Samsung Q9F Series QLED: Peak performance from a home entertainment heavyweight
Peak performance from a home entertainment heavyweight
With 4K well on its way towards becoming the dominant standard for video content, recent years have seen the process of choosing your next TV often distills down to a question: OLED or QLED? And where other companies like Sony and Panasonic have pivoted to the former, Samsung has doubled down on the latter. They now offer four separate series of QLED displays (Q6, Q7, Q8 and Q9) in a wide variety of sizings.
We spent an afternoon or so taking their flagship Q9F QLED TV and HW-N650 soundbar through their paces and, if you’re looking for the short version, there’s a lot to like here.
Even if Samsung’s QLEDs can’t quite match the sexy absolute blacks found in OLED TVs, they come with more than enough of their own luster to make up the difference. It’s easy to forget but while OLED is a exciting next-generation display technology, it’s also a very young one at that. As a technology, LCD LED TVs are a whole lot more mature.And when it comes to reaping the dividends of that maturity, Samsung sit pretty close to the cutting edge.
As these things come, it doesn’t really much any better than this.
[Related: Everything You Need To Know About QLED]
With the Q9F, Samsung push LCD LED TVs beyond what feels like it should be their natural limit. That might sound hyperbolic but there really isn't really any other home entertainment vendor out there pushing LCD LED technology to this same extreme. What's more, this their dogged pursuit of performance doesn’t come at the cost of the everyday real-world usage of the TV - with numerous improvements having been made to the big picture experience as well as the picture quality.
There are plenty of reasons you might want to buy an OLED TV but, assuming you can afford it, Samsung’s Q9F does a pretty good job gives you a reason not to give on LCD LED just yet.
Samsung Q9F QLED LCD TV
Display size: 75-inch / 65-inch
Display type: LCD LED with Quantum Dots
Backlighting: Direct full array
Smart TV OS: Tizen
Peak brightness: 2000 nits
HDR support: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG
4K support: Yes
Remote: Samsung One Remote
Built-in speakers: 4.2 channel, 60W, Dolby Atmos
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Ports: Located on One Connect Box (IR in, Audio out, Antenna In, Component & AV, HDMI x4, LAN, Digital Audio Out, EX-Link, USB x3)
Pricing: $10499 / $6999
Samsung HW-N650 Soundbar
Speaker type: 5.1 channel, 5x tweeter, 3x woofer, 1x subwoofer, Dolby, DTS
Frequency Response: 42Hz~20kHz
Dimensions:110cm x 5.9cm x 10cm
In terms of design, Samsung’s 2018 Q9F 4K LCD LED TV acquits itself well. There are plenty of TVs out there which relentlessly and obnoxiously work to draw attention to themselves and their brand. This isn’t one of them.
The built quality is super-sharp and modern up close and afar, with ultra-thin, slanted bezels acting as a sleek accent for the crisp and color images the display frames. While the Q9F isn’t the thinnest TV around, it does boast some very tactile texturing on the rear side of the thing and come fully integrated with Samsung’s One Connect Box and One Connect Cable.
Introduced in last year’s model, the idea behind the One Connect cable is more-or-less exactly what it sounds like. It’s a single translucent cable that runs between your shiny new QLED TV and the Samsung’s One Connect Box that it comes bundled with. Power. Image. Audio. It’s all contained and carried by the one wire. Last year's Q9 range featured a seperate power cable - so this setup does represent a visible and concise improvement.
Both on an aesthetic and practical level, there’s some really nice streamlining of the experience going on here.
Having to not contort yourself around the back of your TV whenever you want to tinker with the input cables is a very appealing thought and it’s hard not to highlight the setup as a clear-cut advantage that the Q9F has over a lot of the other home entertainment options out there.
It certainly helps that the Q9F’s interface is as polished as it is. Powered by Tizen, Samsung’s smart TV setup remains one of the best in the business. There aren’t too many massive shake-ups here versus what you got out of the 2017 QLED range in terms of software. However, there’s a pretty easy argument that there probably didn’t need to be.
The Q9F already has an app for just about everything you want out of a modern smart TV experience. It supports all the usual suspects like Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Google Play Movies alongside catch-up apps like 9Now, ABC iView, 7plus. In line with previous QLED models, it even offers a built-in Steam Link for PC gamers.
