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Samsung Q90R (QE65Q90R) review: The QLED TV of our dreams

Vincent Teoh
9 Nov 2020
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
3,799
inc VAT

The flagship Q90R (2019) shines brightly in every way - and it keeps getting cheaper

Pros 
Class-leading viewing angles
Excellent performance in bright rooms
Very low gaming lag with ALLM and VRR support, plus no risk of burn-in
Cons 
No Dolby Vision support
Over-bright HDR handling isn’t strictly accurate
Bluish tint along edges of screen
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While other manufacturers are flocking to OLED technology for their high-end televisions, Samsung will not be deterred: it’s doggedly sticking with its in-house QLED tech. And for everyone who has been patiently waiting for the next flagship QLED model, it's finally here. The mighty – and mightily expensive – Samsung Q90R has landed.

Samsung Q90R review: What you need to know

In the UK and Europe, the Q90R is available in three screen sizes: the 55in QE55Q90R, the 65in QE65Q90R on test here and the 75in QE75Q90R.  

It’s no surprise to find that the Q90R is dripping with all the specifications and features you’d expect from a top-tier TV. You get a VA-type LCD panel with a native UHD resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels (that’s 4K to you and me), quantum dot technology, a full-array local dimming (FALD) direct-lit LED backlight and Samsung’s latest Quantum Processor 4K with AI upscaling combines with the company’s Ultra Wide viewing angle technology.

It’s a shame that Dolby Vision support is absent, but you do get HDR support for HDR 10, HLG and HDR10+ formats, and the whole kaboodle is powered by Samsung’s super-slick Tizen 5 Smart TV platform.

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Samsung Q90R review: Price and competition

Samsung continues to see QLED as equal or even superior to OLED TVs, meaning the launch price is stratospheric: at a current street price of £3,799, the QE65Q90R is easily the most expensive high-end TV launched so far in 2019.

By comparison, the Sony KD-65XG9505 4K LED LCD (£2,499) and the LG 65C9 OLED (£3,299) are considerably cheaper. At this kind of level, the Samsung Q90R has serious competition from every other major manufacturer – and those rivals have no shortage of superb TVs to choose from.

Samsung Q90R review: Features and design

The Q90R’s design is a mite underwhelming, but you can’t accuse it of being impractical, nor ugly in any way. After all, the Q90R’s FALD backlight precludes it from winning any World’s Slimmest TV awards – this kind of backlighting tech is far too bulky for that – and, crucially, the slender bezel surrounding the panel is thin enough not to detract from the picture on-screen.

Down below, the panel is anchored by a surprisingly heavy iMac-style stand. This provides space for placement of a soundbar underneath the TV and is perfectly proportioned for Samsung’s own-brand range of soundbars. Make sure to check out Expert Reviews’ favourites in our guide to the best soundbars.

You won’t find any of the usual connections on the TV’s rear panel: they’re all located on the external One Connect box. What’s particularly striking, however, is that you only need to connect a single, thin, 5m-long cable from the One Connect box to the TV and that carries video, sound and powers the TV. It’s by far the most elegant solution we’ve ever encountered. If you want to put all your AV gear well out of sight across the room, Samsung also sells an optional 15m cable.

HDMI sockets are provided, with support for HDMI 2.1 features such as FreeSync 2 Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). There's a possibility that enhanced ARC (eARC) could be added with a future firmware update, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

The Samsung Q90 ships with two remote controls: a traditional button remote and a silver smart remote. The smart remote has gained direct-access buttons to Netflix, Amazon and Rakuten TV this year, and the Smart Hub user interface is now faster than on any other Samsung TVs we've used before, which makes navigating the user menu a joy rather than a chore.

Audio quality is above average, too. Bass is reasonably punchy and the clarity on offer ensures that dialogue remains intelligible at most volume levels. Bear in mind, though, that this is a TV that deserves a top-notch soundbar at the very least.

