CES 2018: Samsung showcase Micro LED and Q9S 8K TV
Samsung held their First Look TV event on the eve of CES 2018 and were clearly out to impress.After a difficult year in 2017 the Korean giant has got its swagger back as they showcased a selection of hugely impressive TV technologies, one of which could be a genuine gamer changer. Pride of place went to 'The Wall' – the world's first modular TV that also uses Micro LED emissive technology. The TV is composed of modular panels, allowing you to create a bespoke display that perfectly fits your particular wall. The version on show was 146 inches but theoretically 'The Wall' can be any dimension with the only limitation being the size of the individual modules themselves.
However, what is really impressive about 'The Wall' is that each pixel in its panels is composed of red, green and blue LEDs meaning that, like OLED, it is truly self emissive. This the Holy Grail of TV technology because it allows the display to deliver absolute blacks but, unlike an OLED, it isn't limited in terms of its peak brightness and colour gamut, nor will it suffer from image retention. The demonstration of 'The Wall' at the event was jaw-droopingly impressive with images that appeared almost 3D in nature thanks to their incredible dynamic range. The version that we saw was still a prototype but 'The Wall' will go on sale in 2019.
In the meantime Samsung will have something equally as impressive for 2018 in the shape of the Q9S. It will be their new flagship model for this year and Samsung have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at it to deliver the best specified TV to date. It will apparently come in 75- and 85-inch screen sizes and uses an 8K panel combined with AI (artificial intelligence) image processing to upscale all lower resolution content up to the TV's native resolution. Whilst there isn't any native 8K content at the moment, the higher resolution panel means that the AI processing can use and evolve a database of images to take full advantage of the additional pixels and deliver the best picture possible with all content up to 4K.
Although the Q9S doesn't stop there because it also uses a direct LED backlight with over 10,000 local dimming zones, resulting in a peak brightness of 4,000nits. The colour gamut of the Samsung will also be 100% of DCI-P3, which means it can display any current high dynamic range content using 1:1 tone mapping, although it also includes support for HDR10+ with dynamic metadata and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). Samsung haven't forgotten about gamers either and it will boast a feature that automatically switches into game mode when it detects a console. The Q9S will support VRR (variable refresh rate) and Samsung claim an input lag of just 15ms. On the audio side the new TV will also support eARC (enhanced audio return channel) with full lossless audio.
The Q9S uses HDMI 2.0 but clearly demonstrates that you don't actually need HDMI 2.1 to support many of its key features such as dynamic metadata, eARC and VRR. So with both native 8K and high frame rate content still a few years away, HDMI 2.1 might not be necessary for quite a while. The demos we saw of the new flagship were impressive but we'll get a better look later this week when we attend Samsung's technical demonstration at CES. This new TV will be released later this year and it's fair to say that it won't be cheap but hopefully the technology seen on both the Q9S and 'The Wall' will trickle down to cheaper models over the next few years.
On a more general level, Samsung were also demonstrating their new smart platform which has been designed to put your TV at the centre of the home, making it as simple to set up and easy to use as possible. The Samsung app, which will be available for both iOS and Android, will allow you to set up and control your TV from your smartphone and even use Bixby. Thanks to this simple interface you will also be able to connect your Samsung TV to any wireless device thanks to the Internet of Things, giving you access to other features such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. For enthusiasts out there, Samsung's TVs will also continue to support AutoCal via CalMAN which they claim will be faster and even better this year.
Although Samsung weren't confirming their full line-up or even the model numbers at the event, there will be an announcement of the entire 2018 range in early spring. In the meantime, Samsung have stated their intention to "redefine the possibilities of TV" and from what we have seen so far, they just might do that. It's certainly an ambitious opening salvo from Samsung and CES 2018 hasn't even started yet!
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