CES in Las Vegas is the world’s biggest tech show and a chance for TV manufacturers to show high-end TVs most people can’t afford but love to look at anyway.
Samsung raced out of the blocks first, announcing a number of enticing models that range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including The Sero, Q950TS and more.
The TVs we’re outlining here are mostly 8K, but fear not: the bulk of Samsung’s 2020 range will be 4K. Tech shows, CES in particular, are about pushing technology forward, which is why much of what’s revealed seems so extravagant and out of reach.
2020 TVs are coming, so 2019 ones are at their cheapest – here are our favourites from 2019.
The Q950TS 8K TV
Bid farewell to the bezel with Samsung’s latest 8K QLED. Just like its smartphones, the Q950TS is almost all screen, making up almost 99% of the front of the TV. It’s thin too, at just 15mm, which is the sort of depth we’re used to seeing on OLEDs rather than backlit TVs.
Samsung calls this display the ‘Infinity Screen’ and it’s not far wrong. Bezels have long been considered barriers to immersion, a literal frame around what you’re watching, but the barely-there rim of the Q950TS is a sight to behold.
Justifying an 8K display
There’s still the issue of the lack of 8K content of course, but Samsung is able to justify its push for consumer 8K TVs with its AI quantum processor. It’s designed to boost just about every aspect from picture to smart features. Upscaling is perhaps its most important job. It pushes the quality of anything below 8K, which is almost everything, to pristine and true-to-life 8K resolution, according to Samsung.
How well this upscaling works is the key to the TV’s success, as 8K streaming and broadcasts are still years away despite Samsung working with YouTube to make 8K streams a reality sooner rather than later.
There’s also the future-proofing aspect to consider as well. The Q950TS has the latest ATSC 3.0 broadcast tuners for higher resolution and improved sound. It was created with 4K broadcasts in mind, but 8K could well be possible, too.
Smarter picture and sound
Most TVs have sensors that can adjust the brightness of the TV based on the level of ambient light in the room, but the new Adaptive Picture tech in the Q950TS goes further. It accounts for light levels in the scene being displayed to tweak the picture while keeping the contrast rich.
Speakers ring the almost bezel-free display and work in harmony with Object Tracking Sound+ to match the movements of objects on screen. Sound should be more positional as a result and better able to create the surround-sound effect many TVs promise, but few deliver.
Just as the screen adjusts to the light in your room, the speakers adjust to the sound. It will listen for distracting ambient noise, such as vacuum cleaners, and improve the vocal clarity to compensate.
If you’re fluent in Korean then the name Sero should make sense. It means vertical, which isn’t a word you would normally associate with TVs. Well you will now as Samsung’s new Sero TV can rotate like a phone switching from landscape to portrait. It’s an unusual feature to say the least and it’s supposed to work harmoniously with your smartphone.
Connecting your phone to your TV wirelessly is something TVs have been capable of for several years, but the 16:9 orientation of a TV screen means your phone display would sit awkwardly in the middle with black borders round the outside. A screen that can effectively reverse its orientation by rotating means your phone screen could fill the TV without any black borders.
How useful this is depends on how badly you want to see your phone screen on your TV screen. The speed of rotation is impressive at least, so you won’t be twiddling your thumbs waiting for it to realign.
It’s a traditional TV too, of course, with tuners, HDMI inputs and everything else you would expect from a high-end QLED. It will be available in South Korea first of all, but Samsung has promised a wider release later in 2020.
MicroLED modular TV
Samsung debuted this fascinating technology in 2017 and has been talking about it off and on ever since. Unlike QLEDs, MicroLED TVs don’t need backlights, but it’s the modular nature that’s most interesting. Panels can be clipped together to make a larger TV, and Samsung had a colossal 292-inch (that’s 24 feet) model on display at CES alongside a still-vast 150-inch 8K model.
These TVs are already on sale, but with smaller versions coming this year, including 75, 88, 93 and 110-inch (we said smaller, not small) models, they will soon be available to all.