Freesync and 120 Hz 4K UHD via HDMI for new Samsung TVs

Samsung’s QLED Q-series for 2019 promises lower latencies, automatic gaming modes and even 4K UHD in 120 Hz.

Samsung invested in the gaming market already last year,  with features such as running a 120 Hz signal in 1080p and 1440p. Adaptive synchronization with both HDMI Variable Refresh Rate, VRR, and AMD Freesync over HDMI was also added in 2018 via new TV firmware. The gaming focus continues in the 2019 models. Adaptive synchronization is possible via HDMI VRR or AMD Freesync HDMI in the range 48-120 Hz. The latter makes it possible to obtain adaptive synchronization via HDMI from a gaming PC with an AMD graphics card.

Samsung’s 2019 Q series highlights

  • HDMI VRR and Freesync via HDMI in 48-120 Hz
  • 1080p and 1440p @ 120 Hz via HDMI
  • Low latency in gaming mode: 13.5 ms (2018 models: 15.4 ms)
  • Adaptive Sync over HDMI using AMD-@
  • 4K@120 Hz via HDMI 2.1 possible with models Q950R and Q90R
  • ALLM, automatic gaming mode for consoles
  • Improved viewing angles in models Q950R, Q90R, Q85R and Q80

In both the 2018 and 2019 models, gaming mode is automatically activated via ALLM, Auto Low Latency Mode, a function from the HDMI 2.1 specification. This should work with current consoles from all manufacturers. The idea of  ALLM is that the game mode is only activated when the user plays games using a gaming console and not when the user uses the console for other things, such as streaming movies. Automatic gaming mode will however not work with PCs out of the box. The HDMI 2.1 functions ALLM and VRR can be implemented with existing HDMI equipment, but only if the graphics card manufacturer updates the driver software for graphics cards to support the feature.

4K at 120 Hz and 8K at 60 Hz over HDMI 2.1

4K/120 Hz is possible via HDMI 2.1 for the two top QLED models Q950R and Q90R. The 8K model Q950R should also be able to handle a 8K/60 Hz signal. This will also be available for the 2018 model in the Q900R series by allowing the owners to replace their One Connect box, the box that collects electronics and connections.

However, there are no current sources to use with 4K / 120 Hz via HDMI 2.1, at a 48 Gbps bandwidth. From a computer you can reach 4K/120 Hz via Displayport and HBR3 only, so for now it’s a feature for the future. It will be available as soon as graphics cards are launched that follow the HDMI 2.1 specification. Neither AMD, Nvidia nor Intel have confirmed anything about new GPUs that can handle HDMI 2.1 bandwidth.

Other new features

Another change for 2019 is that the panels in the Q series will maintain their contrast ratio and color reproduction at sharper viewing angles than the 2018 models. Samsung calls this Ultra Viewing Angle, which is included in the Q950R, Q90R, Q85R and Q80R.

The improvement is based on a new layer inside the LCD panel that reduces unwanted scattering of the light through the LCD layer. The light is more collected, collimated, before it reaches the actual LCD layer.

Direct Full Array is yet another Samsung name for zoned backlight. Samsung does not go into the exact scope of the number of zones in its documentation. Observations indicate that Direct Full Array accounts for fewer than 100 zones and the Direct Full Array Elite version for nearly 500 zones.

Prices have not yet been announced, but they are likely to be high initially.  Launch time is late March or April 2019.