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Samsung QLED TVs take on OLED with style, improved picture

The TV behemoth has a few new tricks up its sleeve, but its biggest weapon might be augmented image quality.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung wants you to forget about OLED and go for the Q instead.

The company on Wednesday took the wraps off its 2018 lineup of higher-end QLED TVs, providing more details on new features and specific models that were absent from its CES announcements in January. 

The biggest news for video quality fans is the confirmation that the two highest-end models will get full-array local dimming (FALD) backlights, which could help them better compete against OLED, the incumbent picture quality champ.

Two series of QLED sets, the Q8 and Q9, will offer FALD while the remaining two, the Q6 and Q7, will not; they'll have edge-lit backlights. Samsung would not disclose the number of dimming zones, but says it has improved viewing angles, antiglare filters and added an algorithm to the FALD TVs to address light leakage (aka blooming). Otherwise the sets are similar to last year, complete with quantum-dot-augmented LCD panels and plenty of other fixings.

Samsung QLED vs. LG OLED TV: What's the difference?

LG just announced relatively aggressive prices on its 2018 OLED TVs, and to its credit Samsung seems to be catching on. The only series that's more expensive than the LGs is the Q9F (starting at $3,800 for the 65-inch). The local-dimming-equipped, 65-inch Q8F costs $3,000, which is $500 less than the equivalent 65-inch OLED TV.

Here's full pricing for every size of QLED TV, which will ship in March and April. The "C" in the model names of the series denote curved screens.

Samsung 2018 QLED TVs

Model Size Price Backlight
QN55Q6FN 55-inch $1,500 Edge-lit
QN65Q6FN 65-inch $2,200 Edge-lit
QN75Q6FN 75-inch $3,500 Edge-lit
QN82Q6FN 82-inch $4,500 Edge-lit
QN55Q7FN 55-inch $1,900 Edge-lit
QN65Q7FN 65-inch $2,600 Edge-lit
QN75Q7FN 75-inch $4,000 Edge-lit
QN55Q7CN 55-inch $2,000 Edge-lit
QN65Q7CN 65-inch $2,700 Edge-lit
QN55Q8FN 55-inch $2,200 Full-array
QN65Q8FN 65-inch $3,000 Full-array
QN75Q8FN 75-inch $4,800 Full-array
QN65Q9FN 65-inch $3,800 Full-array
QN75Q9FN 75-inch $6,000 Full-array

Beyond picture quality, size and price, Samsung also highlights the QLED sets' style and smarts.

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Samsung will partner with the New York Times to deliver headlines in Ambient mode. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Ambient mode: Think of this as a glorified screen saver. Instead of a dead black rectangle when turned "off," the TV can be set up to show information like news, weather and traffic, or even play music (Spotify), with various artful skins. Samsung also announced that New York Times headlines would appear on the TVs.

Even cooler, Samsung says it can mimic the wall behind the TV to blend into the decor. You take a picture of the wall with your phone and the SmartThings app sends it to the TV and figures out how to fill the screen with it. The feature worked pretty well in demos, and will be fun to play with in real life.

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Ambient mode can also overlay transparent art that blends in.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One invisible connection: Building on 2017's super-thin invisible connection, which connects the TV to an external input box and is thin enough to blend into the wall, the new version (available only on the Q9 and Q7 series) carries power too. So those TVs don't require a separate power cord from the TV, just the one from the box.

Bixby built-in: As Samsung announced at CES, its TVs will have the Bixby digital voice assistant built in. You can ask it to perform searches, change inputs and picture settings, or control smart home devices by talking into the remote.

SmartThings control: Another CES announcement fleshed out today, the TV can act as a hub to control lights, thermostats, security cameras, smart appliances and more, right on-screen. The Smart TV app and phone app look basically the same.

Universal guide: A new-school program guide that combines live channels and streaming sources on-screen, surfacing individual shows and movies to make them easier to find.

Updated March 20, 2018 with pricing for every size.