Samsung Q9F QLED TV Review

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In a world where TV makers throw out acronyms to make their TVs stand out in an incredibly competitive market it’s easy to get confused with what the product can actually do. QLED, OLED, QUHD, each offering 4K ULtra-high definition but each usually different tech to get the end result.

QLEDs are Samsung’s high-end propriety LED technology that uses “Quantum Dots” to deliver a super bright, super crisp 4K image that jumps off the screen. Samsung’s QLEDs are relatively new, having only been around since 2017. It’s fair to say that the 2017 QLEDs, whilst decent enough, didn’t deliver that major wow factor that OLEDs did when they were first released, thus seeming more like an acronym gimmick from Samsung rather than the future of TV technology.

Contrast that with the 2018 QLED line-up where Samsung have finally been able to truly show off what QLED tech can do for the TV experience. This review is based on the top-end 65 inch Q9F model and boy is it one hell of an impressive TV!

Before we get down to the nitty gritty, let’s get the big number out of the way. The Q9F is going to set you back anywhere from about $4,600 – $5,500 depending on which retailer you go to and what specials they have on. Definitely shop around and maybe make use of PriceSpy to ensure you are getting the best deal because no matter which way you look at it, this TV is going to cost you more than a few bits of loose change. That being said, it’s well worth it.

When you first unbox this beast of a TV you’ll notice what is a minimalist design from Samsung. The TV isn’t as thin as an OLED but looking front on you get a near bezel-less screen to pull you in to the viewing experience. That is complimented by a a single bar central stand that features clean cabling so you won’t see any unsightly cables running from behind the TV. The clean cabling is made possible because the TV (and all ports, including HDMI) is powered from a connection box rather than from directly ports on the TV panel. It is a neat solution that means you can hide the connection box away and just have a stunning big screen to show off in your lounge.

The TV also features a low-power ambient mode (think always on mode). In ambient mode the TV can display pre-loaded images, your own photos or if you use your phone to take an image of the background behind the TV, it can display your paintwork or wallpaper to give a quasi-camouflage effect. In practice I could never get the exact right lighting to make the wallpaper mode look convincing but it’s a good idea. If using ambient mode use the preset scenery images or load up some of your own, or even pleasant family snaps to turn your TV into a giant picture frame when it isn’t in use.

When it comes to the TV interface, if you’ve seen or used a Samsung Smart TV in the last few years you’ll know what you’re getting here. The two layer, vertical layout across the bottom of the screen remains but it has been tweaked and refined to it’s best iteration to date. The HDMI ports can even sense what is plugged into it and display the information on the screen so no more having to remember what you plugged into HDMI 1, 2, 3, etc. In practice it worked great, Xbox One and PS4 both appeared as the name for their respective ports. The only one I had issues with was Vodafone TV which wouldn’t auto-detect but was programmable by manually choosing what was plugged in. This feature should also let you use your TV remote to control the device, which worked pretty well but doesn’t really work with Vodafone TV. I tried numerous times but it was to no avail so I reverted to using the Vodafone TV remote.

Anyway enough small talk! Let’s move on to the stuff you really wanna know about. How does this bad boy perform? The short answer is it performs phenomenally well. The longer answer I’ll fill you in on.

For non-gamers, the TV will recognise what source you are playing, be it a movie or TV and output the best possible refresh rate to compliment your content.

If you’re new to the world of 4K don’t be fooled by the marketing gimmick that is “this new fandangled whats-a-ma-thingy” can upscale to 4K”. Every single TV (and console or streaming box, etc) that supports 4K playback, HAS to upscale to 4K. Why? It’s all to do with the 4K resolution. Your TV is displaying 3840 x 2160 pixels which is 4 times more than a Full HD TV. If it didn’t upscale High (or standard) definition content then the things you were watching would appear in the middle of the screen with a massive black border all around the screen.

That being said, some TVs (and devices) are better at upscaling SDR and HD content to 4K better than others. The Q9F has THE BEST 4K upscaling engine I have ever seen on a TV.

