Samsung Q9F series (QN65Q9F) review

 
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We’re eager to get our Samsung Q9F/Q9 review underway, but before we do, let’s talk about QLED.

What’s in a name? Where Samsung’s QLED TVs are concerned, quite a bit. While some in the tech world throw shade at Samsung because QLED looks and sounds a lot like a competing TV technology, OLED, we’d like to point out that quantum dots – the technology which has transformed the performance of Samsung’s LCD/LED TVs from good to great – starts with the letter ‘Q’ and it makes sense the company would use that letter to help differentiate its premium line from other TVs which don’t use the technology. Besides, QLED is a way cooler acronym than SUHD.

The number one TV brand in the U.S. (according to sales figures) deserves credit for working its tail off in an effort to make the best LCD/LED TV money can buy. Why? Because the Samsung Q9F is the best LED/LCD money can buy this year. And you might be surprised to learn that the Q9F’s picture quality, while excellent, isn’t what wins the TV such accolades from us. It’s the Q9F’s design – inside and out — that tips the scales when compared to its closest competition, the Sony X930E. With the Q9F, Samsung manages to satiate videophiles while also appealing to the average Joe who, ultimately, will take gorgeous design and ease of use over incremental picture quality differences every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Out of the box

The first thing to know about unboxing this TV is that you’ll need a friend to help. The 65-inch Q9F weighs over 66 pounds, and the 75-inch variant is 94 pounds. Don’t even get us started on the 88-inch model.

The second thing to know is that, through unboxing and setting up the TV, you come to understand how much thought Samsung put into this TV’s design, all in the name of providing the most clean and beautiful installation possible. Want to experience a little of that feeling right now? Check out our Samsung Q9F unboxing and setup video below.

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From the easily installed legs which help hide your cables when stand mounted, to an almost non-existent metallic bezel, to an available custom Samsung wall mount accessory which places the TV flush against your wall, the Q9F is loaded with little touches which make a huge difference.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring element, however, is the tiny fiber optic cable which carries all video and audio signals to the TV. About the same thickness as a piece of fishing line, the cable virtually disappears when strung up the wall already. If you paint it the same color as your wall, however, you will never see it. This allows for a clean installation, without routing cables through your wall. Keep in mind, though, that power to the display must still be provided, so it will help if there is a wall outlet near the installation location.

This single-cable connection is made possible by Samsung’s One Connect box, an approach the company has been using for a few years now. You connect all your components – Cable box, Blu-ray player, game console, OTA antenna – to the One Connect box, and a single cable runs to the TV. This allows for shorter HDMI cable runs from connected components than if they were connected directly to the TV.

Extending Samsung’s clean, minimalist design philosophy for the Q9F is the TV’s remote control, which folds a limited number of commonly accessed controls into a sleek, weighty design that feels like it was carved from a solid block of aluminum. Volume and channel controls come in the form of rocker switches, while basic cursor controls (up, down, left, right, enter) are available to navigate on-screen controls and menus.

Tizen is terrific

Once you get past the gorgeous and convenient exterior features, you begin to learn how much is waiting for you inside the Q9F. When you power on the TV on for the first time, Samsung’s excellent Smart TV operating system, Tizen, whisks you through one of the fastest, yet most comprehensive, initial setups we’ve encountered.

samsung q9f q9 series QN65Q9F QN75Q9F review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Tizen begins by helping you connect to your wireless router – assuming an Ethernet cable isn’t connected – then searches for connected devices. This is where things get pretty slick: Tizen detects most commonly used devices like cable/satellite boxes, game consoles, Blu-ray players, and even external streaming set-top boxes (not that you’d need one), then automatically labels inputs with the name of the device (no more guessing which device is in which HDMI input) and programs the system so you can control it with the Samsung One remote. Finally, if you’ve got an antenna connected, Tizen will scan for channels and program the tuner. If you are connected to cable or satellite, Tizen will learn which service you are using an integrate the program guide into its own system, making switching between live TV and streaming services extremely easy and fun.

Get set

Once Samsung’s Tizen OS finishes with its setup wizard, you’re free to explore the TV to your heart’s content, but we’d suggest first making some adjustments to picture settings.

We started out by setting the Q9F to the Movie picture preset because we knew from experience that setting would get us closest to our goal. If you watch in a dark environment, you won’t need to make any backlight adjustments, but if you watch in a bright room most often, we suggest raising the backlight setting until you are happy with the brightness.

From there, we turned off the Auto Motion Plus setting. The Q9F offers solid processing for 24P content, and doesn’t need any help with 30 or 60 FPS content, so there’s no need for any anti-blur or supplementary de-judder.

You’ll find a local dimming setting a little further down. Play around with this, but we suspect most will want to set this at High. And even further down you’ll find Contrast Enhancer, which we suggest turning off.

We were happy with the out of box color with the color temperature set to Warm 2 (W2) and didn’t feel the TV would benefit from any further rudimentary tinkering. A professional calibrator will be able to make some fine adjustments which get the Q9F closer to a reference standard, but we think most folks will be thrilled with these basic settings. For color space settings, leave everything set to Auto.

