Having just tested Samsung’s top-of-the-line 2021 Neo QLED 4K series, it was time to take a look at the company’s 2021 flagship 8K Neo QLED Mini-LED TVs. We were pleased to find a gorgeous looking set with stepped up picture performance and a striking “infinity screen” design. Here too, we really liked what we found.

The Samsung QN900A series’ three screen sizes (most available for pre-order now) include: 85 ($8,999.99 suggested retail), 75 ($6,999.99) and 65 ($4,999.99) inches. All offer a similarly packed advanced feature set and picture and sound performance levels to match.

The most obvious difference between this and the top-end 4K QN90A series is higher 8K resolution (7680 x 4320 pixels), and although native 8K content remains scarce, these models provide a step up in both features and performance to help justify the premium asking prices.

Some of the major differences between the 8K QN900A series and the 4K QN90A series include the following:

Samsung’s Quantum Matrix Technology Pro: This system is offered exclusively in the QN900A series, and delivers the best level of control of the individual mini-LED pixels in the TV’s full-array backlight system. This helps reduce blooming and brightness flashing while maximizing display longevity.

One Connect Box: The QN900A models are some of Samsung’s only TVs for the U.S. in 2021 to get the outboard box that houses the television’s robust complement of four HDMI 2.1 inputs supporting advanced gaming features including Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), Variable Refresh Rate, FreeSync Pro, and up to 4K/120Hz through put with high refresh rate. One input also supports both Audio Return Channel (ARC) and enhanced Audio Return Channel (e-ARC). The Slim One Connect box is designed to attach to the back of the supplied pedestal stand, while accommodating a nice cable management system that keeps cord clutter hidden.

Infinity Screen Design: The design also reduces the gap between the end of visible pixels and thin bezel trim, which measures 0.9mm thin and is nearly invisible from a distance, giving the screen a near edge-to-edge appearance. This explains the Infinity Screen moniker. The design is slightly thinner than the design used for the step-down 8K QN800A series and the 4K QN90A.

The QN900A also features a better HDR processing system — Quantum HDR 64x (48X in the 65-inch model) vs Quantum HDR 32x in the QN800A and QN90A series — for nice bright HDR images.

Advanced On-Board Sound: The QN900A series also adds an 80-watt 6.2.2-channel on-board surround sound system with Samsung’s new Object Tracking Pro sound system that makes sounds appear to follow actors and objects around the screen and the room in relation to the audience. It also offers the Samsung Q-Symphony system that allows merging the on-board speakers with a supporting Samsung Soundbar to expand the surround sound effect even further.

For those who still can’t justify the price of an 8K TV without the content, keep in mind that this series includes Samsung’s Multi-Intelligence AI upscaling system giving native 4K and lower-resolution material a processing boost to make images fill the additional pixels on the screen with sharp, clean images that don’t suffer from artificial line-multiplied picture noise and artifacts on the sharper screen. We were impressed with how well the 75QN900A presented 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and standard Full HD Blu-ray test material with realistic-looking colors sharp closeups.

What is Neo QLED Mini LED?

Calman HDR workflow from Portrait Displays showing graph of peak luminance by white window pattern size (2,000+ nits at 10% window).

Unlike previous Samsung QLED TVs, the 2021 Neo QLED series models are based on new Mini LED backlight technology. This means the tiny LEDs that illuminate the LCD images from behind are reduced to 1/40th the height of a conventional LEDs. These smaller LEDs enable fitting in more individual points of light across the back plane to illuminate pixels with greater control of LED local dimming zones for more accurate results. Unfortunately, this still isn’t controllable at the pixel level as is the case with self-emitting display technologies, like OLED or MicroLED. That means, you will still see some blooming issues and slightly weaker overall contrast. Still, the large number of dimming zones (more than 1900 in this case) means getting more precise control of dark elements of the picture by nearly shutting down areas of emitted light. It does a nice job of creating nearly pure black without crushing out dark shadow detail. That’s an important benefit to some video gamers who demand seeing into dimmed areas of the image to gain competitive advantage.