The upscaling engine manages to add detail without increasing noise to the image or video and doesn’t over-exaggerate or add unnecessary blur. So convincing is the upscaler that when watching Vodafone TV (which can only stream at HD), visitors were convinced they were watching native 4K content. I have a Samsung Curved 4K LED TV so I’m used to upscaling but the Q9F made my TV look like it was upscaling to SD not 4K. Mark my words, there is no bettter upscaling wizardry on the market today that can do a better job than the Q9F 4K upscaler.

Now let’s move on to the native 4K content. This is a no brainer. The TV already upscales like a beast and it’s ability to bring out the best in Native 4K content is second to none. For years, OLED TVs have been the gold standard thanks to their performance with delivering true blacks without any form of clouding. Well, Samsung and their engineering wizards have conjured up a QLED that pushes brightness to the extreme whilst delivering a near OLED like level of gorgeous, dark blacks with not a hint of clouding.

If you aren’t familiar with clouding, you probably haven’t owned an LED TV. Almost all LED TVs suffer from some level of clouding. This is when the backlighting doesn’t evenly disperse across the screen, thus giving the appearance of hazy “clouds” in areas of the TV when trying to display a black scene.

I gave the Q9F my standard “Passengers” test. This is where I put on the movie Passengers and observe the opening scenes where teh spaceship is flying through space. The black vacuum of space, contrasting against he ship and the surrounding stars make for a great test, not just to measure clouding but also HDR performance.

My curved LED doesn’t handle the Passengers test well. Sure the scene looks great and shows off 4K and HDR well enough but the clouding on the edges destroys the crisp beauty of space and draws my eyes to the edges where the unsightly clouds appear. It really is off-putting! The Q9F QLED passed the test with flying colours. Not a hint of clouding, bright popping stars, rich, gorgeous flickers of reds and orange of the flames around the ship as it hurtles through space all contrasting against a deep black that is only marginally bettered by an OLED. The difference is the Q9F has a much higher peak brightness than an OLED so the image pops off the screen and draws you in like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

It didn’t matter what movie I played, Passengers, Ghostbusters, Trolls, The Amazing Spider-man, Planet Earth 2. The combination of 4K with HDR 10+ support on a screen this good makes everything pop. The Q9F consistently served up an experience full of rich, bold colours that didn’t get bleached when contrasting dark with bright and not an ounce of detail was lost. The level of image and colour control on offer from Samsung’s engine is a marvel to see.

For the gamers out there rejoice, there is a dedicated game mode that ups the refresh rate to avoid hideous screen tearing and reduce input lag. Currently input lag is around 15ms but it should get better. Samsung are bringing out a variable refresh rate mode for gaming so the TV will be capable of reducing input lag to a tiny 7ms AND match the frame rate of the game being played to create the smoothest possible gaming experience on a TV.

In this day an’ age where 4K gaming is firmly a reality on the likes of the Xbox One X and the PS4, having a 4K TV to show off that gaming goodness is a must. With HDR10+ the Q9F is well placed to deliver a quality gaming experience and it delivers. In fact it’s not just a quality gaming experience, it’s a stellar one.

Forza Horizon 4 is a gorgeous game (all the Forza games are) and on the Q9F it is next level gorgeous. The dynamic season changes are brought to life in remarkably, pristine high detail. The bright whites of winter, the fading leaves of autumn, the rejuvenation of spring and the warm glow of summer are on show with a new level of vibrancy and colour accuracy that doesn’t skip a beat frame rate wise in 4K.

Move on to a game like Assassin’s Creed Origins at you’ll get to take in the beauty of Ancient Egypt. The stunning background of the desert and detailed environments leap of the screen and bring that ancient world to life.

Over on the PS4, God of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Detroit: Become Human (some of the best looking games on PS4) all somehow manage to take on an even more pristine look. Those games all use checkerboarding to achieve their 4K stamp but on the Q9F I challenge anyone to be able to tell that this isn’t the full-fat 4K experience.

4K has always promised to create the best possible viewing experience with unparalleled levels of detail; well the Q9F delivers on that promise with the most crisp, pristine levels of clarity and detail ever seen on a 4K TV. It may sound like over-the-top praise but there is no TV that deserves it more than this one. The Q9F is a celebration of what 4K TV can offer and an absolute triumph.

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