There is one more crucial setting to be made specific to getting HDR content to display correctly. Under HDMI UHD Color you’ll want to turn any port which might receive HDR content to On. If you do not, you will run into problems with some devices thinking the Q9F is not capable of accepting HDR – the Sony PlayStation Pro, for instance, will not output HDR to this TV if this setting has not been made.

Edge lit, schmedge lit – the picture is gorgeous

We were concerned and confused about Samsung’s choice to make its flagship TV an edge-lit model. It is well known that full array local dimming (FALD) backlight systems produce better black levels – and therefore better contrast – as well as higher peak brightness, all while minimizing cloudiness and halos around bright objects on dark backgrounds. Why, then, would Samsung opt not to use the best backlight system for its best TV?

Samsung says going with this year’s “Infinite Array Local Dimming” tech – an in-house advancement of standard edge-lighting tech – allowed the best of both worlds: High performance and thin profile. Sony has done something similar with its “Slim Backlight Master Drive,” so it’s clear new techniques have been deployed to make this approach much better than it was before. From our experience, it is paying off — the Q9F pulls off one of the most impressive pictures we’ve seen from an LCD/LED TV yet, edge lights or otherwise.

samsung q9f q9 series QN65Q9F QN75Q9F review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends
samsung q9f q9 series QN65Q9F QN75Q9F review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends
samsung q9f q9 series QN65Q9F QN75Q9F review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends
samsung q9f q9 series QN65Q9F QN75Q9F review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

To be clear, the Q9F still suffers from all the pitfalls associated with an LED/LCD TV. It can’t achieve perfect black the way an OLED can, and in pitch-black home theater rooms, you can see some blooming from the edges and some halos around bright objects. Aside from those issues, though, it’s all golden.

The Q9F’s intense brightness – especially for HDR content – counteracts some of those black level pitfalls, and the TV most certainly reveals shadow detail unusually well. In all but the darkest rooms, the Q9F shines like a beautiful beacon, begging you to come closer and become fully entranced in its shimmering glow.

Color is vibrant, texture and detail are prevalent, and the level of cinematic authenticity we’ve seen with this set is enrapturing. You get the feeling you are looking at a reference monitor used by Hollywood pros to master the very movie you’re watching.

But the Q9F is also an outstanding everyday TV, capable of making everything you watch — from streaming dramas on Netflix to cooking shows on cable – look their absolute best. This is not a one-trick pony by any means. The Q9F can do just about anything you want it to, and it does it better than most.

If we had to register a complaint, we’d say we want to see Samsung buck up and support Dolby Vision. We recognize Samsung is big on developing HDR 10+, an open-format alternative which supports dynamic metadata, but with so many Hollywood supporters of Dolby Vision, it would make sense for Samsung to hop on board and just support all HDR formats.

Beyond picture quality

The reason we say the Q9F is the best LCD/LED TV made this year (and probably the best made to date) is, as we teased earlier, not just because it has a gorgeous picture. It’s because of all those design elements we mentioned earlier, and, again, because of the Tizen experience.

Using a TV needs to be easy. If you get confused or frustrated every time you turn on your TV, you aren’t going to want to use it. We think Samsung has done a better job than any other brand of making a TV people will be excited to turn on every day. And Tizen deserves the credit for that.

Today, the Smart TV platform built into your TV isn’t just for turning on Netflix or Hulu. It’s for making picture settings, it’s for accessing your components, it’s now for controlling those connected devices, it’s for switching around between all the different programs you want to watch and, more and more importantly, it’s for helping you find what you want to watch. Tizen does all of this extremely well, and the processors that power Tizen are screaming fast.

samsung q9f q9 series QN65Q9F QN75Q9F review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Tizen executes every command extremely quickly. Want to bounce between Jessica Jones on Netflix and catch all the game highlights on ESPN? Tizen swiftly bounces between your cable box or satellite service and the Netflix app with ease. Want to pick up on that show you were watching on Amazon a few days ago? Tizen knows you watch Amazon a lot, and will have the last three shows you watched on deck from the main screen – you don’t even have to open the app.

The best TV is the one you love to use, and that’s what Samsung has made with the QLED series.

Warranty information

Samsung offers a 1-year parts and labor warranty on this television, with in-home service available for any TV larger than 42-inches.

Our Take

The Samsung Q9F combines great picture quality, gorgeous design, intelligence, and ease of use in a way no other television has before.

Is there a better alternative?

For dark rooms, the LG C7 OLED is a superior choice due to its ability to achieve perfect black levels. However, for those who want the most vivid picture possible in bright daytime viewing scenarios, the Q9F is an ideal choice.

How long will it last?

As far as futureproofing goes, the Q9F is about as good as it gets. We’d like to see expanded HDR format support – specifically for Dolby Vision – but that is the TV’s only real limitation. Ostensibly, the TV’s build quality is solid, and as a flagship model, Samsung is likely to roll out the red carpet should anything unexpected go wrong with the TVs hardware.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Buy this TV if you want the brightest, most intuitive TV available. It’s gorgeous and looks like no other. Do not buy this TV if you want the best picture for your dedicated home theater. For the same amount of money or less, LG’s C7 OLED is a better dark room performer.

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