What is the Samsung Q950TS?
Samsung's smart platform has also been upgraded, with a 'digital butler' that makes connecting and setting up all your devices even easier. The already comprehensive support for video streaming services has been expanded to include Disney+, and an improved Universal Guide. The gaming capabilities have also been enhanced, with new features and an amazingly low input lag.
The Q950TS will be available from April in 65-inch (QE65Q950TS – £5,999), 75-inch (QE75Q950TS – £7,999) and 85-inch (QE85Q950TS – £11,999) screen sizes. This review is based on testing conducted on a 75-inch Q950TS.
Note from the Editor: This review is based on extensive testing conducted on a pre-production sample. Under normal circumstances we wouldn't review a pre-production sample, but these clearly aren't normal circumstances. However there are benefits to looking at early samples, because it allows manufacturers to fine tune the performance based on our feedback.
This review was also conducted off-site at Samsung's QA Labs facility, where we spent eight hours on our own with the sample. This approach is also unusual, but one that will become more common going forward. As high-end TVs get larger and more expensive, manufacturers are unwilling to ship them to reviewers due to logistical and insurance concerns.
Due to this changing strategy, AVForums has decided to conduct reviews and award badges based on off-site testing in certain circumstances. In order to do this we have put together a list of requirements to do this, which requires unrestricted full access to the sample in a specified testing environment, with an internet connection and all our usual testing equipment.
Design & Connections
The solid and sloped stand creates the impression the image is elegantly floating in space, and its narrow footprint ensures you don't need a wide surface on which to install the TV. There also a slight, almost imperceptible incline, which Samsung has added because its market research suggests as TVs get larger consumers are placing them on lower stands and those are viewing them at a slight downward angle.
The Q950TS looks attractive from all angles, but if you’d rather wall-mount it there’s the optional ‘No Gap’ bracket. The results using this bracket look stunning, with the panel flush against the wall thanks to it being 15mm from top to bottom. Samsung’s clever One Connect box is another design winner, allowing the screen to be connected with a single fibre optic cable, making wall mounting extremely easy and incredibly tidy.
This nearly-invisible fibre optic connection provides the panel with everything it needs including power, allowing all the other devices to be connected to the One Connect box. This simple idea ensures the minimum of cabling is actually going to the panel, and helps keep things neat and today when it comes to cable management.
The One Connect box itself is really big, presumably to allow for cooling without resorting to noisy fans. As you face the box there's an air vent to the left, and ports on the right for two USB 2.0 inputs. At the rear you'll find four HDMI inputs, the first is HDMI 2.1, but the other three are HDMI 2.0b with the third earmarked as eARC. There are also twin tuners for terrestrial and satellite broadcasts, a CI slot, an optical digital output, a ex link 3.5mm jack and an Ethernet port. In terms of wireless connections there's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and support for Apple AirPlay 2.
Related: What is HDMI 2.1?
This year Samsung has added deep learning, which uses a neural network to augment the existing machine learning. This neural network can create its own formulas and algorithms without resorting to a formula bank, and while the previous machine learning took a day to complete, the new deep learning can take up to a week.
This AI-enhanced approach to picture processing ensures that whatever the quality of the source content, any upscaled images always look impressive. The processing is done on a pixel-by-pixel basis, with the AI created formulas and filters applying noise reduction, edge restoration, texture creation and fine detail restoration. The deep learning aspect of the processing is primarily reserved for creating fine detail and dealing with complex images.
The use of neural networks requires massive amounts of processing power, the databases and formula banks require huge amounts of storage. So the algorithms, formulas and filters are created by Samsung using the combination of machine learning and neural networks before loading them into the TV's processor via periodic firmware updates. Minor updates are made on a regular basis, but major updates will only happen once or twice a year.
Related: What is TV AI?
The new processor makes full use of the 33 million pixels in the 8K panel, effectively upscaling lower resolution content to fit the screen. The Quantum Processor then applies noise reduction to clean-up low quality material, as well as some banding reduction in order to deliver more precise gradations in all content.
The images are analysed as three layers – course, medium and fine – and then the detail texture creation is applied depending on the quality of the source content. This makes sense, because less processing is required for a high quality 4K source, but more fine detail and texture creation will be needed when dealing with low quality standard definition material.
