How to buy the best TV
How to buy the Best Samsung TV
By Martin Pratt
Article 2 of 7
Samsung is a dominant force in TVs, with its range of LCD and QLED sets commanding attention with cutting-edge technology and intriguing designs. We take a look at what its 2018 range has to offer, to help you decide which set to buy.
Samsung has revealed its full line up of 2018 TVs, with QLED sets, such as the Q9S, QE55Q9FN, QE55Q8FN and QE55Q7FN still ruling the roost backed up by ultra-high definition 7 and 8 Series 4K TVs and full-HD sets.
There's plenty of new technology and attractive new designs, but a conspicuous absence was the most notable part of the reveal - Samsung is no longer making its popular mid-range 6 Series in 2018.
This means its 7 Series will now be its cheapest 4K TV range. We don't have prices yet, but Samsung told us they would be lower than last year's, so customers would get the benefit of the improved technology in the 7 Series, but at the lower price of a 6 Series. We'll keep an eye on the pricing to see just how affordable the new 7 Series is.
With so many TVs in different ranges across QLED, 4K and full-HD sets we're breaking down the differences between each, so you know what you're paying for and which will suit you best.
Samsung's TV technology explained
There are plenty of new features coming to Samsung's QLED and LCD TVs, including ambient mode, invisible connections and a new backlight.
If you've long wished your TV would just blend in seamlessly with your living room then ambient mode is for you.
When in ambient mode your TV screen will copy the wall behind it whether it's mounted or not, though the effect will better if you have your TV on the wall. Wallpaper, brickwork, paint, wood - just about any surface can be displayed on the screen.
First you take a picture of your wall and send that to your TV. The screen can then mimic your decor, adjusting for the pattern, colour and brightness. This technology, coupled with the new invisible connection and the ever-shrinking bezels, means Samsung TVs can go unnoticed when they aren't turned on.
Alternatively, ambient mode can display news bulletins, the weather or your own photos.
Ambient mode is present on all 2018 QLED TVs.
Along with ambient mode, invisible connection is Samsung's way of making its TVs as inconspicuous as possible. None of the HDMI or USB ports are on the TV itself, instead, one thin clear wire connects the TV to a separate box housing the connections. This means you won't have any unsightly cables descending from your TV and you have greater freedom about where you put your connected devices.
The invisible connection is on all QLED TVs apart from the Q6FN range.
Full array and edge-LED backlights
All of Samsung's TVs, even the QLED sets, use LCD displays with lights behind or around them creating the image. A full-array backlight means the LEDs sit directly behind the screen. Since there are more LEDs in full-array backlights the TV has more control over which areas of the screen are lit. This minimises colour bleeding onto darker areas of the screen.
Edge-LED backlights put the bulbs around the edge of the TV. This means there are fewer dimming zones and less control over what's lit on screen. This means edge-LED TVs are more likely to suffer from halo effects where light bleeds from light images onto a darker background.
You'll find full-array backlights on the Q9S and Q9FN TVs and edge-LED on Samsung's other models.
Several of Samsung's new TVs have HDR Elite in one form or another. Though they differ slightly the further you go up the range, its purpose is broadly the same: to make colours appear more natural and make blacks looker deeper on screen with no loss of detail.
While its competitors look to HLG and Dolby Vision for HDR, Samsung is putting its weight behind HDR10+. Samsung isn't alone though, Amazon Video, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Paramount and Warner Brothers are all planning to support HDR10+. You can learn more about high-dynamic range in our guide to HDR.
HDR10+ is built in to all the QLED and UHD TVs.
If you have a Galaxy smartphone then you'll be familiar with Bixby. Samsung's voice-assistant is now making the move TVs, and it's built in to all the QLED TVs and the 8 Series. You'll be able to use Bixby to control your TV. Everything from searching for specific programs to opening apps can be done by speaking into the remote.
Rather than fiddling with your new, and still unfamiliar, remote, you can use your smartphone to set up the TV instead. Downloading the SmartThings app lets you use your phone to input any details the TV needs, such as your email address and password for your Samsung account.
With your permission, it will also copy over the password for your wi-fi and any apps you have on your phone that are also on the TV, so you don't need to enter the same information over and over for every app. This could be Amazon Video, iPlayer, Netflix, Spotify and other streaming services.
Samsung's 2018 TVs overview
The table below shows the key differences between each of Samsung's ranges. Or you can jump straight to the Samsung TV series you want to know more about.
Samsung has been promoting this 8K TV since January's international Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and it's likely to be extremely expensive, particularly since there's only an 85-inch model. Making an 8K TV when there's no 8K content to watch on it seems like an odd choice, but this TV gets round that by 'upscaling' SD, HD and 4K content to somewhere close to 8K quality.
As well as the impressive AI upscaling, this TV has all Samsung's other QLED advancements, which includes ambient mode, the invisible connection, Q HDR, Q Contrast and Q Colour which makes up the Q picture engine. These advancements improve colour rendering and the number of colours the TV can draw from, and create better contrast to show more defined detail in dark and bright areas.
