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Samsung's QLEDs mix riotous colour with sleek design (hands-on)

Is Samsung's 2017 QLED range the answer to OLED?

Samsung's new TV range feels like a study in functional minimalism. Thin panels, impressively engineered wall mounts and true-to-life colours define the Q7, Q8 and Q9, but the real question is how that QLED screen tech stacks up against the OLED panels made by other manufacturers in recent years.

Samsung's QLED range

  • Quantum dot screen tech
  • Edge-lit local dimming
  • 1,500 nits (Q7 and Q8) to 2,000 nits (Q9) peak brightness
  • 100 percent color volume
  • "No Gap" wall mount (optional on Q8 and Q7)

I got an evening of hands-on time with the 75-inch Q7, MS650 soundbar and the 4K Blu-ray player. The first thing that jumped out at me -- and it feels strange to say this about a TV -- was the physical design. It's hard to fault the Q range on that front. A very slim bezel and low-profile wall mount sells the "suspended in space" feeling for your screen.

Samsung

It's not quite as conceptual as LG's crazy millimetres-thin W unit we saw at CES, but it's still a remarkably low-profile traditional panel. Plus, you'll only need to run a single clear fibre-optic cable from the panel to a set-top box. Your other media inputs run through that. Samsung's new range of soundbars will also fit on an included shelf and run off the same clear fibre-optic cable. The payoff is one of the smallest gaps between a traditional TV and wall I've seen first-hand without the need to cut into the wall to hide a tangle of cables.

On to those QLED screens. You can read a more complete write-up on QLED panels here, but the quick and dirty version is that QLED is a variation of LED LCD technology. While it's still relatively young screen tech, you should expect lower contrast than OLED, but better light output and HDR colour sources.

That seemed to hold true based on my time with the Samsung Q7. The panel boasted enviable brightness of up to 1,500 nits and excellent colour performance. Samsung was talking up the independently verified "100 percent colour volume" -- essentially true-to-life reproduction of colours. 4K and HDR content brought punchy colours and blacks without light bleed, but non-HDR content felt washed out and flat in comparison, especially at less central viewing angles. OLEDs are still pipping QLED at the post when it comes to true blacks, too.

Where it did step up was staying crisp even in very bright ambient light -- that peak brightness hard at work. Samsung is also still backing curved displays on some models in the range, if you're a convert.

Samsung

The menu system on the Q range is also promising auto-detect features for whatever you plug in, which also means you won't need to scramble for anything other than the one brushed metal remote control. During my testing, I could jump between controlling the TV, Blu-ray player and Xbox One with the One Remote. The test unit was still using preproduction software, but the show floor demo I saw offered seamless "channel surfing" style switching between apps and media sources. The other trick on offer is voice search for your apps.

The Samsung Q9 comes in 65-inch, 75-inch and 88-inch models. The Q8 and Q7 series come in 55-inch, 65-inch and 75-inch models. The range will be available in Australia from April 17, and here's what those new TVs will cost:

  • QLED Q7 55-inch -- AU$4,499
  • QLED Q7 65-inch -- AU$6,499
  • QLED Q7 75-inch -- AU$10,999
  • QLED Q8 55-inch -- AU$5,499
  • QLED Q8 65-inch -- AU$7,499
  • QLED Q8 75-inch -- AU$12,499
  • QLED Q9 65-inch -- AU$9.499
  • QLED Q9 75-inch -- AU$14,999
  • QLED Q9 88-inch -- AU$39,999

There's a ton of clever design flourishes, the TV looks fantastic as a physical object and Samsung's QLED panels basically slap you in the face with colour vibrancy, but with a range that starts at AU$4,499 get ready to pay a premium price for a premium panel.

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