Samsung 75Q900R 8k QLED TV review

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posted on Friday, 30th November 2018 by Steve May

Samsung  8K  UHD 

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Samsung’s new Q900R 8k TV line is both precocious and premature. Someone was always going to be first to tout 8k, and it was probably inevitable that it would be Samsung, a brand that relishes leading edge tech.

4k UHD offered a four-fold jump in resolution over 1080p, and has become the defacto standard for large screens. Now 8k heralds a similar leap. UHD 2 images are four times as pixel dense again.

Samsung may have launched 8k first, but it won’t be last. Rival LG looks certain to compete with 8k OLED screens in the summer of 2019. The TV industry always wants the next big thing, particularly when it sees dramatic price erosion on the last big thing.

In many ways, 4320p screens would seem the perfect playground for CI. With clients that often demand the state of the art, it enables installers to compete with the everyday.

The catch is that there’s no 8k content available, at least in the UK and Europe. NHK has started 4k and 8k trials, as a precursor to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

Samsung believes this isn’t a deterrent, and suggest that advanced upscaling technologies, aided by AI and machine learning, can make more of 4k and lesser sources.

8k Screen

One Connect Lead

Samsung 75Q900R 8k HDR QLED TV: Design and specification
Also available in 65- and 85-inch screen sizes, the overall design of the Q900R is fashionably minimalistic. Even Samsung branding has been reduced to a small badge on the right of the frame.

Thanks to its FALD (Full Array Local Dimming) backlight, the set is a little chunky, but we don’t mind the depth, given the improvements local dimming offers. If you’re not wall-mounting, the screen’s feet can be positioned toward the edge of the panel, or centred, allowing you to match different styles of AV furniture. 

As is usually the case with high-end Samsung offerings, the screen is tethered to a One Connect box. In many cases, this simplifies installation options. The Near Invisible cable which links the two, carries both power and AV. The function junction also offers four HDMI inputs, an optical digital audio output, Ethernet, Freeview HD and satellite tuners, plus three USBs.

However, the HDMI board is not to full v2.1 specification. This means the One Connect Box won’t accept native 8k at 60fps from an external source - not that there is one yet. We rather suspect that when Samsung was prepping the Q900R for launch it assumed that HDMI v2.1 interfaces would be available, but that’s not how it’s panned out.

It does cover some aspects of the HDMI 2.1 specification though, and apparently one HDMI input accepts 8k at 30fps, however this couldn’t be tested.

Samsung says it will offer an upgrade for the One Connect box under unspecified terms at some point, however for installers this will mean a return visit to the client, with all that entails.

Samsung 75Q900R 8K HDR QLED TV: Features
The Q900R’s smart provision is in line with the rest of the brand’s range. It uses the Tizen Smart OS, which features the usual selection of streaming services. The tuner isn’t Freeview Play, but there is a comprehensive selection of catch-up TV (BBC iPlayer, My5, Demand 4, ITV Hub), along with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. 

It also has Ambient mode, allowing it to blend with wall-coverings (pictured below), function as a picture display, or convey news.

Ambient Mode

Tizen UI

Samsung 75Q900R 8K HDR QLED TV: Picture performance
So what of this new 8k panel? Does it offer tangible picture benefits for the viewer? Certainly, with native 8k footage, image quality is sensational. Samsung provided us with an USB stick of 8k resolution files. The detail and clarity they offered is astonishing. Native 8k is undoubtedly intoxicating in its definition and lifelike vibrancy. There’s absolutely no sense of pixel grid structure. You really felt as though you are looking into the image.

However, in the real world owners will have only 4k and HD to view. It’s here the brand’s upscaling technology comes into play.

There’s certainly no obvious disadvantage attached to the heavy image processing employed. Blu-ray discs look excellent. However it’s debatable just how much Samsung’s Machine Learning Super Resolution (MLSR) technology brings to the table. We did spot improvements in edge definition and subjective texture, but only at close quarters. From a standard viewing distance the benefits were negligible and likely to be missed.

It’s worth noting that the relationship rules between distance and resolution, so crucial when it comes to specifying 4k screens (buy bigger than the model it replaces, or sit nearer), apply here also, and then some. To appreciate the micro-detail offered by an 8k resolution panel, the optimum seating distance may be closer than many buyers feel comfortable with. One reason why screens in excess of 80-inches will probably become the norm for this resolution.

We’ve seen impressive demonstrations at trade shows (CES, IFA) of Samsung’s Quantum 8K processor doing remarkable things with SD content on an 8k panel, but that that wasn’t realised under evaluation, playing a regular DVD - a Superbit DVD pressing of Shakespeare In Love. We were promised something magical would happen, but this set ain’t Harry Potter. DVD still looks like...DVD. Of course, it’s early days and there’s plenty of potential for improvement.

Black level performance is good, and colour vibrancy is exceptional.

Resolution File

Menu (3)

The Q900R supports HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG, but not Dolby Vision. We measured HDR peak brightness just under 1200 cd/m2 (aka nits). Bright enough for effective HDR, but not groundbreaking in and of itself.

More significant was a luminance lag when shifting from normal brightness to a brighter highlight. It looked as if the backlit algorithm was having a problem keeping up with even moderate dynamics. This became quite annoying, once seen.

Samsung 75Q900R 8k HDR QLED TV: Sound performance
The audio performance of the screen is perfectly adequate, although largely inconsequential in a custom install environment. A screen of this calibre deserves an exterior audio solution.

Samsung 75Q900R 8k HDR QLED TV: Verdict
Samsung is to be applauded for pushing ahead with 8k development. It’s setting the agenda for the next evolution in high-end display technology. However, should you commit at the outset? For some buyers, simply being the first to have 8k will warrant the investment.

The panel looks great with Blu-ray, although samsung’s AI upscaling technology has yet to deliver on its initial promise.

With no 8k content in the offing, and a premature One Connect Box, it’s difficult to recommend the Q900R unreservedly. But Samsung has given us a glimpse of the future of TV, and we like it.

Available now
Retail price: £6,999

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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