Samsung has just unveiled its 2018 lineup of QLED 4K HDR TVs at a NYC event and they’re damned impressive as far as we’re concerned. We thought the same thing about the 2017 models as well, mainly in terms of color reproduction quality (their peak brightness levels weren’t quite as impressive as we’d expected them to be) but for the 2018 editions, namely the Q9, Q8, Q7 and Q6, what we see as the biggest changes are their internal smart technologies. These models also deliver some very robust picture quality overall and have improved their black levels in particular over the very good metrics we saw in the 2017 versions but again, it’s the extra technologies and new design aspects that are most notable.
The 2018 QLEDs come with a new focus on smart home control and intelligence. These are actually features that we’ve seen expanded quite a bit in almost all premium 2018 4K TVs from several brands and Samsung is no exception. In the case of this year’s QLED models, the TVs ship with the inclusion of Bixby and voice assistant technology right out of the box. More specifically, they work as hubs for Samsung’s own SmartThings smart home platform technology, which offers one-screen control of any other SmartThings-capable gadgets you might have in your home.
The highest-priced models, the Q9 and Q8, both offer full-array LED backlighting with full-array local dimming technology. Samsung hasn’t specified just how many individual dimming zones both TVs will come with but we’re happy to see the brand at least finally include FALD technology in its best 4K TV models. In 2017 the company failed to do this despite charging high prices for them and quite frankly, this is disappointing in a marketplace where numerous budget 4K TVs offer excellent full-array LED and local dimming capabilities for very low prices. FALD should offer even better black levels, contrast and brightness control for HDR content in particular in these QLEDs. Samsung is even promoting the new feature addition under the name “HDR EliteMax” for the Q9 in particular. All of the QLEDs support HDR10+, the newest and much improved version of HDR10.
All of the QLEDs also come with a new “Ambient Mode”, which allows you to take a photo of the environment behind your TV and send it to the television so that it displays across the screen with a sort of camouflage effect that is rather cool despite its practical uselessness. More practically, Ambient Mode lets the QLED TVs display temperature, news clips, personal images and other information a user might like to have at a glance. In other words, the QLEDs are turned into giant smartphone screens when you’re not using them to watch movies or Netflix and so on.
Moving back to Samsung’s SmartThings ecosystem, the QLEDs offer this as a particular new feature which turns the televisions into hubs for all connected gadgets such as cameras, thermostats, lights and smart devices. An accessory mobile SmartThings app lets you control this technology with plenty of simplicity. More broadly, the trend towards turning TVs into hubs for smart home control via voice assistant technology is becoming popular with LG, Sony and others all having their own versions of it, though Samsung’s is a native platform that doesn’t integrate external smart assistance providers such as Amazon or Google.
The QLED Q9, Q8, Q7 and Q6 TVs are on offer in respective descending order of price and overall quality and even come with curved editions despite the waning popularity of this specific design feature in most brands. However, all of these new TVs are sold as both flat and curved editions. So far, we have no pricing information on the 2018 QLEDs but they will start shipping within a few weeks, so we’re expecting to know just how much they cost very soon. Don’t expect them to be cheap, though we might be surprised by prices that are at least a bit lower than those of the 2017 releases when they first came out. This was a price trend that we noted with LG’s 2018 OLED TVs and we’re hoping that Samsung follows suit given the general decreasing price trend of today’s more standardized 4K TV market.
The bottom line as far as we’re concerned: We haven’t yet gotten our hands on one of the new QLEDs for concrete picture performance testing so we can compare its quality and performance with that of rival 2018 models or Samsung’s own 2017 editions but we’re suspecting that their picture performance will generally be only modestly superior to that of the 2017 QLEDs. So we don’t quite thing you should replace your last year’s Samsung QLED for one of these if you already own one. The addition of FALD in the Q9 and Q8 does however look very promising and it’s about time that Samsung integrates this in its priciest flagship televisions.
Here’s a breakdown of how the QLEDs will be offered by size. The Q6 in particular looks promising for consumers who want a QLED at a reasonable price:
Q9 Series: 75-inch, 65-inch
Q8 Series: 75-inch, 65-inch, 55-inch
Q7 Series: 75-inch, 65-inch, 55-inch
Q6 Series: 82-inch, 75-inch, 65-inch, 55-inch, 49-inch