A striking barely-there bezel-less design, outstanding picture quality and a string of unexpected new features make the Samsung Q950TS a strong contender for 2020.
- Striking bezel-less design
- UHD-Alliance Filmmaker Mode
- Native 8K resolution with AI upscaling
- Available in 65, 75 and 85-inch models
Now that pretty much every brand and its mother has decided to start selling 8K TVs, simply carrying 7680×4320 pixels is no longer enough to stand out from the TV crowd. You need to go to town on the design or performance fronts too to make your mark – cue the Samsung Q950TS.
Samsung Q950TS design – A bezel-less wonder
The first thing you notice – or rather don’t notice – about the Q950TS is its sub-2mm bezel. Basically you just can’t really see it from a typical sort of viewing distance. This means the TV’s pictures just seem to appear out of nowhere, earning the design its Infinity name and making the pictures feel more immersive.
The Samsung Q950TS’s design still looks striking even if you’re looking at it from the side, thanks to its grille-finish metallic side panels and a rear that’s as smooth and sheer as the screen.
Related: What is 8K TV?
The grilling on each of the Q950TS’s sides isn’t just for show, either. In fact, the Q950TS sports a new audio system that fits speakers into all four of its edges. This smart idea creates an impressively wide, expansive soundstage that spreads far beyond the TV’s physical dimensions. Maybe the cleverest thing about the innovative audio system, though, is that the processing that drives it also not only locks voices and placement effects to the screen, but also places those voices and effects in exactly the right place.
You can hear as well as see objects moving around the screen, thanks to what Samsung calls its Object Tracking System. Samsung has even built a mic into the Q950TS so that the TV can monitor and optimize how it sounds in your specific room environment.
This all plays its part in the almost uncannily immersive feeling the Q950TS creates.
Samsung Q950TS picture quality – Everything you’d expect from 8K
Great though it is to see Samsung finding a way to deliver a strong sound system from a TV that barely has a bezel (never mind visible speakers), it’s the Q950TS’s picture quality that seals its premium 8K TV deal.
Samsung has introduced a whole host of new picture features that add up to a really substantial apparent improvement over the brand’s 2019 8K models.
I was particularly struck by the Q950TS’s dazzlingly vibrant, boldly saturated colours. Samsung claims the Q950TS can cover 100% of the DCI-P3 colour space associated with digital cinema, and there’s a claimed 4000 nits of brightness on hand to give that huge colour range lots of volume.
As you’d hope with an 8K TV, though, it’s not just the boldness and punch of the colours that catches your eye. Fine colour blends are handled with exceptional finesse, as the quality of Samsung’s latest image processing combines with the screen’s immense native 8K resolution to deliver pictures of fantastic texture and detail. There’s scarcely any hint of colour striping over subtle HDR blends, either, ‘solving’ a long-running Samsung weakness.
The exceptional texture and detail work isn’t just notable with native 8K sources, either. Samsung’s 8K AI Upscaling system now features a new Deep Learning element that appears to greatly increase the sense of detail and texture in the most detailed parts of the picture. If you thought 8K TVs were pointless because there’s no native 8K content, Samsung’s latest 8K Upscaling system is good enough – with native 4K sources, anyway – to force you to think again.
The sharpness of the Q950TS’s pictures holds good during motion, too. Not least because Samsung has now made it possible to use its so-called 5:5 24Hz playback approach without it creating unwanted other side effects.
The three most exciting picture features the Q950TS introduces, though, are a new Active Tone Mapping system, an Adaptive Picture engine, and finally, a new approach to the local dimming system driving its direct LED lighting system.
The Active Tone Mapping system can work with either HDR10 or HDR10+ HDR systems, and does a striking job of making images look more dynamic. Especially in dark and mid-bright scenes of very aggressively mastered HDR content that uses peak HDR levels of more than 1000 nits.
The Adaptive Picture engine uses a sensor in the TV to optimise image playback for different light levels in your room. This basic concept is hardly new. But the difference this time lies in the intelligence of the optimisation system, as it adjusts difference sections of the picture separately rather than just imposing a basic all-over brightness change.
For instance, if an HDR scene is predominantly dark and you ramp up the light levels in your room, the Adaptive Picture system will increase the brightness of the dark areas, so that shadow details remain visible, without changing the look of the bright areas.
The system appeared to work very well during demonstrations at the CES. It’s a touch slow to react, perhaps, but on the other hand that does stop the picture from ‘shifting’ so often that it becomes distracting.
The Q950TS’s new backlight system is built around better power management. Essentially the new image analysis engine can funnel power away from dark picture areas and feed it into bright areas. This boosts contrast considerably, with much brighter highlights than you got with last year’s Samsung 8K TVs sitting right beside what appeared (under the bright show floor lights, it should be stressed) to be strong black levels by LCD standards.
Samsung Q950TS feature – A couple of new tricks
It’s worth wrapping this first look at one of 2020’s most exciting TVs with a couple of unexpected new features Samsung has just announced for the Q950TS but which I couldn’t explore during my time with it.
First, it will carry the UHD-Alliance’s new Filmmaker Mode, which essentially turns off most of a TV’s processing to get closer to the look of the original content.
Second, Samsung stated that the Q950TS was compatible with both of the new 8K Association and CTA 8K Ultra HD specifications, suggesting that Samsung may have tweaked its wide viewing angle technology to achieve the higher ‘contrast modulation’ measurement the CTA demands before it will class a TV as truly 8K.
Samsung Q950TS price – TBC for now
No price has been announced for any of the 65, 75 and 85-inch models in the in the Q950TS range, but we’re hoping for review samples to start arriving in February or March.
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