Sam­sung Q90R QLED con­tends for TV of the year

It’s not just big im­prove­ments in pic­ture per­for­mance that make this TV ti­tanic

SmartHouse - - TELEVISION - Writ­ten by Steve May

The Q90R is the most com­pelling ar­gu­ment yet to buy into QLED, Sam­sung’s Quan­tum Dot pow­ered LED TV tech­nol­ogy. A gen­uine challenger to OLED at the pre­mium end of the mar­ket, this new high­end hope­ful fi­nally de­liv­ers the kind of deep black level per­for­mance that LED LCD TV fans have been clam­our­ing for, cou­pled with HDR high­lights that far ex­ceed the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of OLED.

So has Sam­sung pro­duced the ul­ti­mate 4k HDR TV? Also avail­able in 65-inch, 75-inch and 82-inch screen sizes, this fea­ture-rich flatscreen em­ploys a full ar­ray back­light, which en­ables it to de­liver pre­cise HDR and man­age black lev­els more ac­cu­rately.

This in­evitably means the screen is con­sid­er­ably thicker than an edge-lit model. In­deed, it looks positively over­weight com­pared to the thin­ness of some edge-lit LCD ri­vals. Not that you can tell when look­ing square on. The glass is framed by a min­i­mal plas­tic grey bezel, and bal­anced on an el­e­gant curved cen­tral pedestal.

Two re­motes are sup­plied. One a stan­dard IR con­troller, the other a slim me­tal­lic Blue­tooth of­fer­ing.

As we’ve seen be­fore on top Sam­sung tel­lies, cable spaghetti is kept in check by a One Con­nect box, which de­liv­ers sound, vi­sion and power to the set via a trans­par­ent ‘in­vis­i­ble’ cable.

Con­nec­tiv­ity here com­prises four 4k ca­pa­ble HDMIs, all HDCP 2.2 com­pli­ant, a trio of USBs, Eth­er­net and tuners (ter­res­trial and satel­lite), plus an op­ti­cal dig­i­tal au­dio out­put.

When it comes to HDR sup­port, the Q90R com­plies with HDR10,

From the out­set, image qual­ity im­presses.

HLG (Hy­brid Log-Gamma) and HDR10+, the open Dy­namic meta­data stan­dard sup­ported by Ama­zon. No­table by its ab­sence is Dolby Vi­sion. Clearly there’s no tech­ni­cal rea­son why a set of this cal­i­bre can’t sup­port Dolby flavoured HDR, so its ab­sence can only be a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion; this will doubt­less in­fu­ri­ate buy­ers look­ing to fu­ture-proof their view­ing.

When it comes to smart con­nectabil­ity, the Q90R is up there with the best. Sam­sung’s Tizen-based smart plat­form is slick and in­tu­itive. Hor­i­zon­tal strips of­fer ac­cess to apps with cu­rated con­tent, and stream­ing ser­vices.

In­cluded is Sam­sung’s much vaunted Ap­ple TV app, which al­lows users to stream con­tent from their iTunes li­brary, with­out need­ing to use an Ap­ple TV de­vice.

The set’s other big new user ben­e­fit is Ul­tra View­ing An­gle tech­nol­ogy, which of­fers im­proved off axis view­ing. The tech­nique more evenly dis­trib­utes that FALD back­light, re­tain­ing colour and con­trast, even when viewed from the side.

From the out­set, image qual­ity im­presses. HD and UHD pic­tures have im­pact and vi­brancy. Con­nect a high qual­ity source, like a 4K Blu-ray player or set top box, and you’ll be im­me­di­ately re­warded.

If you thought OLED had the high-end cov­ered, you might need to think again.

The Q90R em­ploys a new Quan­tum 4k image pro­ces­sor, de­rived from the AI driven pro­ces­sor used in the brand’s 8K TVs. It does a crack­ing job up­scal­ing HD sources to UHD, as well as ex­tract­ing de­tail and nu­ance from pris­tine 4k con­tent.

Pic­ture modes com­prise Dy­namic, Stan­dard, Nat­u­ral and Movie.

