There is a danger I believe when it comes to televisions these days – they are almost too complex to use easily. When it comes to the living room telly, surely less is more. And believe me when I say this 65 inch 90R from Samsung is an absolute glory.
And set up is definitely in the less category, but beware of the menus. I have to wonder who uses all these settings rather than just switching on, sitting back and basking in one of the finest images I have ever seen on a TV screen. OK, so we are going down a twin path here – complex menus, stunning pictures. Let’s split things up.
Samsung, as many will know, have their own measuring guide on the quality of their panels. They call is a PQI – or picture quality index. We have a 55 inch in the mid-range of this and it is some years old, but looks amazing. So when the 90R showed up with a PQI of 4,000, right at the top, I already knew it had a lot to live up to. One of my many mantras is “If you can’t see the difference, or hear it, then it doesn’t matter”.
But OH BOY can you see the difference with this gorgeous magnificent beast. And the sound? These skinny TVs are supposed to have rubbish sound, but this is glorious for such a set. It somewhat reminds me of my old Toshiba with a slightly larger girth giving more room for internal speakers to breath. My Grandma actually still has a version of that television, and it sounds pretty good.
But this Samsung Q90R sounds almost as good as it looks. I was genuinely shocked and very pleased – it is about time these boffins figured it out, and surely it can only get better from here. It sits on a central stand too, so no worrying about it fitting on a unit, so long as it can take the weight.
Now about that setup – instead of all the HDMI cables, the power, and maybe an optical all hanging out of the back of the set, the panel is connected to one large-ish box where all the connections go, even the power. All those signals and power are then transferred to the panel via a single pretty darn thin ribbon. No idea how reliable this is going to be, but I don’t see any reason why it should be a problem, and it neatens everything up a treat, and gives you the opportunity to mount the TV on the wall, without having to channel out massive chunks from your wall.
Around back of this box you can find four HDMI inputs, one of them with ARC return. There is an optical port, an aerial/satellite input and an Ethernet port to hardwire your Internet.
So, once I plugged in my HDMI devices, I powered on and away I went. There is the usual Samsung on-screen set up stuff to do, which can also be done from your smartphone via a Samsung app. Tedious to get the two to connect, but simple enough once connected. And here is where I do have a problem with modern televisions, well, a lot of modern devices – they seem to be getting an ability to become more complex with menus under menus for stuff you are not sure you need. Unless of course you are a fussy cinema buff who likes to tune their picture settings to perfection. With the Samsung Q90R, those settings are here in all their glory!
However, the actual operating system that Samsung TVs have is one of the best, if not the best on the market. Having the system tray with all of your settings at the bottom is really quite innovative. You can see all of your apps in front of you and can get to those apps very easily using the D-Pad on the remote control. You will find all of the usual on-demand and streaming apps pre-installed like Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, 4OD, Five On Demand and Rakuten. But now you will notice that there is the inclusion of Apple TV which is a first for Samsung and also NowTV.
Granted, the Samsung Q90R worked brilliantly out of the box, which begs the question, why are they there? Brightness, contrast, volume, etc, sure, of course. But several sound modes. Which seemed to always switch back to adaptive from wherever I had left it during the previous viewing? Annoying.
Samsung have implemented a new type on technology here called Ultra Viewing Angle. This technology uses several layers to its panel to aid in light leakage, which gives the Samsung Q90R some absolutely fantastic viewing angles, right up to near 180°. Colours remained vibrant, and black levels super crisp and deep.
Samsung over their previous models have definitely worked on the image quality delivered to its users. Colours now seem a lot more natural, and the cooler tone definitely helps when it comes to warmer images like sunsets and even skin tones. I not once found myself diving towards the remote control to correct the colours to what I was watching. Furthermore, the Quantum processor does a wonderful job with HDR content, by adding more detail in the blacks and keeping the highlights well under control.
