This week, we reviewed Samsung’s latest generation of QLED televisions with the Samsung QE55Q90R, a 55” (139cm) model. UHD 4K, HDR, HDR10+ and HLG compatible, the QE55Q90R features an LCD panel with Full LED backlighting across 480 zones to provide exceptional contrast. It can reach a maximum brightness of 2000 nits to make the most of movies and TV series filmed in high dynamic range (HDR). Integrating Samsung’s proprietary operating system, the QE55Q90R TV can access numerous online video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Mycanal and can be controlled vocally thanks to its compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. So, what is this very high-end TV sold for €2,690 really worth?
Samsung QE55Q90R: the brand
Founded in 1938 by Lee Chung, Samsung was originally a trading company that dealt with local grocery stores and also produced noodles. Very quickly, Samsung diversified into many different areas, but it wasn’t until 1968 that the brand entered the consumer electronics market. Its first product was a 30cm black and white television set: the Samsung P-3202.
Rather unattractive, Samsung’s first television did not foreshadow the Korean firm’s dazzling future in the consumer electronics sector. The company has been a leader in the television market for several years now. Samsung owes this leading position to its many innovations in the video field. The ball really started rolling in 1998 when Samsung began mass production of the world’s first digital television. This was followed in 2004 by the release of the Samsung LT-P468W, the biggest LCD screen at the time. It was a 117cm Full HD model with a price tag of over €10.000.
It is therefore no surprise that Samsung still holds the record for the largest television with its giant modular TV screen called The Wall, whose size can range from 3.80m to 7.42m. We will go into more detail about this model in the near future. 2004 saw the emergence of Samsung’s first LCD screens with the Samsung R51 range. The latter included the Samsung LE-40R51BX, a model featuring a 40” (101cm) 1366 x 768 pixel panel. It was sold for €3000 at the time of its release.
In 2008, Samsung launched the world’s slimmest LED television (29.9mm), which was followed by the first Full HD 3D TV with the Samsung C8700 series two years later.
Four years later, in 2017, the first QLED televisions were released. Now, in 2019, this range of Samsung QLED televisions is very extensive with the Samsung Q70R, Samsung Q80R and Samsung Q90R series which use a new generation of Quantum dots and whose 139cm Samsung QE55Q90R model we’re testing in this review.
Samsung QE55Q90R: included accessories
The Samsung QE55Q90R television comes in a huge cardboard box that is 1.41 meters long and 84cm high. Inside, the screen is protected from possible impacts with thick sheets of polystyrene. These sheets are also used to hold the television in place, as the stand is in the box but isn’t fixed onto the TV. In addition to the stand, the Samsung QE55Q90R TV comes with a user guide, a remote control with two AA batteries, a Samsung One Invisible cable, a power cord and a Samsung One Connect box. The latter serves as an interface to connect all physical sources to the television, which is connected to the box using only the Samsung One Invisible cable.
The remote control that comes with the Samsung QE55Q90R QLED television is identical to that of the Samsung QE65Q950R (163cm) and Samsung QE75Q950R (190cm) 8K TVs. Slim and robust, this Samsung TM1990C remote control is made of aluminum. At first glance, the controls can seem rather sparse, but all the essential functions are present thanks to the ingenious multifunction buttons. Three shortcuts to the Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Rakuten TV apps are also available.
Samsung QE55Q90R: QLED Display
A direct rival of OLED technology, the Samsung QE55Q90R’s QLED display is based on a new Quantum Dot system. This system is different to classic LCD televisions as it features a quantum box filter that utilizes the optical properties of cadmium selenide nanocrystals. Stimulated by the backlighting, these nanocrystals emit a light whose wavelength is defined by their shape and size. The quantum box filter is calibrated to enhance the purity and luminosity of red and green, the Achilles’ heel of LCD TVs with standard backlighting. By combining blue LED backlighting and a quantum box filter, QLED televisions provide a highly efficient RVB backlighting system that both increases the overall brightness of the image and significantly expands the color space.
