I've been skeptical about 8K, but I'm testing one of Samsung's new 8K mini-LED TVs and I'm starting to believe

 Samsung QN800D with cliffs on screen .
Samsung QN800D with cliffs on screen .

8K TVs have been slow to gain traction due to the lack of 8K media (barring a few compressed 8K videos on YouTube, there isn’t much available) and their high price points. It’s fair to say you’ll be paying thousands more for an 8K TV than a 4K TV of the same screen size and type.

Some brands that have flown the 8K flag – LG, Sony, TCL, Hisense – have pulled back on releasing 8K TVs or abandoned them entirely after finding that sales didn’t match the investment. We asked at the end of 2023 just what happened to 8K TVs, as they were supposed to be the next big thing.

One brand that continues to fly the 8K flag is Samsung, which makes the best 8K TVs available. And while still pricey, they are less expensive than the competition. As an example, LG’s flagship 8K OLED for 2023, the Z3, was launched for $9,999 / £14,999 / AU$15,999, whereas Samsung’s flagship 8K mini-LED, the Samsung QN900C, launched for $6,299 / £6,299 / AU$8,999. Those prices have since dropped, but there is still a gap of thousands between them.

I have recently been testing Samsung’s mid-range 8K mini-LED TV, the QN800D, a model that sits below the Samsung QN900D, a model we loved and rated five stars in our review, I went into testing with skepticism about 8K TVs. However, after spending some time with the QN800D, 8K is starting to win me over.

Detail, accuracy and upscaling

Samsung QN800D with frog on screen
Samsung QN800D with frog on screen

Watching with the QN800D, the picture detail is front and center. Any source has a crisp, clean look with exceptional textures – even intricate details such as stitching on clothes and blemishes on skin can be clearly seen. When watching The Batman, on a close-up shot of Batman’s face, I noticed a faint trace of stubble that I’d not seen on any other TV.

A lot of this comes down to AI. The QN800D is equipped with Samsung’s NQ8 Gen 2 AI Processor, which amongst a wealth of AI enhancements comes with two critical AI features: Real Depth Enhancer Pro and 8K AI upscaling.

Real Depth Enhancer Pro is also featured in the NQ4 Gen 2 AI processor found in the Samsung S95D OLED. That TV also blew me away with its impeccable detail, so it's no surprise that this feature is working magic on the QN800D as well.

But it’s 8K AI upscaling that really sets the QN800D apart. The 4K Blu-ray discs I viewed were taken to an entirely new level, not only with enhanced textures but also bold, bright colors and rich contrast that added depth and sharpness to any 4K image.

Demo footage on the Spears & Munsil UHD Benchmark 4K Blu-ray, a staple for TV testing, showcased the QN800D’s exceptional range. Potentially blinding whites in snowy landscapes were expertly handled, a field of red flowers was vibrant without being overwhelming, and close-up shots of animals including owls and lizards looked so realistic you would want to reach out and touch them. This was all due to Samsung’s 8K upscaling.

Samsung QN800D with geyser on screen
Samsung QN800D with geyser on screen

It wasn’t just with 4K media. Watching HD and lower-resolution broadcast TV, the often soft textures were vastly improved and given a much cleaner appearance – something not easy to do on a 65-inch screen.

The QN800D seemed to add that little extra to the picture even with games, which often look good across TVs thanks to the power of today’s consoles and PCs. Playing Battlefield V on Xbox Series X, every detail from the surrounding rocky terrain to the rifle’s scope had an almost 3D-like quality in the graphically intense conflicts.

Final thoughts

Am I saying that 8K TVs are a must-have for anyone? No. Despite an exceptional picture, there is still a matter of price, with Samsung’s 8K TVs costing significantly more than both its 4K mini-LED and OLED models and its rivals’ flagship 4K OLED TVs. Even giant 98-inch mini-LED TVs from TCL and Hisense can be a better deal.

But, whereas before I thought 8K TVs were all but dead in the water, with Samsung seemingly alone in flying the 8K flag, now I understand. The QN800D has shown me that there is something to be said for 8K upscaling when it’s done right – it adds an entirely new layer to 4K, providing a new perspective on movies I’ve seen countless times.

An 8K TV will always be more expensive than a 4K TV due to manufacturing costs. But if prices can be reduced, 8K TVs may still have a bright future. I for one have become an 8K believer.

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