Samsung Q9 65″ QLED HDR LCD TV: First Look

Samsung Q9 QLED TV First Look

The 2017 Samsung Q9 QLED TV is the company’s flagship model that was introduced at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. It is a flat, LED-edgelit LCD high dynamic range (HDR) UHD 4K display that uses quantum dots to achieve 2000-nit highlights and fully cover the DCI/P3 color gamut—even in the brightest scenes. Just yesterday, I got my hands on one of the very first 65″ units that anyone has seen—aside from attendees at CES—and it’s loaded with fresh firmware.

Since I’ve only had the TV in my studio for a few hours, this post is just a brief first look. Ultimately, I’ll follow it up with a hands on review.

My first impression of the Q9 is “Wow, I did not know it’s possible to make an edgelit-LCD TV that looks so good.” That impression was bolstered by a quick side-by-side comparison with its predecessor, the 65″ KS9800—a full-array local-dimming (FALD) design.

With standard dynamic range BT.709 content like HD Blu-ray and Vudu HDX streams, the visible difference between the two TVs was effectively non-existent. A quick scan using CalMAN software and a Colorimetry Research CR-100 meter indicated that what my eyes told me about the Q9’s color fidelity held true when measured, the overall grayscale delta-E reading was 1.9.

I’ve never seen a TV that did not benefit from calibration and this Q9 was no exception. Using only basic settings—a 2-point grayscale/white balance adjustment—I easily tweaked the Q9’s Movie mode to achieve a near-perfect match to the BT.709-calibrated KS9800, and a average delta-E reading of 1.3. This is a great result for only a few minutes work, but it looks like the TV has even more potential. I look forward to seeing the result of a full 20-point calibration along with CMS adjustment, which I’ll post sometime in the next few days.

My first impression upon seeing synchronized HDR content on the two TVs—side-by-side—is that the Samsung Q9 has the upper hand over the KS9800 in overall image quality at least 90% of the time. This is thanks to the Q9’s superior rendering of highlights, as well as notably less noise and artifacts in both highlights and shadows.

With HDR UHD Blu-rays, bright elements like the sun, windows, lamps, explosions, and neon lights retained more highlight detail and color saturation on the Q9 than the KS9800. I also found that that mid-tones—especially human faces—appeared to have just the right brightness on the Q9, while they looked a bit dark on the KS9800. I think the Q9 does an all-around better job of rendering HDR10 content in a manner that looks natural to the human eye.

When streaming Daredevil in HDR UHD on Netflix, the Q9 managed to produce a significantly better looking image than the KS9800, with less noise and fewer artifacts. I don’t want to understate the difference in picture quality here, the noise in solid areas was a distraction on the KS9800. The Q9 handled the noise much better and it looked like film grain—appropriately atmospheric. Overall sharpness and motion handling appeared to be identical between the two TVs, but the Q9 sometimes managed to render a bit more fine detail, such as the texture of the weave of various fabrics.

This truly is a first look at a TV that has triggered much discussion. The sheer audacity of suggesting an LED-edgelit LCD TV can fill the shoes of Samsung’s 2016 flagship FALD, the KS9800 has triggered some incredulity. But, my first impression of the impressive Q9 is that it picks up where its predecessor left off.

It may not be the dream TV of the basement-dwelling sci-fi and horror movie crowd, but the Q9 can shine very brightly—2000 nits of peak luminance that can make a sunset look real—and it will fill your world with vivid yet accurate color thanks to its QLED technology, which uses quantum dots to transform the light emitted from the LEDs into pure, rich tones.

Oh yeah, one more thing worth mentioning before I get into a weekend’s worth of tinkering with the Samsung Q9: The “invisible cable.”

The 2017 Q9 uses a very thin, white, fiber-optic cable to attach to the One Connect box that contains all the TV’s inputs. It’s a dramatic departure from the thick black cable used in the past and lives up to its name. When I unpacked the TV, at first I thought Samsung had forgotten to pack the cable because I did not recognize the quite compact spool the invisible cable came on.

The new invisible cable is about as close to having no cable at all as you can get, and will make a real difference for a DIY installation—which the Q9 is designed to make fast and easy. The Q9 features easy mounting with a custom bracket, and it once it’s up the screen sits fully flush against the wall (no gap) while still offering the option to tilt.

Whether you hang it yourself or have a pro do it, the design is clever and the result is aesthetically pleasing.

Well, that’s all for now. Over the coming days, I’ll have a chance to watch, listen to, and measure the Samsung Q9. I’ll test its different modes, play some video games (including an HDR title or two), and toy around with its smart features. Please, let me know what you are interested in knowing about this TV and I will answer as many questions as possible when I post the review.