Review: Samsung 8K Q900R Looks Great From All Angles
Just a few months after the release of the first consumer 8K television in the United States, Samsung has bettered itself with the release of the Q900R series of 8K televisions which improve the package by offering an amazingly wide viewing angle for a full-array LED LCD TV display. In short, it’s among the best televisions we’ve ever tested.
As previously reported in our review of the 85-inch 8K QN85Q900BFXZA late last year, Samsung’s development of 8K QLED LED LCD TVs is very impressive for high peak luminance, brilliant wide color gamut performance and 8K resolution (7680 x 4320 pixels) . The Q900R series one-ups that with some of the widest viewing angles we’ve ever seen in an LED LCD TV.
Colors, and in particular color volume, continue to be remarkably bright and nuanced, covering a wide 95% of the P3 color space, well above the 90% required form Ultra HD Alliance Premium Certification. Color volume measured an impressive 106%, according to VDE color volume measurement using Calman 2018 and a Klein K10 light meter. This means the television is able to present multiple and varying shades of green as sunlight is captured through the opaque leaves of tree, for example.
The Q900R series is based on Samsung’s “QLED” (quantum dot embedded) color enhancement film technology that takes photons from the blue LED backlight and gives out a quantum effect in added red and green brightness for expanded color volume (additional shades and hues produced when colors are exposed to greater brightness). With the extra pixel density of 8K and Samsung’s bright (up to 4,000 nits of peak luminance for brief moments and nearly 2,000 nits in sustained HDR brightness), this gives images a greater sense of dimension and realism, making the picture resemble a scene out of an open window, when viewed from proper distances.
As with any new resolution technology, prices for early 8K televisions from Samsung are quite high compared to even the best-performing 4K Ultra HDTVs. This is due, in part, to the fact that 8K works best on the largest screen sizes. 8K is really intended for large-screen viewing, and much of the impact and visible resolution details are lost (very difficult to see) at normal viewing distances on screen sizes below 70 inches.
Samsung is offering models in 75-, 82-, and 85-inches which we believe are best for 8K viewing. At 65-inches the resolution enhancement alone is going to be much harder to see, although color and brightness details will be expanded from the pixel density alone.
The Samsung 2019 Q900R 8K television series offers a range of screen size options including 65-, 75-, 82- and 98-inches. The 98-inch model will ship later and the 85-inch remains as a carry over for those who want it. Pricing for available models appear below:
Samsung 75-inch QN75Q900RBFXZA 8K QLED LED-LCD TV: $6,999.99. Available now.
Samsung 82-inch QN82Q900RBFXZA 8K QLED LED-LCD TV: $9,999.99. Available now.
In addition, the amount of native 8K content available to play on these sets remains virtually nil. This is due to the greater bandwidth required and the on-going scramble for new codecs that can be used to transport signals more efficiently. HEVC, which is used for 4K now, is the most broadly supported codec sometime used with 8K, but no one is commerically streaming 8K movies yet. YouTube offers some 8K streaming material, but this is often encoded with formats like the new AV-1 codec, for which decoders still are not yet broadly available. The 2019 and earlier Samsung sets do not yet support AV-1 and Samsung executives could not tell us when or if they will.
As for the new HDMI 2.1 connector coming to market soon to enable up to 48 Gbps of bandwidth capable of supporting up to 8K/60p material, Samsung intends to eventually support this connection in its Q900R 8K sets. However, forthcoming firmware updates will be necessary to bring some of these features once they have been approved and certified. The previous 85-inch Q900 has a One Connect box that Samsung now says “already supports 8K/60p” connectivity, and “there is no need for an upgrade of the hardware.”
The Q900R models are supplied with Samsung’s One Connect box that builds in the power supply, so the box is a little bulkier than many previous One Connect boxes. The block-shaped box houses most of the display’s inputs and outputs, including those with HDMI 2.1 capability. The One Connect refers to a single thin almost translucent cable that connects the box to the display, carrying both power and source connections.
In the connection box, Samsung is supporting such HDMI 2.1 features as High Frame Rate (HFR), ALLM, Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Dynamic HDR (SMPTE-2094). UPDATE: Samsung said a new firmware update planned for late May will be bringing support for the Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) feature, which will bring an extra layer of technology future proofing and enhanced lip-sync among other things. It will also offer bandwidth to output lossless music compression formats like Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio over ARC should streaming services ever begin to use those formats.
Contrast and HDR
All Q900R models use full-array LED back lighting with local dimming (480 LED zones, which is the same number found in the 2018 8K 85Q900 and in this year’s flagship 65-inch 65Q90R 4K QLED television). These televisions handle brightness, contrast and black level very well, although being based on LCD panels, some blooming and haloing does appear around bright objects in/on dimly lit or dark scenes and backgrounds. At the same time, blacks appear deep while visible shadow detail is excellent.
Against very bright backgrounds contrast is reduced somewhat, with blacks appearing slightly gray compared to 4K OLED televisions, but colors are elevated and appear very natural to the eye.
Measuring SDR contrast on a black and white checkerboard test pattern, the 82Q900R presented a contrast ratio of 27,226:1, with measured white of 697 nits and black of 0.0256.
