Samsung has been teasing this 8K resolution TV since the world’s largest tech show, CES, at the start of 2018. But much of the media attention has been focused on the lack of actual 8K content. While that’s certainly an issue, the larger debate about 8K has detracted from what is an impressively specified TV.
The company has pulled out all the stops as far as the Q900 is concerned, with its 8K panel, image processing that uses artificial intelligence (AI), a wide colour gamut thanks to Quantum Dot technology, and a peak brightness of over 4000 nits with HDR (high dynamic range) content.
The Samsung Q900 is available in three screen sizes: the 65-inch QE65Q900 (£4,999), the 75-inch QE75Q900 (£6,999), and the massive 85-inch QE85Q900 (£14,999). The cost of the 85-inch TV is steep, but the pricing on the 65- and 75-inch models is actually quite competitive when you consider all that you’re getting.
Design, Connections and Control
One Connect Box
Single fibre optic cable that includes power
4x HDMI in, 3x USB multimedia port
LAN and Wi-Fi network options
Samsung has taken a minimalist approach when it comes to the design of the Q900. In fact you’d almost call it monolithic, with its black slab appearance and tank-like construction. It’s all screen from the front, there isn’t even a bezel, and you won’t find much at the rear either.
All you get is a single connector for the nearly-invisible fibre optic cable that connects the panel to the One Connect box, along with some ridges for a bit of texture. There are also grooves to run the cable through to keep things tidy.
The TV sits on a pair of matching feet, with the choice of mounting them at the ends or nearer the centre if your stand isn’t wide enough. You can also wall-mount, and if you choose this approach there are recesses on the rear of the panel into which you can slot the feet for safe keeping.
The One Connect box is considerably bigger than before. Well, actually, it’s huge: about the size of a shoebox. The larger dimensions are presumably to allow for more cooling, given the increased processing going on inside.
There are four HDMI inputs that support High Dynamic Range (HDR), Wide Colour Gamut (Rec.2020) and HDCP 2.2 to ensure compatibility with 4K content (although with no 8K content, whether a different handshake will be needed in the future is an unknown right now). You’ll also find three USB ports (2x 2.0, 1x 3.0), twin terrestrial and satellite tuners, an optical digital output, a CI (Common Interface) slot, an external link for auto calibration, and a LAN port (there’s also built-in Wi-Fi).
The HDMI ports are all version 2.0 and although the first input supports 8K/30p, the rest are limited to 4K/60p. To handle 8K/60p would require version HDMI 2.1, and Samsung has said that once it is rolled out, an upgrade for the One Connect box will be made available on request. Which goes to show how ahead of the curve this TV is – and how cost ineffective it may well be when 8K becomes an actual thing.
The Q900 comes with Samsung’s One Remote, the same small metal universal controller that’s included with the current top-spec Q9FN 4K telly. It’s comfortable to hold and has everything you need for day-to-day operation of the TV, including a built-in mic for voice control.
Quantum Processor and HDR4000
Processing engine: Quantum 8K Processor with AI
The headline feature on the Samsung Q900 is obviously its 8K panel, which means it has a resolution of 7680 x 4320. That’s a whopping 38 million pixels. Samsung is the first to admit that there currently isn’t any 8K content and won’t be for a while, but there are other advantages to having a higher-resolution panel.
For a start the new Quantum 8K Processor chip includes a massive amount of processing power, and promises to improve every aspect of the TV’s performance. And it’s in the image processing where the Q900 takes full advantage of all those additional pixels.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere these days, the Q900 being no exception. Samsung has applied machine learning to millions of low- and high-resolution images, which it has built into a database. This database is loaded into the Q900’s Quantum 8K Processor, and is periodically updated as the learning algorithms expand the database, thus improving the image processing.
The processing is designed to enhance images by applying detail creation to improve the texture of objects, and reduce image noise where necessary. There’s also edge restoration and a feature to remove jaggies, resulting in lines with clearly-defined edges.
