Since there are literally millions of pixels to figure out per second, a lot of processing power is needed to do this well, and it’s a testament to the cutting-edge technologies used in 8K TVs. And don’t forget that along with AI upscaling, the TV still needs to spend quite a bit of time thinking about how to optimise colours, contrast, motion and clarity. To handle the job, the Q900 uses Samsung’s new Quantum AI 8K processor. More on how it performed below.
4K native video on Foxtel iQ4
For our first test we used Foxtel’s 4K channel, which plays native 4K content from the latest Foxtel iQ4 cable box. This comprised of a surf competition with lots of blue ocean waves, whitecaps and surf foam, along with plenty motion. While standing back and watching both the 4K and 8K TVs do their work, we could see that the 8K TV appeared sharper where the 4K Q9 looked ‘softer’. Presumably, this is thanks to the Samsung Quantum 8K AI upscaling, where even the tiny surfers shown from drone footage had more defined edges, and the waves, whitecaps and ripples also had just a little more definition.
Contrast was also noticeably better on the 8K Q900, with more obvious separation between whites, blues and blacks. This is likely thanks to the Q900’s new UltraBright III panel, which uses a new anti-glare layer and higher overall panel brightness.
Netflix 4K and HD video
Nexflix is fast becoming one of the most popular ways Australians view their content. Apart from a reasonable subscription fee and a large library, Netflix can stream in 4K. It also supports enhanced formats for a glorious picture including high dynamic range (HDR), Dolby Vision and even high-definition audio formats like Dolby Atmos.
For our tests, we watched Homecoming: A film by Beyoncé and David Attenborough’s Our Planet.
Homecoming comprised of a lot of on-stage footage, shot in the dark with popping strobes, colours and lots of movement. The quality of the source footage also varied with some in HD as well as lesser quality ‘handheld’ material. We could see again that the Q900’s blacks were inkier, and the colourful on-stage lights were brighter. Both TVs managed to upscale the lesser quality footage with few artefacts.
David Attenborough’s utterly stunning Our Planet series in 4K was an absolute joy to watch on both TVs. The cinematography was breathtaking and captivating on both TVs, however, we could see slightly better contrast in darker scenes on the 8K panel. Again, the 8K’s brighter picture tipped the scales in its favour, and image clarity was just that little bit sharper.
4K Blu-ray movies
To test the maximum possible 4K quality in terms of bitrate, we used a Samsung 4K Blu-ray player. We watched scenes from Pacific Rim: Uprising, and paused to compared extreme close-ups of the actor’s faces. We could see a lot of skin and stubble detail on both TVs but it was surprising how much more skin texture was visible on Q900’s 8K panel.
It appears that the Q900’s superior AI upscaling improves the appearance of detailed content, even though it’s actually not ‘adding’ any more detail. with the images of the two faces shown above, pay particular attention to the edge of the guy’s neckline, which is less jagged on the Q900 – and he has a more defined stubble pattern. To summarise, we’d say that there’s less ‘smoothing’ going on during the upscaling process, so the 8K’s image looks sharper than the 4K panel.
Xbox One X games
Games consoles will be the first real option to watch true 8K content. While both Sony’s PlayStation Pro and Microsoft’s Xbox One X can handle 4K games, next year we’re expecting a new generation of 8K consoles. For now, today’s consoles are a good test of a TV’s ‘responsiveness’, which is an important factor for competitive game-play.
Considering that the 8K panel has 4 times the visual information to process, we didn’t experience any noticeable delay when running Ubisoft’s Far Cry: New Dawn in native 4K at 30 frames per second. The screen’s response was crisp and quick and felt connected to each push of the joystick. (This is after we removed the HDMI splitter, as it was introducing about a second’s delay when displaying a game on two screens at once).
It should also be said that the 8K Q900 now has the ability to auto-detect when you are playing a game and enables the Game Mode setting for you. Game Mode maximises pixel response and reduces latency by switching off some of the more complicated picture enhancement settings.
Also new is the Dynamic Black Equaliser, which can quickly fix common occurrence in games where images are too dark or not dark enough. Then there’s the FreeSync feature that automatically matches the TV’s frame rate (normally 200 Hertz) with the frame rate of the game. This is handy as it reduces the ‘tearing’ effect, and the on-screen motion is smoother.
Standard definition TV
While we’d all love to watch 4K content, the reality is that our terrestrial TV networks are still broadcasting in standard and high definition. To test how SD content looked on the Q900, we watched Chanel 7’s Sunrise (which is still in the dark ages when it comes to broadcast quality) via Foxtel.
Let’s be honest, SD does not look great at the best of times, and certainly wasn’t attractive on our tests. What we can say is that it doesn’t look any worse on the Q900’s 8K panel, and in some cases, the picture was actually a bit sharper.