SAMSUNG’S 8K TV OFFERS A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF TV SPLENDOUR.
4 x HDMI 2.0, 3x USB, RF tuner; 1905.2(w) x 1094.2(h) x 36.3(d) mm; 85in display; HDR10, HLG, HDR10+
WITH MOST PEOPLE – ‘cough’ content providers – only just getting to grips with 4K resolution, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Samsung had gone nuts by introducing the world’s first true 8K TV. With hardly any native 8K content available out there, what’s the point of spending big to get your hands on so many pixels? And, to be honest, it’s not even available in this market yet – but 8K televisions are coming, so this is well worth looking at as a taste of the future.
What really makes the 85Q900R exciting as a TV for today rather than tomorrow, though, is that surprisingly it doesn’t actually need native 8K pictures to look incredible – it takes any content you feed it and spits out some of the best images we’ve yet to see on a screen this size.
It seems almost perverse to kick off the performance section of this test of an 8K TV by focusing on its performance with HD and
But, as well as this simply being the way we do things, it’s important to reflect that however exciting the thought of 8K might be, most of the video that households typically watch right now appears in HD and standard dynamic range. Which, one would expect to surely present a bit of a problem for a TV as huge, rich in resolution and ultra-bright as the 85Q900R, right?
Not as much as you might expect, actually. In fact, the all-new 8K AI Upscaler Samsung has created for its new 8K TV generation does an almost miraculously good job of conjuring up the tens of millions of extra pixels needed to turn HD into 8K.
For starters, the upscaling engine does a brilliant job of separating source noise (such as compression artefacts and over-enthusiastic grain) from ‘proper picture information. It then calculates the look of the 30 million plus extra pixels required cleverly enough to leave HD images looking sharper, more detailed, more dense and more three dimensional than they ever have before. Even on the best 4K TVs.
The usual jaggedness around angled or arced edges is completely removed during the 8K upscale, too. Perhaps best of all, though, all of these remarkable (when you stop to think about what the TV is doing) upscaling achievements are delivered in real time without generating any of the sort of unwanted side effects commonly associated with heavy duty upscaling: there’s no double edging, no exaggerated MPEG noise, no ‘stepped’ edges, no sense of motion lag, no unwanted grittiness, no fizzing or shimmering over areas of really intense detail… The purity of the upscaled pictures truly is remarkable, and has our hopes up that Samsung may port the 85Q900R’s scaling engine to its premium 4K TVs for 2019.
Our usual ‘4K/HDR’ header for this section actually isn’t sufficient for this review – after all, it’s the world’s first native 8K television. Having said that, though, aside from a tiny number of 8K YouTube videos, there’s currently no native 8K content a normal consumer can watch.
This is a huge pity, as having tested the 85Q900R with some specially shot 8K clips provided by Samsung, featuring lots of gorgeous views and shots of nature, we can safely say that native 8K looks absolutely astonishing. Any doubts over whether an 8K pixel count can look significantly better than a 4K pixel count are instantly crushed, as your eye is dazzled by 8K’s extra detail, textures, clarity, and enhanced sense of image depth.
Colors look massively more refined too, making objects look more solid and free of any and all pixel structure or ‘stepping’ around curved or diagonal edges.
The extent to which the 85Q900R’s colour performance helps to unlock the full impact of all those extra pixels joins the TV’s remarkable upscaling in illustrating just how stunning Samsung’s new 8K processing engine is.
While native 8K playback on the 85Q900R introduces a whole new level of picture quality awesomeness, crucially 4K playback looks fantastic too. The upscaling engine that surprised us so much with HD is even more effective with 4K:
Resolution looks clearly higher than the native resolution of the 4K images, and again this is achieved with pretty much no unwanted upscaling side effects whatsoever.
In some ways the 85Q900R’s remarkable 4K enhancements – which add depth and color refinement, as well as the extra perceived resolution – are more important right now than its native 8K performance. After all, the fact that the set can make today’s best-quality source look significantly better than it does on mere 4K TVs means that anyone who buys one won’t have to wait until native 8K content appears to get a picture quality return on their investment.
All that said, the unprecedented range of color tones the 85Q900R can reproduce thanks to its processing and extreme brightness also reminds us more emphatically than any previous QLED TV of the importance of Samsung’s metal-clad Quantum Dot design.
ANY DOUBTS OVER WHETHER AN 8K PIXEL COUNT CAN LOOK SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER THAN A 4K PIXEL COUNT ARE INSTANTLY CRUSHED, AS YOUR EYE IS DAZZLED BY 8K’S EXTRA DETAIL, TEXTURES, CLARITY, AND ENHANCED SENSE OF IMAGE DEPTH.
This enables the TV’s QDs to be driven harder than normal QDs without them suffering any performance/lifespan degradation and the 85Q900R’s brightness is as jaw-dropping as its 8K resolution.
Remarkably, though, despite being almost twice as bright as any previous TV, the 85Q900R doesn’t only do the bright parts of HDR’s expanded light spectrum well: Its backlight arrangement, local dimming system and powerful processing also mean that it can deliver impressively deep black tones during HDR playback. In fact, intensely dark areas of HDR pictures can look emphatically black.
Black levels tend to remain uniform and deep if a very bright object appears in the middle of a very dark area; typically be a nightmare for LCD/LED TVs.
The 85Q900R ushers in a new era of TV picture quality. Its native 8K pictures are incredible, looking just like the real world – only better. But even more crucially given the dearth of true 8K content for the foreseeable future, the 85Q900R makes all today’s lower resolution sources look better than they do anywhere else, too.
Whether 8K delivers the same impact on smaller screens remains to be seen, but if you have a big enough room and budget, the 85Q900R is a vision of the future that’s actually spectacularly worth buying today.