Samsung 75-inch QN900A Neo QLED 8K TV Review
Tony O'Brien tunes in to this South Korean company's latest flagship smart TV…
75-inch QN900A Neo QLED 8K TV
OLED has certainly enjoyed its share of the limelight in recent years. It's an impressive technology, to be sure, capable of producing deep, dark, inky blacks. Yet, good as it is, it can't match the brightness of a decent LCD display. Conversely, while LCD television technology leads in terms of brightness, it cannot produce OLED's inky blacks. So what if you could have the best of both worlds? It was music to my videophile ears when Samsung raised this prospect at a press event in March when the company introduced its new NEO QLED 8K Smart TV.
Impressed as I was, it was hardly the time or the place for critical evaluation or testing. So I patiently bided my time to receive a unit for testing, to see for myself if it could live up to the hype. The Q900A Neo QLED 8K is Samsung's latest flagship smart TV. It uses an LED-backlit LCD and the company's proprietary Quantum Dot technology, the red and green quantum dots coupling with the blue LEDs of the backlight to produce both purer whites and a wider colour spectrum.
Full-array local dimming (FALD) is also employed, but this time around, the company's engineers have gone back to the drawing board to rethink the Q900A's backlighting system, which is key to producing those deep, dark blacks. The LEDs found in conventional LED/LCD televisions are packaged with a lens, whereas the Q900A's LEDs are attached directly to a substrate. This is then covered in a micro-layer, which controls the light output cone. The benefits, Samsung claims, are myriad.
By reducing the size of the LED to one-fortieth of conventional designs, the Q900A has increased its dimming zones from the hundreds to the thousands. By better focusing the light source with the micro-layer, black levels are further improved while brightness is increased up to 40%. The new substrate also significantly reduces blooming, which manifests as a halo of light – particularly evident with bright objects against dark backgrounds.
This new TV also sports 12-bit processing, which provides greater gradation in images, particularly in shadow detail, and it comes equipped with the latest Neo Quantum Processor with Samsung's Deep Learning/AI technology. Comparing incoming images to its database of reference images, the processor applies algorithms to increase the resolution and contrast of low-resolution images.
Rather than conventional rectangular pixels, the Q900A uses diamond-shaped ones. Samsung claims this gives it a wider viewing angle. Offering a native refresh rate of 200Hz, the TV is compatible with Hybrid Log-Gamma and HDR10+ but does not support Dolby Vision. Dolby Vision signals will subsequently be decoded in HDR10.
The Q900A automatically senses when a gaming console or PC based game is connected and switches to Game Mode, which optimises the screen for games with the lowest input lag in each category – 9.8ms for 4K@60Hz and 5.8ms for 4K@120Hz. It also launches the Game Bar, allowing gamers to view and change settings directly from the TV before moving into gameplay.
While we'd recommend pairing it with a capable surround system or soundbar, the Q900A features Samsung's Object Tracking System (OTS Pro), which tracks sound across the screen. Likewise, it also supports Q Symphony, which synchronises sound between the TV and compatible Samsung soundbars. Naturally, there's a range of 'smarts' including support for Google Assistant, Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2 and Samsung's Smart Things app. Users can choose Bixby, Alexa or Google Assistant voice control.
IT TAKES TWO
You'll need at least one other person to unbox and install the Q900A. At 41kg with stand (31kg without), it's by no means a heavy-lift, but its 654.8x1016.6x320.5mm dimensions make it awkward. When mounted, its large matt black screen (anti-reflective coating) dominated our lounge room. Its frosted silver stand is small in comparison, and while visually pleasing, it isn't the sturdiest of mounts – so if you're considering this product, I would strongly consider wall mounting.
Bordered by a thin silver bezel, the Q900A has a depth of about 150mm, the extra width needed to accommodate its FALD system. It does away with cable spaghetti with its One Connect Box. Cables connect directly to it, connecting to the TV itself by a convenient single cable for everything, including power.
