Samsung Q9FN / Q9F 2018 4K HDR LCD TV Review (QN65Q9FN, QN75Q9FN)
Stephan Jukic – July 26, 2018
Samsung’s 2018 Q9F comes with a similar name to the 2017 model but is also sometimes called the Q9FN edition. We’re not sure why Samsung decided to go with the confusing naming sequence but what we can say for sure is that the 2018 Q9FN (as we’ll be calling it from now on for this review) is very definitely a whole new TV in terms of performance and specs. It offers entirely new parameters for key metrics of both and while both aesthetically and physically this television looks very similar to the 2017 Q9F, it’s different in numerous extremely important way that make it a far better television overall.
The Q9FN is Samsung’s priciest and “best” 2018 4K HDR LCD TV in terms of specs, price and how well it does most things. Considering what we’re going to explain in this review, we can safely say that it really takes premium HDR 4K LCD TV technology to some new levels, though it also has its share of flaws, which we’ll be covering as well.
- Superb motion handling
- Fantastic levels of display brightness
- Incredible color performance
- incredibly precise LCD TV local dimming
- Really, really good black levels and contrast
- Very expensive
- Viewing angles are poor
- Poor native audio quality for such an expensive TV
- Still no Dolby Vision for Samsung TVs
- Only two sizes
If you don’t mind paying a rather steep price for a premium 2018 4K HDR, then the Samsung Q9FN is probably one your best choices for 2018. This model just blows so many other TVs out of the water with the sheer quality of some of its display specs and performance metrics for brightness, contrast, color and nearly everything else. It’s a fantastic 4K TV by any measure and aside from its high cost, we definitely recommend it though some of LG’s or Sony’s 2018 TVs offer somewhat better value and offer superior HDR support options.
What We Liked
There are many things to love about the Q9FN, from its overall design down to all sorts of specific details. However, there are several key characteristics of this TV that we think are the ones with the greatest importance and the best representatives of its overall high quality. These are the most fundamental things to like about this television:
Let’s start with the Q9FN’s design first. It’s what you’ll notice about this TV before anything else and as far as we’re concerned, it’s great. The Q9FN is wonderfully built. This TV comes with a utilitarian, minimalist build that actually works perfectly for making the television fit aesthetically into pretty much any space.
The entire body is rather ever so slightly thickset in comparison to last year’s Samsung QLED TVs and many competitor models because of the Q9’s full-array LED backlights but the tradeoff is that there’s no exceptionally bulky lower half to make this TV a bitch for wall-mounting. The entire body is the same narrow thickness in other words. The TV also comes with a very narrow but very sturdy stand for easy placement on even small surfaces and its cable management is superb, with just one line running from the TV to an external One-Connect box that can be placed where needed. The edge of the screen comes with very narrow bezels, which we also like.
Insanely Good peak and sustained brightness
The peak brightness and sustained brightness specs of the Q9FN are some of the best we’ve ever seen in any 4K LCD TV ever so far. Only a couple of other ultra-premium Samsung models and maybe Sony’s Z9D model come close to beating what this particular television can pull off. At its absolute peak levels of brightness, the Q9FN reaches for the sun with levels of nearly 1700 nits and even for sustained brightness during playback of both HDR content AND regular TV video sources or other SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) content, it performs incredibly well, creating an exceptionally bright, exceptionally vivid picture quality that amazingly enough, doesn’t ruin color representation or volume no matter how bright it goes.
Fantastic Black levels and contrast with local dimming
Without local dimming turned on, the Samsung Q9FN delivers very good but far from exceptional contrast ratios of over 6000:1. This is high normal contrast for a 4K TV with VA (Vertical Alignment, meaning vertically oriented pixels) display built into it but it’s far from incredible. However, what the Q9FN comes with that’s almost unique for Samsung 4K HDR TVs is a full-array LED backlight panel with full multi-zone local dimming, and when this local dimming is turned on, its contrast ratios shoot right through the roof to incredible levels of nearly 20,000:1, which is something we’ve seen in no other 4K HDR LCD TV to-date.
In other words, the local dimming in this TV is simply incredible in its quality and it affects everything else as a result: contrast can be made insanely deep, black levels can look nearly perfect (though they don’t match the literal total black perfection of OLED TVs like the LG C8 and B8 models, or Sony’s A8F) and thus shadowy tones in content look wonderful. Black uniformity is also incredibly good in the Q9FN as long as local dimming is active. Without it, there is some light clouding if the whole display is darkened.
