Samsung Q900R (QE65Q900R) 8K QLED Review
A 33m pixel early adopter...
What is the Samsung Q900R?The Q900R is Samsung’s first consumer 8K TV to be launched in the UK and introduces a host of new scaling technologies and an Ultra Black Elite Moth Eye filter on the screen. It is available in three screen sizes and starts with this 65-inch QE65Q900R at £4999, a 75-inch QE75Q900R that retails for £6999 and a monster 85-inch model (QE85Q900R) that will set you back £14,999. We are looking at the 65-inch and have it in our own testing rooms for review.
Samsung UK has provided this sample and we are the first review publication to have the 65-inch in our possession for testing. All other UK reviews published so far (up to November 2018) were held at Samsung and the reviewers were given time with the 75 or 85-inch sets. This was because of logistical issues sending such large screens out for review, but at AVForums we have a policy with our display reviews that we have to test them in our own surroundings, with our own procedures. We also don’t review pre-production samples of a product; it has to be the finished retail unit. As such, we have had to wait a little while to get our hands on this eagerly awaited review sample, which is a retail unit provided in retail packaging from Samsung.
So, the first question most people will be bound to ask is, why? We are only just starting to see 4K take off with 4K Blu-rays starting to become common and the first signs of 4K broadcasting taking roots, so why do we need 8K? It’s a good question and one we will try to look at and answer within the course of our time spent with the QE65Q900R.
Design, Connections and ControlIt’s clear to see that with the Q900R Samsung has put some real effort into the design aspect of the screen. It continues to use the now standard One Connect box used with all higher end Samsung LED LCD TVs, that Samsung calls QLED in their marketing. This box allows the TV to have just one connector at the rear and a thin fibre optic cable then runs from the TV to the One Connect box. The use of such a thin cable taking all the signals and power to the TV is a masterstroke in our opinion and allows real flexibility in set up and location of the TV with no unsightly cables trailing from the back of the set. It’s a clean and clever design, which also makes it possible for Samsung to just replace the box when HDMI 2.1 becomes a reality. After all, it will need this to be able to send native 8K content via HDMI to the Q900R. We understand that owners will get the upgrade option once it is available, but this will be at the owner's request and Samsung won’t automatically swap them over.
Another neat design aspect of the Q900R is the feet it sits on. All too often recent TV designs have seen the feet placed at each end of the panel, which has meant a long TV unit was required to manage to fit the TV. This is especially a problem with larger screens and the Q900R range starts at 65-inch and goes up from there. Samsung has given you two options for the feet placement, with a central position and one at either end of the panel. The other neat trick is that the feet are hidden inside a recessed area on the back of the panel and can be left there if wall mounting, or removed by unclipping them and then attaching to the bottom of the panel. These feet are L-shaped and screw easily to the centre or outside points and while feeling slightly flimsy on first handling; they are strong enough to support the panel with ease.
The panel is sleek and minimalist with a 5mm metal strip around the sides and top, and 15mm on the bottom. The bottom is split between a 10mm strip of brushed metal and the metal strip that follows the rest of the screen. Between this strip and the image is a 5mm black border within the panel screen. While this might look and feel larger than the latest OLED designs, it doesn’t mean that the Q900R is chunky in any way, just the proportions have to be larger due to using an LED LCD panel. The strip around the panel side is also 30mm deep and the back of the panel has a lovely textured finish with the One Connect port centrally positioned within a recess. There are also recessed vents at the top of the rear panel and some others further down, but these are part of the design language and don’t look out of place. We also have the recessed area where the feet can be stored.
Overall, the design and materials used are high quality and the fit and finish
arealso to a high standard and worthy of the price point of the Q900R.
The connections for the Q900R are all on the One Connect box, which is identical to the one supplied with the Q9FN. It is larger than previous year models as it now provides all the connections and power via one cable to the TV panel. This means that it will get quite hot during operation, which has added to the size of the box and the cooling is now via vents, so it is quieter. It now measures 390 x 130 x 70mm (WxDxH), that makes it roughly double the size of previous models, but it now has all the connections in one place.
