The TV market is heating up again as manufacturers jockey for position, hunting for the features that will spur customers to upgrade. OLEDs, quantum dot LCDs, 4K, and HDR are just a few of the new capabilities we’ve seen debut in the past few years, and Samsung thinks it’s hit on a new idea to snare customer interest: Invisible televisions.
Alright, I’ll admit it. Calling them “invisible” is a bit of a stretch, but only a bit. Samsung’s name for this new feature is “Ambient Mode,” and it looks like this:
The feature is elegant in its simplicity. Before you hang the TV, you take a picture of the wall it’s going to sit behind. Then you set that image as the wallpaper of the television. The TV can even insert a digital shadow around the edges of the bezel (you can see the effect above).
You can use the effect to frame art that isn’t behind your television at all, giving you the option to “hang” digital art on what appears to be a decidedly analog piece of drywall. And if your existing decorating scheme favors lines and angles that match the bezels on the TV — an unlikely, but not impossible notion — you could use this feature to mount a TV that really would be invisible to anyone who wasn’t looking closely.
Other new features include an all-in-one “Invisible Connection” cable that combines power and AV into a single cord. It’s not clear what standard the cord uses or whether the cable is user-replaceable, and these kind of solutions can limit your AV choices, potentially making the TV less flexible and useful. The Invisible Connection concept is great if you want a TV that nearly vanishes when you aren’t paying attention to it, but research whether it limits your options before buying in.
Two TVs in the family, the Q8F and Q9F, also use Direct Full Array to provide local backlight dimming and brightening as needed. This option has been added to LCDs in recent years to improve image quality when compared to options like OLEDs, and while it’s not the same as using organic LEDs, it does tend to improve LCD image quality.
The new 2018 televisions also feature Samsung’s quantum dot technology (hence the QLED moniker), though you will have to put up with Bixby as your “smart” TV option. Thankfully, there’s no dedicated Bixby button on the TV that we’re aware of, and there’s no need to ruin a perfectly good television by connecting it to the internet in the first place.
Samsung didn’t give prices on the specific models, but it did include a breakdown of which features will debut on which models. The features we’ve been talking about today are confined to the QLED models, which range from 49 to 88 inches, but even the lower-end UHD models are still capable of UHD and 4K:
QLED TV: Models in the 2018 QLED TV lineup include the Q9F (65 to 88 inches), Q8F (55 to 75 inches), Q7C (55 to 65 inches), Q7F (55 to 75 inches), and Q6F (49 to 82 inches). The QLED TVs feature enhanced color and contrast, HDR10+ compatibility, Ambient Mode, and Smart TV enhancements with Bixby Voice, One Remote Control, and the One Invisible Connection.
Premium UHD: Models in the 2018 Premium UHD TV lineup include the NU8500 and NU8000. The Premium UHD TVs include dynamic crystal color, HDR10+ compatibility, clean cable solutions, and Smart TV enhancements with Bixby Voice and One Remote Control.
UHD: Models in the 2018 UHD TV lineup include NU7100 (4o to 75 inches) and NU7300 (55 to 65 inches). These UHD TVs include 4K UHD and HDR support, clean cable solutions, a slim design, and Smart TV capabilities.
Ambient Mode seems like a gimmick, but if it works well I can see it catching on. One of the downsides to having a TV with a diagonal roughly as long as André the Giant was tall is the way you sacrifice the entire wall. Being able to put some virtual decorations up would help recapture that space when the TV isn’t in use, though there’d be a power consumption cost for the privilege. Still, if it catches on, we can expect to see more manufacturers taking similar steps.