On Friday, we had the chance to go to Samsung’s showroom to check out their latest “Smart Home” concept powered by, of course, their own products.
Before we start, it is important to note the prices of these Tvs are not comparable in terms of price, with the 8k Tv retailing at around $19,000 SGD while the other is only at about $5,500. Still, this is primarily a display resolution/technology comparison.
Guiding us around the systems and setup today is Mr.Gavin from Samsung’s Consumer Electronic Business division.
Our focus today will be on the main star of the show, Samsung’s 8k QLED Tv (model: QA75Q900R), alongside their own 4k Tv (model: UA75RU7100k) for the sake of comparison. These displays were placed side by side and connected to the same media player so the input content would be identical to each other.
Powering the sound, we have the HW-Q90R; the same top-of-the-line soundbar we’ve covered in the Samsung Forum a couple of months back and still sounds as good as ever.
For our media player, all media is tested using the Xbox one X playing 4k content for viewing.
To replicate the viewing experience, we used a 42mm equivalent focal length on our camera to replicate the FoV we are looking at when sitting at Samsung’s recommended viewing distance for 75” screens (2.3m).
Samsung SmartThings App
Connecting all these IoT devices and services is the SmartThings app available for Android devices. Mentioned during the Samsung Forum as an integrator suite, we saw some of the things that this app can do demonstrated here.
While it skipped my mind to ask at the time, I assume that this would also be available for iOS in the near future.
Here, we got to check it in action as it controls a webcam on the table and the Roomba-like cleaning bot on the floor.
Picture quality is definitely the thing everyone has been looking for; what am I getting if I bought a high-quality display? We had the pleasure to put this though the gauntlet of content and see for ourselves what both low- and high-resolution content would look like in 8k.
We had chosen a variety of shows to roughly indicate the experience we had and here are our impressions:
Gargoyles (low resolution testing) [YouTube]
For old cartoons, high resolution displays (or even wide resolutions) weren’t really a consideration back in the day and most shows from the 80s/90s ran on 480p or 540p to keep the 4:3 display standard.
We tried running Gargoyles on this display and it appears that our camera made it quite a bit better than what we were seeing. From our experience, the content seems to be blotchier and blurrier compared to what we captured on camera and it definitely was a lot less detailed when viewing at such a large resolution.
Both Sal and I agreed this doesn’t really look great and one might be better off viewing this on a smaller display where this is less of an issue.
Parks and Recreation (FHD resolution testing) [YouTube]
I think it is safe to expect that this is the resolution the majority of content are still produced on so we were quite eager to see what this display has to show for in this category. Results this time was much better than Gargoyles; the results were nicely upscaled, skin tones are on point and most importantly, doesn’t feel blurry at all (If Ron Swanson’s beard were any metric for indicating this); I think this should be the targeted resolution for a good viewing experience on an 8k display.
Sal noted however, that the brightness on the lamps in the scene seemed a little off; perhaps this was due to the local-dimming feature on the Tv that automatically adjusts the zones of lighting according to the scene.
Superman Returns (UHD resolution testing) [Blue-ray]
Our viewing experience at the UHD resolution was the most difficult one to judge since this was presented as a side-by-side comparison between both the 8k and 4k display. We ran this through a couple of scenes and in a blind test scenario, it would be quite difficult to tell these 2 displays apart.
From my experience, in terms of picture sharpness, they were mostly identical with the 8k display holding a slight edge in smoothing out the artifacts present in the scene on the skin tones in a low-light situation. The only obvious tell came from the colors, where the QLED technology shines instead of the size of the resolution; Superman’s suit looks more in line with the kind of dark blue colors you would see on a cine-display screen and really shines in producing the colors from low-light blue into the shadows.
Gaming experience hands-on
Hey, this wouldn’t be a tech and gaming-oriented site if we didn’t damn well ask for a chance to demo a game on the 8k Tv. Since there was little to choose from, I had opted to play something that would be very familiar to me: Pillars of Eternity. I was an original backer for this game back in 2012 and have fully completed the game since then on PC; the game already looked pretty great there and I was curious how this would turn out in 8k.
Judging by the looks of it, the game appears to be running in 4k natively on the Xbox one X (although I couldn’t find sources on the internet confirming this to be the case). Due to the nature of the game trying to replicate infinity engine style games ala Baulders Gate, these pre-rendered backgrounds are a good indicator on whether the details are preserved.
Everything looks very crisp from our short hands-on and the fine details are kept when we tried to zoom in to the maximum allowable distance for the game. The backgrounds look as good as ever with no sign of it being blurry due to upscaling and even the fine details in the 3D character models are kept (Look at the hands of those people near the campfire).
Overall, I was extremely pleased with the presentation and I’m sure other games upscaled from 4k would look great as well.
Bixby integration hands-on and Google Assistant testing
Gavin showed us that Google Assistant can also be used to trigger any of the commands that Bixby can do, so Samsung really isn’t forcing their users to only use their assistant platform which is nice to see. Hopefully, this means that other voice platforms are also in the works to be integrated such as Amazon’s Alexa.
For me while I was testing out the voice functions on the remote, it wasn’t 100% accurate in terms of processing what you said but it was good enough to get it within 1 or 2 tries. Thankfully, there is also a built-in autocorrect function that is able to intelligently guess what you just said even if certain words are misinterpreted.
The coolest (and most handy) thing that we got to see is definitely the remote syncing aspect of the app. Here it is demonstrated that you can, as an example, resume watching your content anywhere in the house so long as the device supports the app.
Gavin demonstrated this to us by streaming a nature documentary playing from the Tv straight to the Samsung smart fridge that also has this app installed.
The technology, as I am told, works off streaming the content via your access point. When asked if this would be available for syncing on different devices across different networks, Gavin responded with the fact that due to licencing and legal issues, that wouldn’t be possible; an understandable yet unfortunate reply.
Personally, I would love to see something like this work cross-network so a blue-ray movie for example, could still be played on your phone on the go while you leave the media player running.
Just like we have concluded in our Samsung forum, it remains to be seen if 8k native content will actually profligate itself in the consumer market as the hardware to display them is finally here. Of course, the concept of input = output still applies here: We also need consumer-grade capture devices that can natively capture at such a large resolution so that not only professional production companies are able to do it.
Did we like what we see as a glimpse of the near-future? Absolutely. Personally, I don’t see much difference in picture quality playing current 4k content upscaled to 8k. While the AI upscaling technology does a good job in removing the “blotching” or artifacting caused by interpolation from what I can tell, you really have to grasp at straws at this point to say that picture quality has been improved at the same Tv size without playing 8k content.
What you do get is the superior picture quality in terms of color reproduction; the tones simply look more in-depth and accurate side-by-side and its not something that can be represented by simply oversaturating or increasing the contrast of the scene through post-processing. The colors are stunning and it is unfortunate that my camera doesn’t do it justice; you really have to see it for yourself. I would love to be able to watch a full movie with a home-cinema setup just like that.
If anything, consider this a practical recommendation to buy their 4k QLED Tvs for current content instead.