Samsung said that Neo QLED increases the luminance scale to 12-bit with 4096 steps to make dark areas darker and bright areas brighter. This is not, 12-bit color, however. The TV still uses 10-bit panels for that.

Instead of using a lens to disperse LED light, the Quantum Mini LEDs use very thin microlayers filled with many more LEDs. The new Quantum Matrix Technology Samsung employs enables ultra-fine and precise control of the densely packed LEDs. This helps to reduce blooming, though not entirely eliminating it. It also reduces flashing which has resulted in some passive matrix LED implementations.

We ran the torture test of the amassing legion of dark wizards from both the Blu-ray (SDR) and streaming 4K HDR versions of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and found the faint white mist that encircles the group during the night-time scene to remain both visible in the shadow detail and light gray in color — not changed to a black blob or crushed out of view entirely, as some lesser televisions render it.

Similarly, we found the opening star field during the title sequence for the Ultra HD Blu-ray of The Martian nicely presented the range of visible stars while preserving the inky black background of space.

Our review sample had fairly even white and gray screen uniformity, with little to no visible dirty screen effect. Black screen uniformity was similarly excellent.

Neo Quantum Processor 8K

To control all of the new picture processing elements, Samsung uses its new Neo Quantum Processor 8K with enhanced upscaling capabilities. This employs up to 16 different neural network models, from AI upscaling and deep learning technology. The Neo Quantum Processor can optimize picture quality to quality levels at least equal to the native source without embellishing artifacts. Native Full HD and 4K UHD picture sources offered clean, smooth images and colors with very little added or noticeable color banding (contouring) artifacts. Lower resolution material, such as DVDs, appeared as they would look on a native HD screen without added upscaling noise or blocking artifacts. As we saw on Samsung’s similarly excellent QN90A series, a DVD copy of Alfred Hitcock’s Psycho showed the opening on-screen credits with no greater blocking artifacts around lettering than can be seen on 720p screens and SD screens, and picture noise was not overly enhanced or smoothed over to remove the desired original black-&-white film grain. Viewing the opening night harbor sequence from the standard Blu-ray version of Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End presented some low-noise artifacts with Picture Clarity settings turned off but these cleared nicely without impacting desired film grain when Noise Reduction was turned on.

Quantum Dot Color

4K HDR P3 color gamut measured in Calman HDR evaluation workflow by Portriat Displays.

Of course, as a QLED TV, the Samsung 65QN90A continues to feature a quantum dot color enhancement film layer embedded with nano-sized spheres of heavy metal elements that glow brightly when excited by photons from the LED backlight. The reaction gives off wider, brighter color tones than conventional LCDs can. Color gamut coverage is much the same as it was in last year’s models, with wide color gamut coverage of between 96.14% (xy) and 96.52% (uv) of the DCI-P3 color gamut recommendation. Samsung continues to use 10-bit LCD panels with a 120 Hz native refresh rate.

Coral reef scenes we like to use from the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of The BBC’s Blue Planet 2 were rich and detailed without being overly saturated. Similarly, the monster battle scene during the opening credits from the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray copy of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 showed brilliantly bright, well-saturated colors and bright specular highlights, without appearing noisy or washed out.

Ultra Wide Viewing Angles

Samsung has done a lot to reduce OLED’s “ultra wide viewing angle” advantage over the past three years, with its own “Ultra Wide Angle” technology. This year’s QN900A series continues to provide nice wide (left-and-right angle) contrast and color retention. Samsung also continues to provide its anti-reflection film technology that significantly reduces the amount of visible reflected light when looking directly at the screen. When a room light is shining into the set a bright spot and cascading rainbow patterns are slightly visible on the screen, but this is controllable by simply lowering the lights or removing the light source.

Inputs

As mentioned, Samsung offers four full bandwidth HDMI 2.1 inputs on a One Connect box for the QN900A series models, one of which supports ARC/eARC. The HDMI ports are all compatible with HDCP 2.3 copy protection and support many of the latest advanced gaming features, including up to 4K/120fps 8K/60p (an option serious gamers might want to consider stepping up to have); Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), AMD FreeSync Pro, and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). The HDMI e-ARC offers greater bandwidth for sound streamed out of the television to a connected soundbar or AVR, and enables connecting video sources into the TV with audio passed over the e-ARC return channel to a connected decoding component.

