Samsung has been caught cheating by designing its TVs to recognize and react to test patterns used by reviewers. The company promises to provide software updates to address the situation.
Reviewers, calibrators and certification bodies typically use a 10% window for HDR testing, which simply means that it takes up 10% of the screen. In this window multiple steps from black to white as well as a set of colors are measured. Samsung has designed its TVs to recognize this and other commonly used window sizes, after which the TV adjusts its picture output to make measurements appear more accurate than the picture really is. When using a non-standard window such as 9% (everything else equal), the cheating algorithm can be bypassed so the TV reveals its true colors.
This is deliberate cheating, an orchestrated effort to mislead reviewers.
Vincent Teoh of HDTVTest first identified and documented the issue on Samsung's S95B QD-OLED TV. FlatpanelsHD has since identified and documented the issue on Samsung's QN95B 'Neo QLED' LCD TV where it gets even worse.
QN95B not only changes its color and luminance tracking during measurements to appear very accurate, it also boosts peak brightness momentarily by up to 80%, from approx. 1300 nits to 2300 nits. This is possible because the power supply can send short bursts into the miniLED backlight – these cannot be sustained without damaging the panel. In our QN95B review we found no evidence of the TV surpassing 1300 nits with real content.
Here's the documentation:
Slide between the two pictures and focus on the 'EOTF' and 'Luminance' graphs to the right. The yellow line is the reference target while the grey line represents measurements. The fact that the grey line is much higher when using 9% window testing means that QN95B in reality has a significantly over-brightened image overall. Also notice how peak brightness (Y Max) is much lower when testing with a 9% window. Read our full review for more details including a side-by-side photo and comparison with Sony's first miniLED LCD TV, X95K.
Now, all TV makers like to boost colors and make changes to how bright or dark scenes look to make their TVs stand out on the show floor. If you like that you can simply select the TV's 'Standard', 'Dynamic' or 'Vivid' mode. However, with its cover-up Samsung is trying to trick reviewers and other parties.
FlatpanelsHD asked Samsung Korea to comment on our findings and here is what the company said.
- "Samsung remains committed to relentless innovation to provide the best picture quality to our consumers," Samsung HQ wrote in a statement to FlatpanelsHD. "To provide a more dynamic viewing experience for the consumers, Samsung will provide a software update that ensures consistent brightness of HDR contents across a wider range of window size beyond the industry standard."
The statement makes it sound almost as if Samsung will expand its cheating algorithm to cover more window sizes, but this is obviously something we will examine again in future reviews.
The company promised that a software update will be provided for QN95B "soon". It did not comment on other TV models that we can only assume have the same cheating algorithm built-in.
- "The update for S95B has been conducted, and the update for QN95B will be provided soon," added Samsung HQ.
It is benchmark cheating and it is far from the first time Samsung has been caught.