What follows is Samsung’s TV lineup for 2018. It isn’t the complete range, since Samsung is only confirming its QLED models for now. I’ll be updating this page with news about the more affordable models as soon as it becomes available.
Usually, I’d just run through the list of TVs and explain the differences between models. This year is different, since Samsung hasn’t only shared its 2018 plans with Trusted Reviews; the company has revealed its battle plan for the next few years, specifically regarding how it aims to fight the growing OLED market.
I’ll start with the freshly announced QLED information, then follow it up with an explainer of Micro Full Array and Micro LED tech below. Here is Samsung’s crazy three-point plan to beat OLED.
In 2017, Samsung went big with QLED – the latest iteration of its Quantum Dot-toting LED LCD TVs. The plan involved building strongholds in the land of 1000+ nits brightness and colour volume: the lofty heights that LCD TVs can reach, but where darkness-loving OLED can’t follow.
Things didn’t go to plan, however. While Samsung did manage groundbreaking levels of luminance and saturation, it stuck with edge-lit LCD designs – and ran into that technology’s limitations. Essentially, when you push brightness as high as 2000 nits, edge lighting and zonal dimming simply aren’t enough to stem the tide of lighting artefacts.
The above issues were compounded with large price tags, plus OLED’s creeping gains in highlight and mid-tone performance. The final score for 2017: OLED 1, QLED 0.Samsung has learned from its mistakes, however. The company is continuing with QLED in 2018 – but, crucially, you can expect lower prices and better black performance
The lineup consists of:
Samsung Q8CN / Samsung Q8FN (US only)
What do those numbers mean? Firstly, Samsung is sticking to its ‘Q’ labelling system, but adding an ‘N’ to separate the 2018 range from the 2017 range.
Last year, the QLED models were limited to the 9, 8 and 7 Series TVs. This year, there will be a 6 Series QLED. This means that models down the range will benefit from the lovely colours. There are also more screen size options, which is great for folk who are tight on space and also those with more sizeable homes. Most importantly, the picture has been significantly upgraded.
Samsung Q9FN – 55, 65, 75 and 88 inches
- Samsung QE55Q9FN
- Samsung QE65Q9FN
- Samsung QE75Q9FN
- Samsung QE88Q9FN
The single most important thing about the 2018 QLED range is that Samsung is bringing back backlighting, not just relying on edge lighting. That’s important since this Q9 also offers a peak brightness of 2000 nits. The Q9FN will offer full-array local dimming (FALD) with hundreds of dimming zones.
This represents a huge upgrade in lighting management, but Samsung has learned not to rely on that alone and has several backup measures. In a bid to ramp up black performance, the company is employing layers of black and anti-reflection filter, designed to minimise internal light leakage and external glare. The panel also includes a layer with a prism-like structure, which aims to improve viewing angles and stop the picture washing out when viewed from the side.
In addition, Samsung is using software to help. The TV will run an anti-blooming algorithm, which identifies bright areas and dims their boundaries to avoid halo effects.
It works. The combined efforts of these black-improving measures are hugely effective. I viewed the new panel next to a 2017 LG OLED, and alongside the Sony ZD9 from 2016 (widely regarded as the best FALD still being sold). The Samsung panel demonstrated noticeably better lighting localisation than the Sony, with less blooming.
Against the OLED? I struggled to notice a difference from a ‘normal’ position, sat down a few metres away. It was only when I walked closer to the TV that I saw some very slight blooming on the LCD. Due to the structure of LED LCD TVs, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever match the look of emissive tech such as OLED. But that doesn’t mean the improvements aren’t significant.
Conclusion: Samsung’s LED LCD tech is now a lot closer to OLED’s black levels. If the company’s pricing strategy is sensible, the 2018 QLED range could be a solid retort to OLED. There are no confirmed prices yet, but Samsung has promised the new QLEDs will be significantly more affordable than last year’s models.
There’s more. Samsung is paying extra attention to the style element of TVs, taking steps to ensure your TV blends better into your living room. First, there’s a new ‘Invisible Connection’, or a single super-thin cable that will be hard to spot unless you’ve got the eyes of a hawk. The idea is that your mains cable and nest of HDMI cables will go into the standard, separate connections box, and then a single, barely there cable will take that to the TV. Samsung has done something similar before, but this is the first time such a thin cable has handled both data and power duties.
The final upgrade will appeal to those who don’t want a big blank screen in the living room. Samsung is bringing in the Ambient Mode from its Frame TVs, which essentially gives your TV a low-powered screensaver mode. You can have art on display, or the weather, or you can even display a picture of your wallpaper. It sounds power-hungry, but Samsung estimates that it will come to $0.59 or £0.68 a month, based on three hours’ use a day.
Oh, and note the introduction of the 55-inch option. This is the first time there’s been a ‘small’ version of the flagship model.
Samsung Q8CN – 55 and 65 inches
- Samsung QE55Q8CN
- Samsung QE65Q8CN
Samsung is the only major manufacturer still pushing curved screens. Not a lot of them, mind – the Q8CN is the only one in the QLED range.
