A few weeks back Samsung unveiled its 2021 TV line up, including some shiny new 8K offerings. This included an 85-inch monster that I just spent some quality time with.
What does a $14,000 85-inch Samsung Neo 8K get you?
I was honestly shocked by the pricing of Samsung’s new Neo QLED 8K range, particularly the 85-inch.
While $13,999 is not cheap, it’s far less than the 8K offerings we’ve seen from brands across the board over the last couple of years. Just two years ago LG was flogging its first 8K in Australia for $60,000.
But what does a cool $14,000 actually get you, besides a whopping big tellie?
Samsung’s 2021 8K range is powered by a new light source — Quantum Mini LED. In practice this is supposed to mean blacker blacks, improved contrast and brighter colours. It’s basically the company’s answer to OLED.
The Neo 8K also has a new Quantum processor that’s capable of 120Hz refresh rates, which is good news for gamers and action movie fans.
On the design side the Neo 8K is 50 per cent thinner than the previous generation and is almost bezel-free. There is also a redesigned OneConnect Box that is slimmer.
It also comes with a new battery-free remote that is solar powered and built from recycled plastic.
According to Samsung it can charge pretty quickly, and I’m a huge fan of this innovation.
How the Neo 8K it handled games
I hauled not one but two consoles to my overnight stay to test out the Neo 8K – an Xbox Series X and Nintendo Switch.
While I believe it’s important to see how the TV can handle the newest consoles (since they’re made for them) I also wanted to really push the upscaling capabilities. Considering the Switch maxes out at 1080p when docked (720p from the device itself) it was the perfect contender.
Xbox Series X
It’s worth noting first up that thanks to the Xbox Series X using HDMI 2.1, the console is technically capable of outputting an 8K signal. However, it has been disabled by Microsoft due to the lack of game and media content.
That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
I started out with some Destiny 2 with 60Hz refresh rate selected. While the game does offer 120Hz, this is restricted to Crucible, presumably because it doesn’t have to render as much stuff.
Still, Destiny 2 at 60Hz while outputting at native 4K was truly lovely.
The gameplay was butter smooth, even in particularly hectic fights and the colours and graphics absolutely popped.
Importantly, the dark reproduction was also great, which is important in a game like this.
This iPhone video truly does not do the graphics justice. IRL this scene was absolutely gorgeous
The only thing I could really nit pick was there was some slightly bleeding in the logo and ‘skip’ button on the screen. This also extended to some of the borders.
This was more prominent in Cyberpunk 2077 where there was noticeable bleed on the text and symbols as well as some banding around words on the screen.
Now it’s worth putting out here that Cyberpunk 2077 uses drop shadows extensively for the text in the game. So again, you might not notice but it was definitely present.
But besides that, like Destiny 2, Cyberpunk ran like a dream and this is the kind of TV you want to be playing a brand new game on.
So why is the bleeding happening? It’s most likely due to the same issue previous Samsung QLED TVs have had when you compare them to OLED.
Unlike OLED, QLED does not have individual pixels that can be turned on or off as needed. This can result in bleed.
Now this year Samsung upped the ante by adding a Quantum Mini LED layer to its new TVs. This has increased the dimming zones and allows for precise light control, which minimises issues like bleeding. However, it’s still not quite the same as what OLED can achieve.
Still, this is really just a minor gripe. Bleeding on things like subtitles (in games and streamed content) was vastly improved compared to previous generations and some people maybe won’t notice it at all. But it’s my job to look for it.
One thing I was left thinking about here was Microsoft Flight Simulator. The dark horse favourite of 2020 would, in my opinion, be a perfect game to play on the Xbox Series X while paired with this 8K TV.
Considering how beautiful that game is and the TV’s capabilities, I wold be so keen to see how that would go with the yoke and pedal systems attached.
I’ll give you this one for free Samsung. You should absolutely use that game to show this thing off once it comes out on Xbox later this year
While the Xbox Series X performance was absolutely stunning, there was some noticeable quality drop off when it came to the Nintendo Switch.
At first the menu alone looked quite fuzzy, which didn’t seem quite right. I quickly discovered that unlike the Xbox, the system didn’t automatically switch to game mode. Once that was sorted things looked a lot nicer.
But there was still some fuzziness in games like Slay the Spire. It also seemed a little washed out. Some experimentation was able to fix this, but you had to turn off Game Mode to play around with other modes to boost the colours.