Colors also stick out more vibrantly with high contrast and rich blacks, so these particular benefits of the Q9FN help the TV’s already great color performance as well. In simple terms, the black levels and contrast of the Q9FN deeply impressed us.
Superb QLED color delivery
The color delivery of the Q9FN isn’t quaite as good as it was in the 2017 Q9F and we’re not sure quite why this is the case, since this TV uses the same or possibly even slightly improved quantum dot color enhancement technology. However, this isn’t to say that color performance in the Q9FN is bad, far, far from it in fact, it’s downright superb. Because of its QLED technology and other color production mechanisms, the Q9FN delivers incredibly rich, vibrant and highly accurate color palettes for HDR video sources and for normal SDR content from nearly any source such as media players, cable TV or streaming devices. Badly formatted or older content may not look fantastic even when viewed on the Q9FN but based on what we saw, this TV will deliver the best possible results that are possible with any content source.
If you set the Q9FN to displaying HDR movies or shows with HDR10 and HDR10+ mastering in them, the TV’s performance becomes downright mind-blowing and its full powers of Wide Color Gamut reproduction for over 1 billion color variations come to the fore. The Q9FN also supports full 10-bit color reproduction via dithering.
Excellent motion handling and input lag
The Q9FN is an ultra-premium 4K HDR TV so you can expect some great motion handling across the board. However, even by the standards of many older and many current premium 4K TV models, this baby delivers the goods stunningly well. For one thing, it has one of the best response times we’ve ever seen in an LCD TV, sitting as it does at a little over 3 milliseconds. This alone means that the Q9FN offers very smooth sharp handling of fast movement on the screen. Beyond this, the Q9FN’s native 120Hz display panel interpolates all sorts of lower frame rate content for very smooth handling on the screen. The inclusion of Black Frame Insertion technology spreads this feature to games played on the TV as well for a more fluid gameplay experience. What we also love about the Q9FN is that it’s virtually flicker free due to the improved quality of Samsung’s LED backlight technology for their 2018 4K HDR TV models.
Also worth mentioning for all you gamers out there: The input lag times of this TV for console games at all sorts of different resolution, color, refresh rate and HDR settings are superb. The Q9FN is basically one fantastic gamer’s TV if you happen to own an Xbox console or a PS4 device. It’s an even better TV if you want to do 4K HDR gaming with an Xbox One X or a PS4 Pro console.
Smart TV and controls
On a final note, we like Samsung’s smart TV platform quite a bit. WebOS 3.5 from LG is more intuitive and faster, and Sony’s Android TV comes with Google Play Store, meaning access to a huge selection of apps but the Samsung Tizen OS is no slouch either. It’s easy to use, covers all the essential content options for streaming media apps and lets you rent or buy content directly from Samsung as well. Certain apps are also available only with Samsung’s 4K UHD TVs, which is cool too. The remote is also decent, with basic voice search functionality and the ability to open apps, ask questions about weather and so forth as needed via voice commands. On the other hand, unlike LG’s remote, the Samsung edition doesn’t let you search within apps for content, which is a bummer.
What We Didn’t Like
Despite all of its impressive-as-hell specs, the Samsung Q9FN isn’t entirely perfect for a number of reasons. One of these could almost be a deal breaker and one other is really annoying but none of them mean this is a bad TV in any normal sense of the word, they’re just particularly worth mentioning.
The price of this TV
First and foremost, the Q9FN is exceptionally expensive. Yes, this is to be expected for an ultra-premium 4K HDR TV with the characteristics of this model but there are several cheaper options out there that deliver virtually identical performance in all regards except for this TV’s truly exceptional brightness levels. If you like Samsung 4K TVs in particular, we recommend the Q9FN at the price it sells for but if you want most of the same picture quality, LG’s B8 is a better value overall and so is Sony’s X900F.
Still No Dolby Vision
The Q9FN would be absolutely awesome at delivering Dolby Vision HDR if Samsung wasn’t so fixed on hating it (it’s pretty much the only major 4K TV maker to still reject this HDR format). Yes, there’s only a small amount of Dolby Vision HDR content out there but damn would it be nice if this TV also supported it. This is a shame. HDR10 is great for HDR mastering of content and HDR10+ is promising to be even better but the Dolby Vision format beats both on quality and this TV is very much built to deliver it really well.
