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Samsung Q9F: Vibrant QLED TV with punchy colours

The Q9F looks best when playing high dynamic range (HDR) content such as 4K Blu-ray movies.
The Q9F looks best when playing high dynamic range (HDR) content such as 4K Blu-ray movies.

The Samsung Q9F produces dynamic images and comes with a new anti-reflective finish that reduces glare

Samsung is the last major company that continues to use LCD technology for its high-end television sets.

Other brands such as Sony and Panasonic have switched to Oled screens last year. These displays, sourced from Samsung's cross-town rival LG, boast blacks as dark as the void of space. Each individual pixel of an Oled screen is a pinpoint source of light that can be toggled without affecting its neighbours.

Meanwhile, LCD TVs use multiple LEDs to illuminate the screen. As each LED is responsible for lighting a section of the screen, it can inadvertently cause dark areas to look brighter than they should (an effect called blooming). There is no proper way to fix this - until each pixel can produce its own light, which Samsung is trying to achieve with Micro LED technology, coined as QLED, by its maker.

But one can mitigate this weakness of LCD technology. This year, Samsung has placed the backlights directly behind the quantum dot display of its flagship Q9F model in a grid formation, known as full-array local dimming (Fald).

This approach is not new, but it allows for finer control over the backlighting, compared with the scheme used by its predecessor (also called Q9F), which had backlights at the edge of the screen.

These backlights are incredibly bright. Samsung says the Q9F's peak brightness is 2,000 nits compared with less than 1,000 nits for Oled TVs. This ensures that images look dynamic and vivid, even in well-lit environments. Coupled with a new anti-reflective finish that reduces glare, the Q9F looks vibrant with punchy colours.

  • SPECS 

    PRICE: $8,999 (65-inch), $12,999 (75-inch)

    PICTURE FEATURES: Maximum resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG 

    AUDIO FEATURES: 60W output (4.2ch speakers + subwoofer), Dolby Digital Plus 

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Tizen OS

    CONNECTIVITY: 4 x HDMI 2.0, 3 x USB 2.0, Optical output, Ethernet, Wi-Fi

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 5/5

It looks best playing high dynamic range (HDR) content such as 4K Blu-ray movies. The Q9F also supports the new HDR10+ format created by Samsung. It is similar to the Dolby Vision format, which supports dynamic metadata that produces more detailed and richer images. However, it will take time for film-makers to roll out compatible HDR10+ content.

With local dimming set at High to ensure that the algorithm controlling the backlights is most responsive, there was almost no sign of blooming around light sources with a black background. It is almost comparable to an Oled TV.

I say almost because there were moments when the spell was broken. While the LEDs were responsive to changes in the video scene, there were rare occasions when I glimpsed the backlights in action.

Like peeking in the kitchen and seeing how the food is prepared, it breaks the immersion.

However, there is nothing the backlights can do about the more limited viewing angles of an LCD TV compared with Oled screens. When viewed from the sides, images on the Q9F look slightly faded and duller.

It also exhibits the dirty-screen effect, though not to the extent as last year's version. This was evident when watching scenes with a single dominant colour, like the recent World Cup matches in which the football pitch looked patchy.

Placing the backlights at the back also increases the bulk of the TV. Samsung, perhaps aware that it would be impossible to match ultra-thin Oled screens, has chosen to flatten the sides of the Q9F instead of tapering them.

This design makes the TV look like a large picture frame, which goes well with its new Ambient display mode.

Instead of a blank screen, the Q9F can display selected images, as well as other information, such as the time. Take a photo of the wall behind the TV and, like a chameleon, the Q9F can change its screen background to blend in with the surroundings.

Samsung has expanded the TV's external OneConnect box, which houses connectors such as HDMI ports and audio outputs, to include the power supply.

This box connects to the Q9F via a single, near-transparent optical fibre cable so you can wall mount the TV without worrying about hooking up all the cables.

Its remote control looks identical to last year's version. I found its metal construction solid and reassuring. It also supports voice commands, though they do not adequately compensate for the relative paucity of buttons.

The Tizen OS powering the Q9F does not have as many apps as some of its rivals, like the Android TV platform. But it has the important ones, including the Amazon Prime and Netflix video-streaming services.

It seamlessly works with all my connected devices. I can navigate my PlayStation 4 console using the TV remote and browse and stream media from my Synology network-attached storage - no set-up required.

• Verdict: In the face of competition from Oled TVs, Samsung has upped its game considerably to produce arguably its best LCD TV yet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2018, with the headline 'Vibrant QLED TV with punchy colours'. Print Edition | Subscribe