The Quantum 8K Processor monitors video streams for any bandwidth dips; and while it obviously can’t create a true 8K image from such sources, it can react to changes in resolution, sharpening the image and removing compression artefacts to create a more watchable picture.
Because everything you’ll be watching right now will have a lower resolution than the 8K panel, the success of this TV depends entirely on the quality of the upscaling. Thankfully the AI upscaling is exceptional, and when fed a high quality source the Q900 can deliver images that you’d almost swear were 8K.
The best HDR TV to date
HDR Support: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+
100% of DCI-P3 and 4000 nits of peak brightness
The Q900 is also the brightest HDR TV to date. The Korean company claims a peak brightness of at least 4000 nits on the 75- and 85-inch models, which is massive. We measured the peak brightness at over 3000 nits on this 85-inch review sample, although Samsung assures us that the final retail units will be capable of over 4000 nits. Still, as we received it, that puts it as the brightest set we’ve seen to date (and beyond the 2700 nits of the Hisense 75U9A).
In terms of High Dynamic Range (HDR), the Q900 supports HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), and HDR10+, but not Dolby Vision (which isn’t on Samsung’s radar, it seems). The set can also deliver 100 per cent of DCI-P3, which when combined with the peak brightness, means it can show any HDR content without resorting to tone mapping.
Simply put: the Q900 delivers the best HDR images we have ever seen.
Watching a high quality Blu-ray like Samsara results in a remarkable level of detail, with images that are often breathtaking. This documentary contains footage that was originally shot on 65mm film, and the Q900 reproduces all of it with a precision we’ve never seen before.
The same is true for the zero-G thrills of Gravity: the Q900 renders every tiny detail in the spacesuits, ships, and star fields. This particular film also showcases another aspect of the Quantum 8K Processor: its effectiveness at improving the local dimming. In one particular scene, Sandra Bullock’s character tumbles through space, which is a torture-test for local dimming systems. The bright white of her constantly moving space suit is offset against a sea of stars, so lesser TVs can really struggle. However, the Q900 highlights her space suit without blooming or clipping detail, while picking out the individual stars behind her.
Blade Runner 2049 looks gob-smackingly good, too, with the film’s native 4K images upscaled to match the 8K panel, and the peak highlights delivered with incredible precision.
The TV’s peak highlights are combined with its ability to drive the entire panel when necessary, so the snowscapes in The Revenant are delivered with clean whites, natural colours, incredible levels of detail, and a no clipping.
Motion handling is very good, too, and although the use of frame interpolation can definitely improve the motion handling with sport, it should be avoided with films and TV dramas. There is also a 60Hz black frame insertion feature that can improve 24p motion without introducing soap opera effect, but some people might see flicker.
The Q900’s input lag is incredibly low at just 15ms, which is great news for gamers with deep pockets. The Q900 also supports Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) which can be beneficial to PC gamers, and there’s Auto Game Mode which detects a connected games console and automatically switches into the game mode. In addition it’s an LCD panel, so you’ll never have to worry about image retention and screen burn.
In terms of performance it’s hard to fault the Samsung Q900: it delivers near-flawless images. Samsung has addressed the main drawbacks of LCD technology, with deeper blacks thanks to local dimming that largely eliminates blooming. Even viewing angles are good, which is a regular bugbear with LCD TVs.
Where the Q900 could be criticised is in terms of what is missing. For a start there’s no 8K content, and while this isn’t the TV’s ‘fault’, it does call into question why the TV exists for the commercial market right now. Plus it’ll be a long time before 8K content is available. In the early days of 4K TVs there was no content either, so it’s just the reality of being an early adopter – although the very first 4K tellies lacked many of the essentials in terms of HDMI hardware and HDCP compatibility, rendering them of limited use after not too long.
