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Samsung Neo QLED TVs available for preorder starting at $1,600

The company's 2021 4K and 8K TVs feature Mini-LED as well as new gaming, fitness and sustainability features including a solar-powered remote.

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Samsung's Neo QLED TV has a revamped backlight system based on Mini-LED. The cheapest is $1,600.

Drew Evans/CNET

After a massive year of sales Samsung is one of the first TV makers out of the gate with new 2021 models, available for preorder now and arriving in March. They comprise four series of the Neo QLED TVs first announced last month at CES, ranging in size from 55 to 85 inches and including both 4K and 8K resolution. And as you might expect from the company's flagship QLED televisions, they're not cheap.

The least-expensive Neo QLED is the 55-inch, 4K resolution QN55QN85A at $1,600. That's $100 more than the best high-end 55-inch TV I tested in 2020, the LG CX OLED. I haven't reviewed Samsung's Neo QLED TVs yet, but based on past experience I'll be surprised if the QN85A has better picture quality than the CX.

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Meanwhile prices for Samsung's 8K QLED TVs seem stuck in the stratosphere too. You'll have to pay at least $3,500 for an 8K Neo QLED Samsung, the 65-inch QN85QN800A. That's the same price Samsung charged a year ago for the previous version, and $1,500 more than the 4K resolution, 65-inch LG CX OLED.

Read more: Best TV for 2021

Prices for TVs fall throughout the year leading up to Black Friday and the holidays, and Samsung is no exception, but the discounts will have to be pretty significant to compete for value against LG's 2021 OLEDs and new 8K sets like TCL's upcoming 6-Series. At least Samsung is including professional mounting, a $120 value, with every preorder.

Here's an overview of all four Neo QLED series as well as pricing for the 65-inch sizes.

Samsung 2021 Neo QLED TVs

Series Resolution Sizes (inches) 65-inch price
QN85A series 4K 55, 65, 75, 85 $2,200
QN95A series 4K 55, 65, 75, 85 $2,600
QN800A series 8K 65, 75, 85 $3,500
QN900A series 8K 65, 75, 85 $5,000

Samsung's incredibly expensive MicroLED and lifestyle-friendly The Frame and Sero TVs steal the headlines, but its bread and butter are its QLED sets. New for 2021 the best Samsung QLED models are called Neo QLED and feature a new Mini-LED based, full-array local dimming backlight array that boosts brightness and provides more precise light control. 

Samsung made its LEDs 40 times smaller than conventional LED units, allowing more to be packed into the TV, and even added a "quantum matrix" to help direct the LED light more accurately. The result, according to the company, is improved HDR highlights with minimal blooming (stray illumination that bleeds from bright into dark areas) as well as better shadow detail. Samsung also improved its AI upscaling this year to use multiple neural networks (as opposed to just one in previous years) to tweak image quality on both 4K and 8K models.

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Samsung's Neo QLED models have progressively better specs the more you spend. The company doesn't spell out exactly how many Mini-LEDs or local dimming zones are available on each model but its "Quantum HDR" spec provides a clue. The base QN85A has Quantum HDR 24, the QN95A and QN800A get Quantum HDR 32 and the top-of-the-line QN900A boasts Quantum HDR 48. Meanwhile the two 8K sets have the superior "quantum matrix pro," so their backlight precision might trump those of the 4K models.

Read more: 8K TV: What you need to know

Whether these improvements will allow the Neo QLED TVs to beat other Mini-LED-equipped TVs like the TCL 6-Series, let alone LG's OLED models, is an open question until I can review one. I'm particularly curious about the QN85A, the successor to the Q80T I liked last year.

Design is also a differentiator on the Neo LED TVs. The 8K models have so-called "Infinity One" design, with an ultraslim profile when seen from the side, while the Q900A also gets the vanishingly thin bezel, called "Infinity Screen," that debuted last year.

Samsung's new QLED TVs offer a few other new features for 2021.

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The backside of Samsung's new TV remote has a solar cell that lets the battery recharge using interior light.

Samsung

Rechargeable remote with solar cell: In a nod to sustainability, all of Samsung's Neo QLED TVs get a remote that uses rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones, which Samsung says could save 20 million AAA batteries every year. In addition to a USB-C port, the clicker can be charged via a solar cell on the back, which even works with indoor lighting.

Read more: Samsung TV remotes are solar-powered for 2021 Neo QLED models

Game status display and ultrawide aspect ratio: Samsung's new TVs continue to support the next-generation gaming features of PS5 and Xbox Series X, including 4K/120 fps input and VRR, but new for this year you can long-press on the play/pause button of the remote to call up a special status screen, dubbed Game Bar, that clearly indicates which of those features are currently active. You can also play the game in 21:9 or even 32:9 aspect ratios, with black bars filling in the remainder of the TVs' 16:9 screen.

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The new Game Bar displays game input info.

Drew Evans/CNET

Samsung health with camera-based Smart Trainer: Samsung's health app debuted on its TVs in 2020, and this year it's expanding to offer guided personal training. Plug in an optional webcam (Samsung has a list of recommended cameras, all by Logitech) and the app will track your exercises and give you coaching complete with celebrity personal trainers. Jillian Michaels is the first of six to provide workout content. The smart trainer feature is available on 2021 Q70A TVs and above.

Read more: Samsung TVs aid your workout with camera-based, AI-powered smart trainer

Google Duo video chat: Using an optional webcam again, the Duo app on Samsung TVs allows up to 12 others to join the chat. And if you don't have a camera plugged in you can screen mirror Duo on your phone to the TV and use its camera. It's not Google's more popular Meet software, but at least it's web chat on the big screen.

Google Assistant, Alexa and Bixby voice built-in: Last year Samsung TVs also offered all three voice assistants available via the remote, which included both push-to-talk and hands-free access. In 2021 the company's remotes are push-to-talk only and far-field hands-free mics, which respond to wake words like "Alexa" and "Hey, Google," are built into the Q70A and higher TVs. As always you can disable the mics entirely.

Microsoft cloud services, wireless Dex: Connect an optional keyboard and mouse to create or edit Microsoft 365 documents, and even work on two simultaneously on the big screen. Samsung is also expanding the capabilities of its Dex feature, available on Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets, to connect wirelessly.