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Samsung Q900R review: ‘Eyes on’ with Samsung’s monster 8K TV

Samsung unveils a range of 8K TVs at IFA 2018 complete with fancy AI image upscaling

Despite a number of potential drawbacks, the chief one being the current lack of 8K content, TV manufacturers have forged ahead with a series of launches at 2018’s IFA technology show. Samsung is one of them with its Q900R series of 8K TVs.

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The company is launching four models in 2018 – 65in, 75in, 82in and 85in sets – and all share the same new imaging engine and refined quantum dot QLED technology. The lack of native 8K content, however, means Samsung has been forced to talk about the TV’s new video upscaling technology, rather than the resolution itself.

Samsung Q900R review: Key specifications

  • 65in, 75in, 82in, 85in sizes
  • 8K resolution (7,680 x 4,320)
  • QLED panel technology
  • 4000 nits (cd/m2) peak brightness
  • Direct LED backlighting and local dimming
  • AI Quantum Processor 8K upscaling

Samsung Q900R review: Key features and specifications

The sheer size and number of pixels on show are the headline feature here. Like 4K versus 1080p, 8K screens play host to four times as many pixels as a 4K TV. That’s a massive 33,177,600 pixels to be exact. But there’s not much point in having all those pixels if there are no 8K movies or TV shows to watch on them.

Hence the focus on upscaling and, unsurprisingly in 2018, AI is involved at almost every step along the way. By letting loose a machine-learning algorithm on a set of before and after videos, where 8K has been downscaled to lower resolutions, Samsung’s upscaling algorithm is able to learn how to best tackle upscaling, producing the cleanest possible picture, in all sorts of different scenarios.

Samsung demonstrated a number of different scenarios at IFA 2018. A 4K picture being upscaled to 8K, some “very low quality” 2K YouTube clips, plus 1080p and 720p sources. Samsung even went as far as pumping an SD source into its new TV, not that this is a recommended course of action for anyone who ends up buying one of these beasts, no matter how advanced its upscaling is.

In side by side comparisons, it quickly became apparent that the new Samsung Q900R is a highly capable TV. Colours leap out in a way that’s almost as vivid and hyper-real as on an OLED set, black is deep and inky and, of course, there’s a huge amount of crisp detail.

And, subjectively at least, from a typical viewing distance, the 4K pictures Samsung chose to demonstrate did look sharper on the Q900R, although on closer inspection the picture was softer than true 8K footage. What was more dramatic was the Q900R’s ability to upscale ropey 2K, 1080p and 720p footage, with an uncanny ability to remove jaggies and clean up those annoying speckly compression artefacts you see in low-quality online footage. I was especially impressed with the TV’s motion compensation, which works to smooth out judder uncannily well in scenes using slow panning shots.

It’s quite difficult divorcing resolution from other aspects of picture quality, though, and what’s also clear is that the new set is going to be capable of reaching new heights elsewhere, too. With the ability to display a mouthwatering 4,000nits (cd/m2) of peak brightness, direct backlighting and local dimming, the Q900R’s HDR picture quality clearly has huge potential, and in side by side comparisons at the event it wasn’t far off the quality of a rival OLED TV, with a very impressive black level and fantastic-looking contrast.

Samsung isn’t ignoring gamers, either, with the TV’s game mode disengaging most of the processing to reduce latency. A new “Game Motion Plus” mode adds a degree of motion compensation without adding too much in the way of latency and an auto game mode detects when you’re watching a movie on your console and switches game mode off. The TV also supports Freesync for tear-free gaming.

Samsung Q900R review: Early verdict

It’s early days yet but, so far, Samsung’s 8K TVs look every bit as impressive as their 4K predecessors. It’s also good to see Samsung addressing the pixelated elephant in the room – the current lack of native 8K content – with its ‘AI’-based upscaling image processing engine.

And, from what I’ve seen so far, the Q900R’s upscaling does seem to work quite well, adding a degree of sharpness and detail reconstruction without making things look too artificial. The caveat here is that, so far, I’ve only been shown a limited number of demos and those will have been carefully selected by Samsung’s TV engineers to show off the new model in the best possible light.

Importantly, Samsung looks to have improved image quality too, which will be important in the battle for consumer’s wallets.

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