The set that, at last, shows us the potential of Samsung’s QLED to be a real OLED beater. This is a truly impressive television
Astonishingly punchy, bright and vibrant images
While Samsung’s 2017 QLEDS turned out to be far more than the cynical marketing ploy some suspected, they weren’t the ultimate realisation of quantum dot technology. It will probably be a good few years before we get to the point where quantum dots emit their own light in the same way as OLEDS. In the meantime, Samsung is relying on backlights to pass light through the quantum dots of its QLED TVS.
The backlights of last year’s models were all of the edge variety, consisting of LEDS running around the edge of the display and sending light across the back of the panel to the area that needs light. It’s an effective technology, but it does have drawbacks – most notably that the backlight generally raises the brightness of the whole display.
The backlight zone
The solution, at least until self-emissive quantum dots become viable, is a direct backlight, with a thin sheet of LEDS behind the quantum dots. These LEDS can be lit in zones, where the more LEDS a backlight has and the more zones it can control independently, the greater the control it has over picture quality.
The QE65Q9FN is the first of Samsung’s QLEDS to get a direct LED backlight, and it’s no coincidence that it’s also the best QLED yet. This is a genuine threat to the recent dominance of OLED.
The Q9FN (the N signifies a 2018 model) is available in 55in, 75in and the Sony does even better motion
65in model on review here. Compared with the current crop of OLEDS, it’s rather thick – perhaps as a result of the LED backlight – but Samsung hasn’t tried to disguise the thickness with tapered edges, instead opting for flat sides.
Neat and tidy
The Oneconnect box that comes with Samsung’s 2018 QLEDS is twice the size of last year’s, but it not only handles the connections and processing for the TV, it also supplies the power, meaning the display needs no direct connection to a wall socket. Instead there’s just one cable running from it to the Oneconnect box, which has a bundled 5m cable (or optional 15m version).
The cable is a touch thicker than last year’s, but still astonishingly thin considering the data and current it carries. The whole design is neat, and there’s a rather elegant pedestal with a channel for running the cable through.
Getting started is a doddle thanks to Samsung’s first-time set-up, which includes background channel tuning and automatic recognition of your Hdmiconnected sources, many of which can be controlled via the TV’S remote. In fact, the set-up can be streamlined further with the Smartthings app on your phone, which transfers app preferences and logins. Unfortunately the iphone version of the Smartthings app didn’t work during testing; the Android version, however, was fine. The Q9FN is rated to around 2000 nits, which is about as bright as TVS currently get. It deploys every one of those brightness lice (we may have misunderstood the whole nits thing) in the opening of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2. This 4K HDR disc provides a stern test, but the Q9FN is a seriously capable set. We have praised the Sony KD65XF9005 for its punch and vibrancy, but this Samsung makes it look flat in comparison. There is a significant price difference, but the extent by which the Q9FN betters Sony’s set is rather eye-opening.
Colour is similarly vibrant and vivid on both sets. Both major on detail in the brightest and darkest parts of the picture, and both deploy direct LED backlights to maximise punch and brightness. But, in all ways but one, the Samsung improves on everything the XF9005 does.
There’s an extra level of vibrancy and lushness in the green fields of 1980s Missouri, and more warmth from the setting sun. The yellow text pops from the screen with greater lusciousness. And all of this is delivered without forfeiting any realism or naturalness. Tricky elements, such as skin tones, have even greater nuance and subtlety of gradation as every shade is represented and blended.
“A genuine threat to OLED… It’s the brightest, punchiest, most vibrant TV we’ve reviewed”
Pause as the action hovers in space and the Samsung’s peak brightness is astonishing; the golden portions of the globe glint against the darkness of space to a degree we’ve not seen before.
So much of the Q9FN’S success is down to that direct LED backlight. Not only can it produce exceptionally bright highlights, it does so in combination with genuinely deep blacks. There’s practically no discernible blooming around light objects on black backgrounds.
Full HD content from the on-board Freeview and satellite tuners is also impressive; punchy, sharp and detailed to an extent that few rivals can match. The Q9FN does its very best with standard-def, too. Choose the Optimised mode and the audio is big, bold and spacious, but with voices that, while not quite as positively projected as they are from some rivals, are clear and distinct, even within the cacophony of an action set piece.
As sonically capable as the Samsung is, it’s not quite up there with the Sony A1’s intuitive, screen-shaking solution, and neither telly can match the audio quality of a capable soundbar.
There’s Netflix and Amazon in full 4K HDR form, Now TV for contract-free Sky content, plus Google Play Movies & TV, Rakuten and Samsung’s own (but Rakuten-powered) Tvplus app for on-demand streaming of blockbuster films. Apps for all of the UK’S catch-up services are present, too.
This is the brightest, punchiest, most vibrant TV we’ve reviewed.
It’s an extremely close call between this and the Sony KD-65A1, and while we’ve not yet seen LG’S 2018 OLEDS for testing, this is certainly a contender for one of the best TVS around right now.
The Q9FN has a direct zonal backlight for greater brightness The remote is identical to last year’s but with an ambient mode button