Review: Samsung Q950TS 8K TV
Samsung's 8K TVs are impressive but what do you do without content to watch on it?
When I reviewed an 8KTV last year, I thought the market wasn’t ready for it. Has anything changed since then? Actually, yeah. The price has come down and there’s a bit more to watch.
The TV and remote
There’s no doubting this is an impressive piece of tech. The screen shows crystal-clear, super bright, crisp images. I was constantly wowed by how good it looked.
The screen sits on the stand at a slightly upward tilted angle, this took a little getting used to.
As is the fashion for recent Samsung televisions, the “engine” of the TV is a box connected to the screen by a thin, almost transparent cable. You plug your external devices into this box, and, since it’s separate from the TV, you can place it where you want.
While it’s a big box, it still only has four HDMI inputs. It’s not a problem a lot of people have, but if you’re like me and have a lot of extra devices it doesn’t take long to fill those spaces.
The remote control is nicely laid out with very few buttons including assigned ones for Netflix, Amazon Prime and, for some reason, the built-in web browser – if you want to go through the pain of trying to surf the internet on your TV.
However, this simplicity means there are a few controls missing, such as a button to change source. Luckily, I discovered by accident that I was able to use the remote from my current Samsung TV (which I ended up mostly using because I’m a creature of habit).
With a smart TV, the software needs to be up to snuff or you’re going to find it annoying to use. However, in some ways, this TV is too smart for its own good.
The TV tries to analyse the on-screen image and change the display settings appropriately. In particular it does area dimming and highlighting, so, for example, it might find a face in the picture and highlight it. This gave certain scenes a weird “spotlight” effect. It took me a little while to notice what was going on. For a long time I just thought what I was watching had been filmed in a strange way, or that I needed to turn up the brightness.
It felt like the software was trying too hard to make the image look good.
The picture option defaults are set to “dynamic”, so they constantly change depending on the image or even outside effects, like room lighting. I had to go through all the picture menu settings and set them to basic levels. Even then, effects like area dimming could only be set to “low” and not “off”.
Settings like this and “frame rate smoothing” have long been denounced by creators who want their content seen in its original format, and not tinkered with by software.
I’m taking a quick break from filming to tell you the best way to watch Mission: Impossible Fallout (or any movie you love) at home. pic.twitter.com/oW2eTm1IUA— Tom Cruise (@TomCruise) December 4, 2018
The dynamic settings aren’t all bad though. They made gaming much better. The TV knew when I was using my Xbox or PlayStation and adjusted accordingly.
First, a quick explainer of some terminology:
- 4K: refers to a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, roughly twice the size of full HD.
- 8K: refers to a resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels, twice that of 4K.
- Native: refers to what the content was filmed or created in. For example, if a film was shot in 4K at 24fps (frames per second), then you would say 4K is its native resolution, while 24Hz would be its native frame rate.
While the screen makes everything look so, so good, there still isn’t much in the way of native 8K content. Anything you can find online at higher than 4K resolution tends to be test footage. No movies or TV shows. This means you’ll have to watch native 4K content, upscaled to 8K, to get the most out of your TV.
So once again the 4K screen savers on Apple TV look spectacular, but there’s only so long I can sit and watch slo-mo flyovers and underwater scenes.
If you really want the 8K screen to shine, you need some extra equipment and physical media. By that I mean 4K Blu-ray discs and a player that can output that resolution. While you can stream 4K content, there isn’t much that’s commercially available and your home internet connection and WiFi network have to be good enough to handle it.
If you play video games, you’re in a good situation. The current generation of game consoles can output native 4K and the next generation (PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X) will be able to output 8K, though it may take a few months before games are released that can support that.
For most content, the TV will upscale it to a higher resolution. This is mostly fine but can create “blockiness” if the original was very low quality.
I think we’re still about a year away from 8K TVs becoming something I’d recommend. However, if you wanted to jump on the trend early and still have a great TV then the Q950TS is a good, though pricey, option.
Samsung Q950TS 65”
Specs: Model number: QA65Q950TSSXNZ
Screen type: QLED
Dimensions with stand (WxHxD): 1433x881x262mm
Weight (with stand): 26.5kg (32kg)
First Looks are trials of new and interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons. This TV was loaned to the writer by Samsung.