At CES 2019, Samsung Electronics introduced its new Q900 series 8K QLED TVs. As the company’s flagship models, these displays produce a state-of-the-art picture using the company’s QLED technology. Just a few days ago, I had hands-on time with an 82” Q900 ($9999.99), which I spent watching movie clips, playing video games, and checking out specialized test clips plus patterns. After seeing the TV operating in various picture modes and playing my own content, it became clear that Samsung’s 2019 Q900 series are its best TVs ever.
8K offers 33 million pixels, which is four times that of 4K UHD, and 16 times the pixel count of 1080p. However, what’s truly impressive about the 2019 Q900 series is not just the leap forward in terms of resolution. These TVs also offer the Quantum Processor 8K and possess extraordinarily effective anti-reflective qualities as well as Ultra Wide Viewing Angle, a light concentrating/diffusing technology that does exactly what the name says.
The 82” 2019 Q900 I checked out is large enough to offer a cinematic viewing experience from a reasonable viewing distance. Of course, with these many pixels, you can sit a bit closer for an even more immersive effect or wait for the 98” model to ship! Samsung’s debut pricing for the 82” model is surprisingly low for a flagship at launch: $9999.99, so 8K is a realistic option from the get-go.
My time with the Q900 8K was limited, so I skipped any demos that I had already seen at CES (on a prototype version of this TV). I already know that it’s got the best motion rendering and upsampling that Samsung has ever offered. My interest was in exploring how it will perform in a residential setting, as opposed to the show floor at CES.
Of greater interest to me was how the TV looked when watching content using optimized settings. This includes 4K UHD movies, 4K games, broadcast (HD) TV, streaming at various quality levels. I wanted to see hoe the TV handled bright lights and in-room reflections. And I wanted to see if the performance of Ultra Wide Viewing Angle—as shown at CES 2019—panned out in the lab.
The reality of modern flagship TVs is that the Movie mode it is more accurate than ever, and I expect few owners will be moved to take the final step of scheduling a professional calibration. Consequently, I skipped performing an in-depth calibration, which would’ve consumed most of my allotted time. However, I did witness the Q900 produce 4000-nit peak luminance (in Vivid mode) which makes it the brightest TV I have seen.
This TV is clearly capable of much greater brightness than any OLED while offering a seamless picture including extremely deep blacks.
My first impression is that 2019 Q900 series 8K QLED are Samsung’s best TVs ever. The company has improved the viewing experience with more powerful processing and a screen that produces a vibrant, accurate, contrasty picture—no matter where you sit.
Of course if you are an AV enthusiast, you’ll want to be seated front and center viewing as large a 2019 Q900 8K TV as you can fit in your house. Ultimately, that could be the 98” model that has yet to ship. For now, that’s the 82” model.
The Ultra Wide Viewing Angle and anti-reflective properties of the 2019 Q900R screen are huge factors in terms of the picture quality these TVs achieve. But so is the Quantum 8K Processor and the AI algorithms Samsung uses. Here are some observations:
– The anti-reflective coating is much more effective than any I have seen on the TV before. It completely eradicates in-room reflections, making other TVs look like mirrors in comparison.
– I was never able to see my own reflection in the 2019 Q900 screen. This is the first TV I have ever seen where this is the case:
The Q900 (top) effectively suppresses reflections, even in a bright room.
The 2019 Q900 on the right has zero screen reflections.
– With no reflections, dark shadows and blacks look truly inky and pure, even when room lights are turned on. This is something new, in the past it has always been necessary to turn the lights off to get a reference quality picture, primarily because of reflections.
– The wide viewing angles significantly improve uniformity when viewing the screen off-axis, in addition to preserving color and contrast.
– Wide viewing angles preserve contrast at the edges of the screen when seated close. This results in deeper blacks and richer colors from edge to edge when compared to a 2018 QLED. And unlike OLED, there is no visible color shift with off-axis viewing.
– Thanks to the wide viewing angles, the TV can achieve ultra-deep blacks without distracting artifacts such as clouding or halos. The FALD performance of the 2019 Q900 is far superior to what I observed in a 2018 Q9, one specific “torture test” scene from the beginning of Roger Waters: The Wall that tripped up the 2018 4K TV looked perfect on this 2019 8K model.
