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Samsung Q900R 8K QLED TV review: Breaking new ground again

By Ng Chong Seng - 31 Dec 2019
Launch SRP: S$16999

Conclusion

(Image: Samsung.)

 

Conclusion: Go big or go home

The Samsung Q900R QLED TV is an excellent TV. Its greatest strength is its extremely high brightness, which means the picture will look good whether you’re using it in a bright family room or in a dark man cave. And of course, if you watch a lot of HDR content, this increased brightness can only be a good thing as it enhances realism.

Like Samsung’s flagship QLED TVs in the past few years, the Q900R offers a class-leading local dimming performance. Coupled with the Ultra Viewing Angle tech that solves these TVs’ narrow viewing angle problem, this is the most OLED-like (in terms of black levels) Samsung TV I’ve tested to date.

Characterised by a very low input lag (which drops to as low as 6 - 7ms with 100/120Hz refresh rate), FreeSync/VRR support and excellent motion handling, the Q900R’s top-notch gaming performance also deserves a shout-out. It’s no high-end gaming monitor yet, but if Samsung keeps this up, I’ve no doubt that future QLED TVs will be spoken in the same breath as, say, an ASUS ROG gaming monitor. My only wish is that it supports NVIDIA G-Sync too. Samsung's (and other TV makers') push in this area will mean that Big Format Gaming Displays from NVIDIA and its partners are increasingly going to be a tough sell.

 

Does the 8K resolution matter?

The Q900R is both Samsung’s first 8K TV and the first 8K TV to arrive in the market. Being first has its own set of pros and cons; and the most obvious pro I can think of is that the Q900R is arguably the best option for those who must buy the most premium, most future-proof big-screen TV today as it supports both 8K and HDMI 2.1.

But the caveat is obvious, too: true 8K content is as good as non-existent at the moment, which means if you have a Q900R, you’re pretty much only getting upscaled, 8K-like quality from existing 4K, HD and SD content. To be fair, the TV’s AI upscaling tech is pretty good — at the very least, I didn’t go yucks when it was upscaling Channel 8 HD. That, to me, is important because I don’t expect OTA (over-the-air) channels to jump to 4K transmission anytime soon (much less embrace 8K).

Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that the TV currently relies on an onboard database when doing the upscaling, and the algorithms are sort of like Samsung’s best guess on how 8K should look. According to a Samsung engineer I spoke to earlier this year, as true 8K content becomes more readily available, this database will grow and the company will be looking to improve its processing algorithms and push any improvements to its 8K TVs via firmware updates.

It’s also worth noting that while the Q900R supports HDMI 2.1, only one port on the One Connect box has it. Additionally, while this port can do high refresh rates at 4K (100/120Hz), without an HDMI 2.1 source, you will at best get 30Hz at 8K. That said, don’t see this as a knock against the Q900R — in the real world, PC gamers I’ve spoken to all said they will take 4K/120Hz over 8K/60Hz for practical reasons. The lack of HDMI eARC is kind of weird, especially when LG's and Sony's flagship TVs all have it. But whether this limitation matters depends on whether you intend to send lossless Dolby Atmos or DTS:X to a compatible A/V receiver or soundbar now or down the road.

 

What about its OLED competitors?

The Samsung Q900R QLED and the LG Z9 OLED are the only 8K TVs you can get in Singapore right now. Of the two brands, Samsung offers more options in that you can buy the Q900R from as small as a 55-inch screen size all the way to 98-inch. On the other hand, LG’s 8K OLED TV is only available in an 88-inch screen size and it costs an eye-popping S$60K. (Comparatively, the Samsung 82-inch and 98-inch Q900R has an S$30K and S$100K SRP respectively.)

Another option is to just get a 4K TV, and in this regard, I feel that the Q900R faces the stiffest competition from LG’s and Sony’s 4K OLED TVs, namely the LG E9 and the Sony A9G.

If you're going the LG 4K OLED route, you’re basically trading the Q900R’s versatility, no danger of burn-in, high brightness and everything related to 8K for OLED’s perfect black level performance. And unlike the early QLED TVs, the black levels on the Q900R have advanced quite a bit that I think most people won't notice they're missing out on OLED's inky blacks unless they can do a side-by-side comparison.

For PC gamers, note that you’re also giving up 4K @ 100/120Hz as the LG E9 can only do the high refresh rate up to 1440p if you don’t have an HDMI 2.1 source. The E9 does support G-Sync, though, which is a plus if you’ve a PC system running an NVIDIA graphics card.

The story is similar if you were to go for the Sony A9G. Like the LG E9, black performance is the Sony OLED TV's strongest suit, and it too supports Dolby Vision in addition to standard HDR10 as well as eARC. However, the A9G lacks HDMI 2.1 so you definitely won’t be able to game at 4K @ 100/120Hz. The comparatively higher input lag across all resolutions and lack of VRR support (no FreeSync, no G-Sync) combine to make the A9G the worst gaming display of the lot.

Last but not least: price. The LG E9 only comes in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes, priced at S$5,099 and S$6,999 respectively. For Sony, the A9G is available in 55-, 65- and 77-inch sizes, priced at S$7,999, S$11,999 and S$27,999 respectively. Looking at the table below, purely from a pricing standpoint, the LG E9 offers the best bang for the buck if you just want a high-end 4K TV no bigger than 65 inches. (The W9 is, for the most part, a more premium E9 with a wall-mount-only design and a separate soundbar.) For the 75-inch and above class however, the Samsung Q900R 8K QLED is the runaway value leader.

Now you know.

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9.0
  • Design 9
  • HD Performance 9
  • SD Performance 9
  • Features 8.5
  • Value 8
The Good
8K resolution
High brightness, wide viewing angles, very good local dimming
Very low input lag and FreeSync support for gaming
Excellent motion handling for sports and games
Smart Hub and One Remote work well
The Bad
Only one HDMI 2.1 port
No Dolby Vision support
No HDMI eARC support
No G-Sync support
Average audio quality for a top-tier TV
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