Samsung's 2020 TV line-up is now officially on sale and the star of the series is the 85-inch 8K Q950TS model. It's big on all levels- from its size to its features and resolution, all the way up to its pricing.
But very much like 4K TVs before it, Samsung has to justify spending an insane amount of money on a TV with next-to-no native content. It took a good five years and the rise in popularity of streaming services that brought 4K content to mainstream audiences.
With the lack of 8K content, should you even be looking to TVs that offer this next-gen resolution at absurd prices? For the Samsung Q950T to even make any sort of case for itself, it is going to have to perform miracles with the lower-resolution stuff it’ll spend all its time displaying.
Thankfully, it absolutely does.
Price and release date
The Samsung Q950TS is Samsung's flagship 2020 QLED TV and is currently available in the UAE. It's quite expensive at AED 44,999 for the 85-inch model reviewed here.
It that is too much for you, Samsung also sells the Q950TS in two smaller and lesser expensive sizes as well. The 75-inch version goes for AED 31,999 while the 65-inch carries a price tag of AED 23,999.
These prices aren't cheap by any means but with 8K capabilities and a premium design, Samsung is targeting the crowd that wants the highest-end and can afford it.
The design direction of TVs in the past few years has been to offer the largest sized screen with the smallest sized bezels. And in the case of the 85Q950TS, Samsung has hit the bull’s-eye.
An 85-inch screen is massive in any language, and Samsung has managed to wrap it in what is genuinely the smallest bezel we've ever seen on a production TV. At just 2mm thick it’s virtually non-existent - and if you sit a sensible distance from this TV it disappear from your view. As party tricks go, this is a crazy good one.
Screen size: 65, 75- and 85-inches | Tuner: RF, satellite | Panel technology: QLED | Panel resolution: 7680 x 4320 | Smart TV: Samsung/Tizen | HDR: Yes (HLG, HDR10, HDR10+) | Inputs: 4x HDMI (inc 1 x HDMI 2.1), 3 x USB, ethernet
Almost as impressive is the chassis’ 15mm depth. Obviously QLED technology requires a layer of backlighting, so will never achieve the crowd-pleasing slimness of OLED, its chief rival, but because Samsung has taken all inputs, outputs and power requirements off-board, the Q950TS doesn’t have an OLED-style bulge anywhere on the rear of its frame.
All the inputs - that’s four HDMI sockets (one of which is 2.1-specified), three USB inputs, RF and satellite TV aerial posts, an ethernet socket - are contained in the fairly sizeable One Connect box. It has a digital optical output too, and even takes care of mains power - just one modest connection to the TV itself is all that’s required. So if you intend to wall-mount your expensive new TV, it will sit almost flush.
If you don’t have a big enough bit of wall spare, though, the Samsung will quite happily sit on its centrally positioned pedestal. From here it leans back a little more than three degrees, in order to direct its screen at your eyes rather than at your belt-line.
Given that its 2019 range of TVs were all possessed of the best smart TV/user interface around, Samsung has very sensibly decided against meddling with its winning formula.
The Tizen-derived interface has had its background color amended from white to gentle blue in the name of reduced eye-strain, but in every other respect it’s the same logical, sensible, responsive and easy-to-customize system it’s always been.
Like previous Samsung TVs, you can simply connect your device to an HDMI port and the TV will recognize and configure the device for you to work automatically using the Samsung remote control. We tried connecting the Etisalat eLife box, the Apple TV 4K as well as the PlayStation 4 and all of them worked flawlessly.
The set-up menus governing picture quality are comprehensive, but not scarily so, and it’s neither tricky nor time-consuming to finesse the picture to suit your own requirements and preferences. And to this end the Samsung’s excellent remote control, which is weighty and not over-buttoned, helps a lot.
There's a new dual picture mode that can display two sources at the same time. What's great is that once of these sources can be a wireless connection such as Apple's AirPlay or mirroring your Samsung phone.
Our only complain is that the units shipped to the UAE don't support 5GHz Wi-Fi, for which, there is no excuse. Having said that, we didn't notice any buffering or stuttering when playing streaming apps such as Netflix or Amazon Prime over 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. Even YouTube content at native 8K managed to stream well.
Where things fell apart was when playing incredibly large sized files from the local network but as any home theatre enthusiast will tell you, you should really be using a wired connection for all your media streaming.