Samsung Q90R review: Picture quality and HDR

The most impressive thing about the Q90R is Samsung’s “Ultra Viewing Angle” technology. Walk around the room and the panel maintains steady contrast and consistent colours even when you’re far away from head-on – it’s dramatically better in this regard than any other LCD TV we've seen to date.

The anti-reflective filter implemented on the Samsung Q90R is truly world-class, too. This suppresses reflections more effectively than TVs from any other brands on the market, and means that you don’t need to shut the curtains or dim the lights to deliver great image quality. In our time with the TV, the image remained glare-free, even in a very bright room.

Samsung’s class-leading anti-reflective filter joins forces with a supremely effective local dimming algorithm and the result is that the Q90R produces some of the deepest blacks we've witnessed on an LED LCD TV to date. To boost contrast performance, there are 480 independently dimmable zones, which is comfortably the highest among 65in LED LCDs available to buy at the time of writing. Samsung's local dimming algorithm favours generating deep blacks and minimising blooming over outright picture accuracy, which should appeal to most non-critical viewers.

After calibration, colours on our Samsung QE65Q90R review sample looked natural and realistic enough, although not as accurate as on most OLEDs or Sony LED LCDs. Screen uniformity was very good, with no noticeable banding and very little dirty screen effect on full-field grey slides, but the edges of the screen exhibited a cooler, bluish tint that may be noticeable in black-and-white films.

Motion performance is similar to last year's model. You can reduce motion blur or smooth out judder by engaging Auto Motion Plus, but it’s not perfect – Samsung's motion-compensated frame interpolation is more prone to creating visual artefacts than Sony's MotionFlow system.

Otherwise, video processing is excellent, with the AI upscaling proving particularly impressive. Make no mistake, the upconversion capability on the Samsung 65Q90R is one of the best on the market. Gradation between colours has improved over previous Samsung models too, and this means you no longer need to engage Digital Clean View – although that feature’s combination of a decontouring filter and noise reduction may prove useful for less than perfect sources.

Samsung Q90R review: HDR performance

HDR testing throws up some impressive numbers. Once calibrated to D65 white point, the Q90R’s peak brightness measured 1600nits on a 10% window, and 550nits on a full-field slide. DCI-P3 colour gamut coverage came in at 95%, which is surprisingly lower than the 98-99% we were measuring on 2017 and 2018 QLEDs. We suspect it may have been impacted by the new Ultra Viewing Angle optical layer.

We do have one other criticism, though. Just like last year's Q9FN, our Samsung Q90R review unit brightened HDR images excessively compared with the reference standard, leading to compressed highlight detail, as well as increased noise and posterisation in certain HDR scenes. If you’re a complete perfectionist, this is clearly less than ideal. If you’re more concerned with sheer, eye-popping impact than strict accuracy, however, you’re unlikely to be disappointed: the TV's profuse light output serves up seriously vibrant HDR images.

Samsung Q90R review: Gaming

Kick back with a console and the Samsung QE65Q90R is a stellar performer. With Game mode enabled and all Game mode processing turned off, input lag measured a very responsive 17ms in both 1080p SDR and 4K HDR modes. This is absolutely top-notch, so you’re highly unlikely to notice any lag whatsoever.

There are also numerous options such as Game Motion Plus, Game Enhancer and Dynamic Black Equaliser that allow owners to customise their gaming experience. Like last year's Q9FN, the Samsung Q90R supports ALLM so the TV will automatically go into Game mode for playing games, and FreeSync 2 VRR steps in to reduce tearing and stuttering for the handful of compatible games.

Samsung Q90R review: Verdict

With wider viewing angles, refined local dimming and improved upscaling, the Samsung Q90R is a comprehensive upgrade over its predecessor.  If you can stomach the high price and lack of Dolby Vision support, the QE65Q90R is a versatile, gaming-friendly display that’s perfectly at home in the very brightest of rooms.

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