For its top tiers of 2018 4K QLED TVs—the Q9F and Q8F—Samsung has bolstered image quality by returning to FALD-LCD technology and adding new light-absorbing capabilities to the panel that make these models compelling options for a variety of usage scenarios. With a brand-new 2018 65″ Q9F QLED up and running, I’ve been busy getting used to this new TV.
If you are interested in keeping up to date with first impressions of how it performs, check out the forum thread I started, which will host all the discussions surrounding this review unit. It’s where I’m posting first impressions and initial measurements (mostly in the comments) and will eventually link to the final review.
I’ll add information from that thread to this article in regular updates, with a full formal review sometime in the next few weeks. But for now, it’s all about first impressions.
Unboxing and Setup
Kudos to Samsung for making unboxing and set up extremely easy. The new pedestal base attaches to the panel with four screws, and assembly takes a minute or less. The new invisible connection cable that conveys power as well as the audio/video signal snaps into the back of the TV easily but firmly, and cable management is built right into the TV chassis. Also, the new base allows it to fit on smaller stands—including soundbases capable of withstanding the weight—that would not be able to accommodate a 65″ TV equipped with feet. Eventually, I plan to hang this TV on the wall, but for now it is freestanding.
Initial setup was fast and glitch-free with the included OneRemote, but I have not tried using the SmartThings app; I will visit that for the full review. I immediately updated to the latest firmware, which is currently version 1051.
I have not explored this TV’s smart features or the new Ambient Mode, and I’ve barely had time to take some initial measurements such as peak luminance and contrast ratio. I have played my favorite video game, Grand Theft Auto Five online, using a PC equipped with an Nvidia GTX 1080. This required some new settings for the TV’s game mode that offered a more favorable picture quality than the defaults; you’ll find those settings in the thread, but please note they may change soon. Again, this is all day 1 stuff with a brand-new and unfamiliar TV.
Initial measurements revealed reasons to be hopeful that this TV truly does offer impressive performance for an LCD. With a 3×3 ANSI checkerboard pattern, I measured 20,000:1 contrast in both Low and Standard local-dimming modes, and 15,000:1 contrast with the dimming mode set to High. On Samsung’s 2016 and 2017 flagships, 5000:1 was about the best I could do with that pattern, regardless of settings. I also observed very favorable behavior in terms of HDR-highlight handling. Namely, the smaller the window I measured, the higher the peak luminance, topping out at 1750 nits in Movie mode with a 2% window. Some FALD LCDs achieve their peak luminance in larger windows, and actually experience a drop off with a 2% window.
This is a FALD (full-array local-dimming) TV, meaning it uses a grid of LEDs behind the LCD panel to illuminate the screen. While Samsung does not officially publish a zone count, I estimate it to be around 480, which is enough to allow the TV to do a good job at avoiding halos and clouding artifacts. Plus it can get bright, even in a small area like a 2% pattern—with which I measured a 1750-nit peak in Movie mode. This translates to sparkling HDR highlights and superior contrast with real content.
So far, I’m most impressed with the effectiveness of the Q9F’s anti-reflective and light-absorbing technologies. While the new screen has a real impact in dark-environment movie viewing, with notably better performance than the 2017 Q9F it replaces, the magic happens when you turn the lights up. Namely, the 2018 Q9F delivers picture quality that you used to have to turn the lights down to experience.
I’m also very pleased with the low latency of the Game mode, which supports 120p frame rates with both 1080-pixel and 1440-pixel resolutions. Games running on my GTX 1080 PC averaged anywhere between 70 and 120 fps and I did not see screen tearing, so on those factors alone I’d rand the 2018 Q9F as one of the greatest gaming TVs ever.
That’s about all I have to share here at this moment, but I am working with the TV and waiting to get 100 hours on the panel, which is the threshold I want to reach before performing a “proper” calibration.
I have completed a preliminary BT.709 calibration (for HD content such as TV and Blu-ray). You can see the report by clicking here.
Please check out the forum thread for the most up-to-date blog posts about this initial hands-on with the 2018 65″ Samsung Q9F QLED.
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