TVs are getting bigger, so is the price New Zealanders are willing to pay, but the biggest advance in the latest TV technology is…small.
It's the time of the quantum mini LED, something which few people will understand or recognise until they see them in action on Samsung's next-generation 2021 Neo QLED TVs.
Samsung say quantum mini LEDs are game-changing. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are tiny digital light bulbs that use semiconductors to produce light more intense than an incandescent or fluorescent bulb.
The LEDs power the TV's backlighting. Your TV screen is basically two panels: a front glass panel where the image you watch appears – and a rear panel with LED lights. Just like in an old-fashioned slide projector, the LED lights provide backlight to illuminate the image on the panel in front of it.
What Samsung have done – and are so proud that they are adamant the Neo QLED is not an upgrade but a whole new way of watching TV – is shrink their quantum mini LEDs to a 40th of the size of their previous TVs. Not a quarter or even half smaller…but a 40th of the original size.
This reduction in size – almost microscopic – means a higher density of LEDs can be packed into a screen, boosting contrast between bright and dark areas and producing sharper pictures. Not only do they make the overall picture brighter and the delineation between light and dark much sharper, they also allow for a slimmer panel, with the Neo QLED 8K set's 15mm breadth an attractive alternative to its bulky cousins when mounted on the wall or presented on a stand.
The benefits are most obvious if you view something set in a beautiful landscape, such as My Octopus Teacher, much of which was shot underwater. That's what Samsung's Head of Marketing Consumer Electronics Adam McElroy did recently, when he watched the Oscar-winning documentary on the Samsung Neo QLED 8K set.
"It was a pretty powerful demonstration of the range of colour the Neo QLED offers, and the contrast between bright and dark areas of the screen," he says of the new range, which also comes in a 4K version.
Samsung's research shows that the average size of TV screens in New Zealand is growing and that 91 per cent of viewers want their next TV to be same size or bigger (with 36 per cent wanting bigger or much bigger). The 55-inch TV, the most popular size in 2019, has almost halved in terms of desirability, with buyers' focus shifting to bigger sets (60-, 65-, 75- and 82-inch) in 2021.
Samsung released its first QLED TV in 2017, making incremental improvements to the range each year, but McElroy says the 2021 iteration is a seismic leap forward. It's also the result of the surge in popularity for home entertainment systems post-lockdown, as consumers look to divert international travel budgets to upgrading their immediate environment.
Those after the highest resolution possible needn't wait until streaming services' imminent move to 8K broadcasts (or even for the Tokyo Olympics, set to broadcast live in 8K). Samsung's 8K Neo QLED TV, with four times as many pixels as the 4K, will automatically populate those additional pixels to increase the resolution.
"When TVs get larger – and the average TV size is now at 55 inches in New Zealand – the pixels are more widely dispersed across the screen," McElroy says. "They become more apparent on a very large screen." Bump up the number of pixels and: "You get a really high-quality resolution viewing experience regardless of the size of the screen."
TV prices have dropped markedly as technology has moved at a rapid pace – but New Zealanders' spend on home entertainment products has been trending up for the past five to six years. Since 2020, consumers are splashing out more on their surroundings, home entertainment systems included. Neo QLED 4K models start at just under $4399, while 8K models start at just under $9000.
"People are seeing more value in a TV," says McElroy. "So for an electronics category to increase the average sales price year by year is quite interesting. It shows people are willing to invest more because they feel they're actually getting a richer entertainment experience with the range of streaming movies and TV shows available now.
"We've seen how the TV category has boomed during Covid-19. For many people, TV has been fairly essential when it comes to managing lockdown. Since the first lockdown, the appetite for premium TVs has been invigorated – and we expect that to be sustained."
Add to that the never-ending output of quality content from streaming services – not to mention the next-generation gaming consoles – and there's an even more compelling reason to upgrade your set.
Each of the 2021 QLED models comes with solar-powered remote controls, so no batteries which ultimately end up in landfill. The Neo QLED also offers a special feature for optimising the gaming experience – and a unique sound package which, when the action moves, the sound moves with it whichever way it goes.