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Samsung Q9F 75-inch QLED TV: Hands-on review

Posted: 18 April 2018 2:50 pm
News

Samsung's premium TV for 2018 isn't exactly inexpensive, but you do get a lot of TV for your money.

As soon as I come face to face with the Samsung Q9F 75-inch TV, I'm struck with one over-arching thought. Not that it's a big display (although it is) or that I'm thankful it's not a curved display (I'm not a fan), but simply that the sticker price on this particular model is, to put it impolitely, rather large.

The Samsung Q9F 75-inch QLED TV is the flagship model of Samsung's 2018 Australian TV range, and that means it commands the premium price of $10,499. That's a lot of money to spend on a TV, so it really needs to deliver a lot of value.

For the purposes of review, Samsung provided me with an already installed Q9F 75-inch TV set up in a hotel room for a couple of hours, paired with one of its own HW-N650 panoramic soundbars for audio purposes.

As such, I couldn't entirely test the set-up procedure of the new TV, which was already stand mounted and installed. Although again, at that kind of price point, it's fair to assume that not too many consumers would be fiddling with it, and instead would be getting someone to handle all aspects of installation, cabling and fine-tuning.

Also, my limited time to test the TV means that this can't be a full, comprehensive review, or one where I could draw on all that much comparative data.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I also ate a burger paid for by Samsung. It was pretty good. Judge me if you must.)

Once I get over the sticker shock, the next thing that strikes me with the Q9F 75-inch TV is that I'm sitting way closer than I would to a comparative TV in my home. The contention here is that the higher quality of display, combined with 4K HDR10+ material should bypass issues of sitting too close to the screen, giving owners of smaller apartments the option of a full home cinema in a fraction of the space.

It works, too, mostly, as while I'm here to review and have a task in mind, I also can't help but be drawn into the images onscreen. Large used to be bad for anyone except those with larger living rooms, but this clearly isn't true any longer.

Despite the use of a more advanced anti-reflective filter on the Q9F, it doesn't take much brightness to get some reflections onscreen. However, that's very much in the nature of a larger panel, and the solution (as always) is to draw the curtains shut as much as possible to get that full cinema immersion effect without also staring at your own face or furniture.

One of the selling points of Samsung's 2018 TV range is its use of the "one clear connection" cable, a thin single cable that provides both AV connectivity and power to the display. It's a neat bit of engineering, and you can buy a longer cable if you're planning to place its breakout box further away than its default 5m length.

Doesn't look like much as cabling goes, but this thin cable is doing a lot of smart work.

Of course, what's particularly neat about it is that in ideal conditions, you'd never even notice it was there. The one clear connection cable hooks up to a larger breakout box which is where you'd plug in your assorted connection devices, but again you're free to hide that away if it doesn't suit your home decor.

For the review, it was sitting on top of an Xbox One X, hidden away next to the bar fridge, but this isn't strictly mandatory.

The One Connection Box is more functional than fashionable, but it doesn't care if you hide it in a cupboard.

Samsung's other notable party piece for its 2018 TV range is ambient mode, which displays a selection of images, or an image of the wall behind it, turning the TV into an effective picture frame when not in use. Having it free-standing did show a slight limitation of the technology because it couldn't quite match the tone of the wood panelling behind it, displaying it far brighter than the actual wood tone thanks to the extra light leaking in around the camera sensors.

Having seen these TVs wall mounted, that does rather solve this problem if you're keen on that kind of look.

There's undoubtedly a little power wastage in having a TV screen this size on all the time just for illustrative purposes, so options for weather and other contextual information are quite welcome. Still, it's a bit of a party piece that you're more likely to play with a little rather than use all the time, unless you're installing these in some kind of high-concept hotel.

Samsung is easily the largest TV manufacturer to still be sitting in the LED-only camp, as long as you eschew The Wall TV because that's a Micro-LED TV and undoubtedly set to be even more expensive when and if it does launch locally.

Samsung's contention is that it's not playing in the OLED space dominated by the likes of LG due to concerns over lifespan of OLED panels. LG no doubt would contest that assertion, but if you want Samsung, you're sitting in the LED space, specifically Samsung's QLED implementation, which uses metallic quantum dots at the nanometer scale to emit individual colours onto the display screen.

One of the trickier aspects for any LED TV to manage against OLED is in the display of black levels; OLED's got something of an inbuilt advantage here with the way it can present true blacks.

Samsung has improved its contrast set-up for its 2018 TVs, and especially for the Q9 series, with the use of direct full array lighting, giving more discrete control over brightness levels throughout the screen. QLED is notably good at high brightness levels, and the Q9F is no exception.