As such we get four 18Gbps HDMI inputs that can accept full bandwidth 4K/60P 4:4:4 signals with HDR10 and HLG High Dynamic Range and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) along with VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and ARC on HDMI 3. We also have a network LAN (although there is also built-in Wi-Fi), Optical Digital output, and a Common Interface slot along with twin satellite tuners and a terrestrial RF socket. Around the side of the box are two USB 2.0 and one 3.0 port and
finally,there is the connection to the TV itself and the power socket. The One Connect box is still our favourite TV interface feature and we are surprised that other manufacturers haven’t adopted a similar approach as it makes wall mounting and clean installations simple.We are provided with two remote controls for the Q900R with a simple, black plastic, traditional affair with all the buttons and controls you would need, and a brushed metal One Remote. The traditional remote doesn’t really need any introduction or explanation as it does everything you would expect and the buttons are all laid out in a logical manner. It has more direct access keys for things like the settings menu, but it is also quite cluttered - as traditional remotes normally are.
The One Remote is a minimalist, sleek affair that is small and has a brushed metal finish. It has a good weight in the hand and feels like a quality item that fits with the price point of the Q900R. There are very few buttons available, which simplify and de-clutter the remote control. The bottom of the remote has a long area for holding with no buttons or keys. Three-quarters of the way up we have two rocker switches for volume and channel selection, plus, holding down the volume rocker also activates the mute control. Above these are the Back, Home and Play/Pause keys and then we have the directional and enter keys. These are intuitive to use and also give you positive feedback when pressed. Finally, to the top of the One Remote, we have further keys for numbers/colours, microphone and Ambient Mode, with the power button at the top left.
The One Remote is easy to use but accessing some features requires going around the menus, but on these rare occasions, you can grab the traditional remote to get direct keys for those. Overall, we had no issues with either remote and it is nice that at the price point Samsung makes the effort to give you at least one nicely designed metal remote.
If you want to use your smart device to control the Q900R you can download and use the Samsung SmartThings app on Android and iOS devices. This not only allows control of the TV but also any other smart devices you may own and that are compatible. The Samsung website goes into more detail about what you can actually do with connected devices and their applications.
The design and build quality are first class
FunctionalitySamsung has always been strong when it comes to ease of use and functionality within their TV products and that is certainly the case with the Q900R. It uses the exact same Smart TV system and features as the Q9FN, with plenty of processing power available to manage multiple requests, switching between apps and 4K HDR playback, without any lag or stability issues. The home screen is the main hub of the Q Smart system offering the user a whole host of applications, live TV, sources and settings. This is displayed as a horizontal bar along the bottom of the screen with apps to the right and other options to the left.
This launcher bar is incredibly intuitive to use and allows access to a number of functions including Notifications, Settings, Sources, Search Function, Apps, Ambient Mode, Universal Guide, Live TV, TV Plus, SmartThings, Gallery and the Internet. There are also further selections possible when you select one of these items. If it is a video on demand app, it will display details of available shows for you to continue watching or recommendations just above the app in the launcher. You can also select downwards and move items along the launcher bar or delete them from appearing.
The list of apps available is pretty vast with all the major video services available including all the terrestrial catch up services, iPlayer with HLG compatibility, Amazon and Netflix with HDR10 and also YouTube, which offers the 4K player with HDR compatibility. It’s a shame that it doesn’t yet feature the capability to show the very small number of 8K videos in 8K. Vimeo was rumoured to be able to show 8K content via the app on the Samsung, but we found that not to be the case at the time of this review (December 2018). Other apps include Spotify, FB Video, Deezer, NowTV, UKTV, and Rakuten TV.
With the current tech environment focussing on voice assistance and IoT, the Q900R has you covered with the SmartThings app and direct voice assistance from the One Remote microphone. You have the ability to set up your TV using the smartphone app and, once signed in to a Samsung account, it will share information between devices you have tied to the Smart Things app. Voice assistant also helps with channel, app and settings selections and most of the time it even understands a Scottish accent, just.
The built-in TV tuner also works extremely well with excellent High Definition picture quality. EPG guides and even favourites lists save you channel hopping through the entire channel line-up. Accessing the channel browsing is easy enough with a press of the enter key and then the up and down directions to bring up cards for each channel with ‘now and next’ programs listed. If you can’t find anything to watch here you also have the TV Plus app, which gives you everything available to buy and rent through the TV set, including the latest movie releases.
Finally, there is the Samsung Ambient feature mode, which saves you putting the TV in to standby mode, and instead, you can match the décor of your home and mix that with weather forecasts, latest news headlines and your own photos. You can set this to display for a few hours before switching off. It’s a neat function but we are not sure how many end users will actually take advantage of it.
The Q900R is intuitive to use with excellent smart TV functionality
Samsung Q900R Features and SpecsThe Samsung Q900R uses a 65-inch VA LCD panel with a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 and over 33m pixels giving it a true 8K resolution. It features a full array local dimming (FALD) backlight using just under 500 zones and when combined with the new Quantum 8K processor it can use AI technology and advanced algorithms to control the local dimming intelligently to stop blooming and halo effects from being present.