The One Connect Box offers four HDMI inputs, three USB ins, RF, Ethernet and TOSLINK inputs. It also supports wireless, Bluetooth and eARC via its One Connect cable. It's a simple and elegant solution. Not only does it reduce panel width, but it makes hooking up devices easier, particularly once wall-mounted. Also included is Samsung's One remote control, which uses a solar panel to charge its battery.Forgoing an excess of buttons in favour of style, the backlit remote is not only easy on the eye but intuitive to use.
Powering on the Q900A for the first time, you are guided through the setup process, which is refreshingly painless. The TV found and named the devices connected to the One Connect Box and tuned into our local television services, while I registered for a Samsung account.
Although the remote has shortcuts for Prime and Netflix, pressing the home menu brings up a list of apps that includes all the usual suspects, anything extra available to download from the app store. If you would like to learn more about how the Q900A measured and calibrated, then read on, otherwise skip ahead to the PICTURE QUALITY section.
MEASUREMENTS AND CALIBRATION
Picture settings profoundly impact image quality, so the TVs we review are calibrated to industry standards with a Klein Instruments K10A colourimeter, profiled to our reference JETI 1501 spectroradiometer. I used a Murideo 6G pattern generator for SDR, HDR and Dolby Vision test patterns in addition to the Spears & Munsil HDR Benchmark disc and DVS HDR10 disc. The Q900A was calibrated with Calman Ultimate 2021 calibration software. Calibration of our review televisions not only ensures they're working at their best capacity but provides a level playing field for comparison.
The Q900A has five picture modes consisting of Dynamic, Standard, Natural, Film-Maker and Movie. Calibration controls include twenty-point greyscale adjustment and a six-point colour management system (CMS). Both Movie and Film-Maker mode proved the most accurate out of the box. Measuring 140 cd/m² before calibration, Film-Maker is too dark for most viewing environments. Measured gamma response averaged 2.12, which is far lower than expected, giving images a slightly washed-out look. However, colour accuracy was an entirely different story, with Film-Maker mode adhering closely to industry standards, albeit with a slight green tinge to the greyscale.
Movie mode produced 203 cd/m² before calibration and an average gamma response of 1.97. While not as accurate as Film-maker mode, colour accuracy was decent and the next most accurate. Movie mode shared a similar greyscale response to Film-Maker mode. The Q900A's Movie mode was calibrated for SDR critical/night-time viewing. After which, it produced 162 cd/m² peak light output.
After calibration, the Q900A produced near reference greyscale and colour tracking with a maximum delta error (dE) of 1.09 at 90% for greyscale and 3.48 at 100% Red. Gamma was equally impressive with an average response of 2.39, just shy of my 2.40 target. In HDR mode, the Q900A produced a whopping 1,452 cd/m² before calibration. To put things in perspective, this is around twice the light output of most OLED televisions. It achieved 92.31% of UHDA-P3 1931xy and 95.58% of UHDA-P3 Percent 1976 uv, the wider colour space used in 4K Ultra HD. This coverage is consistent with OLED televisions we've tested. The Samsung was connected to a Sony BP-X700 4K Blu-ray and Playstation 4 for the review period.
This machine produced stunning images with both SDR and HDR material. Its excellent dynamic range resulted in images with deep, dark blacks punctuated by bright highlights. Excellent shadow detail and 8K resolution give the set the ability to produce images with an incredible sense of realism at times, although it's none too forgiving of poor source material. For example, with Netflix's Kate, the Q900A delivered razor-sharp HDR images. Here, Samsung's flagship television produced inky blacks, while its high light output gave not only depth but an added sense of realism in the film's few daytime scenes.
