Everything about Samsung QLED TVs: Samsung is coming this year with QLED TVs, but what does QLED stand for and what can you expect from it? In this article we explain in detail how it works.
Introduction Samsung QLED TVs
For the launch of the new QLED screens, Samsung invited us to the Louvre in Paris. The temple of art in the city of light, a very symbolic place and a clear indication of what we could expect: artistic TVs and a sea of light.
Samsung spent most of the presentation on their new The Frame concept TV and everything to do with design. In any case, the new 1.8mm thin, transparent optical One Connect cable seems to create enormous freedom in choosing where to place or hang the TV. But we mainly tried to find out what we could expect from the new QLED TVs, and what they stand for.
First there was the rumor
In the aftermath of IFA 2016, a rumor surfaced that Samsung was working on a new type of quantum dot TV. It would be a QD-color filter screen. In addition, the color filter of an LCD TV is replaced by a conversion layer based on quantum dots ( read our article about quantum dots ). This would give the TV characteristics, such as a better viewing angle, which we only find so far with emitting screens such as OLED TVs. But it remained to wait for CES 2017 for more news.
The introduction of QLED
Samsung launched the name QLED at CES 2017. A name that created many expectations, because the term ‘QLED’ is generally reserved for the concept in which quantum dots are controlled electrically instead of with light and we were sure of that technology that it is still some years away. However, Samsung released little technical information at CES, other than that the screens use a new kind of quantum dots with a new metal core and shell.
Furthermore, it seemed that this was an evolution of last year’s quantum dot TVs (the SUHD models). In other words, these QLED TVs still use an LED backlight with a foil of the new quantum dot material over it.
So what does QLED mean?
Samsung was very clear about the meaning of QLED. QLED is a marketing term that they market to designate all televisions that use quantum dots. The term is not exclusive to Samsung either, they encourage other brands to label their quantum dot TVs with the QLED label as well. QLED can be used for televisions that use QD-tube or QDEF (enhancement foil), like all existing models. But TVs based on future technology such as QDCF (QD color filter) or real QD LEDs will also appear under the name QLED.
QLED therefore seems to have been mainly introduced to form a marketing counterweight to OLED. In that respect, it is certainly a better name than SUHD, a term that really only caused confusion.
What’s in this year’s QLED models?
Despite the fact that QLED is a marketing term that can be widely used, there is a lot to tell about the new Samsung QLED models. It is indeed about televisions that use a quantum dot foil on a background lighting of blue LEDs. In that respect they are no different from last year’s. A new, more efficient quantum dot material has been used.
In essence, it remains an LCD television. This means that you should not expect an impressive change in terms of black value. It is also striking that there will be no Full Array Local Dimming models in the Q-series. FALD provides the best option for improved black levels. The top models (from other brands) on the market use more than 600 zones to dim the screen and thus improve the contrast. All Q models use an edge LED and will have to make do with a limited number of zones. Samsung did tell us that the anti-reflection film has been optimized to avoid even more stray light from the LCD panel, and that there are more dimming blocks than last year. That way the black level would be better.
But in other areas Samsung claims impressive improvements. For example, the viewing angle would have been considerably increased. They are reluctant to reveal how that has been achieved, but the LCD panels may use a new sub-pixel structure that improves the viewing angle. Samsung declined to comment on that. In the photo below you see the QLED at the top, an OLED at the bottom. The yellow on QLED is clearly more intense, but the black on the OLED seems a bit better to us. Please note, this is a very extreme viewing angle.
The new quantum dot material also comes with a few nice benefits. The new Q lineup claims peak luminances of 2,000 nits (for the Q9 range) and 1,500 nits (for the Q8 and Q7 range). That is a significant increase compared to last year’s 1,000 nits (although we were already able to measure 1,400 nits in practice). And the color range has also expanded. But Samsung is focusing everything on color volume this year. This new standard is better suited to indicate the HDR capabilities of a screen because it takes into account how a screen can display the most intense colors at different light intensities (read our article on color volume). According to Samsung, the Q series would be the first TVs that can present a 100% color volume (based on the DCI-P3 standard and a peak luminance of 1,000 nits).
QLED vs OLED
Based on the information we now have, OLED will still present the better black value. The viewing angle of QLED left a very good impression in Paris, but we are still waiting to see how that translates into the living room.
Where QLED seems to have a clear advantage is in terms of light output and color volume. Even the latest LG W7V achieved a maximum luminance of (only) 866 nits and is also limited in terms of average brightness level. That peak luminance can therefore only be shown on a small part of the screen. The Q-series achieves a minimum of 1,500 nits, and claims a 100% DCI-P3 (1000 nits) color volume. That could be a major argument in favor of QLED for HDR enthusiasts. After all, OLED will display the brightest accents and colors increasingly fainter. For measurements of color volume we are dependent on a new version of our Spectracal software that has yet to be published.
OLED is also struggling with ‘image retention’. Images or logos that are on the screen for a long time can remain there temporarily, even if they are no longer on the screen. We do not know whether this can effectively lead to ‘screen burn-in’, where the image remains permanently visible. But especially with HDR content, ‘image retention’ may become more visible.
As far as HDR standards are concerned, Samsung sticks to HDR10 and HLG . Dolby Vision will only remain available on LG devices (and a number of Sony and Loewe models) for the time being. Samsung’s QLED TVs will be compatible with HDR10 +, the variant of HDR that uses dynamic metadata just like Dolby Vision. The first content with this HDR variant is expected from Amazon Prime Video this summer.
The term QLED covers all televisions that use quantum dots regardless of the implementation technique used. In the first place, it is therefore a marketing term that should be a counterweight to OLED. The new 2017 Samsung QLED TVs will continue to be LCD TVs that use a quantum dot film over the LED backlight. Improvements to the quantum dot material and the LCD panel give these models (on paper at least) a number of clear improvements compared to last year.