Samsung Q9FN QLED 4K HDR Television Review

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Top-of-the-line features and a top-of-the-line price.

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Samsung’s Q9FN QLED (See it on Amazon) is its top-of-the-line Smart TV offering. It’s available in both 75″ and 65″ sizes (I got the 65-inch model for testing) and comes with a bevy of features including voice control, ambient light detection, Anynet+ to link Samsung devices, built-in apps, and an auto-detecting Game Mode with FreeSync. The top-of-the-line billing also means top-of-the-line prices, as the 65″ is around $3,000. That’s a lot of money, so let’s dive in and see what that gets you, and if it’s worth it.

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Samsung Q9FN – Design and Features

The Q9FN is the definition of sleek and understated. Its bezels are only 0.5cm all around and the Samsung badge along the bottom is 4.5cm long and barely noticeable at viewing distance. The black all-metal chassis is incredibly well built, has a ribbed back and is only 1.5-inches deep at its thickest. There is only one connection on the back for Samsung’s proprietary One Invisible Connection Cable that provides a single-cable connection from the TV to a separate external box for power and all the A/V connections. It’s an elegant, clean solution if you plan on mounting the VESA-compatible TV on a wall since you only have to worry about one cable coming out of it. The stand echoes the frame design and is simple and durable. It attaches at the center of the TV, as opposed to feet at either end, so if your table isn’t quite as wide as the display the edges can overhang and still securely sit on the surface.

On the back of the external box are four HDMI (one with ARC), Ethernet, an optical out, and a coax port for cable or satellite. There are three USB 2.0 connections on the right side. The box fits well behind the TV between the stand legs, although that blocks the USB ports if you plan to use them.

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The Q in QLED refers to Quantum Dot technology. Traditional LCD screens (such as the one you’re likely reading this on right now) use color filters to create the red, green, and blue primary colors on a television or monitor. These color filters also naturally block a significant amount of the light produced by the backlight. In a QLED television, when the light from the LED backlight hits the quantum dot particles they glow a specific color, which is determined by the size of the particle. Since that light isn’t passing through a filter and instead illuminating the quantum dots there’s the capability to have higher light output with a QLED panel than a traditional LCD display.

The setup process is incredibly easy. A guide walks you through connecting to WiFi and setting up a Samsung account. When connecting a source – be it a an Xbox, PlayStation, cable, or satellite – the TV identifies what it is and initiates setup. For my DirecTV service, all I needed to do was enter my zip code and everything was accessible through the television’s interface – including the DirecTV channel guide and all the programs that were included on my DVR.

With the Xbox and Playstation, the TV could sense when a game was started and change the display to Game Mode, enabling low input latency and FreeSync for Xbox One and One X (sorry Playstation owners, but it’s not supported at this time). The recommended resolution for FreeSync in the manual is listed at 1080p, but I had no issues running my Xbox One X in 4K resolution. There is both a Basic and Ultimate mode that affects the refresh rate range, setting it at 90-120Hz for Basic and 48-120Hz for Ultimate. I kept it in Ultimate and had no problems.

When connecting a UHD player, including an Xbox One, you need to turn on the HDMI UHD Color function in the settings menu for the specific HDMI port. This will allow support for 4:4:4 and 4:2:2 chroma subsampling on the port for UHD 50P/60P signals. 4:2:0 is already supported without the setting turned on. (Chroma subsampling is a type of video compression to reduce bandwidth. 4:2:2 takes more bandwidth than 4:2:0. 4:4:4 is uncompressed and takes the most bandwidth of the three.)

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The Samsung OneRemote is silver with a metal finish and connects to the TV via Bluetooth. It fits comfortably in the hand and is easy to use. It is automatically set up to work with any connected components that the Q9FN recognizes. Button selection is limited in comparison to most universal remotes, but it still worked well with my DirecTV and Xbox menus. The Bixby voice control allows you to select an input, change the channel, and even open the recordings menu by speaking into the remote. The voice activation and response makes up for any buttons that might be missing and makes app access quick. There is a remote app available for your smart phone, but it doesn’t add any functionality over the OneRemote and I didn’t find it beneficial.

Samsung Q9FN – Testing and Gaming

Testing was done with a Photo Research PR-650 spectroradiometer, a Konica Minolta LS-100 luminance meter, and CalMAN 2018 calibration software. SDR video patterns were generated by an AVFoundry VideoForge and HDR patterns were from Diversified Video Solutions’ UltraHD/HDR-10 Test Pattern Suite.