While 8K content is scarce, upscaled 4K images possess a sharpness and stability that can't be matched by native 4K. Granted, it's hard to make out the extra detail unless you're seated very close. However, the added image depth that the upscaled 8K resolution brings is readily apparent. As the Kabuki dancers took the stage, the Q900A showed off its abilities with shadow detail. It laid bare the fine gradation in the shadows, making the smallest of detail visible, resulting in a thoroughly convincing image. Coupled with the upscaled 4K and dynamic range, the Kabuki dancers and the stage they perform on was startlingly realistic and easily some of the finest images I've ever seen.
As Grace and Sarah fought Legion's Rev-9 Terminator in the 4K Blu-ray of Terminator Dark Fate, the Q900A's high brightness gave the orangey fireballs an added sense of realism. It brought with it added detail to the highlights, the oily black smoke and refraction from the freeway almost palpable. It's at times like this that the Q900A's wider colour gamut capabilities are called into play. As capable as it is when it comes to more riotous colours, the big Samsung proved equally adept at rendering skin tones naturally and convincingly.
The Q900A doesn't suffer fools gladly. With low-quality quality streaming or broadcast content, it's not as forgiving as OLED. In an age of high-quality streaming, HD broadcasts, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD discs, there's little reason to watch poor quality source content. I did notice the odd occurrence of screen brightening, which was evident when going from bright to dark scenes and vice versa. Fortunately, these occasions seemed to be both fleeting and limited to SDR content. Reducing local dimming from high to its default setting of medium eliminated much of the phenomenon.
The Australian film The Relic only received a 1080p Blu-ray release, yet the Q900A handled the legacy SDR content with equal assurance. It produced the predominately neutral tones of the creepy film with a hint of unwanted colour intrusion, yet skin tones and foliage were both balanced and thoroughly natural. Black levels were equally impressive in SDR, and the Samsung once again revelled with shadow detail. Combined with its excellent gamma tracking, it opened up the gloomy confines of the old house, giving images a three-dimensional appearance that left me shaking my head.
Overall, motion handling is good, if not perfect. Using the picture clarity controls, it's a fine line between producing images that are either too smooth or produce too much judder. I encountered some issues with fast-moving objects against particularly bright ones – a gruelling test for any display – and I was able to eliminate much of this with custom settings. If you're particularly sensitive to motion, it's worth experimenting with the controls and adjusting to taste.
Sporting sixteen times the pixel count of native 1080p, the Q900A's upscaling engine had its work cut out. Regardless, the texture of the knitted wool in Edna's jumper enjoyed a noticeable uptick, more detailed than native 1080p or, for that matter, 4K upscaled 1080p. It's no surprise that this TV takes a contrast hit with wider viewing angles; it's part and parcel of the underlying LCD technology. What is surprising is how far the technology has come with viewing angles. While the drop, in contrast, the picture still holds up surprisingly well off-axis.
The Q900A's internal speakers had no qualms about filling our medium-sized lounge room with sound. Unsurprisingly, given their size and rating, they did complain about reproducing some of the film's more ominous tones. Ultimately though, Samsung's internal speakers were more than up to the task for regular content. If you're more serious about your movie sound, match this TV with a separate sound system or a soundbar, such as Samsung's Q950A that StereoNET is reviewing currently.
Credit where due, I was not expecting to like Samsung's new Q900A as much as I did. A bold venture by this company to meld the inky black levels of OLED with the high-brightness of LCD, this TV created some of the finest images I have ever seen. While it can't match self-emissive displays in terms of true black, subjectively, it is often pretty hard to tell the two apart. It's those black levels, coupled with its high brightness capabilities, that gives images an exceptional amount of depth and realism.
The story doesn't end there, though. The Q900A's twelve-bit processing, 8K resolution, and LED microlayer are the icing on this 75” cake. The finer level of detail and gradation takes images to a whole new level. It's none more evident than when it comes to the TV's ability to reveal fine shadow detail, which can make images startlingly lifelike. Overall, Samsung's new flagship isn't quite an 'end-game' TV but still has an exceptional display. If you're in the market for a high-end television, it's an essential audition.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.
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