Samsung’s First Look event, held two days ahead of CES, has become something of a ritual for TV reviewers and tech journalists the world over. It’s an exclusive gala where Samsung displays its efforts to maintain its spot as the number one TV brand in North America. While this sort of event is often unapologetically self-aggrandizing, this year Samsung didn’t just beat its chest about innovation, it showed it off in appropriately spectacular fashion. Headlining the event was a 146-inch MicroLED TV — a behemoth that stole the show with sheer size and brilliance — but peppering the event center was a laundry list of new technology for Samsung TV in 2018. We interviewed Dave Das, senior vice president of Samsung Consumer Electronics Marketing, to learn more.
MicroLED: The display of the future?
Das isn’t saying MicroLED is a direct swipe at OLED, but he isn’t not saying that, either. Given the company has been steadfast in its refusal to produce a commercial organic-based display technology, it’s not a stretch to see this new kind of emissive display as Samsung’s play to up the ante in displays that don’t use an LCD panel.
We see it as a smart plan. While OLED TVs are universally hailed by professional reviewers as the best-performing TVs on the market today, OLED panels remain difficult and expensive to produce (though LG has done a great job of managing production as the lone producer of OLED TV panels). OLED TVs don’t get quite as bright as LCD/LED TVs either — though true black helps make up for that fact in the contrast department. Now that Samsung knows people love true black levels and the exceptionally sharp lines afforded by OLED, it makes sense the company would want to invest in a technology that has all the benefits of OLED and none of the drawbacks.
Wouldn’t ya know? That’s how Samsung TV is positioning MicroLED.
The 146-inch MicroLED on display is not ready to be sold, and, let’s face it, it’s too big for most folks’ homes. But the technology has legs, and this proof of concept which should arrive in 2018 as something consumers can purchase will start the process of trickle-down technology, potentially positioning MicroLED as the next big thing in TV.
8K … because big TVs
Manufacturers know 8K is going to be a tough sell. Consumers are still getting used to 4K, and they’re only now able to get a reasonable amount of 4K content on their new TVs from streaming services,while broadcast, cable, and satellite operators continue to lag behind.
As Das explains in our interview, the point of bringing 8K to market during an absence of content comes down to the benefit that higher pixel density brings to especially large TVs. During this segment of the interview, we show in our video the comparison demonstration Samsung set up with an 85-inch 8K and 85-inch 4K TV each upscaling the same SD, 720P, 1080P, and 4K content. We found it a convincing argument in favor of 8K at 85-inches, but wonder how many TV 85-inch-plus TVs we will see sold in the coming two years.
A better TV experience, soup to nuts
Sasmung continues to make its TVs smarter and easier to use. After introducing a new fiber-optic signal cable that carries full-resolution video and audio over a cable barely larger than fishing line and a system that allows for a nearly flush-mounted TV or TV/soundbar combination, Samsung turned to the inside of its TVs to make them easier to use.
New Samsung TV owners will be able to use a new Galaxy smartphone or its Android/iOS SmartThings app to quickly set up their televisions. The TV will poach Wi-Fi setup information from the users’ phone and automatically connect. The system will then allow users to have the TV automatically sign into popular apps like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu without having to re-enter usernames and passwords.
A TV built with gamers in mind
Das also explains a new partnership with Microsoft that has born fruit in the form of a TV experience optimized for gamers. Once connected to an Xbox One X, select Samsung TVs will automatically detect the console and the game being played, then enter a gaming mode created to optimize 4K HDR gaming while reducing lag. Dave hints at more to come, as well.
All in all, it appears Samsung is set to deliver some strongly competitive devices to market in 2018, and we look forward to reviewing them for you here at Digital Trends. As always, follow all of our CES coverage, and be sure to visit our YouTube channel to catch live broadcasts from the show.
- Samsung’s 146-inch MicroLED is an assault on OLED. Just don’t get too close
- From TV tech to smart homes, Samsung’s Scott Cohen takes our questions
- Sony’s blinding 85-inch 8K TV made us squint, while its OLED made us smile
- Hands on with LG 88-inch 8K OLED and more crazy TVs from CES 2018
- Best TVs from CES 2018