The Q900R also uses advanced upscaling to make sure that content is seen at its best. This is extremely important as native 8K viewing material is hard to come by at this moment in time. Manufacturers might be launching 8K TVs now, but the success of these early models will come down to just how good the video processing and scaling performance is. Once again, Samsung is using AI and machine learning to make sure that the upscaled images are the best they can possibly be.
Obviously, SD material can look bad even on an HD panel, so trying to show this on the Q900 is perhaps asking miracles of the best image processing available. However, by using machine learning with advanced databases and analysing the exact content and images customers are viewing, the AI works out how to make these images look the best they can. When it finds new ways to improve the upscaling and other image parameters, Samsung then sends this as a firmware update to the Q900R TVs in consumer’s homes. As such, it is constantly looking at improving the performance on offer.
Scaling images is a difficult process that involves a lot of processing power, but with HD and higher resolution content, the Q900R promises to make it fit the 8K resolution and combat issues with image noise and artefacts while adding advanced detail creation and edge restoration to produce images that look clean and precise, without changing the intention of the content and its look. The Quantum 8K processing certainly has its work cut out to manage existing content and make it fit with this 8K TVs resolution.
The Samsung Q900R is also Ultra HD Premium Certified and promises a superb HDR performance with support for HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and the open source dynamic metadata HDR10+ system. This means that there is no support for Dolby Vision, which is a shame given that formats progress lately with streaming and disc-based titles becoming increasingly available. With incredibly high peak brightness claims the Q900R will also employ tone mapping that should fit perfectly with the currently available 1000 and 4000 nit content.
Wide Colour Gamut coverage should also be excellent from the Samsung Q900 with its quantum dot technology boasting 100% DCI-P3 coverage and excellent colour volume in the marketing materials. Being an LED LCD panel we have no doubts that the Q900R will have the goods when it comes to brightness with HDR content and decent colour accuracy and luminance.
Gaming is another strong point for Samsung QLED models and we have no doubt that the Q900R will also offer up superb brightness and colours along with consistent HDR and input lag results. There is also source recognition with the Q900R where it will read the metadata from a games console and automatically switch to the game mode on the TV.
With the lack of native 8K content to view, the Q900R has excellent upscaling and video processing
Out of the Box MeasurementsAs always, we set about finding the best settings out of the box that were close to the industry standards for Rec.709 colour and D65 white point. On the Q900R this is easy enough with just a few picture preset selections available and Movie being the most accurate. You do, however, need to switch off image manipulation features such as Auto Motion Plus, Contrast Enhancer and Digital Clean View along with setting the local dimming to Standard for SDR content. We also selected the BT1886 gamma tracking at default and Colour Tone (temperature) of Warm2. We used our trusted Klein K10-A meter, Murideo Fresco Six-G Pattern Generator and CalMAN Ultimate software.
As we can see, the out of the box greyscale tracking (top left) is very good indeed with just a little too much red and a very slight drop in blue and green as the scale gets brighter. This doesn’t impact actual viewing material on screen as DeltaE errors are low enough, (under the visual threshold of three), that no colour tint is visible to grey. Gamma also tracks well and the slight darkening at 10ire is caused by the local dimming changing from 0ire and our meter being too fast, so it looks like there might be black crush, but that is not the case with actual viewing material and tests.
Colour gamut performance (top right) is also good with just a few points slightly off either saturation or hue but within error tolerances. There is a Colour Management System available in the menu system to try and correct some of these slight issues, but there is nothing here that concerns us when it comes to general consumers viewing the Movie Mode out of the box. There are no major errors that would be visible to any normal viewers with film or TV content and only those with a reference image to compare against would possibly see the errors that do exist. Overall, the out of the box settings are very good indeed.
Calibrated MeasurementsAs we have controls available for white balance and a CMS for colour gamut adjustment, we set about trying to see just how accurate we could get the Q900.
Looking at the greyscale first (top left), we used the two-point and 20-point white balance controls to try and get the tracking as flat as possible, with good DeltaE errors and gamma. What we found was that the local dimming nature of the TV meant we couldn’t get the DeltaE errors any lower than what is shown in the graph, as gamma tracking is affected by the local dimming algorithm in use with 10% windows changing brightness. There is no way to switch local dimming off on a Samsung TV as it is fundamental to how it produces an image. However, there is absolutely no problem with the greyscale tracking, as it is perfect without any colour tint to grey and the gamma is also perfectly well behaved with actual content viewed on screen. It is as close to reference as you can get for this technology.
