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Samsung has been thinking about OLED screens because of its phones for a long time, but it’s pointedly shied from the technology and only its QLED lines of LCD TVs. As we have been constantly impressed by OLED TVs since we first started testing them, and less so with QLED, we have been skeptical of this choice. With the Q90R, Samsung’s 2019 flagship TV, the business finally proves us wrong. The Q90R is an extremely expensive 4K LCD model ($3,499.99 for the 65-inch QN65Q90RAFXZA we tested) that presents among the best color and contrast performance we’ve seen. Usually good LCDs can show terrific color but falter at contrast, and OLED TVs show superlative contrast but have weaker color. The Q90 excels in both fields, earning it our Editors’ Choice.
Editors’ Note: This review is founded on testing performed on the QN65Q90RAFXZA, the 65-inch model in the series. In addition to the screen size difference, the $6,499.99, 82-inch QN82Q90RAFXZA is identical in features, and we expect similar performance.
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The Q90R looks simple and stylish, with a thin, matte silver bezel around the screen and running along the TV’s sides. It rests on a straightforward, gunmetal stand with an individual rectangular foot in the guts. The back of it is constructed of dark gray plastic and curves outward slightly, and incredibly notably has only an individual wired connection.
Instead of plugging all your devices and a power cable in to the TV itself, everything is handled by the separate One Connect box that plugs in to the back of the Q90R through an individual, thin wire. THE MAIN ONE Connect box is a gunmetal plastic slab about how big is a cable or satellite box, challenging Q90’s ports and almost all of its electronics. Because it’s made to be tucked in a cabinet, leading is flat and nondescript. The trunk holds four HDMI ports, an Ethernet port, an antenna/cable connector, a 3.5mm EX-Link port, a connector for the energy cable, and a connector for the main one Connect cable that plugs in to the back of it. Three USB ports take a seat on the proper side of the box. The Q90R does not have any analog video connections, so if you need to employ a component or composite video source, you need to get an HDMI converter.
The Q90R’s remote is identical to the main one incorporated with the lower-end Samsung RU8000, a slim, simple black plastic wand built around a circular direction pad. Its scant controls include volume and channel rockers; Home, Back, Pause/Play, Voice, and Power buttons; a number/color button that introduces an on-screen number pad and extra controls; and three dedicated service buttons for Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Netflix. A pinhole microphone at the top lets you speak in to the remote to use voice search and Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant.
Samsung Smart TV
In typical Samsung style, the Q90R’s smart TV interface is complex and incredibly Samsung-centric. The platform can be similar to the RU8000’s, with a robust Universal Guide that aggregates live TV and streaming content right into a single space; an operating but modest iphone app ecosystem that covers most major streaming services including Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Google Play Movies & TV, Hulu, Netflix, SiriusXM, Sling TV, Spotify, and Tidal; and support for Apple’s AirPlay 2 for local streaming from iOS and OS X devices.
The Q90R also features Bixby, Samsung’s voice assistant that remains a largely unnecessary runner-up to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It works correctly well for controlling it itself, and will even control smart home devices if they are appropriate for the Samsung-owned SmartThings platform, nonetheless it simply isn’t as useful, powerful, or broadly compatible as Amazon’s or Google’s voice assistants.
Fortunately, you can merely ignore Bixby by not pressing the Voice button on the remote, and when you have Alexa or Google Assistant smart speakers you may use them to control it instead. Unless you’re an extremely dedicated Samsung fan with a home filled up with the business’s devices, Bixby seriously isn’t very useful.
The Samsung Q90R is a 4K TV that supports high dynamic range (HDR) content in HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG. It generally does not support Dolby Vision.
We test TVs with a Klein K-10A colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G signal generator, and Portrait Displays’ CalMAN software using methodology predicated on Imaging Science Foundation’s calibration techniques. In Movie mode, with Local Dimming set to High and Black Level set to low, the Q90R shows remarkably high peak brightness at 548.2cd/m2 for a full-field pattern and 1,510.8cd/m2 for an 18-percent pattern. That is almost as bright as the Sony Master Series Z9F, the brightest TV we’ve tested (1,677.49cd/m2 with an 18-percent field). Coupled with an 0.01cd/m2 black level, the Q90R has a powerful contrast ratio of 151,080:1, by far the best we’ve measured on an TELEVISION. Only OLED TVs can show better contrast, with their capability to display perfect blacks, and so are at best only half as bright.
Color performance is similarly impressive. The above chart shows DCI-P3 color levels as boxes and measured color levels as dots. Out of your box, with the HDMI input set fully color range, the Q90R almost completely covers the DCI-P3 color space, with spot-on whites. Greens and yellows are slightly undersaturated, but all colors are incredibly nicely balanced without noticeable shifting.
The great color and contrast comes through in BBC’s THE WORLD II. In the “Islands” episode, the blues and teals of the water and greens and yellows of the plants look vibrant and accurate. Fine details like fur and bark appear plainly both in shade and sunlight. It’s an all natural, crisp picture.
The Q90R’s accurate colors are also easily apparent in Deadpool. In the opening fight on the road, Deadpool’s costume can appear slightly purple beneath the overcast, fairly cool light on some TVs, but is an adequately saturated red on the Q90. The flames in the burning lab fight also show a variety of yellows, oranges, and reds, and details in the shadowy elements of the scene are often noticeable without looking beaten up.
The party scene in THE FANTASTIC Gatsby demonstrates the Q90R’s strong contrast. The contours and textures of the black suits could be evidently seen against the bright whites of the shirts and lights. Shadow and highlight detail are both obvious without lacking brightness, and skin tones look natural.
Input lag measures how long it requires for a TV’s screen to update after it receives a sign, and can make a difference for video games that want responsive controls. In Movie mode, by using a Leo Bodnar signal lag tester, the Q90R shows a lag of 79.6 milliseconds. That is fairly high, but enabling Game Mode increases input lag considerably at the trouble of some display quality, cutting it right down to 24ms. That is still greater than the 20ms threshold of which we would look at a TV to be one of the better for gaming.
To be fair, the surroundings where we tested the Q90R prevented us from using our newer HDFury Diva 4K 18Gbps HDMI matrix to check input lag, which we’ve found to manage to creating more accurate and generally lower numbers on newer displays.
A Surprising Stunner
Samsung’s Q90R TV is probably the best-looking LCDs we’ve tested. It is also probably the most expensive, at $3,500 for the 65-inch version. That puts it in OLED territory, where we previously thought LCDs couldn’t quite reach. The Q90’s remarkably bright panel and impressively low black levels come close, though, and its own color reproduction out of your box is far more advanced than any OLED we’ve tested. That is a great TV for anybody buying a centerpiece with their pricey home entertainment, and professional calibration could coax better still performance from it. It’s pricey and it generally does not have Dolby Vision, nonetheless it still earns our Editors’ Choice because of its sheer picture quality.