The home theater world is often one of competing formats, whether it's VHS and Betamax, Blu-ray and HD DVD, or cable and satellite. One of the biggest rivalries today pits LCD display panels against OLED technology, with LCD sets taking the lion's share of the market based largely on affordability, and OLED getting the praise for its superior display quality.
The Samsung Q90 65-inch QLED TV ($2,499) tips the quality scales with an array of technologies that deliver picture quality to compete with OLED, ranging from the quantum-dots that give the QLED its name to a precision backlight with dozens of dimmable zones. Throw in a collection of advanced smart-TV functions, a sleek yet familiar design and a few exclusive capabilities, and the Samsung Q90 QLED is not only the best TV Samsung has to offer, but the strongest OLED alternative we've seen.
Samsung Q90 65-inch QLED TV Specs
|Screen Size||65 inches|
|Resolution||3,840 x 2,160|
|HDR||HDR 10+, HDR 10, HLG|
|Ports||4 HDMI, 3 USB|
|Audio||4.2 channel x 60 watt|
|Smart TV Software||Samsung Smart TV with Bixby Voice|
|Size||57.1 x 32.7 x 1.6 inches [w/o stand]|
|Weight||62.4 pounds [w/o stand]|
Samsung Q90 QLED TV Price and Availability
The Q90 QLED comes in three sizes, starting with the 65-inch model in our review, and scaled up in size to 75 inches and 82 inches.
- 65-inch (QN65Q90RAFXZA) - $2,499.99
- 75-inch (QN75Q90RAFXZA) - $3,999.99
- 82-inch (QN82Q90RAFXZA) - $4,999.99
While we have only tested the 65-inch model, most of the Q90 series models have the same overall design, features and smart functions.
The significant differences between our tested model and the larger models will come down to TV screen size, which will necessitate a different number and distribution of backlighting zones, as well as potential problems with viewing angles. However, in researching customer complaints and other reviews of the Q90 in various sizes, we haven't seen any indication that picture quality is significantly different on larger models.
Samsung Q90 QLED Design
Samsung's Q90 is a gorgeous-looking TV, representing the most refined version of stylish QLED aesthetic. At this point, Samsung's overall design has a distinct signature look, with a near black metallic finish and textured surface across the back of the cabinet. The entire TV measures 57.1 x 32.7 x 1.6 inches without the included stand, and weighs 62.4 pounds.
The Q90's overall design has a relatively slim profile, thanks in part to Samsung's approach to designing its premium TVs. Instead of trying to fit the ports and components into the TV chassis, Samsung pairs the Q90 with the One Connect Box, which houses all of the processing hardware and A/V connections.
The strictures of modern TV design generally leave little space in a TV chassis for adding speakers, or providing the necessary space for rich resonance. As a result, most TV audio is lackluster. But despite being only 1.6-inches thick, Samsung has managed to outfit the Q90 with 60 watts of sound, pumped through four stereo speakers and a pair of subwoofers.
The result is one of the best-sounding TVs on the market, with full volume, a healthy midrange that makes dialogue and ambient noise easy to distinguish, and some surprisingly hefty bass. Listening to The Steve Miller Band's "Abracadabra," I was pleased to hear the guitar-and-synth instrumentals come through clearly, and the bassline had a decent punch to it. Most important, even as the volume was dialed up to room-filling volumes, I didn't hear any clipping or distortion.
The whole thing connects to the TV using Samsung's proprietary One Invisible Connection, an 8-foot long semi-transparent cable that connects to the TV and delivers all your power and connectivity for whatever home theater devices you have connected. It makes it extremely easy to reduce the number of unsightly cables coming from the TV, giving the set a clean look even when you can't have it professionally installed with cables run through the wall.
Hanging the Samsung Q90 on the wall is fairly straightforward, with holes to accommodate a 400 x 400 millimeter VESA mount. Samsung offers a wall-hugging No Gap wall mount ($112) for an even more elegant on-wall setup.
