The Samsung S90C delivers even better picture quality than its 2022 predecessor and is the best-value QD-OLED you can buy
- Saturated but accurate colours
- Bright and punchy HDR images
- Extensive next-gen gaming features
- No Dolby Vision
The Samsung S90C QD-OLED takes what was good about the S95B, then boosts the performance in a few areas, before adding a 77in screen size to the range. This new model is largely the same as the previous generation in terms of design and features, but an upgraded screen filter and brighter highlights result in noticeable improvements to picture quality.
In all other respects, this is the same 4K TV that was crowned “Product of the Year” at our Technology awards last October, with wonderfully pure colours, excellent accuracy and HDR images that really pop. The smart platform is comprehensive, and the sound system supports Dolby Atmos, while next-gen gaming provision will delight those with a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X.
Samsung S90C review: Key specifications
|Screen sizes available:||55in QE55S90C|
|Resolution:||4K/UHD (3,840 x 2,160)|
|HDR formats:||HDR, HLG, HDR10+|
|Audio enhancement:||Object Tracking Sound Lite, Dolby Atmos|
|HDMI inputs:||4 x HDMI 2.1|
|Freeview Play compatibility:||No|
|Tuners:||Terrestrial, cable, satellite|
|Gaming features:||4K at 144Hz, ALLM, VRR (FreeSync), Game Bar|
|Wireless connectivity:||802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.2, AirPlay 2|
|Smart assistants:||Bixby built-in; works with Alexa and Google Assistant|
Samsung S90C review: What you need to know
The Samsung S90C is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR smart TV that uses proprietary Quantum Dot (QD) OLED technology. The range includes the previous 55in and 65in screen sizes, but now adds a 77in model. Samsung provided the 55in QE55S90C for the purposes of this review.
The panel employs blue OLED to self-illuminate each pixel, with quantum dot layers used to create the red and green sub-pixels. This eliminates the issue of the blue OLED decaying faster than the red and green OLEDs while allowing for brighter images and more precise colours.
The S90C’s picture is powered by a 4K Neural Quantum Processor, and it runs the latest iteration of Samsung’s Tizen operating system. It also includes a Filmmaker mode and supports HDR10, HLG and HDR10+, but not Dolby Vision. The absence of the latter remains a disappointment.
This OLED TV has an ultra-slim design, and includes Samsung’s Object Tracking Sound Lite audio system, but also has onboard Dolby Atmos decoding. All the major content-streaming platforms are present and correct, as well as a host of next-gen gaming-related features.
Samsung S90C review: Price and competition
The Samsung S90C represents the entry point into Samsung’s QD-OLED range this year, and thanks to some affordable pricing, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy its cutting-edge display technology.
All the other QD-OLEDs this year are higher-end models, and while they offer increased peak brightness, they also come at a premium. Samsung’s S95C offers the same screen sizes, with the QE55S95C costing £2,699, the QE65S95C retailing for £3,599 and the QE77S95C clocking in at £5,099. Sony’s new A95L will also come in the same screen sizes and with similar pricing.
If you fancy a more traditional WRGB OLED TV, Sony has its new A80L in 55, 65, 77 and 83in screen sizes, while LG’s C3 offers screen sizes that range from 42 to 83in, with the 55in model listed at £2,099, the 65in model priced at £2,899 and the 77in version costing £3,999.
Samsung S90C review: Design, connections and control
The Samsung S90C looks identical to last year’s S95B, with the same LaserSlim design, bezel-less screen and ultra-sleek styling. The TV felt a bit more robust, but that’s probably due to the difference in screen sizes we tested rather than any specific changes in the construction.
The stand clips on, rather than screwing together, but it provides stable support and its smaller footprint makes positioning the S90C on a narrower surface easier. If you prefer, you can wall-mount the TV using a standard 300 x 200mm VESA bracket or Samsung’s Slim Fit support.
Unlike the S95C, the S90C doesn’t use Samsung’s One Connect box but still has a full complement of connections with four HDMI inputs – two facing sideways and two downwards. All are capable of handling 4K/144Hz, VRR and ALLM, with HDMI 3 also supporting eARC.