Moving to Rec.709 colour (top right), we can see that further correction of the white balance and some slight tweaks of the CMS brought most saturation tracking points to where they should be. Certainly, 75% and under were very good and, overall, the DeltaE errors were under 0.9 on average, which is well under the visible threshold. The graph may not look pretty but it is actually very accurate with no visible errors contained within film and TV show playback on screen.
Out of the box and calibrated the Samsung Q900R is very accurate
HDR ResultsThe Samsung Q900R stays in Movie Mode when it detects an HDR signal, but it disregards the calibrated settings for SDR and resets the controls for HDR content separately. This is the best approach we have found and allows separate calibrated settings for SDR and HDR content depending on the signal the TV is receiving.
Looking at the PQ EOTF tracking (top left) we did find that out of the box settings for contrast were about 4 clicks too high and affected the luminance tracking of the PQ EOTF and made it slightly too bright compared to the track guide. However, this didn’t suddenly overcook the image and cause major issues, it was just a tad too bright compared to the track guide. By making a slight adjustment of four clicks down on the contrast we now had the PQ EOTF luminance tracking the guide correctly, with minimal differences to actual HDR content on the screen.
We have suggested to Samsung that if they want their out of the box Movie HDR Mode to track luminance to the standard guide, they need to drop the default contrast by four clicks. Once again, the actual effect of this was negligible on image luminance and brightness, it didn’t cause any issues with picture quality. As you can see the Q900R is a very bright LED LCD TV and is capable of peak brightness well in excess of the normal 1000 nit mastering and with 4000 nit content, it has a gentle roll off from around 1100 nits to its peak, so it preserves peak highlight details without clipping. The peak brightness of the Q900R is 2075 nits in the accurate Movie Mode.
Moving to the DCI-P3 tracking within Rec.2020 we, again, have a good result from the Samsung Q900R with saturation tracking getting fairly close to where the points should be. There are errors with saturation and hue points and it doesn’t look as pretty on the graph. But colour luminance (not shown) on the Samsung is very good indeed meaning it has a high colour volume when compared to an OLED screen, giving it more vivid and fuller colour reproduction with HDR content. The 8K panel doesn’t quite manage the entire colour gamut coverage according to our results. We measured BT.2020 at XY 66% and UV 72% along with P3 at XY 92% and UV at 96%, so it is a little off being able to produce the gamut at 100%, but this doesn’t impact on HDR performance in any significant way and normal viewers would never notice these errors within onscreen content.
Panel Uniformity and Viewing AnglesThe Samsung Q900R uses an 8K VA panel with Full Array Local Dimming technology and advanced dimming algorithms. Panel uniformity was very good indeed with no obvious clouding or pooling of light and no noticeable Dirty Screen Effect (DSE) at any uniform brightness level. There was some very slight vertical banding seen every now and again with very bright content, but with football viewing (or other sports or content with large areas of one colour during pans of the camera) it wasn’t noticeable unless you went looking for it. And even then it was really difficult to see unless you were making a point of looking for it and continually sending torture tests to catch it out. In normal viewing, it is barely noticeable and we only mention it to be complete in our assessment.
Viewing angles are not brilliant, but then again it is a VA panel and, as such, to get the best possible performance you need to be watching the TV directly on. Moving to 30 degrees or more introduces issues with contrast and colour shifts and blacks become milky. You also start to notice haloing and blooming from the FALD backlight when off-axis by more than 30 degrees. Watching directly on there are no issues visible. This is an inherent drawback of the VA panel technology but the compromises are excellent black levels and contrast performance.
Black Levels and Contrast PerformanceThe Q900R produces one of the best black level and shadow detail performances we have seen from an LED LCD TV. Thanks to its FALD backlight with just under 500 zones and excellent AI dimming algorithms we were extremely impressed with its deep inky blacks and superb shadow detail retrieval, which looked more impressive than the LG C8 we had sat next to it with scenes from Gravity. Sitting directly on to the screen there were no issues with blooming or halo artefacts around the bright objects and no issues with light bleed into the black bars. Contrast is excellent with superb brightness and deep blacks from the technology being used.