The included C-shaped stand weighs a lot — more than 15 pounds. With solid metal construction and a wide footprint, the stand provides a very stable base for the TV. The stand itself has a footprint of 13.4 x 11.2 inches, and raises the TV up about 9 inches.
Samsung Q90 QLED ports
Samsung's One Connect Box is a sleek, black, rectangular box that houses all of the connections for the TV. And because you can move and reposition the box, the Q90 offers some of the easiest options around for connecting and disconnecting.
Outfitted with four HDMI ports, three USB slots and an RF connector for antenna and cable connections, the Q90 has all the essentials for a modern smart TV. If you want to connect a soundbar, the Q90 also supports Audio Return Channel (ARC) on one of the included HDMI ports.
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However, if you have older equipment that connects through a different standard, like composite video or analog speakers, you're out of luck. And while the current HDMI 2.0 standard will work for all current home theater equipment, we wish the Q90 had the future-proof HDMI 2.1 ports offered on the LG C9 OLED. In addition to support for all of today's 4K content, the 2.1 standard will support 4K at frame rates of up to 120Hz, offer more seamless switching between types of content and deliver better gaming support.
There is an Ethernet jack for wired network connectivity, as well as 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for connecting wireless headphones or speakers.
Samsung Q90 QLED display and performance
The Samsung Q90 is the best 4K TV Samsung offers, and it shows. The quantum-dot-enhanced display offers superb color and excellent high-dynamic range performance with rich black levels and bright highlights. From the sharp resolution to the full array backlight with 400+ individual dimming zones, the Q90 packs every technology Samsung has to bring you an excellent viewing experience.
Watching scenes from Blade Runner 2049 drove home the quality of the display. A murky aqueduct offered deep black shadows, but the Q90 managed to keep the brightly lit faces of the actors looking bold without much spillover into the surrounding portions of the display. High-dynamic range (HDR) content looks excellent on the display, and is enhanced by the combination of bright backlighting and deep black filtering of the QLED display.
Technically capable, the Samsung Q90 supports HDR10 and HLG standards, along with HDR10+, Samsung's proprietary HDR format. Frankly, we kind of wish that Samsung would simply adopt Dolby Vision, since it seems to offer better quality and is certainly the more widely available of the two.
In another scene from Blade Runner 2049, this time set on a neon-lit street, the Q90 showed a rainbow of colors and reflections, but maintained an excellent balance between bright and dark portions of the screen, and managed to keep details clear in the midrange that often gets lost to shadows.
The Q90 also sees some improvements over the 2018 Q9FN, which saw some minor color issues creep in when viewed at a steep angle. The Q90 benefits from Samsung's new "Ultra Viewing Angle technology, which effectively eliminates even this small issue.
But the biggest improvements aren't on the display panel, but in video processing. Boasting Samsung's latest processing hardware, called Quantum Processor 4K, the Q90 gets improved upscaling and tweaks the brightness and sound to match. The upscaling uses the same AI-driven improvements used in Samsung's 8K TVs, adapted to improving the 4K experience. When we watched the full-HD version of Mad Max: Fury Road, this upscaling delivered a notably better picture than I expected, with cleaner, more natural-looking images than I've seen on a dozen less-expensive 4K TVs.
Motion handling is equally deft, with the Q90's 120Hz refresh rate assisted by the motion processing to provide clean picture with no blurring or smearing. Watching a fight scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming, the fast-paced motion of Spidey facing off against the winged villain was clear and judder-free.
Samsung Q90 QLED lab test results
When we put the Q90 through its paces in our testing lab, we were pleased to see that the QLED TV offered some of the best performance results we've recorded.