Viewing angles problems
All TVs with Vertical Alignment pixel orientation in their displays suffer from rather poor viewing angles. The Q9FN has a VA panel so it suffers from the same problem. This is unfortunate but at least it also helps deliver the excellent black levels that this TV is capable of. In other words, this is a minor issue but we thought it was worth mentioning.
Weak native audio
The native audio performance of the Q9FN is less than stellar. It’s not bad for conventional TV watching but you want a truly immersive sound experience with deep bass and clear sound even at extremely high volumes, we definitely recommend getting an external sound bar or speaker system. If you’re already going to spend $2500+ on a new 4K TV like this (or more for the 75 inch model), then you might as well make the extra investment. Overall we don’t consider the Q9FN to be anywhere close to a deal breaker since most 4K TVs don’t come with what we’d call superb built-in audio, but for a TV this expensive we’d have expected a little bit more performance in this area.
Smart platform issues
The Tizen smart platform of the Q9FN and all other 2018 Samsung 4K TVs isn’t bad at all for most essential smart TV needs but we’ve seen better in other brands. LG’s WebOS 3.5 offers better interface features, smoother performance and much better voice control features. Sony’s Android TV delivers much, much better access to media apps thanks to Google Play. We also think Roku TV (found in TCL and Hisense 4K TVs among others) is better than Tizen. Thus, Tizen ranks a bit low among the major brands in terms of its quality as a smart platform. On the other hand, if you really decide you don’t like the native Samsung smart TV platform, you can always just use an external streaming media device with its own native smart functionality.
Value vs. Price & Bottom Line
The bottom line for the Samsung Q9FN 4K HDR LCD TV is that it offers superb overall quality as a 4K TV and is possibly this year’s single best LCD TV we’ve reviewed so far. However, because it’s on the pricey side, we consider its value per dollar spent to be slightly low. We really recommend the Q9FN for buyers who aren’t too worried about their budgets. For others who want great performance but don’t mind a slightly dimmer display, alternatives like the Samsung Q8FN, LG’s B8 OLED or Sony’s X900F are all better priced, offer wider HDR format support and deliver nearly the same levels of color and contrast performance.
Key Samsung Q9FN 4K HDR TV Specs
- Screen sizes: 65 inch QN65Q9FN, 75 inch QN75Q9FN, (TV being reviewed is 65 inches)
- Smart TV: Tizen smart platform 2018
- HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
- VP9 Included. Yes
- HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
- HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
- HDR Support: Yes, HDR10, Hybrid Log Gamma
- Refresh Rate: 120Hz native refresh rate
- Screen Lighting: LCD Display with full-array backlighting & local dimming
- Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
- Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet port
- Remotes: Samsung smart remote, voice control, remote app for iOS and Android
- Connectivity: 4 HDMI (all of them 2.0a and HDCP 2.2) ports, 3 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Digital Audio Out, all located in eternal One Connect box
- Contrast Ratio: 6000+:1 (native, real contrast), 19,000+:1 (with local dimming)
- Maximum Peak Brightness: 1767 nits (cd/m2)
- 3D Technology: N/A
- Processor: Q Engine
Display Performance Metrics
The following are the several categories of key display metrics for picture performance in the Samsung Q9FN 4K HDR LCD TV. They may vary slightly from unit to unit so they should not be taken as absolutes. However, they should maintain a generally high level of similarity in all units, making them good enough to be reliable indicators of quality. Different sizes of TV display can change some of these metrics slightly (for example, larger edge-lit LCD 4K TVs tend to have weaker local dimming and peak brightness). As a Full-array LCD TV, the Q9FN maintains the same basic display metrics in both of its models, the 65 inch and the 75 inch model.
The following metrics of display performance for contrast, black level, color performance, brightness and motion handling (all of which are the most important aspects of display performance) clearly showcase the details behind what we said above, that the new 2018 Samsung Q9 is an absolute powerhouse of a 4K HDR TV with some fantastic specs that in some cases outshine anything we’ve previously seen in LCD TV technology for 4K HDR TVs.
Black Level, Local Dimming and Contrast:
These crucial display specs in any 4K TV are all also entwined together as far as display performance goes. Thus they deserve being covered together. In the Q9FN, black level, local dimming and contrast all perform at the absolute best we’ve ever seen of them in a 4K HDR TV of any kind with LCD/LED display technology. Samsung has finally gone back to installing full-array LED backlighting technology in its super-premium 4K TVs and the result has propagated through every performance spec for display in some superb ways. Firstly, this also means the inclusion of particularly precise local dimming capacity, which in turn means an extremely powerful capacity for deep black levels. This then ensures excellent contrast ratios and the overall result of all these features is a level of picture quality in which bright highlights and colors stand out beautifully.
