Samsung in 2018 is all about QLED, but where is the hype coming from? Samsung right now has the brightest panels on the entire market. We are talking about TVs that peak at double the brightness of the best and most expensive OLED sets available. That’s a strong advantage, especially because OLEDs come with the risk of burn-in when operated on the highest brightness level for an extended period of time. QLEDs don't burn in, I've personally used one for over a month and Samsung gives a 10-year guarantee against image retention. The company wouldn't do that, if problems were expected.
Samsung has the best processing of any LED on the market; you’ll get a picture that is extremely bright and lights up the surrounding area of your TV while maintaining a very high level of contrast and sharpness. Reds, Blues and Yellows pop way more than with any other technology and HDR content looks stunning: Quantum Break, for example, has a lot of scenes where the face color of protagonists is dialled down, almost leaning towards grey areas while highlighting strong blue eyes. What's also notable: OLEDs tend to dial down every object in a dark scene, because of their coating. In a pitch black scene with just a little bit of moonlighting, the colors of a yellow dress still pop on QLED. All in all, it's a huge advantage for the Samsung sets, and they have some of the best gaming TVs available right now. And if all this is way too expensive for you, here's our guide to the best 4K TVs under $500.
The pros and cons of QLED technology
Pros: The brightest panels on the market at 2000 nits and no more tearing. The perfect technology if you need to beat sunlight coming out of multiple windows or want that wow effect in the night. 2018 QLEDs like the Q9F and Q8C/Q7C get so bright, they can light up a pitch black room which is just incredible. So far not a ton of games leverage the full potential of this, but it's stunning in Netflix productions like Lost in Space. There is a lot to come though, especially Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Red Dead Redemption 2 leverage HDR to the fullest in both emotional situations with close-up and panorama shots. The technology itself is a reinvention of LEDs: Quantum Dots use unique lighting dots between two and ten nanometers that produce different colors depending on their size. That's the reason why red tones are deep red, and an ocean scene can leverage multiple different blue tones without sacrificing picture clarity.
Cons: Seriously good, but not perfect black levels: OLEDs switch off their organic pixels, so black is black. QLEDs are very close, it's tough to note a difference in most scenes, but OLED still wins here. OLED presents the better experience in games that completely play in darkness like Batman: Arkham Knight even though colorful characters like Poison Ivy look more stunning on QLED. You can read our breakdown of the best LG TVs for gaming right here, which includes a discussion of OLED. But really: In a side-by-side comparison of a dimly lit beautiful night scene with a blue horizon in Sea of Thieves on Xbox One X, it's tough to spot a difference between Samsung Q9F and the LG 65C8 - our winner of the LG feature. QLED is also as expensive as OLED.
No tearing, excellent HDR: Is QLED the most future-proof technology?
HDR already was the star of our LG OLED feature, because it allows for a higher dynamic range of luminosity in each image. Creatives can decide scene by scene which color temperature at which brightness level they want to use. Traditionally on any LED set, you can just choose between lower or higher color temperature and brightness level. This results in an unbalanced picture when you play Rise of the Tomb Raider. Because games like movies have a different need for a different color temperature in almost every scene. When Lara is climbing up mountains, HDR highlights the perfect white snow, that on a QLED is displayed at around 1.700 nits. It’s stunning, still feels natural because snow actually has strong sun reflections. When Lara looks down, however, the picture needs to be toned down slowly, so that you feel the extreme height she is operating in. On QLED the TV switches permanently between maximum brightness and darkness to create the right atmosphere per scene. Rockstar loves to highlight fires within pitch black darkness with an orange glow in Red Dead Redemption 2. QLEDs, in general, are optimized for gaming: Samsung uses Variable Refresh Rates (VRR) for their panels which means the TV synchronizes the refresh rate with your console. Traditionally whenever your device outputs fewer frames than your TVs signature refresh rate, there is tearing. Especially on Xbox One X which already uses VRR, we had no tearing problems on QLED in fast shooters like Doom.