The Q900 also doesn’t support Dolby Vision because Samsung has decided to put its corporate weight behind HDR10+. In reality the absence of Dolby Vision is largely moot, because this TV doesn’t actually need to tone map HDR content. Dynamic metadata is intended to help less capable HDR TVs, so the Q900 doesn’t really need Dolby Vision – or HDR10+ for that matter!
Tizen OS with SmartThings
The Samsung Q900 boasts the full Q Smart platform, with its Tizen operating system and integration with SmartThings. The latter provides an onscreen hub for monitoring and controlling other smart devices in your home.
Setup is easy and can even be done from your smartphone (iOS or Android). The SmartThings app handles everything else, from setting up the internet connection to adding all your relevant passwords, and even tuning the TV channels.
The Q900 includes Samsung’s Ambient mode, a new feature that allows the TV to look more attractive when not being used. So instead of a huge black rectangle sitting in your lounge or up on the wall, this low power mode shows various images and information on the screen instead. You can even match the screen with the wall behind the TV, and blend it into the surroundings.
Samsung’s smart platform is superb, with a very intuitive launcher bar that provides quick and easy access to all your content. It’s fast, responsive and stable, and you can even use voice control to find and access content quicker. There’s also a handy second tier on the launcher bar, which provides further options for direct access to apps such as Netflix and Amazon.
In terms of available apps, the Q900 has just about every video streaming service available, including all the UK catch-up services, Netflix, Amazon, Now TV and YouTube. In the case of the BBC iPlayer there is support for HLG, while Netflix, Amazon and YouTube support 4K and HDR, with Amazon also supporting HDR10+. Nope, there’s no 8K, but that’s just a fact of life at launch.
The Samsung Q900 isn’t small, with even the 65-inch model sporting a deeper chassis than other flagship TVs. However that added depth means there’s room for larger speakers, and the extra width provided by screen sizes ranging from 65- to 85-inches allows for greater stereo separation.
As a result the TV is capable of excellent stereo imaging, its larger speakers resulting in solid mid-tones, and a high frequency delivery that doesn’t sound shrill or strained. There’s a wide front soundstage, allowing music to spread out evenly on either side of the TV, while dialogue remains clear and focused on the screen.
There’s plenty of built-in amplification as well, so the Q900 is able to go very loud without distorting or becoming tiring to the ear. The sheer size of these TVs, especially in the case of the 85-inch version, means there’s also a pleasingly deep bass presence.
Samsung could have included some kind of built-in soundbar, but that would have detracted from the clean design and focus on image quality.
The Samsung Q900 is a remarkable technological statement, delivering the best HDR experience that we’ve seen in any TV to date. It really is Samsung’s most complete TV – one that combines eye-catching design, superb build quality, extensive features, low input lag, exceptional local dimming, and state-of-the-art image processing – and one of its most expensive too.
The issue, of course, is that it’s an 8K panel with no native 8K content to play. It’s so far ahead of the curve that it’s on the flat in that regard.
That said, the Quantum 8K Processor with its AI learning is capable of quite remarkable upscaling, making high quality 4K sources look almost 8K. The local dimming can deliver deep blacks with precision, while avoiding blooming, and even the viewing angles are good for an LCD telly.
It might be showboating, but the Q900 does so in a way that will make cinephiles’ jaws hit the floor. It’s mighty impressive and a great sign of what the future holds.
If you want an 8K TV then there really aren’t any alternatives at the moment, it’s the Q900 or bust. But if you’re looking for a 4K TV that can at least get into a similar HDR ballpark as the Q900, this is the one. The Q9FN boasts an identical set of smart features, superb local dimming, and an excellent HDR performance.
If it’s value you’re after, then you won’t be buying an 85in Q900, that’s for sure. However, this Sony is hard to beat at under £3,000 for the 75in model. This big and bright LCD TV boasts a direct LED backlight, effective local dimming, and a great HDR performance. There is some blooming and the Android TV smart system remains rather user-unfriendly, but otherwise it’s a cracking TV for the money.
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