It was the perfect example of a lost opportunity, really: with LG’s announced TV lineup for 2024 being rather underwhelming and Sony not announcing any new TVs at CES 2024, everyone was curious to see what Samsung would bring to the table. It was, unfortunately, not much: just the natural evolution of the company’s current LED/LCD and OLED models with some AI sprinkled on top – the recurring theme of this year’s show, it seems. Definitely a lost opportunity, then, even if that does not mean Samsung won’t be competitive in the TV space this year. Merely that it won’t be awfully original… again.
Not taking advantage of a rare opportunity to impress is one thing, though. Confusing a lot of people is quite another and, unfortunately, Samsung managed to do that too. Here’s what the company announced, what remains unclear and what we’ll just have to wait for the company’s new TVs to launch in order to establish with any certainty.
QD-OLED 3rd Generation, LG OLED panels, OLED Glare Free
Samsung seems determined to invest even more in OLED this year, if the three different ranges of OLED TVs it will be offering are any indication: there’s the flagship S95D line, the step-down S90D line and the more affordable S85D line. The S95D is built around Samsung Display’s third generation QD-OLED panels, but this is where things start to become confusing: Samsung Display claims that these panels can reach 3000 nits of brightness, which is quite a bit higher than what last year’s second generation QD-OLED panels could manage… while Samsung Electronics only claims a 20% increase in brightness compared to the S95C.
The truth is most probably closer to Samsung Electronics’ claims and, what’s more, even that 20% uplift in brightness might not mean all that much in practice: the S95C claimed more than 2000 nits of peak brightness last year, but in a color-accurate picture mode like FilmMaker – the one people interested in getting such a flagship TV will be using – that number did not exceed 1500 nits. If the same stands true for the S95D, then that 20% uplift in brightness is more like 15%, which would be almost imperceptible to most viewers in most real-life content. Nothing to write home about, then: an incremental update if there ever was one.
Taking a look at the available sizes of the S90D range causes even more confusion. The 55-, 65-, and 77-inch models are supposedly built around Samsung Display’s QD-OLED panels too (no QD-OLED 83-incher this year like LG’s 83-inch MLA-OLED), but there are also 42-, 48- and 83-inch models… which are built around LG’s WOLED panels, not QD-OLED. Samsung will be promoting every model in the S90D range as “OLED”, though, which – for TV sets clearly not of the same potential in terms of picture quality – is just plain wrong. There’s some concern that the 55-, 65- and 77-inch S90Ds may not always use QD-OLED panels but to also use WOLED ones from time to time depending on availability and market dynamics.
It’s highly likely that the LG OLED panels used by those three S90D models are not MLA-OLED ones – these are reserved for premium TVs only, even by LG itself – but rather ordinary OLED ones not accompanied by LG’s “evo” tech, so the potential difference in picture quality will be even greater. It’s worth noting that Samsung did the same thing – mixing different display technologies in the same TV range – on a much smaller scale last year and was heavily criticized for that move, yet it chose to do it again this year anyway. So it’s basically up to consumers to know what kind of OLED TV they’ll be buying when getting an S90D, which is hardly ideal.
The S95D and the S90D still differ in terms of design (the former comes with the One Connect external box while the latter doesn’t) and overall brightness (as was the case with last year’s S95C and S90C). Not much was confirmed about the S85D range, but those models will obviously use LG OLED panels of the mainstream variety, they will be offering even lower brightness and will most probably not be as nicely built, all in an effort to be as affordable as possible.
One notable new feature only offered on the S95D range is a specially-developed anti-glare filter the company calls “OLED Glare Free”. Samsung has done a better job than most at battling screen reflections and screen glare in the past, so it makes sense that it’s the first one to develop such a coating specifically for QD-OLED. The results are impressive, at least based on photos and videos published by various media outlets so far: “OLED Glare Free” does seem to work nicely as – in the setup exhibited by Samsung – the S95D offered a visibly more “matte” image when exposed to the same light sources as another (unnamed) “conventional OLED TV”. There’s some concern, though, that this filter may also affect black levels, however slightly, hurting contrast in the process, so we’ll just have to wait and see about that when the S95D is released.
More MicroLED, transparent MicroLED, 8K still a thing
In what must surely qualify as a pattern by now, Samsung also unveiled new MicroLED screens at this year’s CES – but the company claims that they will actually be widely available this time around. They’ll be offered in 76-, 89-, 101-, 114- and 140-inch variants and, while looking amazing obviously, they are expected to be so expensive that “beyond premium” is something of an understatement. If retail prices are in the same ballpark as the ones recommended by Samsung in 2023, then the 114-inch model will cost more than $150.000, which is way “beyond premium”.
It used to be that one of the major selling points of these MicroLED screens (besides picture quality) was their ability to scale in sizes well beyond 85 inches – but a lot has changed recently in that particular part of the market, as colossal TVs can be had for much less than before. The price difference between a huge MicroLED TV, in other words, and a plain LCD one of the same diagonal will be even more pronounced now. MicroLED just has to make it to market in a meaningful way at some point, though, even if it’s just for rich people to start. Here’s hope that 2024 will be the year.
Samsung also remains very much committed to 8K, despite this controversial tech’s failure to excite consumers thus far. The company will once again offer both 4K and 8K Neo QLED models – LED/LCD MiniLED TVs using quantum dots to boost color volume – but the 8K ranges will make use of Samsung’s most powerful image processor to date, the NQ8 AI Gen 3, promising high picture quality no matter what the source. This is obviously important, since 8K content is still scarce, and Samsung seems to have put in the work in order to make sure that all low-resolution material (even standard definition over-the-air programming) is displayed in a pleasing, even manner.
There’s only so much that “AI” can do with so little visual information to work with, of course – and 8K TVs facing an uphill battle isn’t just down to 8K content unavailability – but Samsung seems determined to remove as many obstacles standing between 8K and commercial success as humanly possible in 2024.
Pricing and availability
In line with what’s happening with practically every TV manufacturer these days when it comes to CES, Samsung did not announce recommended retail prices or release dates for any of its new models. This information is expected to come around March and the first 2024 Samsung TVs should start appearing around April. If 2023 was any indication, various QLED 4K models, as well as the company’s flagship QD-OLED model, will be released first, while 8K models and more affordable QD-OLED models should follow over the next weeks and months.
It will be interesting to see how aggressive Samsung intends to be with the pricing of these 2024 TV lines – especially when it comes to hi-end models, since Chinese manufacturers are now offering premium-class models too at lower prices – so yours truly will be sure to report on that when the time comes.