The Samsung Q900R 8K QLED TV line supports Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), HDR10 and Samsung’s own HDR10+ high dynamic range profile with dynamic metadata and scene-by-scene tone mapping. The library of HDR10+ supporting content continues to expand with both streaming and Ultra HD Blu-ray material, though still small compared to the rival Dolby Vision HDR profile. Samsung 4K HDR TVs do not support the Dolby Vision or Technicolor Advanced HDR profiles. As we mentioned with the 85Q900, the Q900R models leverage the added pixel density to produce HDR specular highlights that are both brighter and more colorful than similarly sized 4K QLED displays. HDR details and colors have slightly greater punch, thanks to the four times greater pixel density on screen. Supported HDR profiles include HDR10 and HDR10+. The latter utilizes dynamic tone mapping for scene-by-screen grading adjustments.
The LED-LCD TV technology still has some issues blooming and haloing, though this was significantly reduced from prior model years. The television’s LED local dimming system also does an excellent job of preventing light from leaking into black letter box borders.
In addition to P3 color gamut and HDR color volume, the Q900R was very good at presenting SDR and HDR colors very accurately. Delta e color errors were well below 3, and vertially imperceptible.
The 82Q900R has a native 120 Hz refresh rate panel and motion handling was generally excellent. The motion smoothing system does a nice job of minimizing judder, and motion blurring was not distracting on most content.
Wide Viewing Angle
We tested the 82-inch model for this review against Samsung’s similarly sized 4K Q6 edge-lit model, primarily to compare resolution, up conversion and viewing angle. The latter was one of the most impressive improvements we’ve seen in an LED LCD TV. Samsung has developed an ultra-wide light filter system, called “Ultra Wide Angle,” that diffuses light on VA-type LCD screens to preserve color and contrast performance from much wider viewing angles than have been possible before. At the same time, the set significantly reduces screen glare and reflections. Unlike IPS-type LCD panels that widen horizontal viewing angle at the sacrifice of noticeable blooming/haloing while generating a gray haze across the screen and weak vertical viewing angles, Samsung’s new technology approaches OLED-like angles while keeping light from bleeding outside the frame into letter boxed borders.
Just keep in mind that the 85-inch 85Q900 introduced in the United States at the end of 2018 does not have the same wide angle resolution feature, so off-axis viewing will drop off in contrast and color approaching 60 degrees off center axis. For that reason, the 4K Q90R and 8K Q900R models should be among the best LCD TVs yet produced for wall-mounted applications.
Some smudging was seen on gray test patterns which was occasionally observable in live video sequences, particularly against bright backgrounds, but this was a significant distraction to us.
The Q900R series uses Samsung’s latest processor and AI-based image processing and upscaling technology for even better handling of native 8K material and upscaled lower-resolution content. We were impressed viewing a native 8K video clip supplied by Samsung that showed solid edge detail of distant objects with significantly reduced jaggie artifacts compared to pictures on the adjacent 4K sample screen.
The system also handles color banding (aka contouring) very well, with brightly lit sky scenes showing no obvious brand in shading transitions surrounding bright objects like sunsets.
Low light and film grain noise, like the dark harbor sequences in opening of the Blu-ray of Pirates of the Carribean At World’s End were impressively smooth, without the crawling background noise that distracts the eye on lesser displays.
The Samsung 82Q900R offers very fast input lag of just 14.2 ms in Full HD 1080/60p and 4K/60p in Game Mode. As well, the set will handle Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR – FreeSync). This will provide a nice large screen and very good fine shadow detail for tough competition.
As with the Q90R we reviewed earlier, Samsung Q900R continue to expand the features and function of the smart TV platform in the Tizen v5.0 OS. This year’s models bring support for Apple Airplay 2 and iTunes, an upgraded Bixby voice assistant, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatibility. In addition, the company has expanded the popular Ambient mode from last year, that enhances the utility of the television, even when it is not being used to watch video. This year’s Ambient mode allows owners to create a static screen background that picks up and displays color tones and patterns from the surrounding room. Overlayed on this can be the time, weather, headlines, etc.
The 2019 82-inch QN82Q900R is an impressive, and expensive television set. The picture quality on this television is among the best we’ve ever seen from a big-screen TV. The set gets very bright both in SDR and in HDR, and fleeting moments of nearly 4000 nits of peak brightness possible on this display makes for impressive flashes in explosions. The wide viewing angles that hold up color and contrast accuracy are nothing short of jaw dropping for an LCD TV. At the same time, the television produces an impressively dark image in dark room settings with significantly diminished blooming and haloing compared to many other LCD televisions. Ringing in at nearly $10,000, this television isn’t for everyone. You’ll have to decide if the limited benefits and supply of 8K content available today is worth the significant premium required, but most upscaled 4K and Full HD looks beautiful on this display. For anyone who demands the best of what a truly big-screen television currently can deliver, we think this is worth serious consideration.
We therefore award the Samsung QN82Q900R five out of five hearts.
For this review, we traveled to Samsung’s QA Lab in New Jersey and tested their review sample on location.
By Greg Tarr
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