Sam­sung QE85Q900R

FOR Na­tive 8K is as­ton­ish­ing; up­scales well; spot-on colours AGAINST Na­tive 8K is years away; lacks black depth

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

8K TV is fi­nally here and Sam­sung is quick off the mark. But the Q900R can't quite jus­tify that enor­mous price tag.

So why is Sam­sung pounc­ing now? Grab­bing head­lines cer­tainly seems a big mo­ti­va­tion, but the com­pany also ar­gues that the in­creased PPI (pixels-per-inch) com­bined with su­per-ad­vanced, ma­chine-based up­scal­ing means the con­tent you cur­rently watch will look even bet­ter on its 8K TVS.

That’s an en­tic­ing propo­si­tion, es­pe­cially when blown up to a huge 85in, which is the size of the Q900R we’re re­view­ing (it’s also avail­able in 75in and 65in ver­sions).

At £14,999, it needs to be the best TV in the world right now, and in some ways it is. But in oth­ers it isn’t, and, sur­pris­ingly, it has lit­tle to do with res­o­lu­tion.

There’s lit­tle in the styling of the Q900R that marks it out as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary new prod­uct. It's a smart-look­ing telly, but it doesn’t par­tic­u­larly dis­tin­guish it­self from Sam­sung’s 4K QLEDS.

Here, the thin bezels along the top and sides are an­gled out­ward rather than in­ward, as they are on the Q9FN, which means they re­flect light dif­fer­ently and make the fin­ish look darker, de­spite the ma­te­rial and colour be­ing the same.

The bot­tom bezel is ac­tu­ally thicker than that of the 4K QLEDS, cre­at­ing a ‘lip’ of about 2-3cm.

Rather than a cen­tral pedestal stand, the Q900R has two feet that can be lo­cated ei­ther end of the chas­sis or moved closer to the cen­tre for place­ment of the TV on a smaller piece of fur­ni­ture.

If you’re brave enough to wall-mount the thing, the feet can be re­moved and stored in clever cutouts on the rear of the TV so they don’t get lost. And yes, the Q900R is com­pat­i­ble with Sam­sung’s own No Gap Wall Mount – giv­ing it the look of a huge, framed paint­ing – as well as stan­dard (al­beit large and strong) VESA mounts.

Some­what fu­ture-proof

As is the norm for Sam­sung these days, the Q900R’S con­nec­tions are lo­cated not on the back of the set, but on a sep­a­rate One Con­nect Box. This box is huge – about two or three times big­ger than that of the 2018 QLEDS, which was around twice the size of the one be­fore.

It can be hid­den away, but it ran fairly hot dur­ing test­ing, so maybe best to make sure it’s got some ven­ti­la­tion.

Its con­nec­tions are sim­i­lar to those of the older boxes – the dif­fer­ence is the first of the four HDMI in­puts can han­dle 8K video at up to 30fps. One day there may be a source that can take ad­van­tage of that.

None of the HDMIS are 2.1 cer­ti­fied, be­cause of­fi­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is not yet un­der­way. Sam­sung says early adopters will be able to re­quest a free up­grade to an HDMI 2.1-com­pli­ant One Con­nect Box next year, how­ever.

But many HDMI 2.1 fea­tures are al­ready sup­ported, in­clud­ing Vari­able Re­fresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Game Mode for gam­ing, and dy­namic meta­data for HDR10+. The up­date will re­ally only fa­cil­i­tate 8K at 60fps, rather than the cur­rent 30fps cap.

Other con­nec­tions are un­changed, so you get three USBS, eth­er­net, op­ti­cal, aerial and two satel­lite con­nec­tions. If you want to con­nect head­phones, how­ever, you’ll need to use Blue­tooth.

The op­er­at­ing sys­tem also matches the rest of the cur­rent QLED range, and that means the Q900R is pre­dictably slick in use and ab­so­lutely jam-packed with apps.

From Net­flix and Ama­zon Video in 4K and HDR, to Rakuten and Google Play Movies & TV for pay-as-you-go block­busters, plus the full suite of catch-up apps and even Now TV, pretty much every base is cov­ered.

In terms of sheer dis­play tech, you get not only the 8K res­o­lu­tion of 7680 x 4320, but also a record-high peak bright­ness fig­ure of 4000nits from the 85in and 75in ver­sions (the 65in ver­sion taps out at 3000nits). The Q9FN, the pre­vi­ous bright­est we’d tested, is rated at 2000nits.

