I Saw Samsung’s First-Ever QD-OLED TV, and It’s Impressive

It’s April, which means we’ve reached shipping season for the latest and greatest TVs announced at CES. I recently had the chance to preview Samsung’s 2022 lineup in person. Samsung is the world’s leading TV maker by market share, and the reason for that success is that Samsung sticks closely to its smartphone strategy: there are TVs at every price point, whether you want a TV Giant 8K – there’s still no reason to buy one, folks – or a budget 4K set that’s much more reasonably priced.

Last year, Samsung jumped on the big trend of mini LED TVs, which offer better brightness and contrast than previous models by shrinking the local dimming zone LEDs and stuffing in a lot more. New versions of these TVs are coming out this year, but I’m much more excited about the company’s first-ever QD-OLED set, the S95B.

Yes, joining the rest of Samsung’s 2022 lineup is a new 4K OLED TV available in 65-inch and 55-inch sizes. Samsung bubbled in OLED TVs like… ten years ago… but since then the dominant player has been LG and, in particular, LG Display. It is the company that produces OLED TV panels for LG Electronics, Sony, Vizio and other brands.

Samsung’s S95B 4K OLED is available in 55-inch and 65-inch sizes.

You might be wondering why Samsung, a leading supplier of OLED screens for phones, tablets and laptops, completely ceded the OLED TV market to LG. There are several reasons. The main problem is that these two companies are fierce competitors, and Samsung wasn’t about to stick an LG OLED inside one of its TVs. He also tried to look beyond OLED with futuristic concepts like The Wall and Micro LED.

But what has changed recently is that Samsung Display – the sister company of Samsung Electronics – has come up with its own TV-sized OLED panel. And it’s said to be more advanced than the LG panels that already deliver phenomenal picture quality and receive such rave reviews year after year. Samsung uses what is called QD-OLED. The QD stands for “quantum dot” and shows how this display technology differs from LG’s W-OLED, also known as WRGB OLED.

The differences here can get pretty technical, but in short, all OLED displays are self-emissive, meaning each pixel can create its own light without the backlighting systems that LCD TVs require. They can also turn off individually, giving you those perfect blacks that OLED is known for. At a basic level, LG Display’s OLED panels mix blue and yellow to create white sub-pixels which then go through a color filter to create red, green and blue. But this color filter absorbs some of the brightness, so LG adds a white sub-pixel to compensate for that. Even so, one of OLED’s weaknesses is that it can’t achieve the same peak brightness or HDR highlights as the best LCD TVs. A lot of people don’t care, but if your TV is in a very sunny room, you might.

It uses a QD-OLED panel from Samsung Display.

The QD-OLED panel can produce richer colors at higher brightness levels.

QD-OLED unfortunately doesn’t offer any major advances in brightness. But there are other legitimate improvements. Samsung Display starts with blue pixels and runs them through quantum dots to create red and green, with those original pure blue sub-pixels passing through as well. It’s much more efficient than the color filter method, so there’s no need for a white subpixel to help restore brightness. It may seem like a subtle shift in approach, but it makes all the difference. Indeed, one of the biggest benefits of QD-OLED is improved brightness and color saturation. Colors still look vivid even during very bright scenes, and the reds, greens, and blues come off the screen as deeper and just purer to your eyes.

That said, I’m not talking about a huge difference here. It’s the kind of thing that’s only noticeable in side-by-side comparisons. And Sony, which is also using these new QD-OLED panels in one of its high-end 2022 TVs, let me have it a few weeks ago. Admittedly, this was a very controlled demo, but the QD-OLED TV achieved levels of red and green saturation that Sony’s old TV, with an LG Display OLED, couldn’t quite equal.

Like other OLED TVs, Samsung’s S95B has a very slim design.

Sony told me that while it doesn’t see substantial brightness improvements in terms of nits, our eyes perceive the QD-OLED display as brighter overall due to the superior color brightness. Off-angle viewing, which is already fantastic on OLED TVs, is another thing that’s slightly better on QD-OLED. So, according to early accounts, QD-OLED could further refine what are already the best TVs you can get.

But what’s odd about all of this is that Samsung Electronics isn’t really promoting OLED. It pays no special attention to the QD-OLED panel in its marketing. It’s simply called the Samsung OLED TV. And technically, it’s not even the company’s flagship TV for 2022. I think that low-key introduction is partly because Samsung has spent years rip OLED as not being the best fit for TVs. He created an entire burn hazard website and proudly declared that his LCD TVs were not affected by it.

So it’s a bit awkward for Samsung to turn around and release an OLED TV. Samsung Display claimed that QD-OLED displays should have even better burn-in resistance than other panels. It’s still technically possible but unlikely on most OLED TVs these days, including recent TVs from LG and others.

As for the price, I am rather pleasantly surprised. The 65-inch S95B costs $3,000, while the 55-inch size costs $2,200. It’s pricey, sure, but comparable to what LG is charging for its own G2 OLED flagship this year, which features a brighter-than-ever panel. So despite having a first-gen panel inside, Samsung isn’t demanding a huge premium. Sony’s TV with the QD-OLED screen will inevitably cost more, but I’d also expect it to have better picture processing – and it supports Dolby Vision, which Samsung continues to ignore because he is determined to make HDR10+ a reality. I’m at least happy that all four HDMI ports are now 2.1 and support 4K at 120Hz. (Samsung’s high-end LCD TVs can go up to 144Hz this year.)

Long story short, if your goal is to get a TV with the best possible picture quality, OLED remains the answer in 2022. And I’m not just talking about this year’s stuff: there’s nothing wrong with older models if you can find a deal – and we’ve got you covered.

Photograph by Chris Welch/The Verge

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