It’s that time of year again: The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is upon us, and companies like Samsung are announcing the first details of their 2022 product refreshes. That includes Samsung’s flagship TV lineup, which will this year see an iterative step over last year’s models.
The company’s line of popular, high-end Mini LED 4K and 8K TVs (which it calls its “Neo QLED” line) isn’t seeing any radical changes this year. Rather, the line will get small improvements to picture and sound quality.
First off, these TVs now support 4K input at 144 Hz in addition to 120 Hz. Unless you’re using your TV as a computer monitor for high-skill, pro or semi-pro esports on a high-end gaming PC, the bump from 120 Hz support to 144 Hz isn’t going to mean much. And even then, it’s still not significant. Samsung is just looking for a place to one-up competitors on specs any way it can.
Perhaps more notable is the bump from a 12-bit to a 14-bit backlight. Samsung’s press release says the backlight “allows the TV to control its lighting across 16,384 steps, quadrupled from the previous 4,096 steps.”
As is often the case with LED TVs competing in the premium/high-end part of the market, the improvements here are about putting band-aids on the inherent weaknesses of LED tech compared to competing technologies like OLED or Micro LED. To that end, Samsung has introduced “Sharp Adaptive Light Control” in this year’s sets. This AI-driven feature analyzes “lines, shapes, and surfaces to control the shape of light from the Quantum Mini LEDs, enhancing the brightness and accuracy of all shapes on the screen.” The idea may be to reduce stray illumination, which LED TVs are still prone to (albeit far less so since the introduction of Mini LED tech).
There’s also a new eye-comfort viewing mode, and there are top-firing TV speakers, which are key for good Dolby Atmos support. You’ll still probably want to purchase a soundbar or home theater system, though.
Samsung’s “lifestyle” sets like The Frame—which is meant to act as a sort of wall-mounted digital picture or painting frame as much as it does a TV—now offer matte screens that are supposed to look like painted canvases. The Frame is now available in a new 85-inch size, too.
That’s it for the classic LED TVs, but Samsung is still betting big on new Micro LED tech to ultimately overcome OLED. The new Micro LED TVs now have virtually no bezels at all. Yes, you hear that a lot when companies talk about displays, but they’re not kidding around in this case; the TVs have a 99.99 percent screen-to-body ratio.
The Micro LED sets feature a wider color range, 20-bit grayscale depth, and a new 89-inch option in addition to the previously introduced 99- and 110-inch variants. Samsung hasn’t announced pricing for these TVs yet, but they’re sure to be unaffordable for the vast majority of consumers.
Software improvements seem to be as important to Samsung as hardware improvements this year. The new TVs have a redesigned smart hub and home screen and provide access to all the same apps and features as before (AirPlay, Netflix, and so on).
A new “Gaming Hub” allows users to launch both console and streaming games (streaming from Stadia, GeForce Now, and Utomik is supported), manage third-party controller support, and see AI-generated game recommendations. There’s also a “Game Bar,” which is used to tweak gaming-specific picture settings and the like.
A new “Watch Together” feature resembles Apple’s SharePlay or the popular simultaneous viewing and chat features found in some streaming services, like Disney+. And Samsung is adding a built-in interface for browsing, purchasing, and displaying NFTs.
This was just an initial volley of information about the new TV sets in the lead-up to this year’s CES. More details on specs, availability, and pricing are still forthcoming.