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Samsung QLED TVs take on OLED with bigger screens in 2019

The world's largest TV maker unleashes a 2019 lineup studded with massive models, improved viewing angles and Apple's TV app.

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Samsung's 98-inch 8K TV will be its biggest QLED TV in 2019, but there are 40 other new models to choose from too.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung sells more TVs worldwide and in the US than any other brand, a position it has held for more than a decade. And it doesn't look like 2019 will be any different.

The TV behemoth has unveiled its full lineup for 2019 and, more than ever before, the televisions themselves are behemoths. Of the 41 new models, seven are 75-inch versions and eight measure 80 inches or larger -- including an insane 98-inch 8K TV announced at CES.

TVs 65 inches and bigger have been growing in popularity every year since 2016 as prices on big TVs continue to fall and shoppers replace their main TVs with something bigger. Samsung cites IHS Markit saying the market for 75-inch or bigger TVs is expected to grow by 43 percent in 2019, to 3 million units, and expand to 5.8 million units by 2022.

Another big reason for Samsung to push big TVs? The main rivals to its sets among high-end models, LG's OLED televisions, top out at 65 inches. Sure, you can get a 77-inch OLED TV for $,7000, but Samsung's 75-inch QLED sets cost thousands less.

Here's a summary of Samsung's 2019 TVs series. Each model is linked to the page on Amazon for its 65-inch size. CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of products linked from this page.

Samsung 2019 TV lineup by series

Series Sizes (inches) QLED Full-array local dimming Price for 65-inch
Q900 (8K) 65, 75, 82, 85, 98 Yes Yes $5,000
Q90R 65, 75, 82 Yes Yes $3,500
Q80R 55, 65, 75, 82 Yes Yes $2,800
Q70R 49, 55, 65, 75, 82 Yes Yes $2,200
Q60R 43, 49, 55, 65, 75, 82 Yes No $1,800
RU8000 49, 55, 65, 75, 82 No No $1,400
RU7300 (Curved) 55, 65 No No $1,000
RU7100 43, 49, 55, 58, 65, 75 No No $900

The majority feature Samsung's QLED technology -- not to be confused with OLED. It's a variation of LCD that uses quantum dots to improve brightness, color and other aspects of image quality. In CNET's tests previous Samsung QLED TVs have performed very well, especially when paired with full-array local dimming backlights. But even the best QLED TV of 2018, the Q9, can't beat the image quality of LG's cheapest OLED despite costing more.

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung Q900 85-inch 8K TV hands-on: A beautiful beast
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As usual for Samsung, prices are not cheap. Samsung's best 4K TV is the Q90R, which starts at $3,500 for the 65-inch size. That's the same price as LG's equivalent 2019 OLED TV, the C9 series. Then there's the 8K-resolution Q900R, which starts at $5,000 for the 65-inch size. That's ridiculously expensive and definitely not worth considering unless you just have money to burn.

Samsung will also sell the newest versions of The Frame and The Serif, two design-conscious series that strive to imitate a painting on a wall and modern art, respectively.

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Samsung's The Frame is designed to look like wall art.

David Katzmaier/CNET

The 2019 4K QLED and RU models are sure to be the ones TV buyers will be most interested in this year. Here are some key features and improvements.

Better viewing angles and ambient light rejection. The Q90R and Q80R have new panel technology that addresses one of LCD/QLED's biggest weaknesses compared with OLED: a tendency to fade and wash out when viewed from seats to either side of the sweet spot directly in front of the TV. They also do a better job of reducing reflections and improving contrast in bright rooms. I saw a demo of the new tech at Samsung's 2019 Home Entertainment overview and it did improve upon the Q9's viewing angle (already impressive for an LCD) and bright room image (already better than any TV I've tested) , so I expect good things from the 2019 sets in these areas.

HDMI 2.1 features. In 2019 Samsung's TVs will offer many (but not all) of the extras included in the HDMI 2.1 standard. Exactly which features varies per series. Here's how they stack up.

Samsung 2019 TVs HDMI 2.1 features by series

Feature RU7 RU8 Q60, Q70 and Q80 Q90 Q900R (8K)
8K/60fps No No No No Yes
4K/120fps No No No Yes Yes
1080p/120fps No No Yes Yes Yes
VRR No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dynamic Metadata No Yes Yes Yes Yes
ALLM Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
eARC No No No No No

As you might expect only the 8K Q900A series is compatible with 8K resolution/60 frames per second (fps) video. Only that TV and the Q90 work with 4K/120fps, while all QLED TVs support 1080/120 input (both 120fps high frame rate signals are rare today). All of the other HDMI 2.1 features -- variable refresh rate (VRR), dynamic metadata and automatic low latency mode (ALLM, or auto game mode) -- are supported by all of them beyond the entry-level RU7, with the exception of enhanced audio return channel (eARC), which no 2019 Samsung TV supports. 

In comparison, every 2019 LG OLED supports all of the features above (except for 8K input). The exception is the W9  wallpaper OLED, which lacks VRR. Check out HDMI 2.1: What you need to know for more on these features.

More full-array dimming. The best technology for improving LCD image quality is full-array local dimming, and in 2019 it trickles down to an additional, potentially less expensive series, the Q70R (as well as the more expensive 2019 sets). I don't expect the Q70R to rival the value of Vizio's or TCL's 2019 FALD TVs, but another option for midrange TV shoppers is always a good thing.

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James Martin/CNET

Apple TV app built-in. As Apple announced on March 25, Samsung's 2019 smart TV will be the first to receive its TV app later in the spring of 2019. It provides a single place to browse, discover and resume watching TV shows and movies from apps like HuluAmazon Prime Video, ESPN, PlayStation Vue and many more. The app will also let users rent, purchase and watch TV shows and movies from Apple's iTunes store, and allow iPhones, iPads and Mac computers to control video and music on the TV via AirPlay 2. Later in 2019 Apple's TV app will also come to competitors, including smart TVs from LG, Vizio and Sony as well as the Roku and Amazon Fire TV platforms.

Works with Alexa and Google Home speakers. As announced at CES in January, voice commands to smart speakers like the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo and the Google Assistant-packing Google Home will control Samsung TVs. Examples include power on/off, volume, channel selection and app launching, with commands such as, "Alexa, turn on the TV" or, "Hey, Google, launch Netflix." Such speakers already work with Samsung's competitors, including LG, Sony, Vizio and Roku TVs.

Samsung Q9 TV

Samsung's 2019 remote will have a far-field mic for Bixby. The remote looks similar to the 2018 version here, but will include direct-access buttons for Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Bixby far-field mic on the remote. Only Samsung's own Bixby voice assistant is built into the remote, however, and in our testing last year it fell far short of Alexa and Google Assistant. New for 2019 you'll be able to use it hands-free. A setting in the TV, disabled by default, will let you choose to have the TV respond to a "Hey, Bixby" command conveyed by the mic built into the remote as opposed to having to press the mic button. That's similar to the far-field mic built into the game controller of the Nvidia Shield.

We're looking forward to reviewing Samsung's new TVs soon.

Originally published March 11. 
Update, March 29: Adds pricing, links and additional details on the anti-reflective screen, HDMI 2.1 features, Apple's TV app and Bixby far-field mic.