I had a similar experience with Mario Kart 8 as well as Monster Hunter. The lack of anti-aliasing in the latter was noticeable, with the soft edgings becoming completely lost.
My take on this is that it’s entirely possible this isn’t so much about the upscaling as it is about the sheer size of this model.
I have a 65-inch Samsung 4K at home. It’s a lovely TV but doesn’t have anywhere near the capabilities of the Neo 8K. And yet, Nintendo Switch games look great on it.
So that leaves me thinking that if you are interested in an 8K television but use the Switch a lot, perhaps opt for a smaller model.
It comes in 75-inch and 65-inch sizes as well, and they would likely be more appropriate for this particular console.
Samsung Neo 8K streaming content
Next up was streaming content, so it was time to fire up Netflix and see what the Neo 8K had to offer.
First up was The Mandalorian because it offers a near-perfect testing environment. In addition to being shot in 4K, it’s a playground of light and dark scenes, action sequences and detailed costumes and props.
The result was truly stunning thanks to the TV’s Quantum HDR 64x colour and contrast, which optimises in real time.
In Dynamic Mode the colours popped out of the screen without seeming oversaturated. I also tested this with other colour popping content such as Bridgerton and David Attenborough’s Our Planet.
Still, this may still be a little too on the ‘filter’ side for some viewers. In that case, you can always opt for Natural or Movie Mode instead.
The blacks were also gorgeous, as were the intricate details woven into the galaxy far, far away.
I also didn’t notice any blooming or much bleed when it came to subtitles, which was a win for the Quantum Mini LED.
And much like Cyberpunk and Destiny 2, the quick moving action sequences were intensely smooth.
While not quite as epic as 4K, lower quality content, like anything shot at 1080p also looked great on the Neo 8K.
Samsung isn’t messing around when it says that its AI processor can handle some heavy lifting. And this is particularly good news if you have a slightly slower internet connection.
The internet at the hotel was patchy, so I got a first hand look at what some shows, like Bridgerton, looked like before it was running at full 4K. It was still fine!
Just to be cheeky I have loaded up a 360p episode of Trigun on YouTube. And while it suffered from massive borders and noticeably downgraded quality, the TV did a pretty damn good job with the abuse I was serving it. It was still more than watchable.
Only one specific shot visibly hurt the eyes, and that was due to a really weird depth of field thing that was clearly an artistic choice by the show. It did not translate well to an 8K, but that wasn’t the TV’s fault.
The only real beef I had with the TV is that glare is apparent when you hit it with direct sunlight or even some down lights, like what I had in the hotel room.
It’s by no means a deal breaker, most TVs have some glare, but it was there. I’d recommend drawing the blinds and turning any particularly bright lights off for movie night.
How was the sound?
The set up used for the preview included Samsung’s new top-of-the-range Q950A ($2,099) with external speakers, which were placed behind the couch. using The TV’s Q Symphony feature, these paired with the TV’s internal speakers.
I found this distributed the sound more evenly than when the feature was turned off. For example, the sound of gun fire in a movie was far too loud without Q Symphony. With it turned on, everything balanced out.
This is most likely also due to the help of Samsung’s Object Tracking Sound, which reacts to object movement on-screen. It also helped that the TV was utilising SpaceFit Sound, which analyses the environment and customises the output for the space the TV is in.
Overall, the sound experience was immersive and almost perfect. It felt like being back in a cinema again.
The only minor issue I had was the sound bar dropping out a few times. However, it’s worth noting that again I was in a hotel situation so it’s possible that this issue could have been Wi-Fi related.
Seeing as this is $14,000 TV I spent a single fleeting night with, I’m not going to tell you to buy it.
But I will say that I was impressed and that again, the price tag is pleasantly surprising, particularly when you consider how future proofed it is.
And while there still is zero native 8K content out there yet, what you can watch right now looks truly spectacular.
I would be more inclined to opt for the 65 or 75-inch versions of the Neo 8K. They’re cheaper (coming in at $10,499 and $7,579) but you get all the same features and a TV that is still pretty damn big.
Also, they would actually fit in my apartment and are a better size to handle both next-gen consoles as well as my older Nintendo Switch.
But regardless of which size you prefer, if you’re an early adopter, you’re probably going to be impressed with the Neo 8K.
It’s certainly one of the more satisfying experiences I’ve had in an inner-city hotel.
Disclosure: the author stayed over night at a hotel for this preview as a guest of Samsung.