The processor also enhances motion by applying error improvements designed to prevent the distortion of small objects. In addition it applies pixel-based occlusion correction and concealment, to deliver smoother and more refined motion. There is improved judder reduction that avoids the ‘soap opera effect’, and a newly added ability to eliminate stutter caused by frame drops.
The Samsung Q950TS uses a direct full array LED backlight with local dimming zones. The company wouldn't confirm the exact number of zones, but it’s the same as last year, which means there are 488 zones. The use of a direct backlight and local dimming ensures the panel is able to produce deep blacks and brighter highlights with minimal blooming or haloing.
The contrast performance has been further enhanced by the addition of Adaptive Peak Brightness. The image is analysed and the backlight creates a current map based on this analysis, which is broken down into bright or dark areas. Using the dimming zones, this feature then applies more current to the brighter areas of the image, and less to the darker parts.
This kind of local power distribution technology allows the Q950TS to not only relocate power from darker parts of the image to the brighter areas, thus producing a 20% increase in peak brightness, but also improves the energy efficiency of the backlight. In addition, there's an Intelligent Contrast feature that analyses the luminance distribution of an image, applying signal processing to fine tune the contrast performance.
The Quantum Processor doesn’t just improve the picture quality via upscaling and image enhancements, it also optimises the picture based on a user’s viewing habits. There's an Adaptive Picture feature that measures ambient light in the room using a light sensor, and adjusts the image depending on whether its day or night. These adjustments are based on both the measurements and the image itself, rather just globally based on the readings from the sensor.
Related: What is High Dynamic Range (HDR)?
Naturally the Q950TS supports high dynamic range (specifically HDR10, HDR10+ and Hybrid Log-Gamma), although Samsung still don't support Dolby Vision. However the company now applies adaptive tone mapping to HDR10 on a frame-by-frame basis, thus enhancing dark and mid-range images to produce a more impactful HDR experience.
Related: What is HDR10+?
The TV will scan the area for three minutes based on signal strength, looking for nearby Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices. The results are shown using an intuitive representation that also includes any infra-red devices and those that are physically connected via HDMI or USB. You can then select any detected device from the graphical interface and set it up, before moving on to the next one.
This feature makes detecting and registering devices incredibly easy, and allows the TV to act as a centralised control point for all the connected devices in your home. The Q950TS offers the benefits of built-in smart assistants in the form of Bixby and Amazon Alexa. It also has multiple voice control options thanks to Alexa and Bixby, as well as the ability to work in conjunction with Google Assistant.
The centralisation of all your devices through your TV, along with the connectivity offered by the Internet of Things (IoT) has made modern smart TV platforms vulnerable to hacking. In conjunction with Knox Security, Samsung has ensured that the Tizen OS is safe from malware and phishing activities, and can also provide secure remote access and payment services.
Of course, as impressive as device centralisation, smart assistants and voice control are, you primarily use a TV is to watch content. So the more video streaming services a TV supports the better, and Samsung offers a comprehensive selection that includes Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Rakuten TV, Now TV, and all the UK catch-up services. In addition, there’s support for TV Plus, Apple TV+ and Disney+, so that's a clean sweep of all the important video streaming services.
The Q950TS also supports all the latest 8K codecs, allowing users with a fast enough broadband connection to enjoy native 8K content from services like YouTube and Rakuten. In addition Samsung has announced support for AI ScaleNet technology that reduces original data loss during streaming, as well as the NextGenTV broadcast standard.
The downside to all this choice is that you either can't find or simply can't decide what to actually watch, because you're overwhelmed with options. To help with this very first world problem, Samsung has developed the Universal Guide. This feature curates and recommends content based on your viewing habits, and this year it has been updated to be more content driven, rather than relying on the support of content partners.
The integration of the speakers is seamless, hidden behind a pattern of tiny holes in the outer edge of the TV cabinet. The sound quality is certainly impressive, with an open soundstage and plenty of power in the amplification. However, all the testing was conducted on a stand mounted Q950TS, raising the question of how wall mounting would effect the woofers built into the rear of the TV?
This should be addressed when you first set the TV up, because there's a sound optimisation feature that sends out test tones and measures them using built-in microphones. The Q950TS also applies AI-enhanced processing to its sound capabilities, using audio spatial intelligence to analyse the signal and environment, thus allowing it to deliver an improved sonic experience.
There’s also Active Voice Amplifier, which detects ambient noise in the room and automatically adjusts the vocal clarity accordingly. Another major new audio feature is Object Tracking Sound Plus (OTS+), which uses the eight drivers built into the Q950TS to deliver a bigger soundstage with greater width, height and dimensionality.
