Samsung Q900 8K QLED 85″ TV Review

The Samsung Q900 8K QLED is a 85″, state-of-the-art TV with 33-million pixels of resolution and unprecedented HDR performance for a consumer TV. It combines all of Samsung’s top TV technologies into a powerhouse display that sets a new standard for immersive home viewing.

Setup

This is not a typical review because the logistics of dealing with an 85″ TV are different due to the weight and size, not to mention per-unit cost. No TV maker is shipping 85″ units to reviewers, and yet the Q900 is only available at that one size, which presents a conundrum.

The solution, of course, is that reviewers had to book hands-on time with a single review unit. Unfortunately, there are distinct disadvantages to this approach, starting with the increased likelihood that the one TV shown to all the reviewers is a “cherry-picked” unit. And of course, there’s the reality that spending a few days learning and getting used to an all-new TV before reviewing it offers greater insight than a one-day liaison.

Despite the limited time with the Q900, I put my Colorimetry Research meters up on the screen, rather than rely on Samsung’s measurements. I also attached my own PC as well as Xbox One X to it so I could check out gaming and also how a 4K PC desktop look.

Samsung had their demo footage to show as well, which was seen by all the reviewers who had hands-on time with the TV. But, in addition to watching the provided content, I evaluated the Q900 QLED with my own 4K 60p drone footage, my own movie selection and my own games.

Features

The headline feature of the Q900 is 7640 x 4320 pixel resolution, or 8K for short. It’s also an incredibly capable HDR display, with an advertised peak luminance of 4000 nits in Dynamic mode (and 2000 nits in Movie mode). The other feature, which is very much related, is that this is an 85-inch TV. This is key, because in 2018 Samsung did not have a flagship at that size until now.

The Q900 is a FALD-LCD TV that uses quantum dots to enhance the backlight and render the full color volume of the DCI/P3 color space used in commercial cinema. In layman’s terms, the colors really pop on this screen. And it has the most powerful processor Samsung has offered in a TV yet, the Quantum Processor 8K.

This 85″ 8K TV is HDR compatible—including HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG formats. Physical design elements include the slab-like form factor that is wall-mountable. The TV comes with Samsung’s 2018 Smart Remote

Like other 2018 QLEDs, this TV recognizes speech and offers a wide range of voice-activated capabilities. You can search for content by just asking for it using Bixby, control items connected to home automation with SmartThings, and open a menu directly, instead of navigating to it.

Not only is the Q900 a home cinema powerhouse, it is also the most badass gaming display on the planet because it support Freesync. That means it is not locked into one frame rate, instead it can adapt to whatever the gaming device is able to provide. I confirmed the Freesync functionality by connecting my Xbox One X.

Ultra-low latency (QLEDs consistently measure <20 milliseconds in the center of the screen) combined with support for 120 Hz at 1440p round out the gamer-friendly features of this QLED. Samsung was not kidding when it said the Q900 has all the features of the other QLEDs, and then 8K plus AI upscaling on top of that.

Performance

Since native 8K content is hard to come by, the Q900 offers Samsung’s most advanced image processing technologies, including AI upscaling. Much of the time spent with Samsung reps focused on the effectiveness of the upscaling, which relies on a dynamic database that’s constantly evolving and learning the best way to render any given scene.

The Q900 has the same zone count (480) as the 4K Q9FN, as well as a similar form factor. It’s a perfect rectangular slab that comes with an external One Connect box, which supplies both the video signal and power to the screen.

Since My time with the TV was brief, I’ll keep the review itself brief. The first thing I did is load up a torture test for halo artifacts, which is found in the opening scene of the concert film, Roger Waters The Wall. There is a shot from a helicopter, looking down at the motorcade at night, that has wreaked havoc on every single FALD algorithm I’ve fed it to. I even joked that all I needed was 30 seconds, and the review would be done. Of course that’s not true, but what I saw was encouraging. The Q900 was not “perfect” like an emissive display, but it did manage to render the scene without falling apart, unlike other FALD TVs I’ve tested with the scene.

Long story short is that VA LCD panels do have limitations in viewing angles, as well as native contrast (which is why FALD is needed in the first place). And at some point, in some scenes, someone who is looking for it is going to spot some sort of blooming or clouding.

I think it’s a bit of a trap to go looking for scenes that trip up FALD LCDs because it ignores the benefits of the technology, and the extra brightness it provides, when watching most content. Yes, home cinema aficionados who have been begging Samsung for a flat, 85 inch, high zone count FALD will scrutinize this TVs performance and if you look hard enough, you’ll find scenes with issues. But there’s an acronym for that: OCD.

On the other hand, if you pay attention to what the TV is doing well, it’s clear this 8K QLED is one of the finest consumer displays ever created. One of the most obvious advantages it enjoys is the antireflective coating used on the screen. Even if there is a brightly lit window right behind you, the coating on the screen will almost completely eliminate that reflection.

For example, motion interpolation (AKA Auto Motion Plus) is incredibly effective on this TV. I viewed test footage (shot with my Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 in 4K) and Auto Motion Plus deftly dealt with the complex interaction between a rope course and the trees and leaves in the background. Similarly, running test patterns at testufo.com showed that the TV can display a panning image with perfect clarity and no ghosting. Last time I saw a TV do that “perfectly” was when I owned a reference-quality plasma, the F8500.

Oh, and screen uniformity. On the review sample, it was great. Especially notable was the absence of dimming or darkening in the corners or edges, which is something I see with a lot of FALD units. As for viewing angles, we’re in “good for a VA panel” territory and if you’ve already seen a 2018 QLED you know what to expect.

At this point I am going to recommend reading the impressions of other reviewers. I’d like to get a copy of this TV into my own studio before drawing further conclusions. And ideally, also check out a unit in the wild, instead of this one TV that was picked by Samsung to show to reviewers. Finally, this review unit still has pre-production firmware and I was unable to calibrate it. I’m not sure other reviewers who may have spent their day pixel peeping and judging minutiae (that could easily change with a firmware update) were spending their limited time with this TV wisely.

Anyhow…

Even with the caveats that it’s a cherry-picked pre-production unit, this is a clear Top Choice TV for 2018. After all, screen size matters a lot, and there simply is no 85″ option  you can buy in OLED land.

Other Reviews

As noted, this review unit is the same TV that was used by other reviewers, since the hands-on occurred at a Samsung facility. Here are links to those reviews:

Samsung Q900 85-inch 8K QLED TV hands-on review  (Digital trends)

Samsung 85Q900 8K TV Review: The Future Is Now (Forbes)

Samsung Q900 8K TV review: an amazing glimpse of 8K’s potential

Conclusion

Is this as good as it gets when it comes to TVs today? It certainly depends on your budget and your usage scenario. Moreover, Samsung stands alone in offering a true 85″ flagship TV that embodies the company’s approach to achieving state-of-the-art image quality.

If you can afford it, and you can fit it in your home, then there is no question that this—the Samsung Q900—is the AVS Forum Top Choice for 2018. It’s an amazing display by any measure and of course it’s also first when it comes to 8K TVs you can actually buy.

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