The Q9 series is Samsung’s top of the line TV. In its second iteration, the Q9 (Q9FN) made its debut early last year. This year’s Q9 comes equipped with a new QLED panel, which sees some improvements. Picture quality enhancements aside, to truly stand apart from the likes of Sony, LG, Panasonic and others, the Q9 also needed to deliver some clever ‘quality of life’ features to help tip the scales in its favour.
The latest in picture technology
Starting with the screen, the Q9 comes with 65 and 75 inch panel sizes, both of which are 4K resolution (3840 x 2160), operate at 200Hz and use Quantum Dot technology. As it’s Samsung’s top of the range model, it has other image enhancing features too including Direct Full Array, Ultra Black Elite, Q Contrast Elite, HDR 10+ (Q HDR), Q Engine and a 10 year ‘No Burn in’ guarantee.
Without getting too technical, the Quantum Dot technology in Samsung’s QLED panel delivers a very bright and vibrant picture, and does not loose colour integrity as it gets brighter. This is because with traditional LED-backlit TVs, more white light is mixed in with the colour the brighter it gets, so colours tend to wash out, such as red becoming orange and so on. With Quantum Dot panels, the colour comes from a blue blacklight hitting red, green and blue nano-crystals, which in turn produce very pure colour at a wide range of intensities.
Since the Q9 uses a backlit panel, it is not self emitting like the OLED panels found on LG, Sony and Panasonic top-end TVs. As OLED is exceptional when displaying darker scenes, the Q9 competes with the help of Direct Full Array and Ultra Black Elite technologies. The former consists of a backlight broken into tiny pieces, and it only activates the backlight in areas of the screen where it’s needed, meaning the rest of the panel can be switched off for a ‘true’ black effect. Q Contrast Elite adds more contrast and detail in darker areas. Ultra Black Elite is a surface coating that helps eliminate reflections that would otherwise be visible when the screen is dark.
The 2018 Q9 also supports High Dynamic Range, and has been upgraded to the HDR10+ standard. When playing compatible content, this allows finer adjustment of light and dark areas of scenes for more realism and colours closer to what the director intended. It would, however, be good to see support Dolby Vision, which is found on LG and other OLED TVs. Quite a few movies are supporting Dolby Vision now, and it’s arguably the best HDR standard in the business.
On screen performance
We tested the Q9 on a range of content including the Martian via a 4K Blu-ray player, Blade Runner (original) from a 4K Apple TV, HDR encoded Netflix videos including Bloodline and Marvel’s Daredevil, free-to-air SD television and games.
Overall, the Q9 produces superb, bright colours, while providing a near-OLED like black performance. While not quite as good as OLED with blacks, the Direct Full Array micro dimming worked impressively and was only spoofed by situations like end credits where white type played in the middle of a black screen. This created some minor vignetting at the edges of the test and nothing dramatic.
Samsung’s QLED panel handles colours exceptionally well, both in terms of saturation and purity in different areas of the screen. As the panel is 10-bit, it can display a whopping 1 billion colours and supports the same DCI-P3 colour space that film cameras use. As such, the Q9 has superb ‘colour volume’ meaning it can display pure colours from very dim to very bright levels.
Brightness wise, Samsung’s QLED panel jumps from 1500 to 2000 Nits peak brightness compared to last year’s Q9, so it has plenty of punch to cut though sunny living rooms with dazzling whites and vibrant colours.
Also impressive is the SD up-scaling, with minimal artefacts and impressive edge smoothing. Games via the Game Mode played very well, and there was no perceptible input lag or pixel response issues. With a very low input lag of 15 milliseconds, this is definitely a gamer’s TV.
In terms of motion, the 200 hertz panel is great at displaying fast action, with no perceptible tearing, streaking or blurring of objects moving across the screen.
Lastly, a huge improvement over the 2017 Q9F is that the backlight is no longer visible as a series of slightly off coloured bands. Now it’s uniform and consistent, especially when displaying a grey screen, such as an X-Box’s settings menu.
The only let down of the excellent screen is that the viewing angle could be wider, and there could be less colour and brightness fall-off as you approach these wider angles. Still this is a very, very impressive effort.
Setting up the Q9 out of the box is fairly quick. The stand takes a few screws to secure but isn’t complicated, and everything else plugs into the One Connect Box. You now need to download an App onto your iOS or Android smartphone for the TV configuration, however, but once installed, it’s a snap to set up your network and TV settings. Some might not love this approach, but it works well enough.
Also, the Q9FN will automatically recognise your devices, such as Foxtel IQ box, Apple TV, Blu-Ray player, X-Box, PS4 and others, so you don’t need to manually set these up.