This is achieved by analysing the audio signal, and using the available speakers combined with sophisticated processing to create sounds that are aligned with the location of specific images on the screen. This certainly worked in the demos, with the sound of a bird flying across the screen being tracked by the acoustic processing from left to right. However, how effective this will be with real world material remains to be seen.
It’s interesting that despite the Q950TS having built-in height speakers, Samsung still doesn’t support Dolby Atmos (although the TV can send Atmos back via ARC from its internal apps to a supporting soundbar or AV receiver). Since the Q950TS also supports eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), it can pass lossless audio back via ARC to a supporting soundbar our AV receiver as well. Samsung rationale for not supporting Dolby Atmos processing in the TV is that OTS+ can benefit all content and not such those with Atmos soundtracks. However, given all those speakers it does seem like a missed opportunity.
If you have a 2020 Samsung soundbar, you can not only enjoy lossless audio, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, but you can also benefit from Q-Symphony which provides audio synergy with the TV. This feature enables the speakers in the soundbar to work in conjunction with the top and side speakers on the Q950TS, resulting in a more immersive surround experience.
Related: What is Dolby Atmos?
The Q950TS supports VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and ALLM (Automatic Low Latency Mode), but new this year is support for AMD FreeSync. Other new features include a multi-view mode that allows users to game and watch game-related videos simultaneously. However, this feature isn’t just for gamers, and anyone can view two pieces of content at the same time, either side-by-side or as picture-in-picture.
There’s also a new Surround Sound mode specifically for gaming that offers extra tuning designed to emphasise sound effects within the game, and the existing Game Motion Plus feature has been improved by up to 40%, resulting in smoother movement when gaming.
In testing the Q950TS delivered an input lag of 9.7ms in Game mode with all the extra gaming features turned off. If you use the Dynamic Black Equaliser, the lag remains at 9.7ms, even at the highest setting. If you select the Surround Sound mode the lag increases slightly to 10.7ms, but it's not like you're going to notice. Using the Game Motion Plus will improve the motion handling, but it also increases the lag to 27.9ms. The motion handling is still excellent, even without this feature, so you may as well leave it off and enjoy almost lag-less game play.
The Samsung Q950TS has the latest menu system, and this year Samsung has made some sensible changes to the Expert Settings. The first control you see is Brightness, and this now actually adjusts the brightness of the TV. It’s basically what was previously called the backlight control, and the traditional ‘brightness’ control, which actually adjusts the black level, is now called Shadow Detail. This latter control is now found further down the menu system beneath the gamma control, and will hopefully avoid a situation where unfamiliar users end up destroying their TV's black levels in a misguided attempt to increase the overall brightness.
The motion controls are now in a sub-menu called Picture Clarity and here you can turn the frame interpolation on or off. You can also customise the Blur Reduction and Judder Reduction settings, as well as turn the LED Clear Motion (black frame insertion) control on and off. This sub-menu is where you'll also now find the Noise Reduction control.
The Local Dimming control has three settings: Low, Standard and High, but this year Low actually turns the local dimming off. This is a nice addition, because previous Samsung models didn't allow the local dimming to be turned off at all, which could be a pain for calibrators.
There’s the usual choice of picture modes, including Movie which is the most accurate out of the box. Interesting the pre-production sample we tested did not have a Filmmaker Mode, which Samsung has publicly said it will support. We are waiting for clarification on when this will be added. However, if you select the Movie mode you’ll already be most of the way towards a Filmmaker Mode based on the measurements and settings.
As you can see in the graph above, the out of the box greyscale is excellent, with DeltaEs (errors) that are all below two. This is below the visible threshold of three, and is an impressive result. The gamma is tracking at 2.5 with the gamma control, set to BT1886 and the slider at zero. This should be at 2.4, but can be adjusted down by setting the slider to +1. This was pointed out to Samsung, who will tweak the production units so the gamma is tracking 2.4 out of the box.
The colour tracking is also pretty good, with luminance measurements (not shown on the graph above) that were spot on. There were some hue errors and undersaturation in red, but Samsung was still tweaking the out of the box settings, and the Auto colour mode should be tracking the Rec.709 targets even closer in actual production units.