The Q Picture engine is found in all Samsung's QLED TVs.
The Q9S is a showpiece, a TV that's likely to cost a small fortune and be unattainable for many of us. Q9S aside, the Q9FN is Samsung's flagship range for 2018.
Sitting at the top of the range means Q9FN TVs are packed with all Samsung's latest screen technology that makes up the Q Picture engine. The new processor improves colour rendering as well as the number of colours the TV can draw from, and better contrast to show more defined detail in dark and bright areas.
Apart from the Q9S, the Q9FN range is the only one of Samsung 2018 series' that benefits from a full-array backlight.
It also has ambient mode and uses the invisible connection to help it blend in with your living room. The Q9FN TVs will be available in 55, 65 and 75 inches.
Samsung is the last bastion for curved TVs and they make up the Q8CN range. There are only two sizes to choose from (55 and 65-inch) and, unlike the US, we won't in the UK be getting a non-curved version of the 8 Series QLEDs.
They have the same Q Picture engine as the Q9FN range, so they benefit from the increased colour spectrum and contrast from Q HDR and Q Colour.
Unlike the Q9FN, the Q8CN series TVs have edge-LED backlights. This means the TVs can be thinner, but are unlikely to achieve the same level of contrast as TVs further up the range.
Another key difference is brightness. Q8CN TVs are 1,500 nits, 500 less than the Q9FN range. Nits are a measurement of how bright a TV screen can be, the higher the number the higher the maximum brightness.
Though not as bright as the top QLEDs, they will be as difficult to spot thanks to ambient mode and the invisible connection cable.
On paper, the 7 Series QLEDs look markedly similar to the curved 8 Series. Both have the same Q Picture engine, invisible connection and ambient mode as well as support for HDR 10+.
The obvious visual difference is that the Q7FN TVs, which are available with 55, 65 and 75-inch screens, aren't curved.
Our lab will uncover the differences that aren't evident on the specification sheet when we get in the 7 and 8 Series QLEDs for testing.
Samsung debuted its entry-level QLEDs at the end of 2017 with the QE55Q6F, and now it appears they will become a permanent fixture.
These will be the cheapest QLEDs on offer, but they still benefit from most of the same technology that goes into the more expensive ranges. The Q Picture engine is built-in, as is HDR10+ support. The HDR will help with contrast, but these TVs won't have the Ultra Elite Black or Ultra Black technology that you'll find in other QLED sets. We'll know how big an impact this has on picture quality when we get the TVs in for testing.
These 6 Series QLEDs won't be quite as discreet as their 7, 8 and 9 Series counterparts. Ambient mode is there, but the invisible connection isn't. These TVs will use what Samsung is calling the clean cable solution instead. It's very similar to the invisible connection, but the cable is more, well, visible.
Not as discreet and not as bright either. The QF6N top out at 1,000 nits, which is still high. The Q6 TVs will be available with 49, 55, 65, 75 and 82-inch displays.
The 8 Series isn't a QLED TV and doesn't have the Q Picture engine as a result. Instead it has the UHD picture engine, with dynamic crystal colour, which will produce richer more natural colours.
It's the only series outside of the QLED TVs to get HDR Elite. This technology should make blacks appear darker on screen with no loss of detail. As with all the QLEDs and the 7 Series Samsungs, the 8 Series TVs support HDR10+.
Unfortunately, only QLED TVs have ambient mode, but the 8 Series does have the clean cable solution, so there will be less clutter at the back of your TV.
There will be 49, 55, 65, 75 and 82-inch TVs in the 8 Series and a curved option available in 55 or 65 inches.
Unlike the other Samsung ranges, the 7 Series is split in half. TVs with a model number beginning NU74 have different features to those starting NU71.
The NU74 TVs keep the dynamic crystal colour found on the 8 Series TVs, but don't get HDR Elite. Don't worry though, the TVs do still support HDR10+ so you aren't missing out on those deeper blacks and brighter whites.
It's also the last of Samsung's 2018 TVs to get Bixby voice support.
The NU71 TVs are similar to the 74s, but you get PurColor rather than dynamic crystal colour and there's no Bixby voice support. The different colour technology could affect the accuracy of the picture and also the vibrancy of the colours, but it's also possible that it won't make much of a noticeable difference. We'll know for sure when we test the TVs.
The 7 Series is available in 40, 43, 49, 55, 65 or 75 inches. There is also a curved version of the 7 Series available in 49, 55 or 65 inches.
The 4 and 5 Series Samsung TVs are full-HD models. Unlike Sony's 1080p models, Samsung's do not have HDR support.
There's no clean cable solution either, so all the cables from your connected devices will go straight into the back of the TV.
The 5 Series ranges will be available in 32, 40, 43 and 49 inches while all the 4 Series TVs are 32 inches.