Thanks to QLED technology, the Samsung Q90R television can reach very high brightness peaks of 2000 nits. This significant brightness is essential if you wish to enjoy an unprecedented image. Blacks are deep and dense, and colors are brighter and remain saturated, without appearing washed out. This results in a multitude of details in the darkest and lightest areas of the image. With the Samsung Q90R television, it is possible to fully benefit from the dynamic range of HDR programs. Another major advantage of QLED technology is the richness of colors. Samsung QLED TVs are the first LCD LED televisions on the market to reproduce the entirety of the color gamut used for filming and calibrating movies for digital cinema (DCI-P3 gamut). The result is a faithful reproduction of all colors and much more subtle gradations, without posterization. As this color range is closer to natural colors, the images displayed are realistic. Lastly, the Samsung QE55Q90R’s screen is optimized so that all of the advantages offered by QLED remain the same, no matter the viewing angle.
Samsung QE55Q90R: external connector box
The Samsung QE55Q90R television’s connectors are located in a seperate Samsung One Connect box. This box features 4 HDMI CEC inputs, one of which is compatible with the ARC protocol. The latter allows the transmission of a program’s sound (DTTV, YouTube, Netflix, etc.) via an HDMI cable to the HDMI ARC port of a soundbar or an A/V receiver. These HDMI inputs also provide one of the lowest input lags measured on current UHD 4K TVs (approximately 15ms), which is a crucial advantage for gamers.
In addition to these HDMI inputs, the Samsung Q90R TV’s One Connect box includes a DTTV decoder, two satellite inputs (an external card is required), an optical output and an Ethernet input. It goes without saying that the Samsung QE55Q90R can be connected directly to the local network and to the Internet via WiFi. All of these sources are then transferred to the television solely via the 5 meter long translucent Samsung One Connect cable, which also handles the television’s power supply.
Samsung QE55Q90R: design and integration
As mentioned earlier, Samsung has always paid special attention to the design of its televisions and the Samsung QE55Q90R is no exception to this rule. Here, we’re dealing with an elegant TV that becomes part of the decor. With a screen that is 3.99cm thick, we are far from the extremely slim OLED screens, but the ultra-slim edges of the Samsung Q90R manage to refine its silhouette. The Samsung QE55Q90R QLED television can count on its unique transparent cable and its Ambient mode to become a genuine decorative object. The Ambient mode lets you display paintings or photos. Conveniently, by importing your own pictures it is possible to reproduce the texture of the wall on which the TV is mounted, or the view behind the wall, as if it were a window.
Samsung QE55Q90R: Quantum Processor and 4K upscaling
In order to optimize the qualities of the VA display, the Samsung QE55Q90R QLED television integrates the brand’s Quantum Processor 4K, first introduced with the Samsung Q900R QLED 8K TVs in 2018 and now present in all of Samsung’s 2019 QLED televisions. Featuring powerful algorithms, it can optimize images, but also automatically adjust the brightness of the Samsung Q90R TV depending on the ambient lighting and carry out audio calibration to adjust the sound depending on the program being played or the acoustics of the room. We also noted a clear improvement in the clarity of dialogue in talk-shows and movies, as well as a wider soundstage in soundtracks and action scenes.
The Samsung QE55Q90R’s Quantum Processor also features a new artificial intelligence system to upscale HD and HD 1080p streams to UHD 4K. To carry out this upscaling, the Samsung QE55Q90R television relies on the power of Deep Learning and artificial intelligence. It learns to analyse thousands of images to identify objects, textures and backgrounds and then optimizes how they are displayed. By using this acquired knowledge, the 2019 Samsung QLED TV is able to process all content received via its HDMI inputs and convert it into a higher resolution. This system proved to be very convincing and we noticed a clear improvement in the image’s detail. Although this image cannot be compared to true 4K UHD content, it remains significantly better than the original file. We will go into more detail about the benefits of this system later in our review of the Samsung QE55Q90R television.
