Freelance contributor, TechHiveJun 21, 2023 3:00 am PDT
Image: Jon L. Jacobi/Foundry
At a glance
Great color and contrast
Upscales 4K and lower-res content
One Connect breakout box
Very thin profile
Wonky backlight artifacts with some test material
Audio lacks thump
Samsung’s latest 8K TV isn’t cheap, but it delivers fantastic image quality, whether it’s upscaling the 4K content you’re most likely to encounter in the real world to the amazing native 8K content that will blow you mind with its detail.
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Why would you go for a pricey 8K TV such as Samsung’s QN900C when great 4K TVs cost so much less? Detail, my friends, detail. While true 8K content remains rare, it looks spectacular on this TV. And the lower-resolution content you’re more likely to encounter on a daily basis appears more detailed because of this Samsung’s intelligent upscaling. Yes, the QN900C is expensive, but products at technology’s bleeding edge always are.
This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best smart TVs.
Samsung QN900C image quality
The rendering of fine detail is the Samsung QN900C’s most salient strength by far. And it’s not just with 8K content, which looks awesome, but also when upscaling content in 4K and lower resolutions, which you’ll encounter far more often.
There’s a noticeable uptick in sharpness in both patterns and the edges of upscaled objects. Four times the pixels helps with that, but it takes algorithmic expertise as well–not to mention the more than 2000 nits of peak brightness the QN900C is capable of.
Note: If you want to check out 8K UHD in the store, don’t rely on YouTube–much of the 8K content on that service is compressed to the point that the extra detail 8K UHD can provide is lost. Allow me to suggest that you download a couple of 8K files, put them on a USB stick and ask a salesperson play them for you.
Beyond the superior detail, the color is great–accurate and saturated thanks to the layer of quantum dots filtering the full-array backlighting. Contrast is also excellent for an LED-backlit LCD TV, due to the highly granular mini-LEDs in the backlight. Where the QN900C runs into issues is with some of its formulas for said backlighting. Artifacts didn’t rear their head very often with normal material, but there was a noticeable lag in adjusting brightness with some transitions between differently lit scenes. The scene would start off darker and grow brighter after a second or two.
We also noticed some pulsing of gray blocks on lighter backgrounds in the Spears & Munsil tests. Additionally, the brightness adjustment was all over the place when switching levels with a 15 percent coverage white block on a black background.
Additionally, the cascading star field in the same test suite looked as if it was being consumed from the center by a black nebula. That is not the norm.
Note that these are not one-offs for the QN900C–we’ve seen them before with Samsung TVs; however, as I said, they very rarely impact real-world material. Extremely rarely, in fact.
While the backlighting suffered issues under stress tests, its granularity also minimized the blooming and flaring of bright objects on a black or dark background. Indeed, the QN900C rendered Sony’s Las Vegas night sky contrast video as well as any non-OLED TV I’ve tested–better than anything but its Samsung 8K predecessors.
Additionally, real-world material was rendered with a stunning lack of shimmer, moiré, and judder. Kudos to Samsung on those fronts. The only TVs I’ve seen with image processing this pristine are Sony’s and LG’s high-end 4K OLEDs.
Viewing angles are exceptionally wide, glare is minimal, and screen uniformity is also excellent. By most metrics, the QN900C delivers a fantastic image.
Samsung QN900C design, features, and specifications
For this review, Samsung sent the rather massive 75-inch version of the QN900C, which weighs in at nearly 70 pounds. You’ll need a heavy-duty mounting bracket (VESA 400 x 400) for this puppy and make sure the mount is anchored to studs. There are smaller, lighter and larger, heavier configurations available as well. The 65-inch QN900 weighs 49.4 pounds and is priced at $4,999.99; the $85-inch QN900 weighs 96.3 pounds and costs $7,999).
You’ll need a second person to handle this TV, even if you don’t mount it on the wall. The stand adds another 26 pounds to the 75-inch model, and I neglected to grab a buddy. Sorry, Samsung.
Most of the TV’s weight can be attributed to the glass in its expansive panel. The TV’s power supply, most of its electronics, and all but one of its ports are housed in Samsung’s One Connect breakout box, which allows the QN900C to to be extremely thin at 0.6 inches. The only port on the TV itself is the flush-mounted jack for the single cable that goes to the One Connect box.