It wasn’t perfect and we did see instances of the TV being caught out now and again by brightness changes within a scene. We also had issues with certain scenes in HDR content, causing the dimming to pulse and flicker as luminance in the scene changed and confused the dimming. This was very noticeable in the final chapter of Pan as Peter collects his friends. However, upon reporting this to Samsung it was an issue they had already been working to resolve and we were sent a firmware update that completely solved the issues without adding any new problems. Only now and again did we notice any slight changes in the dimming as the majority of our film and TV viewing looked superb. With the AI and machine learning being used with the Q900R we also believe Samsung will be proactive in ensuring the TV is updated regularly with picture quality improvements. I have been living with the Q9FN for a few months now (alongside other sets) and it has improved every time there has been a firmware update. We don’t see that proactive approach changing with the Q900R.
The scene in Gravity where Sandra Bullock is floating away tumbling into the black void of space has in the past been a real torture test for the Samsung Q9FN, but the Q900R nailed this perfectly and, again, displayed more shadow details and stars than the LG C8 OLED we used for comparison. The OLED had deeper, inkier blacks and the advantage of per pixel dimming, but the Q900R resolved more details and stars without vignetting or crushing and produced a stable and impactful image. It was very impressive indeed.
Contrast performance is impressive with a peak brightness of 2075 nits in HDR mode and black levels measured around about 0.012 nits using an ANSI block pattern that gives an on/off measurement of 172,916:1 in the best settings. Obviously, you can’t switch off the local dimming and this does affect black measurements with a black pattern as the backlight switches off completely, so using an ANSI block is the most accurate method we can use to get a result.
Motion Handling and Video ProcessingMoving to video processing and motion handling and again the Q900R impresses with its performance.
With the vast majority of our testing, we found no issues with motion handling with Auto Motion Plus switched off. 24fps material was played back perfectly with no induced judder or additional motion blur than what was already in the material. We also didn’t have any issues with 50i broadcast material as there was no sign of frame skipping or dropping, which we had seen on the Q8DN. News channel tickers were free from any issues as were our video-based text tests and a host of other test clips we used.
We did find a few issues with the BBC iPlayer app on the Q900R and this is down to the app and not the TV's processing performance. We found odd frame rate conversions being used, which gave some ‘watch from the start’ content a strange jumpy, staccato look. It really was hard to reproduce at times with preloaded content playing back fine – Dynasties looked stunning – but watching the latest documentary on Music from the Musicals, a half hour after the broadcast started was a perfect example of the issue. We believe this is firmly a BBC issue and not a fault with the Q900R. Watching other 50i content from other apps didn’t show up any issues similar to this. Indeed, with Netflix and Amazon, we had no issues with the video processing or motion handling and with sports, it looked superb with no smearing or trailing visible.
There are, of course, frame interpolation and smoothing technologies on board the Q900R under the Auto Motion Plus menu. Here, you can have options for Off, Auto and Custom. The TV ships in Auto so make sure you switch this off for film and drama viewing at 24fps. With video-based content, you can experiment and we found Auto was just too much in terms of smoothing and Soap Opera Effect (SOE). However, using the Custom settings it was possible to dial in good motion with very slight interpolation seen and no obvious artefacts. There is also Black Frame Insertion (BFI) technology available and it is called LED Clear Motion. This works better than recent examples we have seen on OLED screens with a far less noticeable flicker but screen brightness does drop. You can obviously add more brightness in by upping the panel brightness to combat this, but this will start to highlight the flickering more. In high contrast scenes, flicker can still be distracting and this solution will not be suitable for all viewers. Like we say, you will need to experiment with the settings and your preference for video-based content.
The star attraction with the Samsung Q900R is the video processing and upscaling technology being used. As 99% of the content any consumer owning this TV will watching will be less than 8K in resolution, the upscaling performance is incredibly important. Thankfully, Samsung has made great strides already with their machine learning and AI technologies which help to add in image sharpening, edge definition techniques and more, to low-resolution content, to try and make it viewable on the Q900R. For HD and above, the scaling works incredibly well with nice looking images that are not overly sharpened or edge enhanced to an extent that it causes any artefacts or issues to be visible. This is impressive as it would be easier to just whack up the edge enhancement and other processing and make things look overly processed. But what we actually get for the majority of upscaled content are natural looking images that look sharp enough without any processed or digital look. We also don’t see any artefacts or moiré effects around lines or straight edges and patterns, such as lines in suits or fabrics. Indeed, at normal viewing distances and with HD and above we were pleasantly surprised with the performance of the Q900R.