Samsung QE55Q90R: Smart TV, DLNA, AirPlay 2
DLNA compatible, the Samsung QE55Q90R QLED television can access all media files shared over the local network: photos, videos and music, stored on a computer or a NAS. These files can also be played from a hard drive or a USB flash drive connected to one of the ports on the Samsung One Connect box. The Samsung QE55Q90R TV also features the brand’s operating system with the Netflix, Mycanal, Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten TV, YouTube and now Apple TV applications pre-installed, allowing you to enjoy all of your movies and TV series. Many other apps such as Molotov, OCS, Spotify and Deezer can be installed using Samsung’s app catalog. However, you must subscribe to a Samsung account to be able to install the apps. An account can be created quickly on Samsung’s website or directly on the TV.
Lastly, the television’s compatibility with Apple AirPlay 2 technology makes it possible to share content from any Apple device (iPad, iPhone, iPod and Mac) and display it on the Samsung QE55Q90R television. Note: to use AirPlay 2 on the Samsung Q90R television, your iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac must be recent enough to run at least iOS 12.3 or macOS 10.14.5.
Samsung QE55Q90R: Bixby, Google Assistant, Alexa
In addition to the remote control, the Samsung QE55Q90R television can also be controlled vocally. To make this possible, it features Bixby, the voice assistant found on all of Samsung’s smart products. The latter can be quickly activated using a dedicated button on the remote control. It is then possible to start playing a program, carry out a search, download an app, check the weather and more, simply via voice command. Better still, the Samsung Q90R television is also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. That way, unlike when using Bixby, it can be controlled vocally without using the remote control. You simply need to own a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa smart speaker and register the Samsung television in the Google Home or Alexa app.
Samsung QE55Q90R: setup
Setting up the Samsung QE55Q90R television is easy and quick. Once it is out of the box, the stand must be installed (if the TV isn’t going to be wall-mounted). You simply need to connect the Samsung One Connect cable to the television, then connect the different sources to the Samsung One Connect box. Once the TV is turned on, the rest of the setup can be done using the remote control or via the SmartThings control app for iOS and Android. We decided to use the remote control. Samsung prompted us to either activate the smart mode or leave it deactivated, enter our WiFi password if the TV wasn’t connected via Ethernet, choose a region to set up channels, and lastly, to test the remote control. After these few quick steps, the Samsung QE55Q90R television was entirely functional.
To get the most out of the features offered by the Samsung Q90R television, we wanted to pair it with a Google Home Mini smart speaker. In order to do this, you first have to connect the Samsung QE55Q90R TV to the SmartThings app. Then, via the Google Home app, you simply have to add the SmartThings service so that the television is automatically added to the list of devices. We also connected the TV to an Amazon Echo Dot speaker. Associating Amazon Alexa is just as simple.
Samsung QE55Q90R: our impressions
For this review, we first paired the Samsung QE55Q90R television to the Pioneer UDP-LX500 UHD 4K Blu-ray player that was connected to the Samsung One Connect box using a Norstone Jura HDMI cable. Let’s not beat around the bush: the image produced by the Samsung QE55Q90R was superb, so much so that it wasn’t really necessary to adjust the television’s advanced settings. The Samsung Q90R TV’s automatic brightness adjustment system proved to be very efficient, but much too sensitive. In full daylight with our room lit by natural light, the system automatically reduced the backlight every time a cloud went by. In total darkness, the brightness was reduced far too much and some of the details weren’t visible anymore. Naturally, we decided to deactivate this feature.
Blu-ray UHD 4K HDR
With the UHD 4K HDR10+ Blu-ray of Bohemian Rhapsody, the “natural” image mode seemed to be the most efficient. We still increased the brightness and the contrast very slightly to achieve a more dynamic picture. Once we had made this small adjustment, the different scenes appeared contrasted and the level of detail was impressive. Faces were incredibly detailed and we could almost count the hairs in Rami Malek’s (the actor portraying Freddie Mercury) moustache.
The different scenes appeared contrasted and the level of detail was impressive.