Movie mode with a Warm2 setting offered the most accurate out-of-the-box setting

The Samsung Q9FN has four picture modes (Dynamic, Standard, Natural, Movie) and four color tone options (Cool, Standard, Warm1, and Warm2). The picture modes change the default values for Backlight, Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Color, and Tint. Color Tone changes the white balance (how much of blue, green, and red go in to making a pure white color). After initial measurements of the picture modes and color tones, I determined that Movie mode with a Warm2 setting offered the most accurate out-of-the-box setting. The white balance measured a little high at 7035 Kelvin (6500K is the measurement of daylight and considered the target), but it was the closest to the target of all the options. All the other color tone options were progressively higher – from Warm1 to Standard to Cool – and became very blue (the higher the Kelvin value the more blue and less red there is mixed in). Gamma measured well at an average of 2.27.

The color accuracy on the Q9FN is okay, but there are some significant issues. DeltaE is used to show how far away from perfect a measurement is, the lower the number the better. Ideally that number should be below 3.0 and from 2.0 down it’s difficult to see the difference from a reference color. The blue color point was the most egregious error at a DeltaE of 4.4. Red and green both measured just under 3.0. For a television at this price I’d hope for all those values to be closer to 2.0 if not lower. The Q9FN can be calibrated to those values, but a professional calibration will cost a couple hundred dollars on top of the price of the set.

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Where the television excels is in its light output. In fact, with a peak HDR brightness over 1,500 cd/m2 (also called nits), this is the brightest set I’ve ever measured. The set has full array local dimming and in its high setting does a great job with deep blacks. With HDR content, the highlights absolutely pop. The moon at night in Sea of Thieves looked stunning against the dark sky and the explosions of escaping Resistance ships in The Last Jedi were heart-wrenchingly brilliant. The high light output also means you can put this television in any ambient light situation and have no trouble seeing the action on screen. The Q9FN supports HDR10+ but not Dolby Vision.

Having Game Mode turned on automatically when launching a game is awesome

Having Game Mode turned on automatically when launching a game is awesome, and it isn’t source dependent. The Auto setting will determine if I’m watching a Blu-ray or playing a game on my Xbox and change the setting accordingly. When game mode is enabled, the input lag drops significantly. With my Leo Bodnar lag testing tool I measured the game mode lag at 21.6ms in 1080p SDR, and when playing a 4K HDR game there is no perceptible lag. Making the timed jumps to avoid falling into a pit of spears in Rise of the Tomb Raider was no problem.

The game mode also enables FreeSync for compatible connected devices and it works flawlessly. I didn’t encounter any screen tearing while playing on my Xbox One X with FreeSync enabled. The one issue with game mode is it defaults to Standard color tone, which is very blue. It is possible to switch it to Warm2 but I found it didn’t always save the setting and I had to occasionally change the setting back to Warm2.

Gaming on the Samsung Q9FN is a joy. The 4K picture looks amazingly sharp. The high brightness and high contrast ratio really make the image pop. When crawling through the caves of Siberia in Tomb Raider or sailing the beautiful open waters of Sea of Thieves I was completely immersed. Using the Q9FN as a computer display works well too. The 4:4:4 chroma means text still looks sharp (when chroma subsampling is used, PC text can look blurred and difficult to read).

Finally, the question of QLED versus OLED must be considered since they cost about the same. Personally, I think I’d probably go with OLED for the lower black levels and better HDR. Their input lag is going to be right about the same as that of the Q9FN, and while the high refresh rate on the QLED is great I don’t think it’s a necessary feature considering its limited need on consoles. The OLED is going to have a real nice picture, but honestly, we’re splitting hairs as they’re both excellent.

Samsung Q9FN – Purchasing Guide

The Samsung 65-inch Q9FN QLED 4K HDR television has an MSRP of $3,800 but can be found on Amazon for around $3,000.

The Verdict

The 4K picture and unbelievable brightness of the Q9FN is amazing, but let’s talk about the elephant in the review; the $3,000 price tag. In comparison to some excellent similar sized sets (like the new TCL R Series) this TV is quite expensive. Yes, there’s some outstanding functionality and the auto-detecting game mode is clever but it’s still a lot of money. If you have the money you won’t be disappointed, but for the rest of us, it’s something to aspire to.

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