The Samsung Q9 QLED series sets the bar higher for sheer picture quality and viewing enjoyment. But then perhaps you expect this from the company’s 2018, flagship, 65 and 75” sets.
Samsung invited GadgetGuy and GadgetGirl to a few hours at the new West Hotel by Hilton at Sydney’s Barangaroo. The aim was to watch a variety of content and listen to the sound with and without a soundbar.
Regrettably, we had only a few hours to test the Q9 QLED TVs. So, this is not a comprehensive review; rather it is sufficient to expand on our aforementioned ‘expectations’.
As far as a premium TV goes, the Samsung Q9 QLED exceeded every expectation we have (and we own recent 4K OLED and Super UHD sets).
Sitting in a smick hotel room replete with room service lunch (it is hard work watching TV for hours on end) we could only be effusive in praising the sets. There was none of this “Brand X does it better. Brand Y is cheaper etc.”
However, GadgetGuy does use a set of established paradigms to review any product. It helps to be objective and remove any biases for or against a brand or product.
Big is beautiful – but you can have too much of a good thing
Let’s start by saying 75” is a damned big TV. We sat approx. 2.5m away on a couch in a typical hotel suite. It had an external picture window about two metres to the left and an entry hallway about three metres to the right.
While the window had both sheer and blackout curtains, the ambient room light (at 10.30am to 3 pm) was bright. This meant blackout curtains must be entirely drawn to remove ambient light reflections. TV placement out of direct light is important.
Initially, we felt uncomfortable so close to such a big TV. Over time the discomfort factor changed to immersion.
The 65” was in the bedroom. It had a big picture window two metres to the right and a bathroom entrance two metres to the left. We sat on the king-sized bed about 3 metres back.
This was a comfortable distance comparable with the 55” set we have in our bedroom at home.
Again, the ambient light was bright, and we needed to darken the bedroom for reflection-free viewing.
Be careful if wall mounting to keep the centre of the set as close to the horizontal plane where your eyes will be. This is not a criticism – the larger the set, the more accurate placement and room lighting control need to be.
The Q9 QLED 65” and 75” stand needed at least a 400mm deep shelf and 600mm if you place a sound bar in front.
Other stands include the gravity (round) and studio (easel)
GadgetGuy’s take. 75” needs a larger setback – four to five metres. Off-angle viewing was OK, but I suspect 20-30° off centre horizontally and vertically is maximum before you see ‘flaws’.
Quantum Dot QLED is the best LED/LCD yet
Samsung’s Q9 QLED uses precisely engineered metal Quantum Dots to create nanodots that produce specific wavelengths of light. This increases colour accuracy and brightness.
Samsung was first to use Quantum Dot, and it is up to the second generation. You will see other brands touting Quantum Dot – these are a fair way behind the Q9’s offerings.
In layman’s terms, this means superb, punchy colours. Better than anything I have seen in any brands 2018 LED/LCD line-up.
Colours are vibrant without over saturation (unless you want it that way). It achieves 100% of the DCI-P3 digital cinema colour spectrum, so it is close to Hollywood colours.
The ‘out-of-the-box’ default settings are fine for Joe and Jane Average. But the pre-sets like Natural and Dynamic HDR modes are not true to name. The Natural mode was anything but natural with overblown blacks and colours. Dynamic mode was too ‘plain.’
As seasoned TV reviewers, we needed to significantly tweak the settings to get the set colours, in our opinion, just right.
Remember that these were pre-production models, so it is inevitable that tweaks are needed. Now there is nothing wrong with tweaking – Samsung will surely get it right for retail sales.
Picture sharpness and shadow detail
On 4K content (Martian Blu-ray, Dolby Vision, HDR10+, Dolby/DTS/Dolby Atmos) you could not ask for a better picture (once tweaked). It had maximum clarity, sharpness and looked fantastic.
HDR10+ (not Dolby Vision) bought out details in the shadows and pulled back overblown lighting.
Netflix 4K with HDR was great – a real viewing experience.
GadgetGuy’s take – we are concerned that a $10K TV lacks Dolby Vision support, but it does an excellent job with HDR10+.
We played three clips – 480p, 720p and 1080p – all upscaled as well as could be expected. I felt there was a distinct lack of sharpness on 480/720p.
I suspect that you will want to watch at least 1080p content which upscales well.
Direct Full array backlight
These “Direct Full Array” models don’t use edge lighting. Instead, a grid of LED backlights controlled individually controlled from 0-100% light.
There are up to 480 grids (on the Q9 QLED 75”), and they help to provide spectacular and convincing blacks. I won’t go as far as claiming they are inky blacks like OLED, but they were excellent.
There was virtually no bottom light-bleed that you see in edge-lit screens. No light bleed was evident in letterbox mode (black bars top and bottom).
There was, however, some light bleed within each array. But given the screen is divided into 480 zones it is not too noticeable. See the icon third in from the left below.
GadgetGuy’s take – excellent but not quite up there with OLED that has pixel-level dimming
One clear connection
Rather than having the electronics, TV tuner and connections built into the panel, these come in a separate box. Then a single, slim, 3.5mm transparent cable connects to the panel.
Fibre optics carry the video and sound signal, and four wire conductors carry power – 13V and 350V (low amperage so it won’t fry your pet if it chews it).
