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In 2019, Samsung still relies on QLED technology to oppose LG’s OLED also aided by other main players in the market (from Sony to Panasonic, through Philips). This year, however, the QLED has made a leap forward. The 2019 range of QLED televisions takes advantage of the Quantum Processor, introduced with the Q900R, which relies on advanced algorithms for more efficient scaling. Without forgetting QLED’s major asset, a maximum brightness that OLED TVs can only dream of. The Samsung QLED Q90 is available in three sizes (Check on Amazon.com).
Samsung QLED Q90 – Elegant Sobriety
The Q90 is certainly a beautiful TV set, which uses its sobriety to highlight its elegance. The One Connect box, an essential feature of Samsung’s high-end TVs, allows for a thinner frame that can blend into the background [even more so if you decide to fix the TV to the wall using Samsung’s No Gap mount (Check on Amazon.com)]. The included support, is a heavy block of metal, central and therefore very practical.
We also love the included remote – already seen in the Q900 (Check on Amazon.com) – the aptly named One Remote. It has all the essential features in a compact and practical format.
Mounting the Samsung QLED Q90 on the wall also has the advantage of enjoying the best of Ambient mode. It allows you to integrate the TV into your home by displaying on the screen the same pattern as the wall behind it. You can also display a photo or useful information such as the time or weather updated while on standby.
Another very practical feature is the One Connect box which houses both the power supply and A/V connections and connects to the TV via a single and very discreet cable. The One Connect includes four HDMI 2.0 inputs (one of them also supports ARC), three USB ports, optical audio output, RJ45 Ethernet port, CI+ port, and antenna/satellite inputs. Also Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity.
The Samsung QLED Q90 sports a 4.2 audio system that delivers 60 Watts. It supports the Dolby Digital Plus format, and Samsung’s own Adaptive Sound feature. Its purpose is to automatically compensate for the audio rendering according to the characteristics of your room.
The Tizen operating system now includes Apple AirPlay 2 and thus can connect to iOS devices (iPhone, iPad but also Mac). Also present are the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The interface remains the same, which is a good thing since it’s the most intuitive of them all.
The SmartThings app can connect to your other smart devices even the ones from a competing brand (please note that we have not been able to test this feature).
Samsung QLED Q90 – Improvements
Samsung has not changed much compared to the previous model, the Q9FN (Check on Amazon.com). The Q90 is still an LCD with a VA panel and a Quantum Dot layer for strong, natural and differentiated color reproduction. The pixels, unlike those of OLED panels, are not self-luminous but are illuminated by an LED matrix. Thanks to local dimming technology, the Q90 can reduce the backlight zone by zone. As far as we know, Samsung uses 480 zones, which produce a very strong contrast.
The Samsung QLED Q90 achieves a value of 3237:1 (native contrast) even better than many OLED models. It also covers about 98% of the DCI-P3 color space, which is relevant for HDR films – this is also an outstanding value.
Samsung TVs have a reputation for forcing color reproduction to more dynamic levels in order to create a more flattering image but not necessarily natural. On the Samsung QLED Q90, however, the image looks amazing without using an over the top rendering. While we were accustomed to lowering or completely deactivate most settings, we were pleasantly surprised to find them almost perfect (especially the colors). Cinema Mode will please the majority of users. Of course, the most demanding among us will have the opportunity to fine-tune the panel to obtain an image in line with their preferences.
In any case, the device displays shimmering colors that capture the eye (do not hesitate to choose the temperature that suits you best) and much more detailed dark scenes. The blacks have amazing depth, almost OLED-like. A definite step forward by Samsung.
Capable of a peak brightness that can rise above 1,000 nits, this TV is an excellent medium for HDR content (alas no Dolby Vision) and bright rooms viewing.
Samsung continues to stubbornly refuse to support the popular HDR Dolby Vision standard for transmitting dynamic metadata. Instead, this TV set supports exclusively the HDR10+ standard. Who will win this format dispute remains to be seen – but Dolby Visions greater market penetration is a known fact. Anyone who reproduces Dolby Vision movies on Netflix or Ultra HD Blu-ray on an HDR10+ TV will still get true HDR10, just with fixed brightness limits per movie and not per scene or frame. The visual limitations are hardly noticeable though, in worst-case scenarios, small details will be lost in particularly dark or light scenes.
Also great is the new anti-reflection coating of the Samsung QLED Q90. It hardly reflects any objects and light sources placed opposite the TV. On the other hand, our test model displayed a slight dirty screen effect, aka DSE, which is typical for this kind of panel. The backlight is thus not completely even, with observable darker spots. It doesn’t bother much, but the viewers that pay meticulous pay attention to this kind of thing can sometimes notice it. The measured deviation on a white background is just under 9 percent, which is slightly worse than the Q9FN (7 percent deviation). However, these values, should not be overly interpreted.