But what’s the point of 8K TV? It’s all about pixel den­sity, is the ar­gu­ment, much as it has been with phones. An 85in 8K set such as this has the same pixel den­sity

(104ppi) as a 43in 4K model. That’s a fairly com­pelling case for big-screen buy­ers.

A mind of its own

Na­tive 8K con­tent does look ut­terly fab­u­lous, as you might imag­ine.

Pre­dictably, it’s all about sharp­ness and de­tail. The image is un­be­liev­ably life­like, and draws you in to an ex­tent that 4K sim­ply can­not. Nat­u­rally, it’s helped by the sheer scale of the 85in dis­play – this is cin­e­matic and then some.

And the image doesn’t be­come soft or fuzzy as you get closer. You could sit a foot away and still be daz­zled by its sharp­ness.

With no ‘proper’ 8K con­tent cur­rently avail­able, this part of our re­view is based en­tirely on footage supplied by Sam­sung. It is, how­ever, an amaz­ing, im­mer­sive glimpse at what 8K may of­fer.

Af­ter that is where Sam­sung’s Ai-based up­scaler comes in. It uses ma­chine learn­ing to anal­yse mil­lions of im­ages in low and high res­o­lu­tion, com­par­ing the two ver­sions to iden­tify the dif­fer­ences so they can be added on the fly when a low-res­o­lu­tion sig­nal is fed into the TV. Essen­tially, it means non-8k con­tent should ac­tu­ally look bet­ter on a Q900R than it does on a non-8k set.

All of the learn­ing is done by Sam­sung’s servers and ‘taught’ to the TVS in peo­ple’s homes dur­ing reg­u­lar soft­ware up­dates. That means a Q900R that you buy now should only get bet­ter at up­scal­ing in the months to come.

The up­scal­ing is mirac­u­lous when you con­sider how much of the on-screen pic­ture is be­ing ‘made up’ by the TV. But whether it pro­vides a bet­ter up­scaled image than a 4K set is a trick­ier ques­tion.

Glo­ri­ously vi­brant

One of the prob­lems is a paucity of ref­er­ence TVS at this size. Sam­sung was kind enough to sup­ply an 82in NU8000 and 75in Q9FN for com­par­i­son, but they’re both rel­a­tively un­known quan­ti­ties to us.

Sam­sung’s in­sis­tence that we use the NU8000 as a ref­er­ence for res­o­lu­tion and not the Q9FN rang hol­low, too. It's far lower down the range than the Q9FN, so there’s much more at play, pic­ture qual­ity-wise, than just res­o­lu­tion.

Us­ing Sam­sung’s own pixel den­sity ar­gu­ment, this 85in Q900R should be ca­pa­ble of sharper im­ages than even a smaller, 75in Q9FN. It per­forms well across all con­tent, but it’s not a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward, and in some ways it's a step back.

With Guardians Of The Gal­axy Vol.2, the Q900R is no­tice­ably brighter but not overly so. The sun­set over 1980s Mis­souri has more im­pact, as do re­flec­tions from the metal plates on the Sovereign planet, but it’s an in­cre­men­tal improve­ment rather than an overly daz­zling trick.

Colours are bet­ter on the Q900R. The Q9FN is glo­ri­ously rich and vi­brant, but not what you’d call neu­tral. The for­mer can look a lit­tle pale next to the lush­ness of its 4K ri­val, but there’s no doubt that it’s more au­then­tic.

But don’t think the Q900R isn’t vi­brant in its own right. There’s punch to the vivid colours of Ego’s home world, os­ten­ta­tious lus­tre to the Sovereign queen’s throne room, and lus­cious­ness to the dense

“8K TV is fi­nally here, and Sam­sung is quick off the mark. But the Q900R can't quite jus­tify that enor­mous price tag”

fo­liage on the planet of Ber­hert – not to men­tion in­creased de­tail and sharp­ness.

Not only is this 8K TV up­scal­ing the image with­out soft­en­ing it, it’s do­ing so with­out in­tro­duc­ing any­thing in the way of ob­vi­ous arte­facts, shim­mer or noise. But it isn't sharper and more de­tailed than the Q9FN, it’s sim­ply as sharp. That bodes well for the 75in and 65in ver­sions of the Q900R, though. Log­i­cally, these should be a step-up over the same sizes of Q9FN.

Greater dark de­tail

There are some spe­cific im­ages or ob­jects that prove a chal­lenge too far for the up­scaler. In the open­ing scene of

Guardians, when Ego looks at Mered­ith in the car, the tilt of his head means the ‘cross­bar’ of his sun­glasses is at a tricky, di­ag­o­nal an­gle, and there are clear steps along this line that aren’t ev­i­dent on its best 4K sets.

