Note: This review was first published on 27 Sept 2020.
Suffice to say, Samsung’s QLED portfolio has grown quite a bit over the years, both number of models and their capabilities. In the early stage (2016 - 2017), QLED focused a lot on picture quality and closing the gap with OLED, hence all the boasting about 1,000 nits peak brightness and 100% colour volume.
The way I see it, Samsung achieved its initial picture quality target for QLED by 2018. From 2018 to 2019, there was this additional focus on HDR and alignment with market trends. It was during this period we got HDR10+ and FreeSync.
In 2019, Samsung went all-in with 8K, bringing no fewer than five QLED 8K models to Singapore. As we’ve seen at CES this past Jan, this aggressiveness continues in 2020: in addition to a new Q950T that succeeds 2019’s Q900R, a comparatively more wallet-friendly Q800T is added to the lineup.
Before I proceed, my editor has a video walkthrough to demo some of the new features on the Q950T and share how close the Q800T ranks — have a look:
In Singapore, Samsung carries both the Q950T and Q800T. For this review, I’m looking at the 75-inch Q950T (QA75Q950TSKXXS).
Hindsight is always 20/20. Straight after CES, my early conclusion was that the Q950T should have been the Q900R. Perhaps not all the parts could come together in time then, so the vision is only realised this year. For those who remember, the Q900R actually started life in 2018 at IFA and then came to CES 2019.
But I digress.
If you’ve waited out last year and are looking to pick up a premium 8K TV this year, here’s a list of Q950T key features (and no-shows) that you must know:
1.) Infinity Screen
Starting with design, the Q950T has an Infinity Screen, which is Samsung’s way of saying it has (almost) no bezels. Versus past QLED models, the difference is pretty drastic. I won’t mask it: it looks like an OLED TV now.
Of course, OLED is also very thin; and on this front, Samsung has cut down the Q950T’s thickness by fusing the panel tighter with the chassis. The end result is a uniform 15mm-thin slab for the whole TV, regardless of screen size.
2.) No Gap Wall Mount, Invisible Connection
Because of its edge-to-edge screen, the Q950T looks best wall-mounted.
While it supports VESA wall mounts, you'll want to use the proprietary No Gap Wall Mount that comes free with the Q950T so that it can sit flush against the wall.
The Q950T also uses Samsung’s One Invisible Connection, a slim cable that transports AV signals and power from the separate One Connect box to the TV.
This One Connect box is where you plug all your AV devices into. Since the cable can go as long as 10m, you now have the freedom to place your equipment rack away from the TV or the TV away from a power socket. A single cable coming out from the back of the TV is also neater and easier to hide.
3.) 8K AI Upscaling, Adaptive Picture
The Q950T has an 8K Quantum Processor that intelligently upscales content from any source into 8K.
Compared to last year’s processor, the upgraded chip adds an artificial neural network that uses deep learning to restore fine details in complex images. In theory, this is better than a basic machine learning model that relies heavily on preloaded classifications. The latter is what’s on the Q900R; the Q950T has both.
Also new is an Adaptive Picture mode that automatically adjusts the brightness of the TV based on both the ambient light and scene being displayed.
4.) Object Tracking Sound+, Adaptive Voice Amplifier
Another feature making its debut this year is Object Tracking Sound (OTS), which attempts to track the subject on-screen and create a surround sound-like experience using just the TV’s onboard speakers.
OTS is available on several 2020 QLED 8K and 4K TVs. For the 8K models, Samsung is calling it OTS+, because these TVs have more speakers to create the effect (4.2.2-channel vs. 2.2.2 on the 4K models).
More specifically, you’ll find speaker drivers on the top, sides, bottom and rear of the Q950T.
Also new is Active Voice Amplifier, a pretty nifty tech that can pick out ambient noises, such as sound from a blender or vacuum cleaner. Say someone is vacuuming the room. When the TV hears it, it’ll automatically isolate and boost the voice track so that you can still hear the actor clearly. And when the noise is gone, it'll revert to the original settings. In my editor's video embedded above, you can see this feature demonstrated.
Q-Symphony is only relevant if you’ve a compatible 2020 Samsung Q series soundbar, such as the HW-Q950T or HW-Q800T. This feature allows you to use the soundbar’s speakers and the Q950T’s two top speakers at the same time to create an even more enveloping sound.
Protip: Samsung is currently running a promotion that gives you the S$2,899 HW-Q950T 9.1.4-channel Atmos soundbar for free when you buy the Q950T (any size). This promo ends Nov 2.
6.) Direct Full Array, HDR10+
All 2020 8K QLED support full-array local dimming. For the Q950T, Samsung is claiming a peak brightness of 4,000 nits, with full-fill at 500 nits.
Expectedly, HDR10+ is the only dynamic metadata HDR format supported — there’s no Dolby Vision.
7.) HDMI 2.1, eARC
The Q950T supports HDMI 2.1 but the One Connect box only has one such port (port #4). It’s a bummer because I’m hoping to see at least two. For comparison, LG’s premium TVs have four.
The Q950T supports eARC (finally). In fact, eARC is available on all 2020 QLED models. The presence of eARC means you don’t have to spend more money to get an HDMI 2.1-enabled receiver to get HDMI 2.1 passthrough for things like 8K60, 4K120 and VRR (variable refresh rate).
8.) Real Game Enhancer+
Real Game Enhancer+ refers to a suite of gaming-related features on the TV, with the more important ones being AMD FreeSync VRR and 4K @ 100Hz support. The TV doesn’t officially support NVIDIA G-Sync yet.
Also, Samsung claims an input lag of 9.8ms — but more on that later.
9.) Tap View, Multi-View, Google Assistant
Tap View and Multi-View are the two new smarts on this year's QLED TVs.
Tap View lets you quickly mirror your smartphone’s screen by tapping the phone to the TV, while Multi-View lets you to display dual content on the big screen at the same time. Multi-View supports 14 layouts including side-by-side and picture-in-picture. Again, check out the video walkthrough above to see how it works.
In addition to Bixby, the Q950T works with Google Assistant for voice control. At the moment, you still need to connect the TV to an Assistant-enabled device like Google Home but Samsung has promised a firmware update that adds native integration. Built-in Alexa support is unlikely to arrive for Singapore sets, though.