Review: Samsung's 8K Neo QLED television delivers near perfection - but at a price

The television and soundbar could be a modern art sculpture - but can it do what it needs to do as a telly?
The television could be a modern art sculpture - but does it work as an actual telly? Photo credit: Supplied

My partner and I have been using a Samsung 55-inch television (Q7FNA) for the last 18 months or so and, a few minor things aside, have found it an excellent and justified purchase.

Thanks to the included apps we are able to access all the streaming services we use on a regular basis and when gaming I've been impressed by the 4K picture quality and upscaling.

But technology moves quickly and when given the opportunity to try one of the new Samsung 8K Neo QLEDs and soundbar, I jumped at the chance, dreaming of an experience that made my jaw drop.

My partner and I used the QN900A 65-inch television and Q950A soundbar for a month and here are my thoughts.

The good

There's no getting around just how amazing this television looks - and it doesn't matter if it's switched on or off.

On, and the colours are mesmerising. Off, it perches like some kind of modern art sculpture begging for deep analysis of its impact on the human condition.

The infinity screen means no bezels around the sides and top of the viewable area, adding to the futuristic feel. Throw in the new remote which contains a small solar panel and can be charged using both indoor and outdoor light and I'm already feeling like I should be starring in a live-action remake of Futurama.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I am genuinely impressed with the attention to the small details, even over my new-ish television.

Samsung remote
Photo credit: Supplied

The One Connect box that manages the HDMI and ethernet cables has changed shape and reduced in bulk and now hides in a special slot behind the television. The physical act of connecting it all together, soundbar included, is virtually effortless.

I'll get to the setup when the television first turned on in a moment, but once Netflix, Disney Plus and Prime Video are installed and the Mac Mini that powers our digital library is connected, it's time to see just how good this thing is at its main job.

With a 1000Mbps fibre connection hard-wired to the television, the streaming quality should be at the top of the range and both Netflix and Disney Plus look as good as they possibly could here.

Neither are offering 8K streaming, of course, so you're relying on the AI upscaling while we wait for that side of technology to catch up - but the picture is crystal clear and the colours are simply gorgeous.

We try a couple of Pixar classics - Coco, of course, and Soul - and it's like being enveloped in new worlds. My partner, who has never shown any interest in what size, shape, manufacturer or resolution of our television is, is suddenly smitten.

And so it continues for the month. Movies are watched and loved - The Matrix's green and black colours were a stand-out in UltraHD and the resolution is so good that some of the dodgier special effects in favourite films suddenly stand out a lot more. That's hardly the fault of the television, of course.

After work conversations are suddenly punctuated by discussions of just how impressive the sound is, so much so that we start to worry the neighbours might complain.

I even got a text message during the day that my partner had turned off the television because she heard a roar of thunder so loud it shook her and she didn't know there was a storm raging outside. Puzzled by the silence, it took her a few seconds to realise it was just Thor on Disney Plus.

Cue another discussion about how amazing it was she could hear Mjolnir flying all around the room courtesy of the soundbar's speakers.

For gaming it might have been even more impressive. With up to 4K 120Hz, my Xbox Series X games played like a dream. I spent hours just driving around in Forza Horizon 4, mouth agape.

For someone who grew up loading games from literal tapes it's just ridiculous to witness how far we've come.

Samsung television
Photo credit: Supplied

Sure, I could bore you with further details like Quantum Mini LEDs, 16 neural networks, Quantum HDR 64X, 33 million pixels, a billion shades of colour and more - and as impressive as all of that sounds only two things matter - does it look and sound good?

The answer is an overwhelming yes. From every angle and whether the soundbar is on or off, it does everything you expect brilliantly.

The bad

Unsurprisingly, given my effusive praise above, there is nothing inherently bad about the television. And nor should there be for a price this high.

But there were a couple of annoyances - and one potential on the horizon.

When using the Mac Mini there were random occasions when both the sound and image would drop completely for a second or two before reappearing. It doesn't happen on the current television so the answer presumably lies deep in the settings menus somewhere. And therein lies the bigger annoyance.

Smart TVs have, generally, been a great addition to our increasingly smart homes. But it really feels like you need a degree to understand it all and to pick the correct settings for the correct content. 

There's definitely a big part of me that misses just plugging in a television, switching it on and choosing the channel. But that's not the world we live in anymore.

Samsung television
Photo credit: Supplied

We live in a world of software updates, geo-fenced apps, as many picture settings as I've had expensive flat whites in Auckland and user agreements. Yes, user agreements... for a television.

It took almost as long to set up once switched on as it did to physically put it all together. Samsung accounts, connections to Alexa, typing long passwords on a remote control, ordering the apps logically for us on the home screen - it was a depressing glimpse into the downsides of technology.

There is also one remaining question and that's whether the adverts that suddenly appeared in the menu on our current television after a few months of usage are going to do the same with this one.

If I'm going to spend a substantial amount of cash on something like a television, I don't want to be exposed to intrusive and unwanted ads, even if I probably accepted them in some terms and conditions somewhere during setup.

I wasn't aware this was even a thing until it happened, yet a cursory internet search showed that it has caught a lot of people unaware and made many angry.

The verdict

The Samsung QN900A is a phenomenal television and the extra boost to the sound with the Q950A soundbar meant we had experienced nothing like this outside of a cinema. Jaw-drop achieved.

But - and it's a big but - this is a luxury purchase for those who are in the market for top-of-the-range and to ensure they are long-term future proofed.

Combined, the television and soundbar are going to set you back around $13,200 for the 65-inch model, depending on available deals. That's a whole lot of cash for an 8K TV when there's almost zero 8K content out there.

And that's an enormous amount to pay to potentially have on-screen adverts pop up a few months down the line. Customers should be incensed if that happens. 

If you've got the disposable income, I doubt you'll regret this purchase. But the technology that powers this television and soundbar will get cheaper over time so if you can wait for your own jaw-dropping moment then I'd suggest you do so.

Or get a cheaper 4K Neo QLED, which will do most of what this one does for a much lower price.

Newshub was supplied with a 2021 Neo QLED 8K QN900A television and a Q950A soundbar for this review.