Samsung’s QLED is born out of the company’s desire to make a next-gen consumer TV that isn’t OLED. Semi-officially, I was told that the company was (and still is) spooked by OLED’s burn-in problems. To be fair, large-screen OLEDs’ reliability has improved a lot in the last five years — and you’re unlikely to face burn-in with normal use — but the fact remains that they’re more susceptible than LCDs.
Broadly speaking, Samsung’s QLED has this baseline performance, whether you bought one in 2017 or 2020: over 1,000 nits high brightness and colours that maintain their fidelity over the luminance range. Both combine to make QLED suitable for both daytime and nighttime use and flexible enough for a wide variety of content, be it live TV, Blu-ray movies or HDR.
But OLED’s shadow is always looming. Enthusiasts and critics typically have two complaints with QLED: its narrower viewing angles and non-true blacks. Let me tell you straight up that these will always be true — you can’t change physics.
But you can layer enhancements to up the perceived quality and this is sort of Samsung QLED’s untold story. For viewing angles, the big improvement came last year when Samsung introduced an additional optical layer to the panel. This treatment improves viewing angle range significantly and I’m happy that Samsung has stuck with it for the Q950T. Glare and reflections are further reduced this year, and all these come together to make for a more pleasant viewing experience.
Samsung’s backlight control for its premium LCD TVs has always been top notch and we continue to see it on the QLED models. The Q950T supports full-array local dimming; and while the algorithm is still overzealous at times, it’s this aggressiveness that enables the TV to produce very convincing blacks, with well-defined edges of bright objects and nary any blooming. The main tradeoff is a slight crush of shadow details. All said, the way I see it, QLED has so far been more successful at mimicking OLED’s strengths than the other way round. This is an excellent HDR TV.
The Q950T is a very good gaming display too, thanks to its excellent response time and very low input lag. Game mode used to have a reputation of messing up image quality but this is no longer the case for the last three years. FreeSync also works well and fingers crossed the TV would earn the NVIDIA G-Sync Compatible badge soon.
What I can’t wrap my head around is that there’s only one HDMI 2.1 input. I’m not sure why Samsung didn’t add more since the TV has to connect to a separate One Connect box anyway. Perhaps Samsung thinks if a user is advanced (rich?) enough to have several HDMI 2.1 devices, they probably also have an HDMI 2.1 AV receiver that does all the switching and passthrough?
Strange decisions like that aside, there’s not a lot to fault the Q950T. The Tizen-based user interface is uncomplicated (there's even an Apple TV app and AirPlay 2 support), the picture quality seldom falters, the 8K upscaling doesn’t screw things up and the built-in object-tracking sound system is good enough that your first thought after buying the TV won’t be to spend more money to add a surround system. Remember, if you were to buy the Q950T before Nov 2, Samsung is throwing in its flagship HW-Q950T 9.1.4-channel Atmos/DTS:X soundbar worth S$2,899 for free. That’s pretty sweet.
The Samsung Q950T QLED 8K TV is now in stores. Size-wise, you’ve 65 inches, 75 inches and 85 inches to choose from, priced at S$12,999, S$17,999 and S$29,999 respectively. Of course, these are recommended retail prices, which means street prices will be lower (usually by S$1K to 2K).