The Q8CN retains most of the features of the Q9FN, with a few exceptions. Firstly, peak brightness drops to 1500 nits. Second, it loses the full-array local dimming – Q8CN, Q7FN and Q6FN will be bottom-edge lit. But they’ll benefit from the Q9FN’s black filters and advanced dimming algorithms.
There’s also going to be a flat Q8FN model with full array backlight, but at the moment that will only be available in the US. In Europe, that will be an edge-lit version, and I expect to see this launched at IFA 2018 in September.
Samsung Q7FN – 55, 65 and 75 inches
- Samsung QE55Q7FN
- Samsung QE65Q7FN
- Samsung QE75Q7FN
Want a flat QLED without paying top money? The Q7F of 2017 did the job nicely, and now we have the Q7FN. It has the same 1500-nit peak brightness as the Q8CN. There’s also a new 75-inch option, which wasn’t available last year.
Despite being slightly lower in the range, the Q7FN packs the same number of connections as its big siblings: four HDMI and three USB ports.
Samsung Q6FN – 49, 55, 65, 75 and 82 inches
- Samsung QE49Q6FN
- Samsung QE55Q6FN
- Samsung QE65Q6FN
- Samsung QE75Q6FN
- Samsung QE82Q6FN
Now we get into a slightly confusing territory. Previously, the Samsung 6 Series were lower-end models, but now Samsung has brought the QLED range down. Essentially, you’ll be able to enjoy the colours and brightness of a QLED at a lower price.
Peak brightness drops to 1000 nits, which is less than what’s offered on the other QLEDs, but it’s more than you’d get on a 6 Series model. We also lose the Ultra Black technology seen in the senior models, but this shouldn’t be a concern – the Q6FN is half as bright as the Q9FN, so its dimming tech doesn’t need to be quite as powerful.
Four HDMI ports remain (always a sign a manufacturer is taking things seriously) but USB ports drop down to two.
Oh, and the design is more basic – you don’t get the premium metal trimmings.
Coming Soon: 8K Micro Full Array – the Samsung Q9SN
In the second half of 2018, we will see a new tech called ‘Micro Full Array’ (MFA). There will only be one model, the 85-inch Samsung Q9SN (QE85Q9SN).
MFA is basically FALD tech on steroids. We’re looking at brightness up to 4000 nits, with black levels plunging to an OLED-matching 0.001 nits.
And if the 2018 QLED having hundreds of dimming zones is a good thing (and it is) then how about over 10,000 zones? That promises a level of lighting control never before seen on an LCD TV. I didn’t get to see one of these next to an OLED, so I can’t compare, but that number of dimmable zones has got to be a good thing.
This tech doesn’t just have a massive number of zones; it is also physically massive. It will only be available at 85 inches. That’s bound to be impractical and insanely expensive, but I get the feeling Samsung is really just trying to make a statement with this.
As for resolution, this TV won’t be in 4K. Because it will have a native 8K resolution.
Every year at CES, I see TV makers bring along 8K displays to show off, but that’s just a willy-waving proof of concept. Samsung, however, is actually brave (or mad) enough to bring one to market. You will be able to buy one of these in 2018.
But why? Bringing out an 8K screen seems an odd move when the blossoming 4K market has yet to become mainstream. And there’s virtually no content out there – I only know of test footage from Japan, where broadcaster NHK has been testing the waters of 8K.
Samsung tells me it’s first and foremost a means of retaining sharpness and clarity, finer details and gradations. After all, if you bump a 4K resolution from 55 inches to 82 inches, the latter is going have a lower pixel density and look a little softer. Samsung’s approach is to feed in 4K video and upscale it to 8K. Samsung calls it ‘AI Upscaling’, a fancy term that doesn’t seem too far off what some TVs do to bring standard definition up to 1080p, or from HD to 4K.
‘AI Upscalng’ will employ noise reduction to preserve details, edge restoration to prevent jagged contours. It also compares incoming video with an image database to make calculations – not far off what Sony has been doing with its highly effective X-Reality Pro upscaling.
The next stage: Micro LED
Samsung isn’t done. They’re working to bring to market a new tech called Micro LED.
This is where Samsung finally drops LCD and adopts an emissive technology, similar to OLED and plasma before it. Samsung says it will be less power-hungry than OLED, with less potential for degradation over time. This is about as close to the ‘true’ QLED that folks on the internet have been speculating about for years, before Samsung decided to use ‘QLED’ to brand its Quantum Dot LCD TVs.
Micro LED stems from Samsung’s existing LED Cinema technology, which uses modular LED panels pieced together to create a gigantic picture. The theory here is the same: at CES 2018 Samsung is showing off a 146-inch modular version that it calls ‘The Wall’. It’s not been announced how the modular system works, or what sizes will be available, but it’s safe to say Samsung is starting big before working down to sensible (affordable) sizes.
When? The estimates are anywhere from one to nine years…
Samsung’s future is bright. And crazy
I’ve got to give it to Samsung. The 2017 QLED plan didn’t go as intended, but the guys in Seoul clearly weren’t disheartened. It’s quite the opposite – they’ve doubled down on their commitment to fight OLED on several fronts. Some of the plan is practical. Some of the plan is plain mad. But from what I’ve seen, all of it is hugely impressive.
It’s clear that to Samsung, the big ‘OLED vs QLED’ debate is only just beginning.