Hands-on with Samsung’s monster 8K QLED TV

Earlier this year, Samsung launched its new lineup of QLED TVs in South Africa, which was spearheaded by the unprecedented QLED Q900 model.

This 2019 QLED variant is available in a number of sizes, from 65-inch to 98-inch, and boasts a native resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 or “8K”.

As expected, the Samsung QLED Q900 ships with a hefty price tag, and there are a limited number of models available for purchase in South Africa.

Samsung was kind enough to lend us the 65-inch model of its new 8K QLED TV to review and soon after we accepted, the Samsung Signature Service team came by and installed the display at our office.

We were then charged with the safe-keeping of the R76,999 TV and left alone to test it out in any way we wanted.

Samsung QLED Q900 (3)

Impressive picture

We immediately connected the 8K TV to our Wi-Fi network and set up streaming services to test out the quality of the display.

A marquee feature of the Samsung QLED Q900 8K TV is its artificial intelligence-powered upscaling technology, which dynamically improves the resolution of videos to match its 8K display.

This delivered a Netflix and YouTube viewing experience which floored us with an unprecedented level of quality.

It is difficult to show what an 8K, or even an upscaled 8K, viewing experience looks like through images or descriptions.

Professor YungKyung Park from Ewha Womans University described how 8K resolution was so sharp it could make images seem “hyper-real”, or more realistic than real life, and this should provide some idea of the viewing experience delivered by this TV.

Another way of wrapping your head around the mind-boggling level of detail is to think of 4K or UHD video, which comprises around 8.3 million pixels being pushed 60 times per second to your TV.

Now quadruple that figure to around 33.2 million pixels being pushed out 60 times per second – that is 8K.

The sheer number of pixels on the QLED Q900’s display makes it virtually impossible to determine individual cells without head-butting the screen, and even 4K content upscaled to 8K looks “hyper-real” and impressively sharp.

Colour depth and visibility in the videos we watched was also great, with the TV supporting HDR video at 8K resolution.

Samsung QLED Q900 (2)
NASA 8K video on Samsung QLED Q900

8K content

Finding 8K content was more difficult than we thought, although we eventually managed to encode short cuts of 8K footage into H.265/HEVC, which at the time of writing was the only supported 8K codec for media played off a USB drive.

The size of these short videos on disk was impressive, portraying the massive jump in quality from 4K to 8K. It was difficult to find 8K content outside of the realm of rendered demos and test files, however.

We eventually found a native 8K video courtesy of NASA, which was encoded into HEVC for playback on the Q900, and this delivered exceptional video quality.

While there is 8K video content on YouTube, the TV’s YouTube app was unable to play these clips at a resolution higher than 4K, and there is currently no 8K content available on Netflix or other streaming services.

We did try to connect a gaming PC with a Radeon RX 580 to the TV, but the HDMI port on that GPU only drives up to 4K, and we were unable to connect to the TV’s HDMI interface using link aggregation between two DisplayPort 1.4 outputs from the graphics card.

It is possible to carry an 8K signal over HDMI 2.1 and connect directly to the QLED Q900, but we unfortunately did not have the hardware to drive the sheer number of pixels required.

However, the intelligent upscaling conducted by the TV drastically improved the quality of videos which had a resolution of 4K or lower, resulting in a marked improvement across the overall viewing experience.

The availability of 8K content is also set to improve as streaming services, broadcasters, and movie studios continue to improve the quality of releases.

Samsung QLED Q900 (6)

Samsung QLED Q900 (4)

Hardware and software

The Samsung QLED Q900 8K TV is an attractive product, with an elegantly-designed stand that can be deployed in a number of configurations.

The TV only runs a single cable down to a separate box, which in turn houses HDMI, Ethernet, and USB ports for easier connectivity.

This also allows for more attractive wall mounting, which is a great choice for this TV, as its screen can be set up to blend in seamlessly with your wallpaper when inactive.

Other impressive software features include voice commands via Bixby, extremely fast and responsive menu navigation, and the ability to connect to Apple devices via Airplay 2.

The screen also support FreeSync, which delivers reduced lag time and tearing during gaming.

Samsung QLED Q900 (5)

Samsung Q900
Panel Size 65/75/82/98-inch
Resolution 7,680 x 4,320
Motion Rate 240
Ports 4x HDMI, 3x USB, 1x LAN, 3.5mm audio
Connectivity Bluetooth, 802.11ac Wi-Fi

Based on the native 8K content we managed to watch on the Samsung QLED Q900 TV, we were highly impressed by the detail of the 8K panel, and while 8K content is not yet readily available, we still greatly enjoyed the effects of the AI upscaling technology.

We played a few games at 4K resolution on the display too, and decided that FreeSync support makes Samsung’s new QLED TVs an ideal companion for a lounge gaming PC – provided the system has an AMD graphics card.

It might be extremely expensive, and there might not be too much 8K content available at the moment, but the Samsung QLED Q900 should remain a powerful and impressive TV for a long time to come.

If you have the money to spend on an ultra-premium 8K TV, Samsung’s QLED Q900 delivers an impressive range of features which won’t leave you disappointed.

Now read: Samsung’s new 240Hz curved gaming monitor coming to South Africa

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Hands-on with Samsung’s monster 8K QLED TV