REVIEW: Mini LED, New Sound System – Samsung NEO QLED TV Has It All
Samsung has a new TV buzz word. ‘Neo’ has slipped in alongside ‘QLED’ to differentiate its 2020 QLED TVs from its 2021 offering, which incorporates a new TV technology called Mini LED.
ChannelNews got to experience this new technology during a review of Samsung’s all-new $13,000TV – the 8K Neo QLD QN900.
So, what exactly is Mini LED, and why it’s different to what you’ve seen before from Samsung?
Mini-LEDs use extremely small LEDs to produce the display’s light. This newly developed technology traces its roots back to traditional backlit LCD technology. Instead of using a single large backlight or multiple smaller, locally dimmed backlights, Mini-LED uses thousands of tiny LED backlights to deliver vastly superior local dimming characteristics.
To meet the Mini-LED classification, these backlight diodes each must measure less than 0.2mm across.
Local dimming is important for LCD displays because backlight bleed leads to inferior blacks and contrast ratios compared to OLED displays, where individual pixels turn on and off.
Samsung claims that Neo QLED increases the luminance scale to 12-bit with 4,096 steps to make dark areas darker and bright areas brighter.
Instead of using a lens to disperse LED light, the Quantum Mini LEDs use very thin microlayers filled with many more LEDs.
The new Quantum Matrix technology employed by Samsung enables ultra-fine and precise control of the densely packed LEDs. This helps to reduce blooming, though not eliminating it. It also reduces flashing, which has resulted in some passive matrix LED implementations.
It also comes with a slim, rear mounted One Connect control box, which allows for a significantly thinner design because the processor doing all the grunt work is inside.
As a result, Samsung has been able to deliver a premium 8K Neo QLD QN900 TV that is slimmer than previous Samsung TVs.
There is also a brand-new sound system that, when coupled with the new Q950 Samsung soundbar, pushes this TV well and truly into the premium market.
One big benefit of the new Mini LED technology is Samsung’s infinity screen design, which reduces the gap between visible pixels and the bezel. With the bezel trim being only 0.9mm thin and almost invisible from a distance, the screen has a near edge-to-edge appearance.
The Samsung QN900 series comes in three screen sizes: 85″ ($13,999), 75″ ($10,499) and 65″ ($7,579).
Before I had even switched on this TV, I fell in love with another clever Samsung product – the TV remote. It’s slim, highly functional, and does not need batteries because it’s solar chargeable.
When you do finally turn on this TV after playing with the remote, one is instantly struck by the sheer quality of the display, which differs depending on which provider’s content is being streamed or upscaled.
The new QN900 TV features a better HDR processing system — Quantum HDR 64x (48X in the 65” model) vs Quantum HDR 32x in the QN800 series — to deliver a nice bright HDR image, especially when streaming HDR-enabled content.
For example, 8K content streamed from YouTube was excellent, while upscaled content from some content providers had a distinct artificial glow to it, as if an engine was pushing the colour saturation of the streamed video. Samsung’s Multi-Intelligence AI upscaling system gives native 4K and lower-resolution material a processing boost to make images fill the additional pixels on the screen with sharp, clean images that don’t suffer from artificial line-multiplied picture noise and artifacts on the sharper screen.
Under the bonnet of the OneConnect box, which houses all the processor’s software and controls apart from the sound system, there is Samsung’s Quantum Matrix Technology Pro engine, and a new Neo 8K Quantum Processor with enhanced upscaling capabilities.
This employs up to 16 different neural network models, from AI upscaling to deep Learning Technology. The Neo Quantum Processor can optimise picture quality to quality levels at least equal to the native source without embellishing artifacts.
This technology is offered exclusively in the QN900 series and delivers the best level of control of the individual mini-LED pixels in the TV’s full-array backlight system. As one Samsung executive said, “It’s like going to a restaurant and instead of one chef cooking everything, there are 16 chefs for each individual setting,” which in the case of the QN900, is an engine that delivers 16 different picture options.
This technology helps reduce blooming and brightness flashing while maximising display longevity.
It’s also the engine that, when coupled with the new Samsung TV processor, uses artificial intelligence to work out the best picture quality for the room depending on the level of brightness available.
One noticeable key feature is that all Samsung premium TVs deliver a superior quality picture for viewing sports content such as NRL or AFL, even in spaces with high levels of natural light (common in Australian homes).
The One Connect Box has four HDMI 2.1 inputs supporting advanced gaming features including Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), Variable Refresh Rate, Free Sync Pro, and up to 4K/120Hz throughput with high refresh rate.
One input also supports both Audio Return Channel (ARC) and enhanced Audio Return Channel (e-ARC).
This box attaches to the back of the TV with its own mount.
Advanced On-Board Sound, which is now built into the QN900 series, adds an 80-watt, 6.2.2-channel on-board surround sound system that takes advantage of Samsung’s new object tracking pro technology. This makes sounds appear to follow actions on the screen by making audio move around the room in relation to the audience.
It also offers the Samsung Q-Symphony system, which allows the merging of the on-board speakers with a supporting Samsung Soundbar to expand the surround sound effect even further.
I got to hear how this technology works when a Samsung Q950 soundbar was attached to the TV.
Despite my poor hearing of dialogue when multi layers of sound are added to a TV show, I was able to hear dialogue more clearly than I have with other soundbars.
This is due in part to the TV audio syncing with the audio capability of the soundbar, along with the bottom end speakers of the TV being replaced by the multi soundbar speakers. At the same time, the multi-layered speakers at the top of the TV remain active.
As mentioned, Samsung offers four full bandwidth HDMI 2.1 inputs on the One Connect box and the HDMI ports are all compatible with HDCP 2.3, copy protection and support many of the latest advanced gaming features, including up to 4K/120fps 8K/60p (an option serious gamers might want to consider stepping up to have); Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), AMD Free Sync Pro, and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM).
The HDMI e-ARC offers greater bandwidth for streamed TV audio to a connected soundbar or AVR and enables video sources to sync with audio passed over the e-ARC return channel to a connected decoding component.
Other inputs include: USB 2.0 ports (3), ethernet, optical audio output, RS232 control port, and RF antenna input.
These models support built-in Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ac) Bluetooth 4.2, DLNA, Tap View, Connect Share, and AirPlay 2 support (requires iOS 12.3 or later or macOS 10.14.5 or later).
What Samsung has done in 2021 is raise the premium TV bar, as one would expect when you are the number one premium TV brand on the block.
Its new QN900 is a seriously engineered-from-the-ground-up new TV, which I am confident is going to put them in a head-on battle with LG, who also has several new-tech TVs.
Not only is there new technology inside the TV, but also on the outside; the near-invisible Infinity Screen bezel has allowed Samsung to deliver a sleeker, thinner TV. The only thing that isn’t slim is the $13,000 price tag for the 85″ model.
What you get for your money is excellent picture quality, deeper black reproduction, and more than 2,000 nits (in a 10% white window pattern) of peak brightness.
Upscaled 8K images come to life and you will notice differences between content providers. Sport on Foxtel, especially 4K streaming, is fantastic and so is any 8K native content.
Another plus is that Samsung’s Multi-Intelligence AI upscaling system does an excellent job of making lower-resolution content fill out the additional pixels without introducing or multiplying visible artifacts.
This is an expensive TV So, if $13,000 is not going to break the bank, this is the 2021 TV that you should seriously consider. Otherwise, go for the 75″ or 65″ models.