The best Samsung 4K-QLED you can buy
Best LED TV of 2018
The Samsung Q9F is a stunning piece of technology. The bezel-free design featuring a black aluminum stand is a luxurious addition to any living room. It's one of the few TVs that don't require external audio, the sound is excellent. The panel peaks at 2000 nits brightness, that lights up a pitch black room in no time. Due to full array local dimming, so the use of 480 separate LEDs, the black levels go almost as deep as on OLED. There is no color bleeding, no light bleeding, no clouding when watching from a center position. If you play from an angle, there is a slight sliver of light touching through on the upper right and left corner. You have to search for it, but it's there. Now let's talk about brightness: boy is this bright. It's stunning. At night, especially, but also during the day. With all windows opened and direct sun breaking into the house, the picture clarity is one the best I've ever experienced on a TV set. If you are ready to spend £3,000/$3500, this is the best QLED and overall LED you can buy.
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Best curved QLED for gamers
Features a more elegant design than the Q9F with a curved display and a brushed aluminum stand with a very long curve that looks stunning in the living room. The Q9F, unfortunately, is just available as a flat panel while curved looks sexier and is slightly more immersive. Especially in games like Titanfall 2, where you are sitting in a titan, and the curved experience gives you the feeling of being encapsulated in its cockpit. If you sit close enough, there is a notable difference in how you enjoy entertainment, both in games and Netflix. The impressive wide color gamut results in vibrant and saturated colors and thanks to the extremely high HDR peak brightness, highlights really pop and shine when compared with SDR content. While the Q7C (as a 2017 model) can't offer the perfect black levels of his 2018 colleague, it's much cheaper and as fast: 24 ms at 4K@60 Hz is perfect for Doom and Overwatch. It's perfect for games and maybe a little more affordable than the absolute top of the range.
The best 55-inch QLED on a budget
Are there true budget QLED options? Yes, at £,800/$1000 the Q6FN isn't excessively pricey but is still a good set. Obviously, it's the entry class peaking at 1.500 nits, which is still brighter than every other LED on the market and the HDR quality is really good for the lower end price class. If you are less of a Netflix aficionado and you play a lot of shooters like Battlefield 5, Call of Duty or Rainbow Six: Siege, you don't need these extreme brightness levels. They are mostly leveraged by single player experiences like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Uncharted 4 or the upcoming Metro Exodus. The Q6 uses edge LEDs, meaning LEDs are not spread over the entire panel but built into the side which means less perfect black levels. This is not the most high-class TV experience you can get, but the most affordable QLED set you can buy. It's a good looking TV, it's fast, color reproduction is excellent, only viewing angles aren't that great. It's more built for long nights with one person next to you, less of a party and sports TV to watch SuperBowl and Champions League with 20 friends. You can also drop down to a 49-inch model, if you really want a great TV but don't quite have the budget for 55-inch.
Should you buy a Samsung QLED in 2018?
OLED versus QLED, that’s almost a question of religion. It’s very tough to say which is better because each has its advantages: OLED, without a doubt, still rocks the deeper blacks, so if you consume a lot of content that plays mostly in the night and that’s important for you - go OLED. QLED beats OLED when it comes to picture clarity, processing and especially color reproduction. Reds, blues, yellows, greens - every color looks stunning on a QLED panel. Especially if you watch Avengers: Infinity War with these screaming, bright colors or play a game like Uncharted 4 or Overwatch, that doesn’t use natural colors but prefers to wow the audience. Samsung also manages to build some of the best audio systems we’ve ever heard into its premium QLEDs. On top of that: it’s safe technology. While OLED requires a decent amount of care to avoid burn-in at high brightness levels, with QLED and Active HDR you can always go 'all-in' on your TV settings without any risk of damage to the set. Panels are also super fast, perfect for our review games like Doom, Overwatch, Titanfall 2 and the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Beta. QLED is here to stay, that’s for sure, and for gamers it has the edge over OLED. Just.