Samsung Unveils New Micro and Mini LED TVs
Samsung has announced three 8K and three 4K Neo QLED TV ranges, as well as updated Micro LED offerings, at CES 2022.
The first brand to use CES to deliver detailed information on its TV range for the year ahead is Samsung, whose central theme is building on the successes of last year's debut Mini LED TVs. Sold under the title of Neo QLED TVs, Samsung's Mini LED sets employ LEDs that are only around a fortieth the size of standard TV LEDs, meaning more of them can be fitted into the screen to provide far more localised light control. As you would hope, the result is better contrast and significant reductions in the sort of backlight blooming you typically see with LCD TVs that use direct lighting and local dimming.
So far, six Neo QLED TV ranges have been announced, three 8K and three 4K. The 8K models are the QN900Bs, QN800Bs and QN700Bs, while the 4K models are the QN95Bs, QN90Bs and QN85Bs. Before we go any further, though, Samsung has a habit of adding extra model variants in different territories and sometimes even varies the specification of models with the same model number across other regions. Furthermore, the brand has only released fairly general information on its new TV specifications so far; we'll have to wait a few weeks longer for more specific model details.
Those caveats aside, Samsung has released a pretty substantial amount of information on its 2022 TV offering. Starting with the fact that that it doesn't appear to have gone nuts when it comes to increasing the number of dimming zones in its Mini LED TVs. There may be a slight increase here and there at certain screen sizes, but not enough for Samsung to feel the need to brag about it in its current introductory press information.
More important to potential picture quality improvements with Samsung's 2022 Neo QLED TVs, it seems, are enhancements to the Neo Quantum processing that drives all their tiny LEDs. Particularly promising is a new Shape Adaptive Light Control system that appears to be able to adjust the range and intensity of the light a particular zone of Mini LEDs produces. So, for instance, if the part of the picture being lit by a zone is almost uniformly bright, the light that LED zone outputs will cover a wide area. Whereas if the image being lit by a particular Mini LED zone only has a small area of brightness, its lighting will be focussed on a narrower area.
This should result in greater definition for bright objects, increased contrast, and less backlight 'blooming' around bright objects. Adding further to the claimed extra precision will be better greyscale and colour tone gradation thanks to a shift to 14-bit processing from last year's 12-bit processing. Finally, a new object identification and mapping algorithm combined with finer contrast control will deliver a more three-dimensional and realistic image.
To try and make the results of all this processing wizardry more effective, Samsung's Neo Quantum processor for 2022 will draw on the assembled image know-how of 20 machine learning systems, compared with 16 in 2021's top models.
While many buyers of Samsung Neo QLED TVs will be attracted by their famed brightness and intense colours, if your tastes run to more 'accurate' imagery, you'll be pleased to learn that the 2022 premium Neo QLED TVs support EzCal. This clever system allows you to calibrate the TV using nothing more than an app on your mobile phone and your phone's camera. Depending on how long you're prepared to let the system work, you can run three different 'levels' of calibration with EzCal. Still, even the quickest option, which only takes a few seconds, has appeared to yield pretty accurate results in early demos we've seen.
DOLBY ATMOS and OTS+ PRO
The latest Neo Quantum processing engine isn't just devoted to improving picture quality. Also, there are elements focused on taking Samsung's Object Tracking Sound (OTS) audio system to another level.
Firstly, Samsung has finally adopted Dolby Atmos sound decoding for its premium Neo QLED models.
A new 'OTS+ Pro With 3 Layer' speaker configuration in premium 2022 Samsung Neo QLED TVs adds up-firing drivers to the range of speakers built around their chassis. Additionally, there's a new hook up with the latest TV's picture processing that uses facial detection technology to help the sound system more accurately define where on the screen a character's speech should be projected from.
Samsung and LG TVs have been battling it out for supremacy when it comes to gaming on TVs for generations now, so it's not surprising to see Samsung trying to push ahead again in this increasingly important area with its 2022 Neo QLED range. Particularly eye-catching is 4K gaming at 144Hz refresh rates on the top-end models, complete with variable refresh rate support. Current consoles top out at 120Hz, but high-end PC rigs are starting to push towards the 144Hz level, so 4K/144Hz support represents a nice bit of future-proofing.
Samsung has also improved its Game Bar guide, providing more information on the incoming graphics and swifter access to essential gaming set-up adjustments. Plus, crucially, the brand promises that it will provide far more of the full HDMI 2.1 ports you need to support the whole gamut of gaming features across its 2022 premium TVs than it offered last year.
There will be a new quartet of picture presets designed to suit different game genres, too, and Samsung is adding both GeForce Now and Google Stadia to its latest TVs' app library.
SAMSUNG MICRO LED
While Mini LED TVs will be the mainstay of Samsung's 2022 TV range, the brand is still persevering with ultra high-end Micro LED technology - despite manufacturing difficulties continuing to make it a technology that only the rich and the famous can afford to buy. Its latest CES Micro LED announcements find it introducing a new 89-inch option to go with the usual monster 101-inch and 110-inch variations. Naturally, these also benefit from the same Dolby Atmos decoding and OTS Pro+ With 3 Layer audio system introduced on Samsung's premium 2022 Neo QLED TVs.
Also noteworthy is a new enhancement of Micro LED's Multiview technology whereby, as well as potentially being able to watch what's showing on all four HDMI sources at once, you can now engage in 'mass' video calls with four of your mates onscreen at once. Alternatively, you could group watch something such as a concert or sporting event while you simultaneously hold video calls with three friends to discuss what you're watching.
Micro LED continues to offer too, of course, the 'holy grail' of TV picture quality: self-emissive pixels for ultimate contrast combined with levels of brightness and freedom from screen burn that OLED panels can currently only dream about. So it really is a shame that the practical and cost barriers to Micro LED entry remain so seriously prohibitive.
QUANTUM DOT OLED
With this in mind, it's a little disappointing to find Samsung making no mention of Quantum Dot OLED (QD OLED) TVs during its initial CES announcements. QD OLED sets also deliver self-emissive pixels, but by combining Quantum Dot colours with OLED's organic materials, they can deliver pixel-level contrast control at much higher brightness levels than you can currently achieve with standard OLED screens.
Samsung's professional Display division has been working on QD OLED screens for years, and all the signs are that we will start to see QD OLED TVs for living room use appearing at some point in 2022. The failure of Samsung's TV division to say anything about these TVs at such a key marketing event as the CES, though, suggests they may still be a good few months away from being ready to launch.
I’ve spent the past 25 years writing about the world of home entertainment technology. In that time I’m fairly confident that I’ve reviewed more TVs and projectors than any other individual on the planet, as well as experiencing first-hand the rise and fall of all manner of great and not so great home entertainment technologies.
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