Afterwards, we watched the Blu-ray of The Lego Movie in UHD 4K HDR. For this movie, we preferred the “dynamic” mode, which allowed us to fully enjoy the colors in the animation. Highly demonstrative, this mode reveals all the benefits of QLED technology. The contrast was excellent and the blacks were incredibly deep, even when the room was bathed in light through a large bay window. The 480-zone Full LED backlighting plays a huge role in creating deep blacks and stops any blooming from occurring. We observed the same performances with the game Red Dead Redemption II, which we will discuss a little later on. A major improvement for Samsung’s 2019 QLED TVs is that their displays are much less sensitive to reflections. If a light source is placed behind the Samsung QE55Q90R television, it has no impact on viewing comfort. Moreover, the viewing angle doesn’t affect the Q90R colorimetric precision. Even when the viewer is positioned at an exaggerated angle, almost 0° from the edge of the screen, the colors and the depth of the blacks remain the same. This is due to the microtextured Ultra Black Elite filter applied to the screen which deviates incident light outside the viewing angle.
HD 1080p and UHD 4K HDR via USB
The Samsung One Connect box features three USB ports, one of which is a USB 3.0 port that can handle the bandwidth needed to play Full HD 1080p and even UHD 4K HDR movies. To test the performance of the integrated media player, we connected a 2TB hard drive containing several movies in 1080p and UHD 4K with varying levels of compression. It didn’t come as a surprise that the Samsung QE55Q90R wasn’t able to decode the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. We observed the same problem with all of our movies encoded in this format. It is therefore necessary to select another audio format, such as Dolby Digital, or to add an A/V receiver or a soundbar to decode this format. The image, however, was spectacular, with vivid and contrasted colors. We were plunged into the futuristic universe of the movie and the avatars seemed almost real. The image was perfectly smooth, even during action scenes. This excellent smoothness was mostly due to the Samsung QE55Q90R’s Motion Plus feature that proved to be very powerful.
We then decided to watch a highly compressed, 1080p version of the movie The Wolf’s Call. The Samsung Q90R revealed the excellent performance of its upscaling system. This system managed to add a beautiful finesse to the image and eliminated most of the grain in the darkest areas. This process is expertly executed and the image didn’t appear “unnatural”. The level of detail is not comparable to native 4K UHD content, but it remains significantly superior to the original file.
PS4 Pro in UHD 4K HDR
We then connected the Samsung QE55Q90R to a PS4 Pro and launched Red Dead Redemption II in UHD 4K HDR. The Q90R conveniently switched to game mode once the console was turned on. Before you begin playing, the game prompts you to carry out an HDR calibration via its interface, allowing you to adjust the brightness according to the TV’s characteristics. The recommended settings are 100 for an LCD screen and 300 for an OLED screen. With the Samsung QE55Q90R, we achieved the best result, with a maximum of detail in the shadows and light areas of the game, at a brightness setting of 230. Once again, this was proof that the performance of Samsung’s 2019 QLED TVs is very close to that of OLED TVs.
Once the calibration was done, the game began and the Q90R’s excellent responsiveness became evident after only a few minutes. It is no coincidence that its input lag of 15ms is among the lowest measured on today’s UHD 4K TVs. There was no delay in the display and our gaming experience was flawless. The images were stunning, with a very high level of detail and striking contrast. The Full LED display proved to be a valuable asset in displaying immensely deep blacks and avoiding any blooming.
Even the subtitles were incredibly clear, without having any impact on the surrounding black areas. The Q90R revealed itself to be an excellent television for gaming. It transported us into the heart of the story and the unbelievable realism of some scenes was almost troubling.