The quantum-dot-enhanced display offers rich color, with what Samsung calls "100% Color Volume." When we tested it with our spectrophotometer and calibration software, we measured the color reproduction at 99.8 percent of the Rec 709 color space, which puts the Q90 among the best we've evaluated. That score sets it alongside other top LCD TVs, like the Sony X950G 75-inch Android TV, the Vizio M-Series Quantum 65-inch (M658-G1) and the 2018 Samsung Q9FN QLED, which are all in the 99.8 to 99.9 percent range. The only sets we've seen offer better color gamut are both OLEDs, like the LG C9 OLED (132.1%) and the Sony Master Series A9F OLED (130.8%), which exceed the Rec 709 specifications on color.
Color accuracy is also top-notch, with the Q90 registering a Delta-E rating of 1.5 in a test where smaller scores are better. Only the LG C9 OLED (1.88) came close to this level of accuracy, and other premium TVs have offered superb picture with less accurate color, such as the Sony Master Series A9F OLED (3.53) and the Vizio M-Series Quantum (3.62).
Samsung Q90 QLED vs. LG C9 OLED
I compared the Samsung Q90 side by side with the LG C9 LED, and found distinct quality differences between the two. Watching scenes from The Shallows, it's evident that the Samsung offers rich colors and bright highlights, whether it's the emerald ocean waves, the coastal sunshine, or the dark deep of the sea. However, compared with the LG OLED, which offers perfect black representation, the Q90 is ever-so-slightly behind. This is entirely expected when comparing an LCD display with an OLED, since LCD technology can't replicate the pixel-level illumination of OLED.
However, even though this difference was expected, and we went looking for it, the differences were still difficult to distinguish. The Q90 still offers some of the best black reproduction we've seen, and it's only when directly compared with an OLED display that you might find fault with it.
However, it is interesting to note that when compared with last year's Samsung Q9FN, the Q90's black levels aren't quite as good as they were on last year's model. I'm not sure what changes were made for the 2019 model that would account for this, but the 2018 Q9FN managed to fall between the perfect blacks of OLED and the otherwise impressive black levels of the Q90.
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The other major comparisons between the Q90 and the LG OLED have to do with brightness levels. Again, this comes down to differences in display technology, as the backlight behind the Samsung LCD screen offers brighter illumination levels overall. On the Q90, this resulted in more vibrant color, and brighter specular highlights.
However, while the Samsung Q90 does have impressive levels of precision in localized dimming, it was unable to match the per pixel lighting offered by OLED, and very faint halos can be seen in high-contrast scenes. That said, the Samsung Q90 is among the closest to OLED in backlight quality that we've seen on an LCD TV.
Samsung Q90 QLED gaming
To test the Samsung Q90's gaming capability, we used an Xbox One X, which offers the truest 4K experience in the current console generation. When we checked the display compatibility, we were pleased to see that the Q90 supports full 4K gaming at 60hz, with support for streaming content at 24, 50 and 60Hz. Movies and shows will play back with 10-bit color, while HDR10 support lets you enjoy high-dynamic-range content in both streaming video and gaming.
One unexpected feature of the Samsung was support for FreeSync, which lowers lag time and screen tearing using variable refresh rates. Interestingly, it does this without relying on the higher bandwidth of HDMI 2.1, as seen on the LG C9 OLED, and instead uses AMD's FreeSync technology (the same used on gaming monitors for PC gaming) to match the refresh rate of the display with the output from the AMD graphics card in the Xbox. It's a very cool feature, and one we haven't seen on other smart TVs.
The only real disappointment here was the lack of Dolby Vision support. The Xbox One X will work with the standard, but Samsung's TVs do not.
Samsung Q90 QLED Audio
The smart TV also offers an Intelligent Sound Mode, which uses the remote control's built-in microphone to listen to the audio coming from the TV and adjust the settings to automatically optimize the sound stage for the room around it. Intelligent Mode also includes automated- mode switching depending upon the content you're watching. Movies will get a lush musical score to accompany dialogue, and sports events adjust to put you in the crowd. Whether or not you like those tweaks may vary, but it's an interesting option.
