In 2018, Samsung will continue to push quantum dot-enhanced LCD TVs under the “QLED” umbrella. The flagship has been upgraded with full array local dimming (FALD), whereas most other models are still edge-lit. The company is also focusing on HDR10+, unique design solutions, new gaming features, and improved smart features. FlatpanelsHD brings you the full overview of Samsung’s 2018 TV line-up.
2017 was not a good year for Samsung’s TV division to say the least. To understand what transpired we need to rewind time to around 2012-2014 when the South Korean company attempted and failed to mass-produce next-generation OLED TVs. Its hometown arch rival LG had more luck in its endeavor, which put Samsung in a tough spot. The company eventually decided to rebrand conventional LCD TVs to first “SUHD” and since “QLED” in an effort to challenge OLED. Plan B backfired miserably.
As a result, Samsung has been abolished from the high-end TV segment. Korean media report that the company’s share of the premium segment has dropped from more than 50% to less than 10% over the course of a few years. OLED has incredible momentum whereas critical reviewers and discerning consumers alike have deemed last year’s “QLED TVs” mostly as a marketing ploy. So what will the world’s biggest TV manufacturer do to turn things around in 2018?
The plan involves new display technologies such as microLED & QD-LED
Samsung is determined to strike back and has revealed a long-term plan that involves new display technologies such as microLED and QD-LED. Few of us can afford to buy it but Samsung has confirmed that it will launch the first consumer TV based on microLED technology later this year with the 146-inch ‘The Wall’. It will be the first step on a journey that will take Samsung beyond LCD technology. The company will also launch its first 8K LCD TV later this year.
In the short term, however, Samsung will continue to push LCD TVs as “QLED TVs”. The good news is that Samsung has taken at least part of last year’s criticism to heart and chosen to implement full array local dimming (FALD) technology in its flagship Q9FN. A scaled-down FALD system will also be available in the US version of the Q8FN (but not the European version of Q8 that will use edge LED). FALD is by many people considered the minimum requirement for decent HDR (High Dynamic Range) video reproduction on an LCD TV. Q9FN is also significantly cheaper than last year’s Q9 model. The Q ranges will feature a ‘Q Engine’ video processor whereas the other models come with a scaled-down version.
The company will continue to offer curved TVs but the form factor has been mostly relegated to the mid-range segment. Only one of the premium Q ranges in each territory will be curved while the rest will be as flat as you expect a TV to be. The TVs will be offered in sizes up to 82 inches – and later this year even larger formats. From Q7 and up Samsung will also offer an ultra-slim wall bracket solution dubbed “no-gap wall mount”.
Another pillar in 2018 will be an increased focus on gaming features, specifically support for auto HDMI switching whenever a game is detected, 120 Hz (in HD resolution), AMD FreeSync, and HDMI 2.1’s VRR (variable refresh rate). To be clear, Samsung’s TVs do not support the full HDMI 2.1 standard but the company has cherry-picked a few features from the upcoming interface standard to set its TVs apart from the pack. As such, Samsung’s 2018 TVs will be the first to implement adaptive frame rate (FreeSync and VRR) and with Microsoft’s announcement that Xbox One will also gain support, 2018 will be yet another exciting year for console gaming, coming hot on the heels of HDR support on consoles.
Another focus area for Samsung this year is design. The company has taken its “invisible” connection one step further. You connect all cables to an external ‘One Connect’ box that transmits video and power to the TV via a single fiber optics cable. It is a very cool solution that allows you to get rid of the cable clutter. Another new feature is the ‘Ambient Mode’ that “can fill the screen with the pattern of the wall behind it and combine it with some handy time or weather information”. These features will be available in the Q models.
Samsung still refuses to update its Tizen software platform from year to year
Samsung’s TVs are still “smart” but the company still refuses to update its Tizen software platform from year to year. Instead, it will introduce version 4.0 in its 2018 models only. Version 4.0 offers new features such as a ‘Universal Guide’ and Bixby voice controls that will work in the US and Korea only. The company explains that setup has also been streamlined. Users can now set up their TV from a smartphone and share login credentials. Samsung explains that "if you’re already logged in to a video application on your mobile device, your TV connects to the same account without having to re-enter your login details on screen”. We have seen the system in action and sadly it does not yet support Netflix (but it does support Spotify).
The Q9 and Q8 ranges will come bundled with a new metal remote and a hugely simplified button layout for the modern TV era. Samsung knows that consumers are transitioning to streaming services so it is no longer designing TVs and its user interface for an era that was. The cheaper Q ranges and NU ranges will also include this hugely simplified OneRemote but in less exclusive materials.
Samsung has developed its own HDR format in the form of HDR10+
You may have heard that Samsung has developed its own HDR format in the form of HDR10+. It has even convinced Panasonic and Philips to implement it into their TVs, and convinced Amazon, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros to release content. The company says that all of its HDR TVs this year will support HDR10+. Currently, you will have to open the Amazon app to enjoy HDR10+ video content.
The Korean company continues to shun Dolby Vision, which is hardly surprising considering that HDR10+ was developed as a royalty-free alternative to Dolby Vision.
Later this year, Samsung will launch HDR10+ compatible UHD Blu-ray players and by that time we expect the first discs in the format to be released. The company has vowed to firmware update last year’s UHD Blu-ray players to be compatible with HDR10+ but is staying mum on the promised HDR10+ update for its 2016 TVs.
Samsung will in 2018 try to hammer home the message of “Internet of Things” by implementing the SmartThings platform into its TVs. If you are not exactly ecstatic we can understand why considering that the company promised to support SmartThings in its 2016 TVs, in its 2017 TVs, and now in its 2018 TVs. Perhaps it finally will happen this year.
The new TVs will also include the usual suite of features, including twin-tuners in Europe, built-in WiFi and bluetooth, HEVC and VP9-2 decoding, and HDMI ports. None of the new models will offer support for 3D. Samsung added that the NU7 range and up will be compatible with the Control4 home automation system.
You can tell the 2018 TVs apart from previous years’ models by the “N” in the model name for the broader LCD line-up. The high-end models are labeled Q*N. As a reminder: NU/N/Q*N = 2018, MU/M/Q = 2017, KS/KU = 2016, JS/JU = 2015, HU/H = 2014, F = 2013.
Samsung Q9FN is the preliminary flagship TV for 2018 (until 8K arrives later this year). It will feature full array local dimming with around 500 diming zones.
Samsung Q7 is another LCD member of the “QLED” family. It uses standard edge LED backlighting, which is not suitable for HDR video reproduction. It will exist in flat and curved version in the US, and flat only in Europe.