If you want, you can also activate the black frame insertion, which darkens the picture a bit but offers a more supple motion and battles the so-called soap opera effect. Users who prefer more fluid movements can adjust its strength in ten levels. All things considered, this is presumably the best TV for daylight viewing.
It has its limits, of course, as we can observe blooming in some complicated scenes (brilliant white subtitles on very black bands). OLED panels have the advantage here and the Samsung QLED Q90 is not quite on par with OLED TVs when it comes to displaying particularly dark parts of the picture – but even then the difference is only noticeable in complete darkness and with particularly critical motifs such as starry skies. In general, the blacks are excellent (not only for an LCD TV), and the details in darker scenes remain discernible. Just be careful not to lower the brightness too much, otherwise, you will lose some.
Anyhoo, most of the time, you will not pay attention to any of this and simply remain speechless in front of the proposed visual spectacle!
Samsung has also worked on the viewing angles to avoid as much as possible the color drift that we saw on last year’s QF9N as you move off-angle.
It cannot still match OLED’s extreme angles but you can deviate horizontally from the optimal (right-angled) viewing angle by almost 20 degrees and still see more than half of the maximum contrast. In the older QLED premium models the limit was set at half that, just 10 degrees!
In everyday life, there are hardly any restrictions when several people sit on a sofa in front of the TV, which means that we can finally invite a lot of friends home to watch the game without worrying about image quality.
The Quantum Processor does a great job, albeit somewhat overzealous at times. Image upscaling is miraculous, although there is always the impression of an artificial rendering. However, it is less notable than on the Q900 8K TV (forced to compensate more for the huge difference in the definition). In any case, the Quantum Processor represents the future of AV devices from Samsung. We also find an Intelligent Mode that focuses on adapting the brightness – and sound – to the viewing conditions.
Samsung QLED Q90 – Gaming
And what about video games? You will not find a better TV than the Samsung QLED Q90.
Although Samsung waives HDMI 2.1 certification and still uses the older HDMI 2.0 standard, it adds a few features that are officially supported only with HDMI 2.1. This includes an automatic activation of the Gaming or low-latency mode when a game is launched (on the Xbox One X, for example). It also supports variable frame rates (here in the form of AMD Freesync) and UHD resolution with 120 Hertz. The latter only works via the fourth HDMI port if you activate the option “Extended input signal” in the TV settings menu.
Since the maximum bandwidth of 18Gbps via HDMI 2.0b is not sufficient for full-color resolution in 4K and 120Hz, the PC can only process the image with a Blu ray-level color sub-scan (4: 2: 0 instead of 4: 4: 4). and reduced color depth (8 bits instead of 10 bits). Simply put, this means that the color resolution is reduced. This is annoying on the Windows desktop, but not in movies or TV shows and only slightly when gaming.
Outside the gaming mode, the TV has a noticeable input latency of 72 milliseconds (standard mode) and 79ms (movie mode). Thus, gamers will want to activate the Gaming mode, which lowers the input latency to just 15ms. Not only is this input lag among the lowest on the market but, as a bonus, The Samsung QLED Q90 sports one of the best game modes available. And in addition to compatibility with AMD’s FreeSync technology (aims to synchronize the number of images sent by the console/PC and the display frequency to avoid screen tearing), the Q90 also features a game enhancer that lets you see what’s going on in darker scenes. Yes, it’s somewhat cheating!
The sound quality is not spectacular, but better than most TVs. True home cinema fans will want to connect a dedicated audio system, be it a soundbar or surround speakers, but for occasional TV viewing these speakers are fine.
Samsung QLED Q90 – Smart TV
SmartThings is back and we do not see why it would be otherwise. This interface is the only one that is able to compete with Android TV in terms of applications. It’s simple and it gives you everything you need to watch TV shows and movies.
In 2019, Samsung sees SmartThings as an aggregator. In short, it preaches openness and will work with anyone and anything. For example, the additions of Google Assistant and Alexa, in addition to Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant. You will have, however, to use a connected speaker to be able to communicate with either of the two third-party solutions. A limit that slows down the responsiveness of the assistant.
Samsung also opened the door for Apple, with the integration of the AirPlay 2 protocol (to stream content from an iOS device) and the iTunes catalog.
Samsung QLED Q90 – Verdict
Sitting at the very top of Samsung’s 2019 QLED range, the Q90 (Check on Amazon.com) could not disappoint. The prices are somewhat close to those of the manufacturer’s 8K models, but the Q90 keeps its promises, with a contrast ratio that borders on excellence, almost perfect colors, and wide viewing angles. Add to that the exciting new features such as Ambient mode or the integration with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Airplay 2. An excellent TV for the most demanding viewers.