Where things are not quite as successful is with SD images, but let's face it Samsung are not miracle workers. SD will always look soft and needs a greater deal of processing power to try and fill in the millions of pixels that just don’t exist. The mathematical problems are just too great and as such, even decent 576i content like DVD can look soft. Broadcast channels in SD on the whole look smeary and soft with no real definition and on occasions can look blocky and noisy. This is to be expected when you now have 33 million pixels to fill and are significantly short by a few factors of ten.
With 4K materials, the Samsung Q900R has no issues with scaling the images to fit and thanks to the pixel density (something that also works for HD) it can look incredibly sharp and detailed. Obviously, the TV isn’t adding anything that doesn’t exist, but with so many pixels packed together, 4K content can look impressively sharp, even next to a 4K native TV.
Altogether, the processing and motion handling of the Samsung Q900R is not foolproof, but it is mighty impressive with HD and above resolution material and that is not surprising really, given the lack of native 8K content, the processing has to be powerful and perform to a high level.
Input LagSamsung has had a strong gaming performance for a number of years now and the Q900R continues that tradition. Many gamers who use their screens for hours on end have gravitated towards LED LCD screens due to no issues with retention or burn-in, and super fast input lag. With automated games mode switching as soon as the Q900R detects a games console, and an input lag of 16.7ms for SDR and HDR gaming, there is no doubt that Samsung continues to impress in this area.
HDR gaming is also an intense experience with excellent brightness, strong specular highlights and deep black levels when viewed head-on. Colours are also excellent with superb saturation without being overly garish. Sharpness is also excellent and the upscaling to 8K is also very good with no obvious artefacts visible. Overall, the Q900R makes a very good case for itself for serious and even casual gamers - with deep pockets, obviously.
The HDR performance of the Q900R is simply the best I have seen in 2018.
Samsung Q900R Picture Quality
Out of the Box PerformanceDynamic Mode: This setting is best avoided if you want to see images that are accurate and as intended. As you can imagine, everything is turned up to 11 in terms of blue coloured whites and garish, eye-shattering brightness and colours. Faces look well tanned and free from lines or other details, meaning it looks like everyone has taken Botox, given the sheen and line free faces on show. Image manipulation features are turned up to the maximum with Soap Opera Effect (SOE) from the motion, and contrast enhancers blowing out any nuance of detail in the image. Avoid.
Standard Mode: This is the setting that the TV defaults to and while you may think it could be the best option between the garish tones of Dynamic and the initially dull looking Movie mode, it is not accurate or advisable. Whites remain incredibly blue and while it is not quite as bright as Dynamic Mode, it is still full of issues with blown out details and Botox faces. There is a lack of shadow detailing which means there is no texture to faces or clothing, where you would expect to see detail. Colour looks overly saturated and skin tones are still on the David Dickinson side of tanned. Image manipulation is also still switched to full and SOE is also at full. When flicking quickly between the available picture modes we can see why consumers would probably pick this one as a happy medium, but if you want accuracy and a detailed image, once again avoid using this setting.
Movie Mode: While this is the most accurate image preset out of the box on the Samsung Q900R, there are still image manipulation features switched on as default, that we need to switch off. Local dimming should be on Standard for all SDR content viewing and it will change automatically to High for HDR viewing. You also need to switch off Auto Motion Plus for the best motion with film and TV drama content and also make sure that other enhancers and features are switched to off. That way you can guarantee the most accurate image quality to the standards. As you can see above in the measurement section of the review, the Q900R is very accurate out of the box in Movie Mode.
We found that the performance of the VA panel is very much dependent on your seating position, as you would expect. However, when viewed straight on, as intended, the black levels, shadow details, sharpness and colour saturation are superb, thanks to the advanced local dimming algorithms, zone count and lack of blooming or haloing. With HD and higher resolution content, the Samsung Q900R turns in an excellent performance with movie and TV show content, with very good motion with 24fps material. Because of the accuracy out of the box, we were not aware of any colour tinting to the greyscale, and colours to Rec.709 looked authentic and natural. Panel uniformity was also excellent with no issues to draw you out of the experience.
One favourite torture test for LED LCD TVs using FALD backlights is Gravity on Blu-ray and Sandra Bullock tumbling away from the Space Shuttle into the darkness of the stars, with the Milky Way behind her. As she tumbles her suit changes from white with lights to a dark shadow set against the star field. On some TVs, including the early firmware enabled Q9FN; the local dimming would create a vignette effect and crush some of the stars and pulse as the character tumbled. On the Q900R, we tested it in a side-by-side comparison with a 55-inch LG C8 and Q9FN with this scene. I have to be honest and say that the Q900R really impressed me with its performance with this content, so much so that I actually said 'wow'. The local dimming doesn’t cause any issues with vignetting or crushing the star field, with just a slight darkening on the bottom left of the frame, but the amount of shadow detailing and stars visible is astonishing. Even the C8 with its inky deep, solid black levels couldn’t produce the same amount of shadow detail impact, as its true dynamic range removed some of the lighter stars given its contrast jump. We also found the upscaling of the Q900R with this scene to be extremely impressive, as it was with terrestrial TV channels in 1080i and we also sampled HD content from Netflix with the same results.