The display itself is a 10-bit, 8K UHD (7680 x 4320 pixels) panel with a 120Hz refresh rate (up to 144Hz for games), featuring quantum dots and full-array mini-LED backlighting. Using a zone counter we counted just south of 2,000 zones. That’s a lot.
The One Connect breakout box’s ports consist of four HDMI 2.1, coax for the TV’s ATSC 3.0 tuners or a cable/satellite TV connection, hardwired ethernet, three USB ports, optical S/PDIF audio out, and an EX-Link (RS-232C) port for system integration. There’s a Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) adapter onboard, and a Bluetooth 5.2 radio.
The QN900C supports HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG high dynamic range content, but Samsung still omits dynamic metadata Dolby Vision support. HDR10+ is the equivalent, so that’s not a serious matter–most HDR material streams include both protocols. Also, Dolby Atmos and Samsung’s own OTS Pro (Object Tracking Sound) audio are supported along with older Dolby audio standards.
Folks who own a Samsung soundbar that supports the company’s Q-Symphony technology will appreciate that this TV supports the same. Q-Symphony blends the TV’s own speakers with those inside the soundbar to deliver a better audio experience than either product can deliver on its own.
Audio is clear and bright, and the QN900C supports Bluetooth headsets (with delay compensation). Considering the presence of eight impellers on the back of the unit and 90 watts RMS of amplifier power, I was expecting more thump. There’s a modicum of bass, but it’s basically all the less-impactful frequencies above 150Hz. A 100Hz slider is available on the graphic EQ, but increasing it had no effect.
You won’t necessarily want to augment the QN900C’s audio off the bat, but I can see most users eventually desiring an upgrade to something with more low end.
Buyers also get Samsung’s usual Samsung software perks, including the Ambient mode that displays an image of the wall surrounding the TV that allows it to virtually disappear; Art mode, which allows you to display artworks on the TV when you’re not otherwise using it; and Samsung’s Gaming Hub, which allows you to stream videogames to the TV.
You can control the TV with voice commands (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Samsung’s own Bixby are supported), and the TV can operate as a full-featured smart home hub using the SmartThings platform. FreeSync Premium Pro, auto-low latency mode, and variable refresh rate are all available for gaming, as is a special ultra-wide gaming mode.
A easily navigable channel guide with favorites, scheduling, and recording/time-shift (using USB storage) is provided. And, as with nearly all TV vendors these days, there’s a wide variety of free curated content to be had with Samsung TV Plus.
Samsung QN900C user interface and remote control
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews of the Samsung’s TVs, you’ve probably gathered that I’m not a huge fan of the Smart Hub interface. It presents content well enough, but it’s scatter-shot in design, as well as inefficient and somewhat intrusive compared to the competition.
Samsung has made some improvements to SmartHub in 2023. After clicking twice to get to the settings, you can now change some of them directly from the bottom row icons, although some lead to other dialogs. Alas, the descriptions of some of the settings were truncated in the pop-up bubbles.
Samsung’s rechargeable voice remote, on the other hand, remains one of my favorites in terms of the way it feels in my hand and its basic ergonomics. The former number/color button is now a number/color/settings button on the latest TM2360E model. That means you can finally get to the TV’s settings without needing to wade through two other menus.
The lack of dedicated transport controls is still a bit of a bummer, and it would be great if Samsung were to replace one of the advertisement shortcut buttons with a dedicated settings button, but this is progress.
Using voice commands lets you skip most button presses, but that’s not my preferred method of TV control. When I go into passive mode watching TV, I prefer to listen versus orate.
The QN900C is a great TV with uber-detailed image quality
In terms of image quality, the QN900C delivers–and then some. The detail is spectacular with 8K content, and the upscaling adds to both the 4K UHD and 1080p experiences. There’s tons of peak brightness, the color is marvelous, the contrast as good as it gets for LED TVs, and the image processing is top-notch. High praise aside, I’d like to see Samsung tweak the backlighting intelligence to eliminate the lag and other issues I encountered.
As to the remote and interface, a lot of satisfied Samsung users wonder what I’m on about. Some agree with me, but picayune interface gripes shouldn’t steer you away from what is a top-five TV. I simply think Samsung could do better.
Jon Jacobi is a musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time computer enthusiast. He writes reviews on TVs, SSDs, dash cams, remote access software, Bluetooth speakers, and sundry other consumer-tech hardware and software.