If you’re the kind of user who doesn’t care for traditional AV shenanigans, Samsung’s One Remote does a pretty good job of consolidating the experience. Jumping between content sources and tinkering with the picture settings is fairly unobtrusive and relatively-approachable, even for a TV like this one.
That said, the absence of Bixby integration for Australian users is an irk. Samsung say this extra functionality will arrive to Australian users via software update later in the year.
Finally, there's the new Ambient Mode. When configured and active, Ambient Mode promises to turn what would otherwise be an blank inactive display into a seamless part of your home decor mimicking either the natural surface behind the TV. Samsung’s QLED TVs can now seamlessly blend into their surroundings at the mere press of a button.
[Related Content:Everything you need to know about HDR TVs]
Alternatively, you can also rig up Ambient Mode to show off artwork, photo collages or even just display a basic (if-stylish) screensaver displaying the time, date and weather. In reality, this feature is super-cool but also a bit of a novelty. It’ll definitely have its fans. However, it's hard to dismiss the stinging truth that your power bill is going up if you leave you leave your QLED TV in ambient mode all the time. Still, like the One Connect Box, it’s a nice addition to the broader package that you might not get out of some of the competition.
A quick recap for the unfamiliar: As far as next-gen display technologies go, QLED TVs are less of a revolution and more of an evolution on traditional display technologies.
Basically, they’re super high-end displays that come enhanced by a new secret ingredient: quantum dots. These are small nanoparticles that come integrated into a traditional LCD LED panel. They work to convert light from Blue LEDs into brightly saturated primary colors. This results in a significantly more color-rich image than is otherwise possible on an LCD LED display.
This enhancement also makes it much possible for LCD LED displays to reproduce a wider color gamut, allowing viewers to get the most of HDR content, which not all LCD LED displays are capable of supporting. In other words, Samsung’s QLED range isn’t so much about just offering more LCD LED pixels. It’s about doing more with each of those pixels.
And in reality, the Q9F mostly lives up to this promise. 4K content looks as super-detailed as detailed as ever and the full-array backlighting serves to give colors have that extra depth and pop. After warming up the TV and soundbar with Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, we jumped into an episode of Westworld and found that the eyes and the colors on some of the costumes in the HBO series quietly-fizzled with spooky HDR-goodness.
[Related Content: Buying a TV in 2018? Here's everything you need to know]
To focus on the N950 for a moment, it’s worth observing that the mileage you’re going to get out of the soundbar will vary based on what you’re watching. Regardless, we can say that the retro-eletronica melodies underscoring the sci-fi action of Thor: Ragnarok rang true while the clockwork rhythms of Westworld rose and fell with such vibrancy and resonance that you could almost feel the sorrow radiate outwards from the speaker.
Of course, if there was ever a movie made to be seen in its Ultra 4K HDR form: it’s John Wick: Chapter Two. Both the Q9F and the N950 soundbar absolutely comes prepared to deliver the goods here. Fights scenes look gorgeous in motion and not a pixel looks out of place even when the action-heavy, Keanu Reeves-led thriller was at its most hectic.
The upscaling on non-4K content isn’t quite as impressive as content that’s been made and mastered for a 4K HDR TV like this one - but you can usually get by regardless. If anything, the one issue we really ran afoul of during our time with the Q9F was with the TV’s dynamic profile - which sometimes causes some pretty distracting flickering in the TV’s backlighting. Tinkering a with the brightness settings and changing gears to the Q9F’s ‘Movie’ mode did fix the issue but it’s a little disappointing to run into it at all.
The Bottom Line
If you’re not quite ready to buy-in on OLED and are happy to pay the premium price, our time with the Q9F has us more than happy enough to recommend Samsung’s 2018 QLED range. Even if there are one or two weak-links,the picture quality offered by the Q9F is undeniably outstanding. Better still, the experience on offer here is ultimately one elevated by everything surrounding that central technical feat. Things like Ambient Mode, the One Connect Cable and the robust smart TV UI round out the broader experience of actually using this TV - not just looking at it - in a way that I hope to see emulated by other TV brands.
The industry-level battle between OLED and QLED is often framed as a conflict that’ll leave one side winners and the other losers. However, when Samsung’s 2018 QLEDs are capable of delivering a home-entertainment experience this good, it’s hard to not to see how consumers - across both sides of the aisle - are winning out.
Brought together, Samsung’s Q9F and HW-N650 soundbar offer up peak performances from a home entertainment heavyweight. Again, when it comes to LCD LED TVs, it doesn’t get any better than this.
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