Other inputs include: 3 USB 2.0, 1 Ethernet, 1 optical audio output, 1 RS232 control port, and 1 RF antenna input.

These models also support built-in WiFi 6 (802.11ac) Bluetooth 4.2, DLNA, Tap View, Connect Share, and AirPlay 2 support (requires iOS 12.3 or later or macOS 10.14.5 or later).

Design

75QN900A design profile showing stand riser to which the One Connect box attaches.

The QN900A series presents a nice looking “Infinity Screen Design” with a “sand black” stand. The Stand is a central pillar-style base that screws into place at the center rear of the set. The design offers an ultra-thin bezel leaving about a .9mm black trim framing all four sides of the screen. The back of the set is made of a nice looking mat-black textured plastic with a slight convex arc starting from the edge of the border trim running out toward the middle of the screen. Samsung provides channels along the back of the set and down the stand for cable management to hide cords.

Smart TV

Samsung continues to upgrade its popular Tizen smart TV operating system to provide both more streaming entertainment content options and add-on capabilities to help make the television useful as a communications tool during the Covid-19 crisis, such that an optional add-on camera can be used to engage in video calls and conferences through the big screen.

Among some of the new and popular returning features this year are the following:

Multi View provides a picture by picture feature that enables watching two sources on the same screen at one time. This will enable calling up YouTube, for example, on one screen while watching a broadcast TV program on the other. Alternatively, one screen could be used to view a mirrored smartphone screen to take a video call while continuing to watch a sporting event on the other. Users will have the option of viewing two pictures of the same size at one time or adjusting the various screen sizes for a customized view.

Some of this year’s sets, including the QN90A, feature the ability to add on an optional Logitech USB camera to gain Web Cam functionality. This could be handy for a number of purposes including self-monitoring an exercise workout while following a video tutorial on a second screen. Eventually, the system will also enable making video calls, using a Google Duo app.

Most 2021 Samsung TVs including the QN90A continue to offer the company’s Smart Things app for use with smartphones and tablets (iOS and Android based) to allow users to integrate smart home device control. This enables controlling networked lights or monitoring surveillance cameras through the television set.

To facilitate use of the television for work-at-home tasks, the company has developed the Samsung DeX system enabling a smartphone and television on the same WiFi network to show what is basically a Windows desktop on the television screen using documents from the smartphone. A mouse and keyboard can be wirelessly linked to the television.

Samsung QLED televisions can also access and edit Office 365 documents from the Microsoft cloud, using a wireless keyboard connected via Bluetooth.

Advanced Gaming

Excellent 9.4ms input lag reading for Full HD 1080/60p signal in Game Mode on 75QN900A.

This year, Samsung significantly steps up video gameplay functionality with a new Game Bar mode that presents an on-screen menu to let users double check for pertinent settings including input lag and make adjustments to frames per second, HDR, refresh rate, wireless headset settings and other functions. Users can also set aspect ratio so adjust for special 21:9 and 32:9 wide-screen titles. When the set is connected to a PC with a higher performing graphics card or an advanced gaming console, users will be able to call the Game Bar up using a long press and hold on the remote’s play button. This will be useful for anyone who likes to game on their big-screen by connecting a PC running a high-level graphics cards.

Calibration

Post calibration HDR grayscale showing slightly dark EOTF tracking in Calman HDR10 Calibration workflow from Portrait Displays.

Samsung will be supporting all of its 2021 Neo QLED TVs with Portrait Display’s AutoCal system for its Calman display calibration software. However, it wasn’t ready in time for the review. Samsung provides an extensive complement of responsive picture settings to enable a thorough manual calibration using Portrait Display’s Calman software, a test pattern generator and light meter. Out-of-box settings under “Movie” mode required very little manual adjustment for both SDR/BT.709 and HDR/DCI-P3 to achieve an excellent picture. After HDR grayscale calibration, the television’s EOTF output followed was slightly below the ramp pattern line ti, indicating accurate brightness.

