2018 Samsung QLED TV Review

Sponsored post; I was fortunate to test, and subsequently purchase, the 2018 65Q9FN for a small incentive in exchange for this honest review for @samsungau

TLDR;

A beautiful TV with incredible detail in both the display and build quality. Although not quite OLED level blacks or pixel precision, QLED is definitely worth considering over an OLED; with its stunning bright display, minimal risk of burn-in, bundled with some great extra features, such as SmartThings, and you’ve got a great experience that is easy to use. There are however a few bugs/annoyances that I would like to see improved by way of firmware updates*.

Packaging

The 65Q9FN is snugly packaged in a well padded oversized box, as with most modern TVs. For the 65″, or larger, variant I would definitely recommend getting home delivery (unless you’ve got access to a van, truck, or similar vehicle).
Unboxing the TV was somewhat of a challenge, given its size, and surprising weight (26.7 kg without standing according to Samsung). The actual installation steps (not wall mounted) are very simple, with just a few screws to attach the stand to the TV and a single cable (which you can hide in the stand) to connect the TV to the one connect box. The difficulty comes in lifting the TV from its packaging to lay down flat on a table, in order to attach the stand. I would definitely recommend having a helping hand to do this; however, I was able to complete the installation alone so it is absolutely possible.

One Connect

Absolutely brilliant! I can’t believe that more manufacturers aren’t doing the same thing, and I can’t believe that Samsung is able to push all that data and power through such a small cable. It’s my understanding that there is also a 15 m version available, which I’m sure would help with lots of people who prefer to hide their media devices further away from the TV. It also provides the possibility of upgrading the TV, without having to update the most expensive component (the display) in the future.
The only time that the one connect does not provide an advantage is if you’re using a soundbar, as you still need to run a HDMI cable from the one connect box back up to the soundbar. Which, in most instances, is probably closer to the TV panel than the one connect box.

Setup

This has to be the simplest TV I’ve ever had to set up! After watching a welcome video, and getting a taste of how amazing the display looks, the TV took me through a simple step-by-step guide. It was as simple as plugging in my components (soundbar, Xbox one x, and NVIDIA shield) turning them on and seeing the Q9 find each device. My Samsung HW-N950 soundbar and Xbox One X were both identified, however, the NVIDIA shield was designated as a generic HDMI device.

Visual

The Q9 is extremely bright and looks utterly amazing in both bright and dark rooms. The layout of my living room places the TV next to a large glass sliding door which has ample amounts of sunlight shining in throughout the day. With my previous TV, I would find myself having to close the block-out curtains in order properly see the display, particularly in dark scenes. I have not had to do that once with the Q9. HDR content looks stunning, with lots of details in the shadows and also in the highlights. Compared to the OLED displays, that I have seen, the Q9 appears to crush some of the shadow details, however, it retains more of the highlights. From my research, before purchasing the TV, I was unable to find any OLED manufactures that would guarantee no screen burn-in. Samsung, on the other hand, provides a 10 year no screen burn guarantee on its QLED displays. This is particularly important to me as I play a decent amount of games with static HUD displays, and I’ve accidentally left static content on the screen for a period of time on more than one occasion.
The actual physical appearance of the TV itself is well done, with a nice clean bezel and gorgeous looking back (although I can’t imagine too many people would have the back of the TV on display). The stand feels nice and solid, with a clean thin look from the front.

Sound

The inbuilt 4.2 speakers are good enough for TV speakers and are completely acceptable to watch movies on, but let’s face it. If you’re spending this much on a TV, you’re probably also going to be spending some money on a decent soundbar or AV system. You’re doing yourself a serious injustice if you don’t!

Movies

This is by far where the QLED stands out. Every UHD HDR movie that I have thrown at the Q9, either from Blu-ray or streamed via Netflix or Prime, has looked absolutely breathtaking. From the deep blacks in Blade Runner 2049 to the bright colours of Planet Earth II, watching movies on the Q9 is more enjoyable, and jaw-dropping, than watching a movie at the local movie theatre. I have found, as with most Samsung TV it seems, that I get the best colour from changing the Colour Tone to Warm2 in Movie mode. Some of the other changes that I feel produce the best output for me include, setting the backlight to max, turning off digital clean view, setting local dimming to high, turning off contrast enhancer, and HDR+ mode, and setting the gamma to 2+. As with most modern TVs, the Q9 has a motion setting. The implementation of this can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. As my previous TV was a Samsung also I am used to the implementation that is on Samsung TVs. That being said, I think that Samsung has done a great job with this on the Q9, as even on Auto it does not seem to give that same soap opera effect that original implementations produced. I found a great scene, that shows how well the jitter reduction works, in the opening scenes of Planet Earth II when the camera is panning over the forest. Disabled there is clear jitter as the trees rapidly sweep across the frame. Enabled, the trees flow smoothly across the screen and look astonishing.
For non-HDR content, enabling HDR+ mode can improve the look of the content by seemingly boosting the contrast. The only issue with this is that it appears once you have enabled HDR+ mode it is enabled for all content, including HDR content. Which, in my opinion, ruins the look of the original HDR content.

