Samsung is challenging the notion that OLED TVs represent the pinnacle of picture quality in the living room. Tonight at CES 2017, the company unveiled its latest flagship televisions, the QLED series. It’ll be available in three models: the Q9, Q8, and Q7. Samsung says that QLED TV represents its best achievement in image quality and viewing experience yet.
Of course Samsung would say that at an event meant to showcase said product. But the company insists it’s made very real improvements compared to the flagship TVs it unveiled only a year ago. One of those upgrades pertains to brightness. The QLED TVs reach a peak brightness between 1,500 and 2,000 nits — up from the 1,000 peak from 2016’s lineup.
Color reproduction has also been improved. The QLED sets handle DCI-P3 “accurately” and are capable of reproducing “100 percent color volume” — something Samsung claims to be a world first. “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 says all of this is possible because it’s using a new metal material along with the quantum dot nanocrystals. But to clear up some confusion, Samsung’s QLED TVs still require backlighting and those crystals don’t self-emit light in the same way that OLEDs do. This isn’t some reinvention of display technology.
Even so, Samsung’s message is very clear: regardless of the lighting situation in your living room or wherever these QLED TVs are going, they’ll deliver stunning picture output. And sure, they looked great at tonight’s event, but I’d expect nothing less from Samsung’s own, controlled production. Surely there will be some comprehensive comparisons to test all those claims of deep blacks, lush color, and eye-dilating brightness versus competing TVs. Throughout its event space, Samsung put the QLED up against “conventional” OLED TVs.
On the software end, Samsung’s 2017 TVs are still powered by Tizen and feature basically the same user interface as last year. But there are some new additions like a sports mode that aggregates scores and other content from your favorite teams and an expanded Music section that lets you Shazam music as it’s playing in a TV show and immediately launch that track in Spotify another streaming services.
Samsung is also looking to clean up how its TVs look in your living room. New this year is a clear-colored “Invisible Connection cable” that runs from the TV to an external breakout box where you’ll find all the HDMI ports and other critical connections (besides power, which is a separate input). This might be appreciated by people who don’t want to run their home theater cables behind a wall or find some other clever way of concealing them. At its preview event, Samsung illuminated the transparent cable, but tragically that’s now how things work out of the box.
Details around release date and pricing are absent from Samsung’s press release on the QLED series, nor were they mentioned at the media preview. Odds are these sets will hit retail by spring along with the rest of the flagship TVs we’re seeing at CES. As for how much you’ll pay, for some context, Samsung’s current K9800 4K SUHD TV retails for $3,500.