Out of the Box HDR PerformanceOnce you feed the Q900R a 4K HDR image it remains in the Movie Mode but creates a new set of settings that can be adjusted independently of the SDR settings. This is especially useful when calibrating for different material.
The HDR performance of the Q900R is simply the best I have seen in 2018. Once again, when viewed directly on to the TV, the black levels, local dimming and stunning peak highlights of 2075 nits brightness all come together to offer superb image quality. The vast majority of HDR content is mastered at 1000 nits and, as such, the Samsung has little to do with its tone mapping. This means we are seeing the content with its full-intended brightness and colour grade. Even 4000 nit content such as Blade Runner 2049 and our favourite test disc (although the film is terrible) Pan, are not clipped in any way thanks to excellent mapping and an already very capable 2000+ nit performance of the Q900R. Reflections look utterly real and impactful, while lightning and flame are stunningly bright, yet detailed and fluid. It adds so much impact to an image when the display is capable of such dynamic range and brightness.
We were also knocked out with the HLG performance of the BBC series Dynasties on the iPlayer which looked so natural and realistic in its colour depth and dynamics. The detail was exquisite and we didn’t see any instances of the Q900R adding any unwanted sharpening or edge enhancement that looked aggressive or over the top. Image depth was also astounding thanks to the excellent local dimming and superb shadow details. Only now and again, in very tricky scenes, did we see any issues with the dimming hunting for the right level. The new firmware certainly did an excellent job making sure that everything looked balanced.
Calibrated PerformanceThe out of the box and calibrated performance of the Q900R review sample was very close indeed with image quality that would be hard to tell without a reference point to hand.
We didn’t even need to do much to get the white point of HDR content correct at D65 and once again the Samsung really impressed with its performance. Obviously, it can’t dim at the pixel level like an OLED screen can and, as such, it doesn’t quite have that level of per-pixel dynamic range where you can have pitch black and bright white next to each other as the backlight doesn’t have enough zones to do that. However, where it does create a fantastic impact is with the sheer headroom in terms of brightness that an OLED will never be able to achieve and that makes a real difference creating the impact of HDR. And it is not just in the specular highlights where the Q900R impresses. The black levels and especially the above black shadow detail retrieval is at times simply stunning, giving the image copious amounts of depth. The scene where Tigerlilly, Hook and Peter are making their way down the flooded caves in a raft should be a real challenge for an LED LCD panel, but the local dimming and processing behind it manage to create a truly impressive result. The fire of the torches are vividly bright and detailed, and the dimly lit walls of the cavern and detail within the shadows is stunning. The dark water still has the pop of what light there is, which give it a really authentic touch.
Before the firmware update, there were a few instances of the local dimming getting caught out in these scenes, and the last chapter of the disc where Peter goes back for the orphans. It would cause the backlight to pulse and flicker between luminance levels, like the backlight was hunting for the right levels, almost like a lazy automatic gearbox in a car searching for the right gear. However, on reporting these issues I was informed that Samsung was aware and working on a firmware update. After that was applied, the performance of the local dimming algorithm improved greatly. It is not perfect and still, now and again, a really tricky scene catches it out, but this is very rare compared to before the update.
The one weakness, to all our praise here for the Q900R, is the viewing angles of the panel, which are an inherent trait of the technology. Move off-axis and haloing and blooming do become an issue that affects performance and viewing enjoyment. However, knowing that and setting up the TV in your viewing room correctly will mitigate and rid you of those issues.
We have come this far into the picture assessment and must still discuss the fact that even with the best HDR performance possible, we are still watching 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays. These do look astounding in terms of resolution and picture quality thanks to the sheer pixel density of the panel being used. Even when making comparisons of the same content next to the Q900 on a native 4K panel like the Q9FN, the image was just as sharp and detailed with no signs of upscaling going on. It can even look slightly sharper with some 4K images thanks to the pixel count. Watching 4K material that was originally shot in 8K, such as some travelogue films on the YouTube 4K HDR player by Jacob & Katie Swartz, also looks incredible. I have a very fast internet connection so playback at 4K is no issue at all and given that there is still some compression going on, it looked very clean, detailed and almost sharper than the 4K resolution it was being played at, thanks to the fact it was originally shot at 8K. These films shot in Peru, Yellowstone and Morocco perfectly display the type of detailed high-resolution images and settings that suit a screen like the 8K Q900R. Moving to real 8K material courtesy of a few sales demos from Samsung on a USB stick really highlighted what this TV is ultimately capable of with native content. However, that was all I was able to view at this time as 8K content is very scarce in Europe.