The Samsung Q950TS has extensive calibration controls that include a White Balance control (two and 20-point) and a colour management system. New this year is the ability to run CalMAN automated calibration using Wi-Fi rather than a physical connection. Unfortunately this feature wasn’t available during testing.
As you can see above, the greyscale can be fine-tuned to deliver a reference level of accuracy with all errors below one. The gamma curve is tracking just below 2.4 with the BT1886 slider set to one. As already mentioned, Samsung will fine tune the gamma tracking for the actual production units.
The colour accuracy is much improved after tweaking the greyscale and using the colour management system. The luminance measurements remain spot on, and most of the colours are now tracking their targets precisely, although there are still a few areas to improve, especially with regards to the hue of magenta. Samsung are aware of this and plan to fine-tune the colour tracking for the production units.
The Samsung Q950TS stays in Movie Mode when it detects an HDR signal, but it disregards the calibrated settings for SDR and resets the controls for HDR content separately. This is the best approach and allows for fine-tuning of the greyscale if necessary. This year the Standard local dimming setting applies dynamic tone mapping, while the High setting just tone maps according to the PQ EOTF.
The measurements above are out of the box, and as you can see the Q950TS tops out at 1,500nits in Movie mode. The greyscale is almost perfect, which is impressive, and the PQ EOTF is tracking the target exactly. This is a big improvement on previous years, where Samsung was more concerned with hitting higher peak brightnesses rather than retaining the content creator’s artistic intentions. Samsung is now concentrating on retaining that original creative intent, and based on these measurements the company is doing a superb job.
The measurements above show the peak brightness at different window sizes, and as you can see the brightness peaks at 1,550nits on a 10% window. The 75Q950TS is still producing 400nits on a full field (100%) pattern, and all these numbers are far beyond the capabilities of an OLED TV. As a result, the TV does not need to apply tone mapping to content graded at 1,000nits, but it does with content graded at 4,000nits. In the Dynamic mode the Q950TS can hit a peak brightness of 3,250nits on a 10% window, but as previously mentioned Samsung is more interested in being accurate rather than bright.
The Q950TS covered 91% of DCI-P3 using xy coordinates, and 94% using the uv coordinates. This is lower than expected considering colour reproduction is a strong point of QLED TVs, but once again this pre-production sample was still being tweaked. As a result the full production units should be closer to the 98-99% usually measured on Samsung’s QLED models.
The HDR colour tracking of DCI-P3 within Rec.2020 is probably the only disappointing aspect of the Q950TS’s measurements. There is clearly room for improvement, especially with regards to the hue of magenta. Given there were similar errors with the Rec.709 tracking, it would suggest the sample required further colour tuning. Samsung was made aware of this and was planning on tweaking the SDR and HDR colour tracking further before going into full production.
Popping on the Blu-ray of Gravity, there’s a scene where Sandra Bullock tumbles alone in the darkness of space. It’s a great test of the black levels, shadow detail and local dimming. The Q950TS handled it superbly, revealing all the stars in the Milky Way behind Bullock, and avoiding any blooming on her bright white space suit against the blackness of space.
However, what also caught my eye was the amount of detail on display. It’s easy to simply ignore Samsung’s claims of its AI-enhanced upscaling prowess as mere hype, but when you see it in action the results are often amazing. You know the TV can’t add something that isn’t there, and yet the processing in conjunction with all those pixels on the 8K panel result in images that seem more detailed. I’ve watched Gravity countless times when testing displays, but somehow it felt like I was seeing it for the first time, spotting details I’d never noticed before.
I had a similar sensation watching Samsara, another Blu-ray that I use a lot for testing. Here the various travelogue images of people and landscapes looked wonderful natural, with saturated but accurate colours, great blacks and lovely shadow detail. But once again it was the scaling that really impressed, and I’m sure I could have convinced the unwary that what they were watching was a 4K disc, that’s how impressive it is.
Another aspect of the Q950TS’s performance that impressed was the motion handling. This is clearly an area where Samsung has made improvements this year, and with the Picture Clarity settings turned off, 24p content looked that bit smoother and free of any judder, but crucially without the addition of any unwanted artefacts.
The Picture Clarity settings obviously do apply frame interpolation, which results in smoothing, but this can be useful with sport. The LED Clear Motion setting uses black frame insertion, which darkens the image, but does improve the motion without adding any soap opera effect. I was also pleased to see this feature didn’t add flicker in the way that the setting has on previous Samsung TVs. However due to the darkening effect, I wouldn’t recommend using it with HDR.