The Samsung Q90 doesn't offer Dolby Atmos support through the set's built-in speakers, but it will output Atmos-formatted content, making this an ideal situation for a Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbar.
Samsung Q90 QLED Smart TV Features
Samsung's smart-TV platform is great for a lot of reasons, from its wide selection of apps to automated-content suggestions and even a screensaver-style low-power Ambient mode that displays artwork of weather updates when the TV is not in use. The layout of the home screen is clean and easily understood, with a row of apps and a second row of detailed menus appearing when needed. The app row leaves most of the screen unobstructed, so you can keep watching a show while browsing your apps, and a Universal Guide offers you content suggestions from across your favorite streaming services.
Samsung also leans into the Smart Things ecosystem, providing a control dashboard for smart-home devices that can effectively transform your TV into the central hub of your connected home. From smart thermostats to connected refrigerators and laundry machines, the SmartThings dashboard provides a home for most of your gadgets.
The Q90 is also the only smart-TV platform to offer AppleTV as an app. That way you can enjoy iTunes movies and shows, as well as Apple's upcoming original Apple TV+ shows without a separate Apple TV box. Samsung makes the app available right from the home screen, thanks to an exclusive (for now) deal with Apple.
It also comes with an interactive voice assistant built in, Samsung's Bixby. If you use one of Samsung's current smartphones, you might already be familiar with the Samsung-branded Alexa competitor. If not, the overall idea is the same, giving you a way to speak to the TV in plain language, and search for content, apps and information. If your voice-assistant loyalties lie elsewhere, Samsung's QLED TVs are also compatible with Google Home and Amazon Alexa, but you'll need to provide your own smart speaker, and pair it with the TV.
Samsung Q90 QLED Remote
We've praised Samsung for the design of the OneRemote in the past, and the latest version of the sleek controller is no exception. The curved wand-style design is comfortable to hold, and it's narrower than the remote controls that come with competing systems. But while it may look and feel a bit different than the average smart-TV remote, the design has always complemented the simple controls it offers.
Made for the app-using, menu-scrolling realities of the modern smart TV, the OneRemote has a spare design centered around a ring-shaped directional pad. Around this ring are basic controls for Home, Back, Play/Pause media playback, a contextual menu button, a Microphone button for voice interaction, and a dedicated button for Ambient Mode. Rocker buttons let you adjust volume and flip through the channels. There are no number buttons or tiny media controls to work through, and the focus on the directional ring for everything from selecting apps to fast-forwarding through videos makes the Samsung OneRemote wonderfully intuitive.
It's also well-suited to voice interaction. While you can use the directional ring for text input using the on-screen keyboard, the built-in microphone is excellent for longer search queries and phrases.
However, the 2019 model has three additional buttons: Dedicated app buttons for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. These additional buttons are a bit of a disappointment, if an understandable one. They add unwanted clutter to a remote that was blissfully clutter-free, and they add an intrusive element of advertising to the only smart-TV remote that had none.
The Samsung Q90 QLED TV is one of the best smart TVs around, with superb picture quality, plenty of smart features and a stylish design that doesn't prioritize looks over functionality. It offers the best LCD-based TV we've seen, and delivers the best competing option to OLED TVs, which is anywhere from a few hundred to more than a thousand dollars more per set.
Compared with the LG C9 OLED ($2,796) and the Sony Master Series A9F ($3,799), the Q90 delivers comparable picture quality in almost every respect – so similar that even viewing the TVs side by side it was hard to pick out one as being better than the others. There are differences, to be sure. OLED offers better black levels, while the Q90's backlit LCD delivers better brightness. In the end, however, the biggest differences seem to be found in features and smart capabilities, with the Samsung falling just short of the LG's excellent advanced connectivity options and integrated voice assistants.
That said, if you're not sold on the benefits (or higher price) of OLED, Samsung's QLED is the only comparable competing technology on the market. Additionally, if you have a number of Samsung or Samsung-compatible smart-home products, the Q90 will tie the various devices together seamlessly.
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