The 2017 Samsung QLED already had better blacks than all other LED TVs, but now the 2018 QLED panel has been modified and re-engineered for superior black levels, to the point where 99% of viewers will see it as better than OLED! How can I say that you might ask? The following comments are from an exclusive panel of experts who were personally invited by Samsung to review the new 2018 model in a closed session...
"Because one of the other TVs suffered less with backlight-clouding, striping and blooming than any other LCD TV I’ve ever seen. Including Sony’s outstanding Z9D, but Samsung was so confident about the accuracy of its backlight controls in the new QLED Q9F replacement that it was prepared to use one of the toughest shots currently found on 4K Blu-ray to date to show off what it was capable of. That shot is the one in La La Land where Sebastian plays the piano illuminated against a near black backdrop by a single bright, bluish spotlight. And pretty incredibly, the demo unit of Samsung’s upcoming QLED 4K flagship managed to deliver this shot while exhibiting practically zero backlight clouding or haloing around the spot-lit area. Even though the intensity and brightness of that area looked actually slightly more extreme than it did on even the OLED TV below. Yep, that’s right: Samsung’s chutzpah even extended to running this early version of its Q9F replacement against a 2017 model.
And it was clear to all of us watching the demonstration in the ‘secret’ part of Samsung’s stand that the new QLED model WAS DELIVERING BOTH THE BEST CONTRAST AND BEST LIGHT UNIFORMITY OF ALL THE SCREENS ON SHOW, of which one was LG's OLED TV. The 2017 Q9F looked comfortably the worst with the La La Land scene, with grey bleaching of the black area running right across the screen, and pretty much from top to bottom. The Z9D only came in third in this hugely difficult scene (though it improved massively with most of the other, brighter footage shown during the demo), with the OLED second. Even the OLED, though, sometimes looked slightly greyer in the blackness around the spot-lit area than Samsung’s new QLED. So exceptionally well-controlled was the new QLED TV’s backlighting in this extreme shot - even when Samsung turned the lights in the demo room off - that it seems clear that we’re not looking at just the results of direct lighting with plenty of dimming zones. Samsung’s new panel structure is at work here.
As discussed in my previous article introducing Samsung’s various new TV technologies for 2018, the new panel structure introduces a ‘black layer’ which essentially places tiny barriers between each liquid-crystal to ensure the light from each pixel goes directly forward rather than leaking out into the ‘beams’ of neighboring pixels. Also Samsung’s latest processing engine, with its ability to finely analyze the lighting in the image and gently fade the light of each lighting zone towards its outer edges when required, also seems to be a pretty remarkable evolution in LCD backlighting, especially as it seems to work while delivering no evidence of the backlight ‘blockiness’ witnessed with previous LCD backlight innovations such as Sony’s Slim Backlight Drive and Panasonic’s ‘Honeycomb’ panel structure. I was seriously impressed, too, by how the exceptionally deep and uniform black-level the Q9F replacement was capable of reproducing while still containing plenty of subtle colour and greyscale details. It’s certainly not the case that the screen is just completely shutting off its backlights in the darkest zones to deliver absolute-but-hollow blackness
Changing tack, Samsung also ran part of the 4K HDR red crab sequence in Planet Earth II. This is a far brighter scene than the La La Land one, and more predictably the new Samsung QLED again looked the best of the four screens on show - by quite some margin! The colors of the crabs looked more dynamic but also more natural. The streams of sunlight through the trees looked punchier but also more full of subtle light and color detail. The balance of light and shade looked more consistently authentic and ‘right’. Peak details such as sunlight reflecting off the crabs’ bodies looked more dynamic. And also, more unexpectedly, the QLED picture looked more detailed and crisp than that of the other screens without looking forced or processed.
Another section of the demonstration of Samsung’s latest QLED ‘hero’ included a detailed and again convincing demonstration of how its combination of improved Quantum Dots (Samsung has made the red and green QD’s smaller to deliver a purer wider color range which now covers 100% of the DCI P3 cinematic color space) and high brightness appear to deliver colors with more accurate volumes than one of 2017’s OLED TVs. To round the picture demonstration off, we were also shown the HDR10+ dynamic metadata system the latest QLED TVs will support. Clips of a variety of bright, detailed HDR shots of mostly nature scenes, full of rocks, trees and clouds, clearly revealed more refinement in the image’s colors; a generally more dynamic, three-dimensional look to the picture; and finally, clearly more detail in the very brightest parts of the image. We’re not done with the good stuff yet, though. It also became clear during the demonstration of the new QLED 4K flagship’s black level abilities that the latest screen seems to be delivering on a key undelivered promise of 2017’s QLED models by supporting a much wider viewing angle than you usually get with LCD TVs. I’d say I could get to as much as 60 degrees off axis before I started to notice a substantial contrast or color reduction. If this holds true with the finished, launched TVs, it would class as a superb result - presumably delivered by the new near-surface prismatic lens layer the latest QLED screens use to disperse the emerging images over a wider area (to compensate for having previously channeled the light with more focus via the new light-channeling barriers). Finally on the picture front, it was extremely clear - especially versus the Sony ZD9 and OLED models - that the new improved anti-reflection filter in the upcoming Q9F replacement is doing an even better job than last year’s QLEDS of boosting contrast and black-levels by limiting onscreen reflections."
The 2018 QLED models are the best TVs in the world!