We’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of gimmicks at CES: TVs that unfurl from the ceiling, up-firing speakers that pop out of soundbars and TVs can rotate 90 degrees so you can watch Instagram videos.
But rather than embrace the gimmicks, Samsung’s latest flagship QLED - the Samsung Q950TS - focuses on improving the basics, like how to create a better picture through design and performance enhancements and how to make the TV’s sound match the outstanding images on the screen.
The result is an admirable 8K QLED that has a ludicrously small bezel and replaces shoddy down-firing speakers with side-firing, top-firing and back-firing speakers to create a more immersive sonic experience.
If you’re the kind of person who just can’t help but hate the millimeter-thick plastic edges of your TV, you’ll really dig the design of the Samsung Q950TS that shaves the bezel down to its bare minimum, filling only about 1% of the total screen with thin plastic.
Having 99% of the screen reserved for viewing content makes a substantial difference in the overall design, which Samsung has now dubbed the Infinity Screen (OK, so it’s a little gimmicky). At just 15mm thick, however, the Q950TS sort of blends right in with the wall if wall-mounted, casting colorful light on any backdrop in an almost Philips Ambilight way.
Turn the TV around and you’ll see the woofers around the back, side-firing speakers in the mesh grille and two additional speakers at the top of the screen. Add them together and Samsung says you’ll have a basic 5.1 surround system that can be combined with a soundbar to create a larger soundstage.
So far, Samsung has announced three screen sizes for the Samsung Q950TS - a 65-inch, 75-inch and 85-inch version - the latter of which, is sure to be expensive.
Because this is Samsung’s high-end QLED, you can expect some pretty substantial picture performance - colors on the demo screen we saw looked lush, with good detail, high peak brightness and great contrast. That’s all thanks to the Quantum Dot technology Samsung has been refining over the past few years and the new AI 8K Quantum Processor that effortlessly upscales content to fill the 33,177,600 pixels.
Other nice touches in terms of picture performance are the adaptive lighting feature that raises or lowers brightness depending on the conditions of the room greatly reducing glare and eye strain, and the return of TV Plus on Tizen that offers free internet TV stations.
There’s also two new audio features worth calling attention to, too, called Object Tracking Sound Plus that offers Dolby Atmos-like effects and Active Voice Amplifier that boosts the dialogue when the TV detects higher-than-usual ambient noise.
Admittedly Object Tracking Sound Plus isn’t as good as Dolby Atmos would sound on a discrete soundbar, but it’s certainly a step up from the 10-watt down-firing speakers we’re used to seeing on flagship flatscreens from other manufacturers.
Samsung Health tracking
It's not worth dwelling on, but it's worth noting that the Samsung Q950TS will be one of the first Samsung TVs that integrates with Samsung Health, allowing you to track “key wellness metrics to help you manage your personal health” by sharing information from your Samsung smartphone to your TV.
Some of these metrics include time spent meditating, calories burned, weight, glucose levels and sleep patterns, just to name a few.
While Samsung seems to be coming from a place of genuine good faith, having another platform that stores health information - especially one known to collect data from its users for third-party advertisers - feels a bit precarious.
Being able to quickly check your TV to see how stairs you climbed this afternoon could assuage your guilt as you binge-watch Netflix at night, but that could come at a steep price if hackers find a way to get that information from the TV’s software.
While Samsung's other 2020 TVs are gimmicky - *cough* Sero *cough* - the Q950TS shows that Samsung hasn't foregone novelty for performance. It will likely have a few shortcomings like the lack of Dolby Vision support and potentially disappointing audio features if Object Tracking Plus doesn't improve by the time of release, but so far Samsung's flagship screen looks like a proud addition to its QLED lineup.
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