Can Samsung's new TV steal the spotlight from OLED?


The Pros

Beautiful from every angle

Samsung is one of the TV companies that puts extra focus on TV design—very successfully, I might add—and as the company’s 2018 flagship, the Q9FN is kind of a peacock. It’s designed to be supremely sleek and minimal, and it pulls it off.

Despite being a full-array local dimming set, the Q9FN’s panel is still compact and fairly thin. The almost bezel-less screen has a seamless, unibody feel: it’s not overly heavy, but still feels extremely durable.

Our Q9FN’s included center stand features smooth, brushed metal that’s heavy enough to secure the TV panel without taking up much tabletop space.

One neat thing about the Q9FN is that you can get it with a variety of stands. Our loan unit came with the standard rectangular bar prop that fastens in the middle of the TV, but Samsung also has a “Studio” stand, “Gravity” stand, and a unique wall-mount solution called the “No Gap Wall Mount.”

The Q9FN also includes the OneConnect box, which adds heavily to its minimalist aesthetic. The OneConnect box is an external house for all of the TV’s ports that connects to the rear of the TV’s panel via a single “invisible” cable (this all makes a lot more sense when you see it in person).

The Q9FN is a bit thicker than the 2017 QLEDs because it uses a full-array LED backlight.

This year’s OneConnect box is a big one, too, but for a good reason. It not only houses the TV’s four HDMI inputs, three-USB port hub, coaxial, LAN connection, etc., but also serves as a power supply. So while it’s definitely bulkier this year, it’s also finally living up to its namesake.

The OneRemote continues to be about as stripped down as possible while still serving as a functional clicker. Its curved shape and few-as-possible buttons lend to the TV’s air of finely-tooled, premium design. You can also control the TV though Samsung’s “SmartThings” app, if you’re so inclined.

The Q9FN’s OneConnect box, which connects to the TV via a long, “invisible” ten-foot cable. The box also provides power to the TV, so definitely don’t lose it.

Even more beautiful when you’re watching it

The first thing TJ and I did when this TV got dropped off was build it, run through the initial setup, and immediately start watching Thor: Ragnarok on Netflix (which is just delightful, if you haven’t seen it).

The TV’s normal picture (left) and the effect when “HDR+” is turned on (right)

At first, I turned on the Q9FN’s “HDR+” mode, a picture setting that basically gives any content an “HDR” appearance. More literally, it amps up the TV’s brightness and color, while scaling the non-HDR content so that it doesn’t look too oversaturated or unnatural. It also adds a sharpening effect that every now and again looks a little wonky.

But this was a bit much: both TJ and I were left wincing and shielding our eyes from the Q9FN’s unrelenting brightness.


So I switched to Movie mode, turned all the Auto Motion Plus settings off, switched Audio to “Optimized” (during the “Immigrant Song” bit, which is also delightful), set the backlight to the room lighting, and turned the color space to “Auto” to take advantage of those sweet, colorful quantum dots.

And then I totally forgot I was supposed to be reviewing a TV and got sucked right in by Chris Hemsworth’s chiseled… performance.

In Movie mode but with the TV’s color space set to “Native,” Thor had a crisp, natural look with a welcome amount of extra color.

My point is, this TV looks great. It’s got enough brightness and color vivacity for a bright room, meaning you can scale it back for dedicated viewing environments, and then pick and choose which aspects to augment or diminish.

The 16:9 black bars were impressively dark, and even the viewing angle—though it looked atrocious during the Netflix boot screen—seemed better than average for an LED TV. The TV’s native color rendered everything with a pleasing vividness. Of course, these were all just first impressions.

For a TV with full-array local dimming, the Q9FN has a better horizontal viewing angle than average. It’s still not an OLED, but you can wall-mount it without concern.

As I expected, though, our lab tests corroborated the initial experience. The Q9FN evinces excellent contrast and motion performance—its black levels are especially impressive for an LED TV, and some of the HDR brightness numbers we measured had me seriously considering leaving a pair of sunglasses down in the lab.

Relevant Data (Movie mode)

  • SDR Contrast: 199.90 / 0.022 nits
  • HDR Contrast: 865.8 / 0.09 nits
  • HDR APL%: 2%: 343.3 / 10%: 1,617 / 20%: 1,579 / 40%: 1,513 / 50%: 1,246 nits
  • HDR DCI-P3: 97% coverage
  • Viewing Angle: 46.50° or ±23.25° from center to either side of the screen

To see our CalMan 5 charts, check out the Science Page.

Clean, sensible extras

The Q9FN is also equipped with some extra features worth jawing about. The menu interface hasn’t changed much from the past couple years. When you hit the “home” button on the remote, the smart features and settings pop up along the bottom quarter of the screen. This is where you’ll access apps like Netflix and Spotify; the TV’s picture, audio, and network settings; and switch source inputs. It’s intuitive enough for anyone to make use of, in my opinion.

The menu and smart features haven’t changed much from last year, but they’re still very reliable. We especially like how easy it is to identify and control HDMI devices.

One thing that Samsung’s gotten better at year over year is providing TV software that allows the TV to be the center of your home theater or living room, from a device perspective. Plugging in any number of DVD or Blu-ray players, game consoles, and so on prompts the TV to identify the device and then label it within the input list.

For many devices, you’ll also be able to automatically control them with the remote one they’re identified, which is pretty handy. You might want to keep the original remote nearby though—the OneRemote has so few buttons, it’s not always the most robust control option for source devices.

New for 2018, “Ambient mode” allows the TV to display an image, or information about weather or news headlines while it’s technically off in a low-power mode.

Finally, the Q9FN TVs have an “Ambient mode” that allows them to display an image and the time or weather while the TV is off. This uses a minimal amount of electricity, but allows the TV to contribute aesthetically to the room it’s in, rather than becoming a lifeless black rectangle while you’re not using it. It’s a simple little addition to the 2018 smart features, but I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to use it, either.

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