

The Wall is one of the most fitting names for a TV we may have ever encountered. While most manufacturers might use a scrambled mess of numbers and letters, Samsung has hit the nail on the head with its name. 

The Wall, if you haven’t guessed already, is massive. In fact, after seeing it in person it’s hard to imagine it fitting in anyone’s home – which leads us to believe that MicroLED will begin life as a commercial-focused product, and then eventually trickle down into more manageable sizes in, say, the 65- or 55-inch range.

Despite its massive size, however, the panel itself wasn’t disproportionately thick compared to Samsung’s other new screen for 2018, the Samsung Q9S. 

Besides not being thick, it’s 100% bezel-free – it’s edge-to-edge glass. The design decision behind this, we were told, is that when the The Wall is set up next to other units it will look like one seamless image, rather than two TVs working in tandem with bezels interrupting the image. 

As for screen size, right now, Samsung only has one version of The Wall, at 146-inches edge-to-edge. That’s not to say the technology won’t make its way down to smaller, more affordable screens in the near future, though.

Performance

Before we delve into performance, let’s discuss exactly how The Wall was set up. Because it was a showpiece when we saw it, it was dead-center on the floor, surrounded by security folks, and was stuck playing the same few clips on repeat. While other demos will allow you explore a bit when it comes to content, The Wall was showcasing only the most impressive content. 

But, despite displaying the same few loops repeatedly, The Wall showed a lot of potential. 

Just as Samsung promised, The Wall was brighter than anything we had ever seen – yes, even brighter than the 1,600-2,000 nit Samsung Q9F QLED TV that was shown off at last year’s CES.

Thankfully, it’s not just our eyes bugging out – according to Samsung’s VP of TV Marketing, Andrew Sivori, The Wall is “one of the brightest panels Samsung has ever made”, alluding to the fact that The Wall's peak brightness could even be beyond 2,000 nits.

This additional brightness coupled with MicroLED’s ability to drop down to near absolute black made for some stunning images. 

What we weren’t able to see – at this juncture at least – were multiple TVs strung together. But then just one 146-inch screen is impressive enough on its own. 

Early verdict

While we need to hold off on making any definitive claims about the TV until Samsung tells us more, our first experience with The Wall was a good one. 

It’s a TV that engulfs your entire field of view with gorgeous, visually stunning images that rival what we’ve seen on OLED screens. The Wall almost certainly won’t be cheap when it comes out – especially at this size – but MicroLED has real potential to change the way we buy and watch TVs down the road.

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