The Q900R also doesn’t pro­duce blacks as deep as those of the Q9FN. Sam­sung says that’s in­ten­tional: the black level has been raised slightly in re­sponse to sug­ges­tions from some that the Q9FN loses some dark de­tail to its depth. But it’s a de­ci­sion we can't re­ally get be­hind.

While the 8K Q900R digs up dark de­tail that the 4K Q9FN loses, the rel­a­tive lack of black depth has an ef­fect on over­all con­trast and dy­namism. It means high-con­trast scenes can be robbed of some of their im­pact.

What’s more, the Q900R suf­fers from no­tice­able back­light bloom that the Q9FN doesn't. This is most no­tice­able in the black bars to the top and bot­tom of a widescreen film, but it can creep into the main image, too. Sit a lit­tle off-axis and it be­comes much more pro­nounced. The fact that it’s there at all when it’s not on the Q9FN is dis­ap­point­ing.

As you drop down a res­o­lu­tion, the Q900R re­mains con­sis­tent, and con­sid­er­ing the amount of up­scal­ing go­ing on, that in it­self is quite ex­cep­tional.

Play Lo­gan on 1080p Blu-ray and the image is supremely clean and sta­ble, and again very sim­i­lar to the Q9FN in terms of sharp­ness. Colours are ac­tu­ally more vi­brant on the Q900R, but in a way that sim­ply proves their au­then­tic­ity.

But con­trast again is an is­sue. As Lo­gan en­ters his hide­away you get bet­ter bright­ness from the Q900R as the sun­light pours in, but the dark parts are hazy. Dark de­tail is a lit­tle bet­ter, but blacks aren’t deep enough.

Lit­tle short of mirac­u­lous

Fi­nally, look­ing to stretch the Q900R surely fur­ther than it can pos­si­bly han­dle, we play Dirty Harry on DVD. Here, the TV is gen­er­at­ing some­thing like 98 per cent of what you’re see­ing. It’s in­sane, par­tic­u­larly as the image is re­ally good.

It wasn’t long ago that stan­dard-def was more or less un­watch­able on a 4K TV, so the clean­li­ness, sharp­ness and de­tail on the Q900R is lit­tle short of mirac­u­lous.

It is worth men­tion­ing, though, that while the Q900R is an ex­cel­lent han­dler of mo­tion in 8K, and strong with 4K, it does strug­gle a lit­tle more with 1080p and stan­dard-def con­tent.

For any­one ex­pect­ing great sound qual­ity at this price, the Q900R is big, bold, clear and spa­cious by the stan­dards of most sets. It's per­fectly lis­ten­able, but you'd still want a ded­i­cated sound sys­tem, es­pe­cially when in­vest­ing this much in your TV'S pic­ture.

Some­one had to go first with 8K, and that it's Sam­sung is lit­tle sur­prise – partly on ac­count of its record of in­no­va­tion, and partly be­cause it’s al­ways on the hunt for new am­mu­ni­tion in the war against OLED.

But an 8K TV has to live or die by its per­for­mance with the con­tent avail­able right now. Luck­ily, the Q900R de­liv­ers a largely ex­cel­lent per­for­mance in this re­gard, par­tic­u­larly when you con­sider the amount of up­scal­ing go­ing on. We wouldn’t be at all sur­prised if Sam­sung’s up­scal­ing proves to be the bench­mark.

But what the Q900R doesn’t of­fer is a clear step up in qual­ity when com­pared with the com­pany’s flag­ship 4K model.

The scale of­fered by the 85in 8K dis­play is as­ton­ish­ing, but we can’t help but think it isn't the sweet spot in the Q900R range. Drop down to the 75in ver­sion and the PPI goes up from 104ppi to 117ppi, and that could well be enough to squeeze out an even sharper image than a Q9FN at the same size. What’s more, the 75in Q900R costs less than half of the 85in ver­sion.

Mean­while, the 65in model takes the price down to £5000 and pixel den­sity up to 136ppi. That could well be a se­ri­ous step up from the QE65Q9FN, and that would make it the best TV you can cur­rently buy.

“With DVD, the TV is gen­er­at­ing some­thing like 98 per cent of what you're see­ing. It's in­sane, par­tic­u­larly as the image is re­ally good”

Peak bright­ness of 4000nits makes this Q900R a record breaker Sam­sung's No Gap Wall Mount makes the Q900R look like a big paint­ing

The Q900R digs up ex­tra de­tail in low-lit scenes, but doesn't go as dark

The feet can be moved to­ward the cen­tre of the TV to fit smaller stands

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