It’s with HDR that this TV really comes into its own, and watching a range of discs the results are often breathtaking. For a start the upscaling can do wonders with a native 4K disc, and the amount of detail in a film like The Revenant is nothing short of a revelation. However, even a film that uses a 2K DI like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 still looks more detailed than I remember, and I’ve seen this film many times. As I said, it’s easy to take Samsung’s claims as mere hype, but the AI-enhanced image processing really does work.
The increased brightness afforded by the QLED panel and the superb accuracy in terms of the tone mapping results in wonderful HDR images. The peak brightness is impressive, but it’s also the overall image that pops. The HDR just has more impact compared to an OLED, which simply looks dull by comparison. Watching films like The Revenant, Guardians and Pan, the HDR images have incredible punch both in terms of brightness and saturation. Despite some misgivings about the colour accuracy in the HDR measurements, this never appeared to be the case with actual content, and The Revenant looked wonderfully natural and nuanced. In fact it has never looked better, the images were often stunning, and when watching the exact same scenes on my LG 77C9 they simply didn’t look as good, which was a bit depressing.
Is the Q950TS perfect? Of course not, and while the local dimming is excellent it can still be caught out. For the most part the Samsung delivered HDR images with deep blacks and bright highlights, while still retaining shadow detail and avoiding clipping or blooming. However there is a scene in the film First Man where the Apollo 11 spacecraft first goes into the shadow of the moon. The screen goes black, and then the window reveals the lunar surface, which in turn illuminates the astronauts' faces. It’s an absolute torture test for any local dimming system and while the Q950TS had a good stab at it, the self-emissive C9 was clearly superior.
However for the majority of SDR viewing, and especially with HDR, the Samsung Q950TS is one of the best TVs I have seen to date, and it’s sure to please anyone who decides to take the leap into 8K despite the lack of actual native content.
- Detailed and accurate images
- Amazing HDR performance
- State-of-the-art processing
- Excellent sound quality
- Comprehensive smart platform
- Gorgeous design and superb build quality
- No Dolby Vision
- No Dolby Atmos
Samsung Q950TS (QE75Q950TS) QLED 8K TV Review
However the Q950TS doesn't just look good and sound good, it is good... very good! This 8K TV delivers exceptional images with SDR content, thanks to state-of-the-art processing and incredibly precise local dimming. Regardless of the source material the images will be bright, detailed and accurate, with deep blacks, improved shadow detail and no noticeable blooming – even on challenging material. Of course the better the source, the better the results, and with a high quality native 4K disc the upscaling is often breathtaking – revealing details never before noticed.
The HDR performance is in a league of its own, with the larger colour volume and higher brightness on a full-field pattern making a noticeable difference when compared to an OLED TV. The latter might be more precise in delivering tiny specular highlights, and its self-emissive nature is definitely an advantage with certain challenging material, but in general the Q950TS is my preferred option with HDR.
The HDR images just have more impact when compared with an OLED TV, and Samsung has concentrated on delivering these images accurately rather than simply pushing the peak brightness. The already impressive HDR performance is further improved by new features like adaptive peak brightness and adaptive tone mapping, with the latter giving the image more pop without causing clipping or haloing.
The updated smart platform remains cutting-edge, with an intuitive and responsive interface, combined with a comprehensive selection of video streaming services. The improved Universal Guide is really helpful when it comes to sifting through all that content, and the SmartThings atop and Digital Butler make setting up the TV and connecting all your devices easy. Only the lack of Dolby Vision support spoils what is otherwise a state-of-the-art TV package.
The Q950TS is certainly expensive, but it's a flagship model and unlike last year you're not simply paying a premium for an 8K panel. This year the Q950TS contains features that are simply not included on the corresponding 4K model, an obvious attempt to move sales onto the 8K models and away from the 4K versions. That might seem cynical, especially in the absence of native 8K content, but if you get a chance to see the upscaling in action you might be surprised.
Overall you get what you pay for, and the Samsung Q950TS is an awesome TV that applies state-of-the-art technology to every aspect of your TV experience. It delivers SDR images that can hold their own against the best OLED TVs, uses upscaling that makes full use of the 8K panel, and produces HDR images that impress with their detail, accuracy and overall impact. There is no other LCD TV that comes close, and as a result this is an easy winner of an AVForums Best in Class badge.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
SDR Picture Quality
HDR Picture Quality
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
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