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Samsung's Neo QLED TVs Go for Gold This Year
The Koreans will be challenging OLEDs for the HDR crown armed with Mini-LED tech and advanced features
With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of relenting yet, 2021 will most probably be the second year in a row that millions of people will be spending much more time indoors than they usually do. Samsung is well prepared, though, for that scenario as its new TVs not only bring new tech and advanced audiovisual features to the table but also new functionality meant to help with work, communication and entertainment at home. The Koreans are getting ready to release these new QLED televisions in the coming weeks and this year’s entries seem to be something rather special compared to past years’ models.
Samsung always strived to offer added functionality with each year’s TV line-up and 2021’s models are no different. Video conferencing capabilities? Check: by connecting Logitech compatible webcams on a USB port and running the Google Duo app, full-screen video calls are easier than ever. Access to the office computer files and doing work from home? Check: Samsung Knox makes this a breeze while Samsung DeX can project a desktop environment wirelessly on the TV screen. Playing next-gen games? Check: these TVs offer HDMI 2.1 ports for connecting PS5 or Xbox Series S|X systems to enjoy advanced features like VRR, ALLM and 4K/120Hz, all configurable through the new GameBar control center.
Consumers focusing on picture quality, though, won’t be attracted to these new 2021 TVs for their office file access or video conferencing functions. They will be more interested in the screens and image processing this year. The best models among Samsun’s six new lines utilize a kind of backlighting the company is offering for the first time: Mini-LEDs. These work the same way local dimming — the most effective kind of backlighting for LCD TVs — has always worked, but on steroids: while past models employed up to 500 individually controlled “zones” of local dimming, these new QLED TVs — dubbed Neo QLED — employ almost 2000 of those, made up of many, many more Mini-LEDs.
That many zones allow for much more precise control and, coupled with Samsung’s most advanced image processor yet, promise deeper blacks, more vibrant colors and higher peak luminance than ever before on a TV of LED/LCD technology. It’s the closest thing yet to OLED pixel-level control but with the overall picture being two or three times brighter, which helps a lot with HDR material in particular. Importantly, these Neo QLEDs retain all the advantages of their predecessors, such as wide viewing angles, anti-reflective screens and a fast operating system with plenty of apps.
Samsung has brought its Neo QLED tech to three 8K TV lines and three 4K TV lines — QN900A/QN800A/QN700A and QN95A/QN90A/QN85A respectively — in a variety of sizes. The main differences between the various lines have to do with the number of local dimming zones, design, sound and connectivity, but even the most affordable sets among those six lines should offer a decidedly better picture than last year’s counterparts. The more expensive ones will be pitted against the best models LG, Sony and Panasonic will be offering this year. LG, incidentally, will be promoting its own version of Mini-LED implementation in 4K and 8K TVs, so it will be interesting to see how the two Korean giants fare against each other.
For the longest time LED/LCD televisions have played second fiddle to OLEDs in terms of cinematic picture accuracy because of the way the latter handle light. Mini-LEDs have been used before by TCL on a smaller scale, yes, but it takes a manufacturer like Samsung to maximize all of the advantages this tech offers and combine it with striking design, great sound and extra functionality. We’ll have to wait for the first technical reviews in order to find out how well-implemented Samsung’s version of the Mini-LED local dimming actually is, but as the first wave of the 2021 anti-OLED TVs, Neo QLEDs are important in and of themselves. Bring it on!