There are also two USB 2.0 inputs at the side, and facing downwards you’ll find twin tuners for terrestrial and satellite broadcasts, an optical digital output, and an Ethernet port. In terms of wireless connections, there’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and support for Apple AirPlay 2.
The S90C ships with two remotes – a standard zapper, and a redesigned Solar Cell controller. The latter is now made from recycled plastic, with a smaller shape and curved edges that might make it tricky to use if you have big hands or are clumsy. It offers the same stripped-down controls, including direct access buttons for Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Samsung’s TV Plus.
Samsung S90C review: Smart TV platform
The Samsung S90C runs the latest version of the Tizen-powered smart platform, which was revised last year to use a full-screen homepage, rather than a launcher bar along the bottom. The emphasis is on recommendations, but you can customise the layout to a degree.
The Media section features all the streaming video services and most of the connected HDMI devices in one easy-to-access area. There’s also a dedicated Game Hub, where you can access all the latest game streaming services, along with any connected consoles.
While Samsung’s desire to curate all the game-related content in one area makes sense, it’s a shame you don’t seem able to also include any connected game consoles with the other connected HDMI devices in the Media section for quicker access.
The system’s functionality and customisation is good when it comes to content searching and recommendations. There’s also Samsung’s TV Plus, with its expanded channel lineup, and the Smart Hub, which automatically detects and connects smart devices in a single location. In addition, the HDMI ports will detect and set up newly connected devices.
As always, there’s a comprehensive selection of video streaming services, with Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, Now TV, Rakuten, YouTube and all the UK catch-up services. All these apps proved responsive, with 4K, HDR10, HLG and Dolby Atmos formats supported where appropriate.
The SmartThings app makes setup simple, as well as providing a degree of control, and there’s also Bixby built in, along with the ability to work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can even access Siri via Apple’s AirPlay 2 if that’s your preference.
Smart Calibration Pro is a feature that enables you to calibrate any supporting Samsung TV with a smartphone (iOS or Android). Just run the app, which connects to the TV over Wi-Fi, hold the phone camera over the test patterns, and follow the instructions – the software does the rest.
The Basic option calibrates the greyscale and colour gamut in around 30 seconds, and works surprisingly well, with Delta Es below the visible threshold of three for SDR and HDR. There’s also an Advanced option that takes longer but is more flexible and delivers even greater accuracy.
Samsung S90C review: Image quality
The Samsung S90C ships in Eco mode, and while it might keep energy usage down to reach statutory power requirements, what it doesn’t reach are the industry standards for image quality. There’s an excess of blue in the greyscale that skews everything towards that colour and the gamma is way off as well.
Thankfully, Samsung includes a Filmmaker mode, and by simply selecting this setting these issues are immediately fixed. In fact, the out-of-the-box accuracy in this mode is superb, with the greyscale measuring an average Delta E (error) of 1.1, colours with an average error of 1.17, and a gamma that tracks around the target of 2.4.
These measurements are well below the visible threshold of three, and so good that calibration will have no real impact, but there are controls for those who seek perfection. SDR images are stunning, with deep blacks, excellent shadow delineation, precisely rendered details and natural colours thanks to the use of quantum dots, along with OLED’s incredibly wide viewing angles.
One area of obvious improvement this year is the screen filter, which now eliminates reflections and rejects ambient light without adversely affecting the perceived black level. As a result, the black floor is significantly improved when viewing content while there’s a lot of ambient light in the room, with none of the problems with greyer blacks that some people noticed on the S95B.
Picture processing is also impressive, with the 4K Neural Quantum chipset bringing out all the details in high-quality images and giving them added depth. The upscaling and image enhancements are both superb, ensuring that even lower-resolution content is watchable, while the motion handling is equally capable, producing moving images free of judder or other motion artefacts.
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Samsung S90C review: HDR performance
The Samsung S90C manages to squeeze a bit more brightness out of its QD-OLED panel, although the S95B was already hitting 1,000cd/m² last year. The new model can reach 1,100cd/m² on a 10% window, and 230cd/m² on a full-field pattern. This is seriously impressive for an OLED and basically means HDR content at 1,000 nits requires the minimum of tone-mapping.
The quantum dot layers used for red and green also play their part, creating wider and purer colours with HDR. This is evidenced by the DCI-P3 coverage, which measures 100%, while the BT.2020 coverage hits an impressive 76%. Crucially, the saturation sweeps of DCI-P3 within BT.2020 are also very accurate, resulting in expertly rendered colours with HDR content.