Testing with the HDR-enabled corridor scene from episode 2 of season 1 of Daredevil gave me a chance to test out precisely how well that actually worked. That's a scene that combines blacks, detail and lots of motion, and the Q9F does a very good job of drawing me into the action as well as reminding me that it's a series I really ought to rewatch quite soon.

The QF9's remote control is simple and pretty classy. For the price, it should be.

You'd want a TV at this price point to deliver solid blacks, and the answer here is that, for the most part, it does. In a comparative sense, I'd need to get it running side by side with a high-end OLED, and sadly it proved a little tricky to fold an OLED subtly into my back pocket for comparative purposes. Then again, a top of the line 2018 LG OLED will cost you an even more eye-watering $19,990, so you probably wouldn't want to fold it in any case.

A TV is only as good as the content you throw at it, so to give the Q9F a more robust challenge, I threw some simple YouTube videos at it, simply to see how well it handled its image processing, pushing the image quality all the way down to 240p, and then up as high as it would go for a selection of video files.

It's not so much that anyone's likely to want less than the best quality they can get from their YouTube viewing, but for some content you won't have the choice, and I wanted to see how the Q9F handled lower quality material. Ordinarily that would be Australian broadcast TV, but the one missing content element in my tests was a TV antenna, so YouTube it had to be.

The "no signal" screen is pretty, but it doesn't tell you much about how the TV will present free-to-air signals.

Lower-quality YouTube looked pretty poor, as you'd expect, although the Q9F did give it a red hot go with upscaling, often with rather disturbing results. Billy Mitchell's rather rambling statement around his Donkey Kong record scaled well in size terms, but the Q9F's image enhancement did rather give him a plastic framed look thanks to its aggressive smoothing engine, even more so than the original file viewed elsewhere.

You can, thankfully, tweak the picture settings with relative ease to tame the image enhancement down for this kind of viewing without losing too much punch on content that has been more artfully shot.

Of course, if you buy a 4K HDR TV, you're going to want to throw some HDR-capable content at it. Testing with the 4K Blu-Ray version of Thor: Ragnarok gave the Q9F a good chance to show off its colour capabilities, especially given that title's neon-drenched aesthetic.

Here (not surprisingly) the image processing was much kinder to the greater level of detail available, with plenty of punch in the colours but enough separation on the darker areas of display.

On the gaming front, testing with an Xbox One X and a copy of the HDR-ready Forza 7 showed plenty of depth and detail around cars and tracks. There's a danger of artificially created objects on high-detail screens coming across with an uncanny valley effect, and while the Q9F doesn't entirely escape this, it does a very solid job. Gamers will also enjoy the very low screen lag on the Q9F, as low as 15ms according to Samsung's own figures.

Samsung's TV interface is simple and low stress, with apps arrayed at the bottom of a screen in a scrolling carousel, each with its own pop-up contextual options depending on the app.

We're thankfully long past the period where TV manufacturers were convinced that smart TVs would be the next smartphones, so the majority of readily available apps relate directly to streaming TV applications. All the typical candidates are present, from Netflix to Stan to iview, 9Now and SBS On Demand.

Again, they're somewhat limited by the quality of what's on offer, so while services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video offer quantities of 4K HDR content, Australian free-to-air streaming services tend to offer up much lower quality material.

Catching up with Media Watch via ABC iview showed the same kinds of upscaling difficulty experienced with 240p YouTube videos, so if you're a big fan of catch-up services, be aware that a TV at this level will show its weaknesses. You've got very little control over that, at least for now, with Australian audiences a little starved for even 1080p catch-up content, let alone 4K capable streams.

Other apps are present if you're keen on a wider smart TV experience, including an in-built and mostly functional Internet browser. You'll no doubt be happy to know that finder.com.au looks pretty darned fine on a 75-inch TV.

See?

Samsung Q9F 77 inch: Verdict

Realistically, relatively few folks are going to drop $10,499 on a TV. I know I'm certainly not going to unless there's a sudden massive rise in journalist salaries, and you may well be the same. Samsung no doubt expects to sell far more TVs in the $1,000-$5,000 price range than it does at the $10,000+ range.

Still, the Q9F does show what Samsung's TV technology is capable of, and within the Q9 series, you could always opt for the slightly smaller and much less expensive 65-inch Q9F, which will only set you back $6,999.

If that's still too much for your wallet, Samsung's 2018 TV pricing scales down the range (and the feature set, rather predictably) all the way down to the 43-inch NU7100 $1,199 TV.

Don't expect the same performance there, naturally, but again there's at least the prospect that as TV technology improvements trickle down, within a few short years, the cheaper TV models will feature the same kinds of display improvements as found on the 2018 Samsung Q9F.

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