After Samsung unveiled its new range of SUHD TVs at CES this week, I finally figured out what the S is for: it's Samsung's by-letter for the very first series of trendy, flagship TVs, to slot in with the range of S-branded tablets and phones. We went eyes-on with the absurdly huge 88-inch model, and it's both eye-popping, and a little curious at the same time.
The pitch around the new SUHD TVs is that they produce better and more vivid colour than LCD/LED and deep blacks to rival those pumped out by gorgeous yet expensive OLED sets. Samsung has done a bit of science and packed the new SUHD range with Quantum Dot technology: nano-scale crystals that absorb light and re-emit it at a different, very specific, wavelength. They basically do what the hydrocarbon semiconductors in an OLED set do but without all the fancy organic chemistry. They could hold the key to creating plasma-quality colour saturation that never fades, brighter panels with increased contrast, and wider gamuts—all for not much more than today's LCD sets.
Samsung handed the TV components over to its medical business which is, no joke, working on nanobots designed to find cancer cells inside the bloodstream and fight infection, and asked them to go down into microscopic detail on how to make the TVs better. Et voila: quantum dot.
We took a look at the 85-inch S9500 flagship SUHD TV, and it certainly lives up to the hype.
It produces some breathtakingly high-quality images, with colours and contrast that genuinely can hold a candle to OLED technology.
It will be interesting to get an OLED TV and an SUHD TV next to each other in the lab later on in the year for us, mostly to compare the black level. Because OLED pixels don't need to be backlit like LCD LED TVs, parts of the panel are actually off in order to display deep blacks. That's a slam dunk for OLED, because it means nothing can get darker.
The thing about OLED, however, is that it's difficult to make, and notoriously expensive. Samsung with the SUHD has figured out a way to make a product that's comparable for a price that's far less than you'd ever pay for an OLED set.
And because it's so easy to manufacture, Samsung is making units ranging from 48-inches right through to 88-inches. It's a higher yield product with less waste in the construction process.
Furthermore, Samsung is introducing more smarts into its SUHD products over and above the Quantum Dot technology.
Film studios are now working with Samsung as part of the UHD Alliance to display colour better on TVs. Studios come to Samsung and say what they want their movies to look like, and colourists work to build a profile specific to the TVs themselves so images are displayed as the artist actually intended.
The standard-definition, high-definition and full high-definition upscaler has also been upgraded in the new model for better images from different sources. Plus, it's curved. If you're into that.
All in all, it looks like Samsung has found a clever and more affordable way to stick it to its OLED competitor, and we can't wait to see more.
Andrew Tarantola also contributed to this article.
Luke Hopewell attended CES 2015 as a guest of Samsung Australia.