– Advanced processing and more pixels resulted in better picture quality from a wide variety of formats and sources. 8K really is about more than just pixels, it is about using AI and advanced algorithms, with the Quantum Processor 8K handling the computing, to improve the quality of the picture on screen.
– I observed one pattern that showed how the 8K processing anti-aliases diagonal lines during upscaling, resulting in the elimination of jaggies. While it is “just” a test pattern, the difference was incredible. With a 4K TV, the black diagonal line (shown over a white background) had clear jaggies visible from 40 feet away, whereas with the 8K Q900 TV, you had to move forward to within 6 feet of the screen to see jaggies in the same line; I brought a laser measure with me and checked. The moral here is that when applying anti-aliasing, the more pixels you work with, the better (smoother yet sharper) the result.
– Samsung’s Q900 processes banding and other artifacts that you often see in streaming content; the improvement in overall fidelity is notable and welcome. Now, you can eliminate macro-blocking in bandwidth starved streams, and you can also reduce the banding you often see in skies. The improvement in watchability here is huge, this TV can fix egregiously bad compression artifacts.
– Since I did not have an HDMI 2.1 source, I was not able to test for 8K or 4K/120p compatibility via HDMI. I did note that using an Xbox One X I could select 1440/120p as a resolution option; this is a great way to achieve high framerates while still experiencing a highly detailed image, thanks to the Q900’s excellent upscaling. 8K capable graphics cards with HDMI 2.1 are on the way, when they arrive the Q900 will be, bar none, the ultimate gaming display thanks to its support for VRR (variable refresh rate).
– For now, true 8K content plays on the Q900 through USB. Samsung showed the recently released 8K footage from the ISS that NASA made available for free, and that was remastered in HDR by color expert Florian Friedrich—the detail is “out of this world.”
– You have to be close to the screen to see a benefit to 8K over “perfect” 4K, but my subjective experience is you can see such a difference without having to press your nose against the screen. The holistic effect of more pixels and superior processing have a visible benefit.
– I brought a bag of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and my own Xbox One X to the hands-on. After going through Samsung’s demos and test patterns, I hooked the console up and checked out content that I’m familiar with, both movies and games.
– Forza Horizon 4 looked incredible, with cars that gleam and glow with deep, rich color that adds a sense of three-dimensionality to the highly detailed graphics. The daytime sky looks amazingly realistic in HDR.
– The Q900 and Xbox One X communicated properly, Auto Game Mode engaged when gaming, disengaged when playing an Ultra HD Blu-ray.
– A Beautiful Planet is an IMAX Enhanced documentary featuring true 4K footage from space that’s delivered in the HDR10+ format supported by QLED TVs. It is pristine footage of the Earth.
– Night scenes of Earth, with glowing cities and the Aurora Borealis, look like CGI because of the crazy colors and incredible detail. Also, another scene showing the international space station against the pure black backdrop of outer space proves that this TV is not prone to halos or clouding and can render a bright HDR object while concurrently producing inky blacks. This is no CGI, it’s pristine footage of the actual space station, but it shows how this TV can handle scenes that would trip up lesser FALD LCDs.
– The deep red launch screen art for Red Dead Redemption 2 looked really, really red! This was a great test for off-axis performance, the color saturation is maintained even at extreme angles.
– The Dynamic Gaming EQ features allow you to see into those dark corners by lightening them, but adapts so that brighter scenes look totally normal, not washed out. A neat feature that confers a competitive advantage when your enemy may be hiding in the shadows.
Samsung’s Q900 QLED is a tour de force of TV technology. 8K QLED is here and it looks incredible. The overall picture quality achieved by these TVs is a major leap forward. Whether it’s installed in the living room, a media room, or a home theater, this TV does justice to all kinds of content—regardless of whether it’s bright or dark in the room.
A full editorial review will follow this hands-on, but the improvements in performance described here don’t require measuring with a light meter to notice. The processing and the improved hardware (anti-reflective properties and wide viewing angles in particular) are clear steps forward that can be appreciated subjectively.
My takeaway from this hands on session is that if you are looking for a TV that offers the highest level of performance and makes the most of anything you feed it—from TV to movies to video games and beyond—you won’t regret picking up a 2019 Samsung Q900 8K QLED. Based on my hands on with the 82″ model, 2019 8K Q900 series QLEDs from Samsung are a Top Choice for premium big screen TVs in 2019.