A lot of technology has come and gone over the past few decades. Feature phones became smartphones. MP3 players are practically dead. Cassettes? Various disc formats? What are you on about? But one piece of technology has stood the test of time: televisions. In the world of laptops, desktops, tablets and even smartphones, a TV still maintains its position as one of the most enjoyable entertainment viewing and experiencing platforms on the planet.
As time has passed TVs have gone from box sets to flat screens, from lugs in the middle of a room to exquisite pieces of modern design, from plasma to LCD and now to OLED. Various companies have taken various stances on the matter. Samsung for one hasn’t jumped on the OLED bandwagon yet and has a strong reason for this – belief in its QLED technology. We review Samsung’s 2018 Q9FN QLED TV and see why they still stand a class apart while sticking with LCDs.
1. Design and body
Before we jump into specifications and picture quality, let’s look at everything on the outside.
Right out of the box, Samsung has worked to making the entire set-up process extremely easy for the user. First thing you need to decide is whether you’re going to wall mount the TV or place it on a stand. If the former, you need to take off a casing on back to enable you using Samsung’s No Gap wall mount, which is just beautiful. For the latter, you need to get to building the stand, which is a simple few steps. The stand is tubular and really accentuates the lines of the TV.
One Connect Box
The next step in the set-up is also one of my favourite features of the latest Samsung TVs; the One Connect box. The One Connect box basically contains all the connections such as the USB, HDMI, audio and power connections. It connects to the TV with a translucent, tiny fibre-optic cable, which is the only cable going into the TV itself. The One Connect box is about half the size of a traditional DVD player and allows you to discretely hide it (as well as all the wires going into it), leaving you with a beautiful TV wall.
Once you’ve got everything connected and the TV positioned where you want it, the set-up of the TV and its settings is even easier. The first thing it does when you switch it on is look for your smartphone, from which it can take settings such as Wi-Fi details to update itself as well as the apps available pre-loaded on its system.
You also can set-up the over-the-air channels (depending on where you live) but I didn’t really bother with any of that since it’s not really how I consume most of my media.
While talking about design and build, I definitely cannot ignore the remote of this TV. It’s called the Samsung One Remote and looks beautiful. It feels great to hold but isn’t delicate either. It has a minimalist design and just a few buttons. It also has a mic for voice commands that works pretty well.
2. What’s new?
Full array local dimming
As far as upgrades go, the latest Samsung QLED TV comes with a few. The biggest change comes to the backlighting system. While last year’s model was edge-lit, this year Samsung went with a full array local dimming (FALD) system. If you don’t understand what this is, that’s OK. All you need to know is that this upgrade in lighting systems takes the TV’s level of control over light to a whole other level.
Q Contrast Elite
The Q9FN also comes with a new advanced anti-reflective coating called Q Contrast Elite. In bright rooms I found the effect of the coating to be minimal. But there is a perk to the coating: It reduces light leaks from the TV when watching a bright object on a dark background. This enables some great viewing angles for the TV.
3. Picture quality
The first thing I wanted to see when I started watching content on the Q9FN was its brightness levels. With FALD and Samsung’s suggested 2000 nits of brightness it seemed like a combination too good to be true. In its default settings, this is absolutely true. As you toggle the settings, brightness levels do drop a bit and obviously if you’ve activated any energy-saving modes.
Now when you think about brightness you have to think of the other end of the spectrum, the blacks. In default mode on the Samsung Q9FN, blacks are decent but you need to jump into the settings and turn local dimming higher if you want those rich, deep blacks. You’ll have to play with it a bit to find that perfect sweet spot of deep blacks and great highlights.
4. 4K, HDR and SDR performance
The Samsung Q9FN takes advantage of the most advanced content out there and provides it to you in the best possible form for your viewing pleasure.
One thing you instantly notice while watching the Q9FN is its highly impressive upscaling processing. The Samsung TV does a great job upscaling HD content to suit the potential of the 4K display. The TV does a great job of adding detail (without noise), maintains colour accuracy (as well as skin tones) and keeps light controls precise. A TV capable of this level of HDR performance and upscaling processing obviously has no issues with SDR content too.
I watched Netflix’s The Crown and Daredevil in 4K on the Samsung Q9FN and boy was it a delight!
A show like The Crown allowed the TV to deliver dynamic, bright images while showing the prowess its HDR processing had. The opening sequence of Daredevil, on the other hand, showed no signs of bleeding even though it has an extreme amount of red on the screen.
Even while the show is on in all its dark glory, blacks are well maintained and highlights were crisp. There was a point in the show where I did notice the HDR overworking Matt Murdock’s skin tones but nothing major.
The TV just doesn’t compromise when it comes to brightness but never comes at the cost of darks in the picture. The new local dimming clearly is a win for the Q9FN. Dare I say… at times I found it to be a more pleasing experience that OLEDs in such scenarios.
5. Tizen is the best
I’ve always loved Tizen on TVs. It works so smoothly and I’ve never had the issues with it I face with Android TV or other OS’ on other brands.
The Q9FN’s Tizen OS isn’t a major upgrade on last year’s OS but is definitely well refined. If you haven’t used the OS before it basically is a two-layered system that works flawlessly and has intuitive features to enhance your viewing experience. For example, the OS can detect what devices are connected to which ports and labels them, so you don’t have to remember which port is which. Another example, and a personal favourite for me, is where when you click on the home button while watching something on, say, Netflix, the TV remembers your various activities on each app enabling a faster switch between the two.
The TV supports 4K HDR versions of the Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime and many more. Even if it doesn’t, upscaling is always there so you don’t have to worry.
There are a whole load of enhancements for Samsung’s Smart Things and gaming, which I couldn’t test because I don’t have a smart home or appliances nor do I game but other reviews will tell you that the TV remains phenomenal here too.
6. Sound and audio
The Samsung Q9FN’s audio is one place where it’s a bit of a mixed bag. It’s not poor by any means, but its competition seems to be doing a better job when it comes to this tier of TVs.
Don’t get me wrong. This is still some of the best audio to come out of Samsung, but it lacks that oomph I want to see at this price.
Samsung Smart Sound
The TV comes with Samsung’s new Smart Sound feature, which adjusts the audio according to what you’re watching. Audio is tweaked according to the content on the screen. Now while this doesn’t sound like much as you read this, a few days into reviewing the TV I actually noticed the feature in action while watching the new season of Narcos Mexico. As the show transitioned between quite conversations to highly graphic the audio adjusted itself to enable a far more immersive experience.
7. So should you get one?
Well the Samsung Q9FN doesn’t stand to be an easy buy for everyone. The 65-inch version comes in at Dh10,999 and the 75-inch version for Dh26,999. I really wish Samsung had offered a 55-inch version but I understand why it doesn’t.
The TV is a great offering from Samsung and if you can afford it, you should definitely consider it. From its design and the One Connect box, to the addition of full array local dimming and its beautiful picture quality, the Samsung Q9FN QLED 4K TV is a substantial package.