I’m convinced there’s a masochist running Samsung’s marketing department. Two years ago, they came up with SUHD. There wasn’t any real reason behind the ‘S’ (someone once mentioned to me that S was the “seal of approval” Samsung puts on premium products), and it confused nearly everyone just getting used to the terminology UHD.
Now, just two years later, we have QLED – which strikes an uncanny resemblance to OLED – and it’s bound to incur the same confusion SUHD did all over again.
And yet while the name is confusing, what Samsung’s QLED (that’s Quantum LED) offers is not: Samsung’s 2017 series of TVs will be the brightest, most colorful panels the South Korean electronics manufacturer has ever created. And that’s saying something considering that last year’s SUHD with Quantum Dot TVs were already pretty freakin’ bright and colorful.
There’s a number of changes happening under the hood to make that happen, not to mention an anti-reflective coating on top, that will enable the Q9 to achieve 1,500 to 2,000-nit peak brightness, 100% reproduction of the DCI-P3 color range and some of the darkest blacks this side of an OLED.
But Samsung’s 2017 Q Series isn’t content just to improve pixel quality. It’s gunning to make wall-mounting – arguably one of the most difficult tasks for any amateur AV enthusiasts – as easy as connecting an HDMI cable. How’s it going to work? The secret lies in the included swivel mount that allows the screen to tilt up to 10 degrees once mounted. That means no re-drilling holes and, even better, no more breaking out the level.
Samsung’s QLED screens are an ambitious technology, but one that’s seriously impressive in both form function. LG’s OLEDs might still be some of the most beautiful screens on the planet but, after this year, that crown might be moving over to Samsung's camp.
The Q Series comes in three forms, the entry-level Q7, the curved Q8 and the flagship flat Q9. While all three TVs offer similar functionality, the preview event Samsung held Tuesday night ahead of its CES 2017 keynote focused on the flagship Q9 QLED screen.
The Q9 features an incredibly trimmed down bezel and an all-metal finish that gives it a semi-futuristic appearance. While it wasn’t the slimmest screen we saw at CES that day, it’s incredibly thin, easily less than 10mm all the way down the body.
This slim design comes in handy when it comes time to wall-mount it, which is very much one of the Q9’s specialties. Every Q9 package will include Samsung’s new ‘no-gap wall-mount’ that will allow you to rotate the screen once it’s been mounted. The extra give means you should be able to mount it with relative ease – though will still need to find where the studs are in your wall before you start drilling any holes in the wall.
Samsung says the mounting process can be done “by one person, no levels needed” and while we definitely believe them on the no levels needed part, the TV looked like it’d take two people to lift and install properly. The plus side is that as long as you know how to find the studs in the wall, you won’t need an installer to come to the house – a huge boon for TV buyers considering that installation often adds $150-200 to the price of the screen.
Of course if you don’t want to mount the TV that’s OK, too. For those folks Samsung is releasing two new TV stands that will be included with the Q9 – the ‘Studio Stand’, which resembles an easel with a painting, or the sleek ‘Gravity Stand’, which allows you to swivel the TV without any effort.
The Q9 will also have a pair of built-in speakers, though they weren’t being shown off at the event Tuesday night.
What Samsung did emphasize, however, was the transparent optical cord that runs from the Q9 to the One Conect Box up to five meters away. The One Connect Box, which serves as a connection hub, has been featured in previous years and will return in more or less the same way as before, offering four HDMI ports, optical audio and an antenna-in jack.
We cited it at the beginning of this review but it’s worth coming back to – Samsung’s QLED will be the first TVs in its long history that will accurately display 100% of the DCI-P3 color space.
So why is that a good thing? This means they can express all colors at any level of brightness – with even the subtlest differences visible at the QLED’s peak luminance – between 1,500 and 2,000 nits.
Samsung attributes this success to the alteration of the Quantum Dot substrate it’s using. Samsung says that with its metal alloy Quantum Dot technology, brightness no longer has to be compromised to boost color performance, which is also maintained regardless of how wide the viewing angle may be.
So Samsung’s Quantum Dots mean better viewing angles, better color reproduction and better peak luminance. So far, so good we’d say.
But where Samsung’s screens didn’t cut the mustard was when we asked if they complied with the UHD Alliance’s standards for a UHD Premium badge. More than one representative at the unveiling event had told us that they weren’t sure the Q9 would receive the badge and therefore likely didn’t meet one of the standards set by the UHD Alliance.
Where exactly the Q9 would falter is unclear – it’s certainly a 10-bit panel and achieves the peak luminosity set by the UHD Alliance – but the fact that we didn’t get an emphatic yes is worrying.
Smart TV (Smart Hub)
Yes, Smart Hub formerly and still sometimes currently called Tizen is back and it’s better than ever. That’s because while many of your favorite apps and services return this time around, Samsung’s Smart TV platform now includes a spiffy new iOS and Android app that will enable you to receive live notifications from your TV and help locate content.
The app is called Smart View and it basically tethers your smartphone to your TV. In practice that means if there’s something going on that your TV thinks you ought to know about – your favorite sports team is playing or there’s a great nature documentary it thinks you should watch – it’s going to let you know about it.
Besides acting as a digital watchdog, however, 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. Once you know which song Apple has picked for its latest iPhone commercial, 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 here at your disposal – Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Spotify and HBO Go were all present and accounted for.
Samsung’s Q Series, and in particular the Q9 flagship TV, are some of the nicest screens we’re like to see in 2017. They’re by far brighter and more colorful than anything Samsung has offered in the past, but also have a much sleeker design that should, in theory, be easier to install on your wall without a big hassle.
There’s no doubt that convenience and performance like this won’t come cheap, however, and there’s still the lingering question of why Samsung didn’t mention UHD Alliance certification. These are minor qualms however and not ones that should offset any excitement you have about the next generation of Samsung screens that seem to have truly harnessed the power of quantum dot – even if it’s still struggling to get the name right.