A five-metre cable comes in the box, and a fifteen-metre length is an option.
One Connect Box has the capacity for 4 x HDMI, 3 x USB, Component In (Y/Pb/Pr) (and composite), Digital Audio Out (Optical), Ethernet, and 240V power cable.
It also has Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth and all the TV smarts. It can be enclosed in a cupboard if the smart remote can locate it.
GadgetGuy’s take – excellent installation options
Apps – Samsung Smart Hub
Samsung Tizen OS is very polished and has most of the main apps. It’s not like Android TV (Sony) where you can turn it into a huge tablet.
We could see YouTube, Freeview Plus (all offerings), Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime Video, a browser, and more. We could not find Foxtel Play. A list of US apps is here (we cannot find a list of Australian apps).
Free-to-air TV PVR is available if you plug a USB flash drive in. PVR is not available via any of the apps due to copyright reasons.
TV/browser does not support playback of flash videos, so you need to use the YouTube app.
One Remote Control – one remote to rule them all
It is an elegant, simplified 10-button plus ring with voice interaction. While I appreciate the simplicity, it can be daunting to know how to use it after the plethora of 20 button remotes.
We tried voice control, and it was able to change channels and input devices. I am sure it has much more functionality.
Ambient mode – disguise your TV as a wall
Due to a previous journalist’s passion for discovering more about ambient mode it had been turned off! So here is the theory.
TVs spend 80% of their time switched off. ‘Ambient mode’ shows pleasing things on the screen – in a low power mode – instead of an ugly black glass slab.
These include patterns and images loaded into the TV, with overlays of clocks or weather details or other information. Or you can use a Samsung phone to take a photo of the TV with its surroundings. The TV will create a matching pattern on its screen.
It is a good idea, but we suspect it needs a lot more work to be useful.
GadgetGuy’s take – give OK Google the screen.
Smart Things compatible
The TV can join Samsung Smart Things ecosystem. This is the beginning of a Samsung Smart Home.
SmartThings can turn your QLED TV into a hub for your compatible smart home devices, from the fridge to the washing machine to a mobile phone.
GadgetGuy’s take – not necessary now but will be in a couple of years. Samsung is well ahead in the smart home race.
Sound – get a bar
The Q9 QLED has a Dolby Digital, DTS, 60W, 2.1 channel speaker system.
It offers acceptable left/right separation and volume but lacks a little in spatial depth.
The sound had distortion free recessed bass, boosted mids and recessed treble. It is called a mid-sound signature and is fine for free-to-air and movies.
Don’t get us wrong – while mid is not my favourite sound signature it is fine but if you are spending $10k, then you will be buying a dedicated AV system.
This has eight speakers and dedicated amps. The 360W output is 30W x 6 mid, 10W x 2 tweeter ( L/R/C) and a 160W wireless sub. It provides 3.1 sound from 42Hz-20kHz.
While it processes Dolby and DTS 5.1 sound, it requires the rear speaker pack for 5.1 or provides simulated surround sound from the bar. It does this by acoustic beaming to direct sound.
This is excellent when you have side walls to bounce sound off. But in the hotel room, the curtains on one side and the hallway on the other negated any acoustic beaming effect. Had Samsung wanted to impress it would have provided the rear speakers.
The sound bar had a far more of a warm and sweet sound signature – good bass, good mids, treble recessed. It was capable of 83dB volume – good but not head banging. Speech was clear from the centre channel.
Our call is that it is a competent soundbar ideal for 55-65” TV in most lounges. It is not what I would use with a 75” TV.
WAV/MP3/WMA/OGG/FLAC/AAC codec support
HDMI ARC plus HDMI 2.0a and 4K pass-through
mm AUX in
USB 5V/.5A playback
Three sound modes – game mode ups the bass, standard more mids
No headphone jack (Bluetooth if not paired with the TV)
Optional wireless rear speakers for 5.1
GadgetGuy’s take – Samsung’S Q9 QLED excellent flagship TV
We are not going to waffle on about OLED versus QLED versus any LED. What we are going to say is the move to the full backlit QLED screen is a good one.
Over the past few weeks, we have been to Panasonic, LG and Samsung TV launches. In all cases their top-of-the-range LED/LCDs are impressive. You would be happy with any of them.
But we will go out on a limb and state that Samsung’s 2018 Q9 QLED is the best top-end LED/LCD TV image we’ve ever seen.
The 75” is impressive but at $10,499 it has a limited market who will want to set it up with all the right AV gear in a media room.
The 65” is equally impressive and at $6,499 it is an excellent contender with any top-of-the-range TV from any major brand.
GadgetGuy covered the Samsung 2018 TV launch here.
In our opinion, it has the best colour and black of any current LED/LCD
Love the external Connect One Box and clear cable
Ambient mode – take it or leave it
The soundbar is good and necessary
Out of the box, settings do not produce the best picture – lots of tweaking (then reset for the next reviewer)
Remote perhaps oversimplified for non-tech savvy people
While Samsung believes that a 75” is viewable at 3 metres. Our advice is to take two steps back.
Stand depth may be a concern for narrow media cabinets
Wall mounting height becomes critical – need to keep the centre of the screen on the same plane as your eyes.
Soundbar is not quite the pedigree I would put with the 75” in a media room