Gaming

This is probably where I have spent most of my time with my Q9, and I absolutely love it. I have my Q9 connected up to my Xbox One X, and it is able to take advantage of most, if not all, of the Q9 features. Samsung has enabled auto game mode. So when a game is launched on the XB1 it sends a signal to the TV and enables game mode. This reduces the latency and turns off some of the processing that is used to enhance standard content. This is also advantages because I prefer to run games with a colour tone of Warm1 while movies and other content are at Warm2, and having this automatically switch is extremely convenient. This could also be used for additional picture configures options. The XB1 and Q9 also support 120hz fresh rate, however, due to HDMI limitations this is only available for up to 1440 resolution, so I have opted not to use this feature. I do, however, have freesync enabled. This allows the XB1 to set the displays frequency to match the content on the display to prevent tearing in the images. While I think this is probably not absolutely required as most console games have been engineered to prevent this from occurring, it does cover those cases where tearing can occur, making for a more consistent and visually pleasing gameplay. HDR is also supported and adds that extra level of visual aesthetics to gameplay.

Apps

Most of the common, and a few less common, apps come pre-installed with more available via the apps menu. All my most used apps (Netflix, Prime, Plex, Youtube, Spotify) were all there with only a few missing (AnimeLab). All the standard Freeview apps (7plus, 9now, tenplay, etc) are all there. It’s easy to add and remove apps, and there is an auto-update feature to keep up with the last changes and security patches. There is also a built-in virus scanner to help reduce the risk of security breaches in the ever-connected world we are living in today.

Extras

There are numerous extras to be found on the Q9, some of the bigger ones include Ambient mode, SmartThings, and the Universal remote.
Ambient mode, while nice, is a bit of a novelty item for me. Given my choice to display the TV on a stand, Ambient mode just isn’t as effective as what I think it would be for a wall mounted installation. One of the interesting uses I have seen for Ambient mode is from YouTubers using ambient mode as a feature in their backdrop.
The SmartThings inclusion is much more exciting to me. I have a number of smart devices, such as airconditioning controllers, power switches, and light bulbs connected to my smart home setup. In SmartThings I have configured a number of scenes, such as “Watch Movie”. This runs through a number of presets, dimming some lights, turning others off, and setting the mood for watching a movie. With the Q9 being integrated with SmartThings, I no longer have to select the scene from my phone, I can simply click home on the remote and navigate to SmartThings and select the scene.
The universal remote is a simple design, which looks, and feels, great with its metallic finish. It uses Bluetooth, so no more annoying pointing directly at the TV or missing commands. Most importantly, it just works. It was easy to set up and is able to control all of my devices.

Negatives

I personally prefer to watch on-demand video, not live tv, as such I don’t have the TV connect to an antenna. This means I don’t have any live TV signal. The Q9 allows you to remove the Live TV shortcut from the home bar, however, every time the TV is turned off and back on the shortcut is added back again.
The Q9 is Samsungs flagship tv; the HW-N950 is Samsungs flagship soundbar with ATMOS support; however, annoyingly, the two of them don’t work together seamlessly. For starters, I was unable to get Dobly ATMOS to be passed through from an external HDMI source into the TV (for HDR / freesync) and out to the soundbar. The only way to get Dolby ATMOS to the soundbar seems to be while using apps on the TV (I was able to watch Jack Ryan on Prime Video with Dolby ATMOS) and changing the expert settings to Dolby Digital+ (I believe it’s using DD+ due to HDMI 2.0 limitations). This brings me to the next and probably more annoying issue with the sound output via ARC; When a source provides a sound with a lower quality format (i.e. PCM) the Q9 defaults to this output format. This is particularly frustrating when after you watch a 2 channel PCM show, and then switch to watch a 5.1 Dolby Digital show you have to go in the sound expert settings to enable Dolby Digital again (every time!). The same is true for every time you want to watch a Dolby ATMOS show, you have to change from PCM or DD to DD+. I don’t understand why Samsung doesn’t make the Q9 output the best available option (i.e. Dolby Digital+, Dolby Digital, PCM) or let users set their preferred format order. This would have to be my biggest bugbear with the Q9, as I am constantly finding myself having to get in the expert sound settings every time I watch a new show.* note: this appears to have since been fixed via a firmware update.

The Chasers War On Everything: Uncut Downloads

So you enjoy the comical satire of The Chasers, but you don’t get to watch it on Wednesday nights because of other priorities… Such as house and/or Prison Break? The ABC have you covered.

The ABC have vodcasts available for download. While it is good that the ABC is providing free episode downloads (within Australia) they are only 320×180, which is good if you only want to download a small file. However, John Beohm at idents.tv is providing a resource of uncut H264 episodes, with a more acceptable resolution of 640×360.

Downloads:
http://www.abc.net.au/tv/chaser/war/vodcast/
http://idents.tv/blog/2007/04/22/the-chasers-war-on-h264-uncut-episodes/