Samsung is also working with a third-party on a calibration app that runs on compatible smart phones to take readings and make picture adjustments. This will be coming later.

High Dynamic Range Profile Support

For HDR, Samsung televisions continue to support the HLG, HDR10, and HDR10+ while adding the new HDR10+ ADAPTIVE system that uses HDR10+ dynamic metadata, in conjunction with real-time ambient light information, to automatically optimize brightness levels on a scene-by-scene basis. This helps to ensure the creative intent remains intact under different lighting conditions.

Remote

To operate the slick on-screen user interface and smart TV functions, Samsung continues to use its minimal button One Remote. But this year, the familiar candy bar shaped unit offers some major changes including built-in rechargeable batteries that can be repowered with solar energy or by plugging in a USB-Type C power charging cable. This is one of Samsung’s ways of being more environmentally responsible this year, and should save users the bother and expense of periodic battery replacement. The remote offers three fast-access buttons for Netflix, Prime Video and Samsung TV Plus apps. The latter is Samsung’s own portal for free ad-supported content and special interest/how-to channels, some of which might be subscription based in time.

Additional Features

Samsung again offers the new Filmmaker Mode developed by the Ultra HD Alliance to automatically put the television into the best mode for film-based movie content to preserve the creative intent for the title. This basically puts the television settings at close to Movie mode levels, while ensuring Picture Clarity settings are turned off to prevent the dreaded soap opera effect (SOE). We point out, however, that this tended to darken the overall look from our calibrated settings. In addition, Samsung’s motion reduction system has been improved over the years to greatly diminish SOE when properly adjusted. This can be helpful in reducing annoying judder that results in some camera-pan sequences. We suggest using the Movie Mode and experimenting with the customized picture clarity settings to tune in the right amount of dejudder and noise reduction for your tastes, keeping an eye on any sign of over sharpening that can result in SOE along the way.

Samsung QLED TV purchasers this year will also get a built-in over-the-air TV tuner supporting both the legacy ATSC 1.0 and newly emerging ATSC 3.0 “NextGen TV” stations. When connected to an over-the-air TV antenna appropriate for your reception conditions, this ensures the TV will be ready for both today’s and future OTA broadcasts offering some of the latest capabilities, like 4K UHD support, HDR etc., when or if local broadcasters choose to implement those features.

Conclusion

As we found with the Samsung 65QN90A 4K Neo QLED TV, Samsung’s U.S. 75-inch flagship 8K 75QN900A Neo QLED TV model raises the bar for LCD technology, providing deeper black reproduction that nicely preserves shadow detail. At the same time, the more than 2,000 nits (in a 10% white window pattern) of peak brightness makes upscaled 8K images come to life with 3D-like depth cues and bright, 100% color volume for excellent accuracy. We weren’t able to run any native 8K test material during this test, but we expect the results to be equally compelling as samples we saw last year. We expect it will be some time before native 8K content will be as commonly available as 4K is today, but it will get here eventually, and this set will ensure you have your ring-side seat.

This will be a solid performer for most people who like to watch television in dim to well-lighted viewing environments. It’s not quite OLED-like in totally dark rooms, however.

The nearly invisible Infinity Screen bezel design offers the look of a movie theater projection screen without the distracting glare for a more immersive experience. Although 8K content will probably be scarce for some time, Samsung’s Multi-Intelligence AI upscaling system does an excellent job of making lower-resolution content sources nicely fill out the additional pixels without introducing or multiplying visible artifacts. We aren’t saying this will make 4K or SD content look 8K but it shouldn’t look noticably worse than it does on a screen of matching native resolution at recommended viewing distances. This model steps up the picture and audio performance experience of the excellent QN90A 4K series version, though with a slightly dimmer looking overall picture. Of course, it doesn’t come cheap, but for those looking for one of the best 8K televisions available in 2021, the Samsung 75QN90A warrants careful consideration. Samsung delivers here a high-caliber performance level, feature package and design styling we would expect for the launch price of $6,997.99 unilateral pricing policy. We therefore award the Samsung 75QN90A five out of five hearts.

The 75QN900A test sample used for this review was supplied by Samsung.

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By Greg Tarr

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