The HDR greyscale measurements are equally as impressive in Filmmaker mode, tracking red, green and blue almost exactly, and the EOTF maps the PQ target precisely. This ensures artistic choices are maintained, regardless of whether the grade uses 1,000, 4,000 or 10,000 nits. The TV supports high dynamic range in the form of HDR10, HLG and HDR10+ Adaptive.
In terms of the S90C’s tone mapping, Samsung offers a choice of Static or Active settings, with the former tracking the PQ target precisely, while the latter deviates to give HDR a brightness boost. The result is less accurate but can be handy when there’s a lot of ambient light in the room. The tone mapping with games is also more accurate this year, eliminating obvious clipping.
All these strengths are perfectly demonstrated during Top Gun: Maverick’s stunning aerial sequences. The bleached desert landscapes and sunlight glinting off aircraft canopies help make the action viscerally realistic, while the purer colours ensure the helmets really pop. It’s an amazing 4K and HDR experience that’s bursting with vitality and detail.
The deserts of Dune are also rendered with a clarity that’s free of any clipping, but this is primarily a rather dark film and here the inherent strengths of OLED are readily apparent. The burning sun is deliberately blocked out when inside, and the S90C reveals all the details in these shadowy interiors. The layered and nuanced colour scheme is also accurately represented in these scenes.
To test the Samsung S90C we used Portrait Displays Calman colour calibration software.
Samsung S90C review: Gaming
The S90C is one of the best choices for gamers out there, with a feature set designed to support every cutting-edge technology currently available. If you’re a PC gamer there’s FreeSync Premium and Motion Xcelerator Turbo Pro 144Hz, while the HDMI inputs support next-gen console features including 4K/120Hz, VRR and ALLM.
The inclusion of the Game Hub allows you to choose from a host of streamed gaming apps, while a dedicated Game Mode delivers a lightning-fast input lag of 9.2ms. This results in gameplay that’s incredibly smooth and ultra-responsive, with excellent motion handling free of tearing or other artefacts, even at the highest frame rates.
Game Bar remains an excellent feature, allowing you to quickly see all the main settings and technical information, as well as gain access to a number of gaming-related settings that users can adjust to personalise their experience. So no matter how you game, the S90C has you covered and is optimised to your needs.
However, a word of warning: as with any OLED display technology, there’s always a danger of image retention. While we haven’t experienced this issue while testing the S90C or the earlier S95B, it’s something to be aware of, especially if you have a tendency to indulge in marathon gaming sessions playing titles that always have an HUD onscreen.
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Samsung S90C review: Sound quality
The Samsung S90C manages to deliver surprisingly good sound quality considering its svelte dimensions and Object Tracking Sound Lite audio system. The latter basically means the 2.1-channel speakers are located at the bottom and fire downwards and, as a result, this TV has to rely on psychoacoustic processing to produce a greater sense of envelopment.
The mid-range and treble are both impressive, and there’s even a decent amount of bass. The front soundstage has some width, and there’s good stereo separation on the 55in panel, but this would obviously improve with larger screen sizes. There’s also 40W of amplification, which is sufficient power to enable this TV to go loud without distorting or sounding harsh.
The acoustic processing works a lot better than you might expect, creating a well-balanced soundstage, with dialogue that’s clear and focused on the screen. There’s also a degree of dimensionality to the audio – you definitely get a sense of height with Dolby Atmos content but expectations need to be managed in this regard.
Samsung S90C review: Verdict
The Samsung S90C is a cracking OLED TV that proves the brand listens to feedback, especially where the screen filter is concerned. It works better this year, and when combined with OLED’s inky blacks and the panel’s brighter highlights, the result is a spectacular HDR performance. The accuracy is also impressive, and thanks to a wide gamut, colours are gorgeously rendered.
An attractive design, a comprehensive smart platform, a surprisingly good sound system and a host of high-tech gaming features only add to the appeal, and while there’s no Dolby Vision support, this 4K TV is a real winner. In fact, it’s the most affordable way to enjoy QD-OLED and the benefits of its brighter highlights and purer colours, making it a definite best buy.