Samsung is extending its bet on "QLED"; LCD TVs with quantum dots. In 2019, the company launches new liftestyle TVs with The Frame and Serif TV as well as a new 8K model and more 4K LCD TVs with LED zone dimming. Samsung has also announced a surprising partnership with Apple. FlatpanelsHD brings you the full overview of Samsung's 2019 TV line-up.
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Samsung 2019 TV line-up
Samsung has showcased microLED TVs, an entirely new display technology, and confirmed that it has resumed development of OLED TVs in the form of QD-OLED. Neither of these two next-generation display technologies are ready to be commercialized just yet so in 2019 Samsung is extending its bet on "QLED" LCD TVs.
The company is launching new high-end 4K TVs called Q90R, Q85R, Q80R, Q70R, and Q60R that span in sizes from 43 to 82 inches. It also has a new 8K model called Q950R in Europe and, confusingly, Q900RB (not to be confused with last year's Q900RA) in the US. 8K TVs will be available in sizes up to 98 inches.
In the mid-range segment Samsung is launching a portfolio of RU series TVs with 4K resolution and the latest features of the Tizen platform that offers access to apps such as Amazon, HBO, Netflix, and YouTube. Tizen has reached version 5.0 but previous years' models will not be updated to the latest software, and Samsung has announced no plans to update Tizen in its 2019 models beyond version 5.0.
The Tizen platform, which is powering all of Samsung's TVs, gains new features every year and this year Samsung is adding support for voice control via external devices with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The TVs also come with built-in Bixby, which is Samsung's own voice assistant. However, Bixby is supported only in a few regions and languages. In addition, Samsung's internet-of-things platform, SmartThings, is baked into Tizen and this year the company is introducing a new Ambient mode that displays decorative images when the TV is not in use.
A surprising partnership with Apple
The big new development, however, is a surprising partnership with Apple that was announced at CES 2019 in January. The partnership will bring some of Apple's TV features to Samsung 2018 and 2019 TVs, specifically Apple AirPlay 2 that enables the user to push video, music and photos from an iPhone, iPad or Mac wirelessly to a Samsung TV.
Samsung is one of several TV makers to partner with Apple but the comp Korean company will be the exclusive launch partner for Apple's new 'TV' app that is a unified user interface for multiple streaming services. It will also be the home for Apple's upcoming video streaming service TV+. On the other hand Samsung TVs will not support HomeKit - Apple's platform for the connected home - which will be featured in TVs from LG, Sony, and Vizio. HomeKit has some ties to AirPlay 2 but it is not yet clear how exactly it limits AirPlay 2 functionality in Samsung TVs.
Samsung Q950R, Q90R and Q85R (Europe only) will feature the external 'One Connect' box for input/output connections. The box connects to the TV via an elegant and discreet fiber optics cable carrying both data and power. This year, fewer models come equipped with the One Connect box compared to last year where it was available starting from the Q7 model.
Besides the mainstream models, Samsung is launching new lifestyle TVs. The Frame 2019 and Serif TV 2019 are upgraded versions, now with improved LCD panels and the latest Tizen functionality. The Frame offers access to a digital Art Store where you can purchase digitalized works of art from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, and Botticelli. The new lifestyle TVs will also be available in more sizes than previously.
Curved TVs on the other hand are being out-phased. It was a costly mistake as it required retooling of production facilities but in the end consumers rejected it as a gimmick. Together with 3D TV, the curved TV is one of the biggest flops in recent years. This year, there are no curved Samsung Q series TVs and only a single curved RU model has been announced (RU7300). Most other TV makers have completely abandoned curved TVs.
In terms of picture quality, Samsung has developed a new LCD panel with improved viewing angles. The 'Q Ultra Wide Angle' - or 'Ultra Viewing Angle' in some regions - technology can be found in Q80R, Q85R, Q90R and Q950R. A narrow viewing angle has been the Achilles heel of the VA LCD panel type that Samsung is using for most of its TVs but with a new filter and some pixel tricks (more on this in our upcoming Q90R review) Samsung has managed to reduce to what degree contrast degrades and colors fade.
This year, Samsung is also bringing LED zone dimming - sometimes referred to as full array local dimming or FALD - to more LCD models, enabling them to reproduce HDR in some form unlike edge-lit LCD models that fail to deliver acceptable HDR picture quality. However, the number of dimming zones varies from one model to the next. Q90R will compare to last year's Q9FN, while Q85R, Q80R and Q70R will have significantly fewer dimming zones.
Samsung continues to shun Dolby Vision
As for HDR (High Dynamic Range), we have status quo. Samsung supports the base HDR10 format as well as HLG and its own HDR10+ format that has been developed as an alternative to Dolby Vision, which Samsung continues to shun.
This year, several competitors are also adding support for Dolby's object-based Atmos audio format in TVs but even though Samsung is backing Dolby's efforts in the soundbar space, the TVs will not support Atmos.
The world's largest TV manufacturer will in 2019 start to slowly phase in HDMI 2.1 but only for 8K TVs initially. Unlike the arch rival from its hometown of Seoul, Samsung's new 4K TVs will not feature HDMI 2.1 ports. There is support for a single HDMI 2.1 feature that can be supporting on HDMI 2.0 ports, namely ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), which just means that the TVs can switch automatically to game mode when a game loads on Xbox One. PlayStation 4 does not support ALLM.
As for gaming, the TVs support AMD FreeSync 2, which delivers smoother gameplay without tearing and lower lag. The game console or PC must also support FreeSync. Xbox One currently supports the system but PlayStation 4 does not. FreeSync is a so-called adaptive sync technology that is designed to ensure that game console and TV are perfectly syncronized in real-time in terms of frame / refresh rate. This is useful because game consoles are incapable of rendering game graphics at a constant frame rate as you move around in the game world.
Samsung's 2019 Q models also feature a 'Quantum Processor' that takes advantage of "artificial intelligence" - or so they claim. It is basically an algorithm that adapts, based on the picture composition in video, to apply artificial sharpness, color boost etc. in various ways. We examined it in detail last year in our review of 8K Q900R and it failed to impress us. Samsung says that the processor has been improved this year.
The new TVs come with built-in TV tuners and, in some regions, a twin tuner that allows the user to record one TV channel while watching another. The TVs are also equipped with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Below we have noted suggested retail prices for those TV models that have yet to launch. Once the TVs become available, the model name and size will become an active and clickable link to price comparison or retailers.
Samsung is expected to launch more affordable TV models in the form of RU6 and below later this year. The TV line-up overview will be updated to reflect any potential changes when the time comes. We are phasing in a new back-end system on FlatpanelsHD, which we will formally introduce soon.
You can tell Samsung 2019 TVs apart from previous years’ models by the letter 'R' in the model name for the broader LCD line-up. High-end models are labeled Q*R. As a reminder: RU/R/Q*R = 2019, NU/N/Q*FN = 2018, MU/M/Q = 2017, KS/KU = 2016, JS/JU = 2015, HU/H = 2014, F = 2013.
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