Of course, you will need some form of HDR source to watch to get that HDR image quality. It can be quite hard to tell what’s HDR and what’s not, but Samsung have implemented HDR10+ on their Q90R. What is impressive however is local backlight dimming, which I noticed quite heavily when I was using subtitles on Netflix while watching Planet Earth. There was a halo effect surrounding the subtitles, while the rest of the image was a murky dark night scene of the arctic.
Detail though was absolutely incredible, and even though the image was so dark, you could still see everything, like curves in the landscape or craters in the ice super clearly. When it got to the day, and all of the little penguins were running and flapping around, it was just breathtaking. The dark fur on the back, mixed with the white fur of their bellies looked absolutely wonderful. Like you could reach out and stroke one of them.
Watching something like Better Call Saul, there was a scene where Saul was using a flashlight in the dark. The contrast between the dark areas and sections lit up by the flashlight was breathtaking, and Vince Gilligan’s trademark orange hue that was flooding in from a small window was just flawless! As I said before, there’s really no setting you have to change to get this TV working at its best.
Sure, the motion processing that Samsung install onto their televisions now is still a little lackluster, but if you control this and keep them to a minimum, then the small amount of Blur Reduction and Judder Reduction can actually work quite well but doesn’t quite remove all artefacts and falls short of keeping an image smooth, often failing during intense camera movements. Set them too high however, and you get this horrible over-processed image, and no one wants that.
The Quantum 4K processor that Samsung have implemented here also works a treat. It’s a similar process to the 8K Q900 range where the AI chip would use its vast database of images to attempt to produce the best possible image quality. Here, the image only has to get to a 4K resolution. For standard definition content that you could typically receive through broadcast television was hugely noticeable. On HD 1080p content, not so much. One word of warning though, there’s an intelligent mode that will automatically detect the settings you will need for your image and sound, depending on the size of your room. Turn it off. The brightness constantly raising and lowering alone will be enough to annoy you.
We had this TV sent to us along with its flagship soundbar, the Samsung Q80R with two wireless powered rear speakers, so you don’t need wires to them. There were a couple of instances where the soundbar wouldn’t quite work for us. The first was when we used it with the ARC Return on the HDMI port. It took a very long time for the television to recognise that a soundbar was plugged into the ARC return The second was with audio sync from certain sources, like broadcast television through my Virgin box. I happened to be in John Lewis and spoke with the Samsung chap there, and he was baffled as to why we could not sync the lips with the audio. There is a delay adjustment in the sound options menu, but darned if I could line it up. And also, why do I need to? Surely this sort of thing should just work, right?
This is the first time with all the Samsung equipment we have had over the years that we experienced this. Could it have been a glitch? Was it our test machine? I just don’t know. Hardly any sound came out of the rears either, and yes, they were turned up. Get the right film on Netflix though and it all burst into life. This could have been down to the fact that standard television stations are not broadcasting surround sound codecs so rely on the soundbar only, and it could be the fact that Netflix with most of their movies now stream Dolby 5.1 as a minimum.
Now I might have thought that was that. But I do have an older 5.1 tallboy surround system, and that supplies plenty of sound from the rears during all sorts of conventional programmes. Weird.
When it did work though, it was incredible and the giant sub shook the floor – upstairs. So why not during normal shows. Again, glitch? Our test system? Our setup ignorance? Which brings me back to wondering if these sort of stuff is getting too difficult to use for someone who just wants to watch the best telly around.
We still want one, but at the present price of £2,700, plus around £1,500 for the sound system, it may need to wait. And I may stick with my older sounds.
And if you made it this far in our review, then I’d like to let you know that Samsung are running a promotion for a lucky customer who’s purchased an OLED TV like this one to win an ‘Out Of This World’ experience. The ‘Out Of This World’ prize draw is available through participating retailers including John Lewis, Dixons, Richer Sounds and Currys PC World. Head over to https://www.samsung.com/uk/outofthisworld/ for more information and full terms and conditions.