Finally, we tested the audio performance of the Samsung QE55Q90R television, which features a 4.2 channel system with a maximum power output of 60W RMS. In the movie Interstellar, the aircraft chase-scene was incredibly well restituted. The soundtrack was wide and unfolded extensively throughout the room. The advantages provided by the Samsung Q90R’s automatic calibration were obvious, especially for lateral sound effects. When Cooper drives through the cornfield, the corncobs hitting the vehicle were very well spatialized and genuinely seemed to come from both sides of the room. The dialogue was also beautifully detailed and was audible even during action scenes. During the Hans Zimmer Live in Prague concert, the soundstage was wide, detailed and consistent, even when we turned the volume up. The lows were present and exhilarating, but still lacked a little intensity. This is obviously far from the immersion offered by a home theater system, but to be honest, it is rare to find a TV that can produce such a high-quality sound. To enjoy an even greater immersion, the Samsung QE55Q90R television can be paired with a soundbar or an A/V receiver via the optical or HDMI ARC output on the Samsung One Connect box.
Samsung QE55Q90R: compared to…
Samsung QE55Q9F: the Q90R’s new Quantum Dot system provides considerably better image quality. Colors are richer, blacks are deeper and the viewing angle is wider. The Q90R also has a clear advantage when it comes to functionality, notably thanks to its compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
LG OLED55C9: this LG OLED television is a serious rival for the Q90R. It features a UHD 4K upscaling system, but also HDR upscaling in order to extend the color range of a program. It also supports DTS audio streams and Dolby Vision video streams. Its image quality is very close to that of the Q90R, but the LG TV remains in the lead with even deeper blacks… as long as it isn’t in a very bright environment. In this configuration, the Q90R’s high brightness and Ultra Black Elite anti-reflection filter tip the scales in favor of the QLED TV. The Samsung Q90R’s 4.2 channel audio system is also more effective, as well as the brand’s interface which is more functional and easier to use.
Sony KD-55AF9: this Sony OLED television really impressed us during our review, in particular due to a perfectly calibrated image in Cinema and Netflix Calibrated mode. The Samsung QE55Q90R is almost identical, especially when it comes to the depth of blacks. The colors provided by the Samsung in cinema mode are a little less natural, and the dark areas a little less legible than with the Sony, but it’s nothing that a thorough calibration can’t fix. In light of this review, it is clear that QLED technology is a highly credible alternative to OLED technology. Soundwise, although it is not as efficient as the Sony TV and its Acoustic Surface technology, the Samsung Q90R’s audio section is superior to that offered by the majority of televisions on the market.
Samsung QE55Q90R: conclusion
The Samsung QE55Q90R television uses the full potential of QLED technology to produce bright images, with excellent contrast and incredibly deep blacks. Even in extreme conditions (reduced viewing angle, intense ambient light, etc.), the Samsung Q90R doesn’t falter and maintains consistently irreproachable image quality. The Samsung Q90R’s high level of brightness is ideal for movies in HDR, HDR10+ and HLG. Due to trade agreements, Samsung has once again forgone the integration of Dolby Vision, and it is highly unlikely to be added during a future update. Consequently, you shouldn’t hope to enjoy this format with the Q90R. On another note, the level of detail is impressive with UHD 4K sources, but is also very good with lower resolution sources thanks to a powerful upscaling system. Finally, the Samsung One Connect decentralized connector system and the Ambient mode provide a real advantage in terms of ergonomics and integration. The television is no longer a large screen that needs to be hidden, but a decorative object in its own right. The brand’s operating system is the icing on the cake here, allowing you to enjoy a vast quantity of content, both online and shared over the local network.
The Samsung QE55Q90R is a credible alternative to the best OLED televisions, as it is getting closer and closer in terms of performance and maintains a lower price. With a price tag of €2.690, the Samsung QE55Q90R is situated in a slightly lower price bracket than the latest OLED TVs of the same size. The LG OLED55E9 is priced at €2.790, the Sony KD-55AG9 at €2.990, and the Panasonic TX-55GZ2000 at €3.490, for example. Lastly, Samsung regularly provides cashback offers that help lower the price of its televisions.
What we liked:
- The deep blacks
- The rich colors
- The ambient mode
- The brand’s operating system
- The proprietary “Ultra Black Elite” anti-reflection filter
- The very low input lag
What we would have liked:
- A more reasonable price
- A less sensitive automatic brightness adjustment
- Compatibility with DTS-HD Master Audio
- Compatibility with Dolby Vision