Natasha Hatendi/CNN
CNN —  

Samsung is taking QLED TVs to the next level with Neo QLED. It’s all about a slimmer build, better picture quality and a more immersive experience powered by a ton of mini LEDs. And we got to spend some time with four Neo QLED TVs: two 4K and two 8K models. If you’re sold, the 2021 Neo QLED family is up for preorder now.

What exactly is Neo QLED?

The tech making this possible is smaller LEDs — remember that with an LED or QLED TV, there’s still a layer of backlighting that goes through filters to create the image. And with Neo QLED, Samsung is swapping traditional LED backlighting panels for Quantum Mini LEDs. These are smaller LED bulbs with less packaging around them that are 1/40th the height of a normal LED. The result is the ability to pack way more LEDs in, which results in more control and precision for creating an image.

What we saw

Samsung's flagship QN900A Neo QLED
Natasha Hatendi/CNN
Samsung's flagship QN900A Neo QLED

Regardless of 4K or 8K resolution, Neo QLED delivers vibrancy, sharpness and stark contrast levels. The biggest difference we saw during a brief demo was less blooming and increased vibrancy. Blooming, or light leakage, is when a bright spot on a picture leaks out into the surrounding areas. It’s not really an occurrence on OLEDs since each individual pixel creates the picture, but on QLEDs it’s still common. These mini LEDs, though, allow the processor to really control the picture to deliver a more exact image.

We’ve spent extended time with mini LEDs on TCL’s 8, 6 and 5 series — the result was a pretty dramatic increase in quality. Samsung’s approach here is a promising one and we’re eager to spend more time with it. Of course, the story isn’t just with Quantum Mini LEDs, but the new Neo Quantum Processor also plays a big factor. It controls the image while also upscaling content — something that’s still important to take advantage of 4K resolutions and even more crucial for 8K models. Samsung is still using AI for upscaling, pulling from a knowledge base filled with content to deliver the best picture possible.

Less waste — both in design and battery

Jacob Krol/CNN

On the 85-inch version of this 8K TV, the screen flows right to the edges. It features machined holes all around the frame for a better sound experience.The TV’s Object Tracking Sound software with hardware to deliver better audio.

On these TVs, the included remote will be made from 28% recycled materials, but it’s also ditching reusable batteries. Inside is a lithium-ion battery and a USB-C port for easy recharging, but we’re doubtful you’ll need to plug it in since there’s a solar array on the back. On a full charge, the remote should last for a full two years — and that’s if you’re keeping it in complete darkness.

Getting smarter

Building off of Samsung’s Health Hub, the new line of TVs feature Health Trainer — which we got to try out. Essentially, you can plug in a standard webcam to the TV and it will track you while working out, ensuring proper form while also tracking reps. Similarly, Google Duo, a free video calling service, will be available on QLEDs. You can use a connected webcam, like with Health Trainer, or even mirror your device to the TV.

For gamers, you’ll be pretty impressed with the Game Bar function. Not only does it strike a chord with a fun design, but it’s a functional toolbar. You can easily monitor frames per second, turn HDR on and off and test the input lag, among other quick functions. But even better is the ability to switch the aspect ratio. You can switch to an ultrawide 32:9 or slimmer 21:9 ratio that’s normally found on gaming monitors.

Natasha Hatendi/CNN

That’s our first look

Samsung’s Neo QLEDs aim to pack a punch against competing QLED models while also continuing to push against OLEDs. With more LEDs and a precise way to control them, the 2021 models could go head to head against OLEDs.

Preorders are now open for the Neo QLED 4K and 8K. As expected the entry-level QN80 4K is the most affordable at $1,599.99 for a 55-inch. The pricing is in-line with smaller OLED models. Samsung’s step-up model, the QN90, delivers object tracking sound and support for more colors. It starts at $1,799.99 for a 55-inch. Both the QN80 and QN90 come in 65-, 75- and 85-inch models as well.

Neo QLED 8K builds on these 4K options with more details, more sound and thinner bezels. The 8K TVs start with the QN800A at $3,499.99 for a 65-inch, $4,799.99 for 75-inch and $6,499.99 for 85-inch. The QN900A is $4,999.99 for a 65-inch, $6,999.99 for a 75-inch and 85-inch for $8,999.99. You still have to pay a serious premium for 8K, there’s no doubt about it.

All of these are up for preorder now and will start shipping in mid-March. If you opt to order now, Samsung will toss in professional TV mounting which normally costs $120. And if you’re not sold on Quantum Mini LEDs, know that the 2020 QLEDs are still on the market, with many seeing sharp discounts.