Which brings me to the last thought I have in terms of image quality, resolution and the relevance of the Q900R. Watching side-by-side comparisons of 4K content on the Q900R and either the LG C8 or Q9FN I used for the comparisons, there was no immediate jump in resolution alone from my normal viewing distance of 7 feet, to separate either screen, even though one is 8K. Put native 8K content into the equation and there will be a difference to see, but with upscaled content, there is no standout image difference when it comes to resolution alone. Don’t get me wrong, with a 4K and 8K TV next to each other you are hardly suffering from a lack of detail and picture quality, it is just the jump up in resolution is not as big as I was expecting, but the quality is first class.
The Samsung Q900R raises the bar yet again for LED LCD TVs
- Native 8K panel
- Accurate out of the box settings
- Very good calibrated performance
- Excellent image processing and upscaling
- Superb local dimming and black level performance
- Excellent shadow details and colour volume
- Stunning HDR with 2075 nit peak brightness
- Viewing angles are poor
- Watching off-axis introduces haloing and blooming
- No native 8K material available yet
- No Dolby Vision
Samsung Q900R (QE65Q900R) 8K QLED ReviewSo is the Q900R a must buy TV right now? If we look at just the 8K-resolution side of things you could rightly say that it is perhaps early to the party where we have no native 8K content to view on it. Samsung is aware of this and that is why they have spent the time and R&D budget creating the machine learning and AI technology to make sure that consumers can use the Q900R with all currently available content and resolutions. Plus they are developing LED LCD technology and want to push that as far as they can before something else takes its place. There will be competition from OLED come CES in a few weeks to also make the 8K story even more interesting. I guess only you can make the decision to buy into 8K now with the lack of content available.
But moving away from the native 8K side of the story and looking at the Q900R as a 2018 LED LCD TV, it really is a fantastic example of the technology given the HDR and image quality on offer. The upscaling is fantastic with HD and higher resolutions, with 4K really looking superb with little signs of any scaling going on. The FALD backlight and advanced local dimming algorithms are also impressive and really do work well with the vast majority of viewing material. We did find a few little niggles, but again these were fixed by firmware and Samsung certainly intend to further enhance the performance going forward.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the very best LED LCDs available right now and it is also the best HDR performer I have seen this year with its excellent black levels, stunning shadow detail and superb colour volume performance. Plus, the specular highlights and general pop with HDR content is stunning. Given its 2075 nit peak brightness, it handled 1000 & 4000 nit content with minimal tone mapping and no clipping at all, which resulted in some breathtaking images onscreen. The only downside to this is the obvious viewing angle issue with LCD and moving off-axis results in the return of haloing and blooming, but viewed as intended and head-on, it is very impressive indeed. There is no doubt that Samsung really has moved the performance level of LED LCD up a few notches this year.
The last part of the puzzle to mention is the price point of the 65-inch model we are reviewing here. In some respects, it seems incredibly reasonable for a brand new 65-inch 8K TV to be priced at £4999. Indeed just looking back a few years to the first 4K screens at this size it almost seems like a bit of a bargain. But you also have the opposing viewpoint that it could be seen as a Q9FN but with a higher resolution screen, so it seems expensive. Only you will be able to say if it is personally acceptable, but you are getting Samsung’s most advanced LED LCD TV with machine learning AI technology and first-rate upscaling in a future-proofed 8K resolution package.
As we keep mentioning here at AVForums there is no such thing as the perfect TV and there never will be. There are also two very distinct technologies available to consumers. As such it is important to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and your own viewing circumstances when making a decision about which TV will best suit you. We have been fair and balanced in our appraisal of the Q900R including hours of comparison testing, torture testing and assessing performance over a number of weeks to give you our honest appraisal of the Samsung. It will not suit everyone, but in terms of its market position, performance and price point we think it deserves a Highly Recommended badge and you should consider a demonstration if it fits your requirements.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £4,999.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
SDR Picture Quality9
HDR Picture Quality9
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated9
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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