The Dy­namic mode is just a lit­tle too lary for our eye­balls. With con­trasty im­ages, it tends to blow out fine de­tail, par­tic­u­larly on skin tones. In com­par­i­son, the Stan­dard set­ting main­tains a good bal­ance, with ac­cu­rate skin tones. The Nat­u­ral set­ting is sim­i­lar to Stan­dard, but ex­ag­ger­ates con­trast by crush­ing near black de­tail. The Movie mode is the least at­trac­tive. It mutes con­trast and dulls colour. It’s not rec­om­mended.

The other op­tion to con­sider is In­tel­li­gent mode. When en­gaged, this makes dy­namic changes based on your view­ing en­vi­ron­ment. If you don’t want a smart blan­ket ap­proach, you can fine tune the In­tel­li­gent set­ting by in­di­vid­u­ally se­lect­ing Adaptive Bright­ness and Adaptive Sound (an evo­lu­tion of Sam­sung’s Op­ti­mised Sound mode).

Sam­sung has al­ways pushed the en­ve­lope when it comes to peak bright­ness, but where the Q90R re­ally wows is its black and near­black per­for­mance. There’s none of that char­ac­ter­is­tic LED LCD grey­ness un­der­min­ing its darker im­ages.

The bars in let­ter­box movies are con­vinc­ingly black, mak­ing for a re­ally cine­matic pre­sen­ta­tion. The panel is also able to re­solve nu­anced de­tail in shadows. All of which im­proves over­all con­trast.

HDR high­lights are pro­nounced. We mea­sured a peak of 1765 nits in Stan­dard mode, with a ten per cent HDR win­dow. The open­ing space bat­tle in Star Wars The Last Jedi is rav­ish­ing, with dy­namic fire­fights against a vel­vet black space back­drop.

Peak bright­ness is ac­tu­ally less bright with smaller spec­u­lar high­lights, but that doesn’t re­duce their HDR im­pact. The Q90R of­fers twice the level of sparkle as an OLED.

Of course, the ma­jor­ity of view­ing will still be SDR con­tent, so much hangs on the set’s AI quan­tum pro­ces­sor ca­pa­bil­i­ties. And again, the panel ex­cels.

When Leonardo DiCaprio strug­gles with the mo­tion of the ocean, dur­ing the open­ing se­quence in an SDR pre­sen­ta­tion of Shut­ter Is­land, the TV ef­fort­lessly ramps up the con­trast. As he peers through the port­hole (“It’s just wa­ter, there’s a lot of wa­ter.”), his face is held in pro­file, brightly lit and jux­ta­posed against the shadows in­side the cabin. It’s won­der­fully dy­namic.

Lo­cal dim­ming can be set to Low, Stan­dard or High. For our au­di­tion, we pre­ferred to keep lo­cal dim­ming on Stan­dard.

Sam­sung has also done some im­pres­sive work when it comes to mo­tion han­dling. Ven­ture into Ex­pert Set­tings menu and you’ll find Auto Mo­tion Plus, used to min­imise blur and jud­der. Use Auto Mo­tion Plus is fine with sports, but be wary with films. Image in­ter­po­la­tion can make movies look rather uncin­e­matic.

If you’re look­ing for a screen to game with, the Q90R scores big. Just make sure you se­lect the right set­ting. In Game mode, with the Game En­hancer mode switched off, in­put lag was mea­sured at just 14.3ms, which can be con­sid­ered best in class.

Verdict

The Q90R is a tri­umph. Ex­pen­sive it may be, but in al­most ev­ery re­spect it trumps pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of Sam­sung QLED. A con­vinc­ing black level per­for­mance, highly ef­fec­tive HDR han­dling, and a blind­ingly fast Game mode, will have TV en­thu­si­asts slather­ing. If you thought OLED had the high-end cov­ered, you might need to think again.

Rat­ing

Price: 65" $6,499 75" $9,399 82" $11,799 Q90R QLED 4K UHD TV Spec­i­fi­ca­tions:

Dis­play: 4k QLED

HDR: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG Con­nec­tions: 4 x HDMI, 3x USB, dig­i­tal op­ti­cal out­put, Eth­er­net Di­men­sions (off stand): 1450.1(w) x 831.2(h) x 39.9(d)mm

Weight (off stand): 27.8kg

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