Hands on: Samsung Q900R 8K QLED TV review

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Our Early Verdict

Samsung's 8K QLED TV provides astonishing image clarity, but without much native content available yet, it's most impressive feature is the ability to make low-res content look great through 'AI upscaling'.

For

  • Amazing clarity
  • Makes low-res content look great
  • Sleek design

Against

  • Likely to be expensive
  • Very little native content available
  • Massive screen won't fit all homes

Samsung has just announced its first 8K QLED TV, the Q900R (Q900FN in the US), at IFA 2018. Hot on the heels of LG’s 8K TV, Samsung’s 8K panel packs up to 85-inches of pin-sharp resolution, 4,000 nits of brightness and a new processor to help make even your oldest content look 8K-tastic.

We took a closer look at its next generation upscaling technology alongside some of Samsung’s older QLED TVs to give you our first impressions of what 8K plus HDR plus QLED adds up to.

Price and release date

Samsung’s 8K QLED will bear different names in different regions. Only the 85-inch option is expected to be available in the US for example, named the Q900FN, with a release date pegged for October 2018.

Samsung has also announced 65, 75 and 82-inch variants will also be released in other regions at a later date, so if the idea of 8K is whetting your appetite but you can’t fit 85-inches of it in your living room - hold tight. 

As for the price, expect to pay the big bucks, though official pricing has yet to be confirmed.

Smarter than your average upscaling TV

The Q900FN is clearly more than just a ton of pixels with some backlighting - the upscaling technology in this is easily what impressed us the most in our time with it.

Sure, the 8K content looked great, but side-by-side with an old 4K panel, that wasn’t what blew us away. What was? Its ability to make 720p and 1080p content look better. Given this feature is what most users will benefit from in the early stages of consumer-ready 8K panels, it makes a lot of sense for Samsung to be investing so heavily in upscaling.

Using buzzwords like AI and machine learning when describing their upscaling algorithm, Samsung takes advantage of its Quantum Processor 8K to fill in details, restore edges, reduce noise and clean up jagged lines in lower resolution content.

Getting better over time, analysing content to improve performance, the claim is that 85-inches of screen has never looked this good playing back an HD Ready piece of content - and on first impression, we’d be inclined to agree.

It isn’t flawless across the board. Certain scenes, lettering and elements did show signs of oversharpening - but when compared to the unsharpened originals, the Q900FN won hands-down, every time.

Additional smarts are added to the mix - AI Adaptive streaming for example enables smarter buffering, so even inconsistent transfer speeds don’t result in slowdown of 8K content when it rolls out. Meanwhile, AI local dimming analyses various images to avoid drastic changes to picture brightness. 

Much of this sounds like an evolution of what we’ve seen before - Auto bitrate and auto dimming for example - so commenting on features like this will have to wait for the full review.

For the players - 8K gaming

One thing that is off the bat cool about the new Q900FN is its gaming mode. For gamers sick and tired of manually flipping between screen calibration modes, automatic content detection looks set to minimise the time spent with your TV remote.

Play a game on your PS4 and the TV fires up the gaming screen calibration. Slide a BluRay in and it auto-detects your PS4 is playing a movie and automatically switches to movie mode.

With upscaling of HD and 4K gaming content using the Quantum Processor 8K and high FPS support, Samsung’s biggest, highest resolution panel yet should definitely have console gamers salivating.

But seriously, 8K? Do we need it?

We will need it, according to Samsung. 

85-inches of 8K packs a similar amount of clarity to a 43-inch 4K screen, keeping the resolution on-par with what most eyes deem realistic according to an NHK study in 2012. 

With the trend for TV buyers skewing towards bigger panels, faster streaming speeds, more efficient wired video transfer technologies and more affordable storage options for 8K content - the reality of ‘the next resolution’ is around the corner.

Speaking of NHK - the broadcaster stated it would be capturing the 2020 Olympics in 8K, and with landmarks like global ceremonies likely to play a big part in the 8K revolution, Samsung expects it all to unfold over the next 5-years.

Performance and initial verdict 

Side by side with a Trimaster 4K monitor, the video processing monitor used by film-grade editing professionals, it is hard not to be impressed by the dynamic range and clarity of the QLED panel - it’s very comparable.

Despite looking incredibly vibrant, nuances in the color and tonal ranges are visible. For example, what might be a smear of red on a flower petal displayed on a lesser television shows up crimson veins on the 8K QLED.

The TV also showcases beautiful, deep blacks without losing detail in the flat, dark areas. Less inky than OLED panels, but mightily impressive range nonetheless.

Going back to upscaling to wrap up this first impression - the Samsung 8K QLED TV could have been pointless from the start if Samsung wasn’t careful - all the capabilities in the world but no content to showcase them. 

What Samsung has done is create a panel that does a great job when it comes to making making today and yesterday’s content look better than it did before, at 85-inches, in upscaled 8K.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.