Samsung Q90R QLED contends for TV of the year
It’s not just big improvements in picture performance that make this TV titanic
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.
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.
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