Really, if the 85Q950TS can look good dealing with this relatively poverty-stricken standard of resolution, then it’s home free. After all, the utter dearth of native 8K content means this TV is going to spend most of its life upscaling lower-spec stuff to fit its mighty 7680 x 4320 resolution - and a 1920 x 1080 resolution delivers just over 2 million pixel’s-worth of information. Which leaves the Q950TS with over 30 million remaining pixels to fill with information.
Yet thanks in no small part to Samsung’s enormous AI and machine-learning efforts, the 85Q950TS is able to cross-reference the make-up of the image against its huge database of information. It can then have a far more educated stab at upscaling the picture to fit its colossal resolution than has ever been possible before.
It does remarkably good work where detail retrieval and the description of textures are concerned - it makes the Real Madrid shirt look just as shiny and combustible as we all remember it. Contrasts are strong, and detail levels remain high even in the brightest or darkest scenes. The TV’s ability to keep black tones differentiated and white tones clean - even when they’re on-screen simultaneously - is impressive on a fairly fundamental level.
Overall, it’s the clarity and confidence of the huge amount of upscaling that’s being done here that’s most striking. There’s no jaggedness, no overlapping and very little of the graininess that can be introduced when HD stuff is upscaled by some 4K screens - so for this 8K Samsung to look so composed is quite something.
Given the Q950TS’ deeply impressive performance with high-def content, it doesn’t come as any great surprise to find the Q950TS does exemplary work when upscaling the 3840 x 2160 resolution. The picture is truly superior to that of any number of well-regarded native 4K screens.
There isn’t an aspect of picture-making at which this Samsung doesn’t seem to excel. It summons extraordinary levels of brightness, it paints from a staggeringly expansive color palette, it reveals almost indecent levels of detail. Even the brightest white tones resist bleaching, and the deepest blacks retain detail.
The Q950TS’s full array backlighting (a total of 480 zones) is controllable down to a single individual zone. So even when the boldest, brightest colors are scorching from the screen, the darker areas of the scene remain convincingly dark. And only in the most trying circumstances does the backlighting make its presence felt.
In terms of control, dynamism and straightforward believability, the 85Q950TS will take some beating. Which is just as well, as it seems fated to spend the overwhelming majority of its time working to bring 4K images up to its native resolution.
About the only thing missing is support for Dolby Vision, which is unfortunate. Many new movies as well as series on streaming platforms take advantage of Dolby's technology to create the lighting and coloring of the picture as the director intended. We have no doubt that the Samsung Q950TS is technically capable of reproducing the color and brightness range - it's probably a licensing issue these companies couldn't come to terms with.
Oh, of course the Q950TS looks nothing short of spectacular when displaying native 8K content. The large screen with an extremely high resolution is highly immersive and almost makes you feel like you're watching content in 3D.
That being said, there isn't much 8K content out there and you’ll get to see is the same 8K content we get to see: show-worthy shots of flowers opening, sumptuous panning shots of city-scapes and close-ups of pretty animals…
Yes, it all looks fantastic. Colorful, high-contrast, luxuriously detailed all that… but until there’s any meaningful 8K stuff available on disc or via streaming service, it shouldn’t really make any difference to your decision-making when it comes to getting your credit card out (or not) for the 85Q950TS.
You have to have some unique thought processes going on if you’re considering dropping a small fortune on a new TV yet not budgeting for an appropriate sound system to accompany it. But Samsung has nevertheless moved to address what was generally characterized as the ‘woeful’ sound of its 2019 8K models, by deploying something it’s calling ‘Object Tracking Sound +’.
Basically, this means an array of eight speaker drivers arranged in what Samsung’s describing as a ‘4.2.2’ arrangement. That means two midrange drivers firing from the top of the chassis, another pair of mids plus two low-frequency units firing from the bottom, and a tweeter at either side of the frame about halfway up. The idea is to both open up the soundstage and to offer a degree of audio tracking to whatever is happening on the screen.
In some respects it’s reasonably successful. Certainly the eight drivers and their 70 watts of total power produce a big, well separated sound - and there’s undeniably a degree of motion-tracking along with it. But the sonic signature is quite hard and thin, and so inappropriate for the opulence of the images it’s accompanying it’s almost funny.
The Samsung 85Q950TS is easily the best TV we've come across this year. It has a premium design, a brilliant picture quality and a great UI complimented by a fantastic remote.
It's not perfect- nothing really ever is, but Samsung has made sure to equip it with the best it has to offer. We were in awe the first time we looked at it and had tears in our eyes when we had to return it.
If there ever was a TV you'd fall in love with, this would be it.
- Expect to see the Q950TS on our list of the best 8K TVs