Quantum Dots and High Dynamic Range bring a new standard to Ultra HD TVs
It’s fair to say that Samsung had a pretty good 2014.
The world’s number one TV manufacturer produced some of the best Ultra HD TVs in the market - like the HU8500 - as well as some great value Full HD models like the superb H6400, so it was never going to be easy to follow up such a successful year and when you’re the guy at the top there’s always a danger you might fall from your perch.
However, the Korean giant certainly has no intention of giving up their coveted number one spot without a fight and they clearly feel there’s still plenty of life left in LED/LCD technology. Whilst their main competitor is busy pushing OLED as the future of television, Samsung aren't convinced that particular technology is ready for the mass market.
They feel that they than deliver a picture that is equally as good by using LCD and at a more competitive price. They also believe that as video standards change, LED/LCD is currently better suited to meet these changes. This was evidenced at the Samsung stand, which was less about showing new models and more about demonstrating their new technologies.
Key to this is their concept of Super Ultra High Definition (SUHD) TVs; which combine High Dynamic Range with better black levels and improved colour mapping. They also use 10-bit video and Quantum Dot technology to deliver an improved performance and Samsung demonstrated this to AVForums in a closed door session.
Initially Samsung matched their latest SUHD TV against three other TVs - a Samsung model from last year, an OLED TV and a plasma. They were keen to show that their new SUHD TV can deliver impressive blacks to match both plasma and OLED but also very bright images, far in excess of what either of those technologies could achieve.
In terms of this particular demo, Samsung were using traditional content mastered at a brightness of 100 Nits and in the Rec.709 colour space. In this case the SUHD looked very bright but slightly washed out in comparison to the plasma and especially the OLED. However the new model could certainly deliver a punchy image even without content mastered for a higher dynamic range.
The reality is that the standards for video are being updated and whilst these new standards haven’t been finally decided yet, Samsung’s new range of SUHD TVs should be able to meet whatever is ultimately agreed upon. This was evidenced in the second demonstration where an SUHD TV was shown next to a normal LED TV and a reference monitor.
The combination of a VA panel with Quantum Dot, a direct backlight, local dimming and HDR produced one of the best LCD TVs we have seen.In this case the SUHD TV was showing Life of Pi mastered in HDR and with a P3/DCI colour space and the results were impressive. Thanks to the use of Quantum Dot technology, Samsung’s SUHD TVs will be able to reach the DCI colour space with ease. Whilst their use of VA panels, increased dimming zones and direct backlighting means that the black levels and uniformity are also improved.
This was obvious with the remastered Life of Pi footage, which showed a much wider dynamic range, with deep blacks and brighter highlights that really gave the images real impact. The TV also reduces power in darker parts of the image and boosts it in brighter parts to increase the dynamic range further. Finally Samsung showed various scenes from Exodus: Gods and Kings which, again, had been mastered in 4K HDR with a P3/DCI colour space and the results on a big 77” screen were very impressive. All the elements joined together to deliver one of the best images we have seen from an LED/LCD TV.
Samsung is also part of the newly formed Ultra HD Alliance which was created to differentiate between low quality and premium UHD TVs, as well as address the lack of actual 4K content. The UHD Alliance includes manufacturers, studios, distributors and post-production facilities and will work in conjunction with other bodies such as the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) to create a new set of standards for UHD.
These will include Higher Dynamic Range (1000nit), a wider colour space (probably P3/DCI), the BT1886 gamma curve, D65 for white, 10-bit video and HEVC encoding. All of Samsung’s new TVs will be certified as capable of reaching these new standards and thus be classified as Advanced Premium UHD TVs. Overall this is great news as it shows that the industry doesn’t just want to increase the resolution but also take this opportunity to improve the video standards to meet the technology available today.
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