The Q9FN can deliver high-normal contrast ratios of about 6070:1 when local dimming is deactivated. This ratio by itself is excellent, but if the local dimming is turned on, the contrast ratio leaps upwards to a stunning 19,020:1, which is probably the best we’ve ever seen in a non-OLED 4K HDR TV. Black uniformity with local dimming turned on is also excellent all the way across the display of the Q9FN. There is virtually no clouding caused by light bleed and this TV creates very low halo effects around brightly lit objects in onscreen content.
Peak brightness is the maximum possible spot HDR or SDR luminosity of a complete 4K TV display or differently sized sections of its screen as measured in units of brightness called nits (or cd/m2, which is the same thing). Sustained brightness is the highest possible sustained HDR or SDR brightness that the TV screen can manage across its entire screen or parts of it for a prolonged period of time (a few minutes or more). In other words, Peak brightness consists of how luminous sudden bright spots can become and sustained brightness measures prolonged luminosity in content on the display.
The peak brightness of the Q9FN in particular is among the highest we’ve ever seen in any 4K LCD TV that we’ve reviewed so far. At its very absolute maximum, it can reach up to over 1760 nits for HDR content (which requires higher TV display brightness settings) in smaller areas of the screen and even for wider areas of illuminated display space, the Q9FN delivers extremely high luminosity. The same goes for sustained brightness in HDR mode. Even more impressively, even when used for viewing ordinary non-HDR video content, the 2018 Q9 still delivers some of the best and brightest sustained and peak brightness levels we’ve ever seen so far. In fact, its SDR brightness settings are higher than even the HDR brightness capabilities of nearly any other 4K TV we’ve reviewed so far. That’s how good this model is at lighting up its screen for rich, vibrant content.
Another important thing to note is that despite these truly stunning levels of display luminosity, the Q9FN still manages to deliver very high levels of color fidelity for highly luminous content. Older Samsung TVs couldn’t do this and though they were capable of getting very bright, a consequence was color saturation loss. Samsung’s latest version of QLED quantum dot filter technology seems to have fixed this issue.
The numbers below demonstrate what we mean for this TV’s sheer luminosity:
Samsung Q9FN SDR Brightness
- Overall SDR peak brightness for normal content: 675 nits
- Peak 2% display area display SDR brightness: 1001 nits
- Peak 10% display area SDR brightness: 1668 nits
- Peak 100% display area SDR brightness: 684 nits
- Sustained 10% SDR brightness: 1632 nits
- Sustained 100% SDR brightness: 684 nits
Samsung Q9FN HDR Brightness
- Overall HDR peak brightness for normal content: 910 nits
- Peak 2% display area display HDR brightness: 1689 nits
- Peak 10% display area HDR brightness: 1765 nits
- Peak 100% display area HDR brightness: 680 nits
- Sustained 10% HDR brightness: 1720 nits
- Sustained 100% HDR brightness: 680 nits
We’ve already covered the color performance of the Q9FN in some detail above so we’ll keep this a bit briefer by stating that it delivers nearly perfect color vibrancy, realism and saturation. There is full support for 10-bit color with virtually no banding of colors during reproduction of content with 10-bit (1.07 billion colors) color support and the wide color gamut spectrum coverage of this TV is excellent, with 97.8% of the DCI-P3 spectrum covered. Sony’s X900F, A8F and LG’s 2018 OLED TVs all do slightly better on this but the difference is so small that it’s likely to be invisible to the naked eye.
As for color volume reproduction, it’s excellent in this TV model and possibly even among the best we’ve ever seen. In both shadowy scenes and extremely bright content sequences, full color volume is maintained across the entire color gamut and that’s very impressive considering just how bright the Q9FN can get. On this front, the Q9FN visibly outperforms all of its major 2018 4K TV rivals.
White balance delta E, color delta E and Gamma in the Q9FN sit at very good levels of 0.15, 1.69 and 2.1 respectively after calibration. Out of the box however, before calibration, these same levels are not so great, sitting at 3.4, 6.9 and 2.29 respectively. We’ve seen better in cheaper 4K TVs but these details can be calibrated away for much better performance.
Motion Handling & Upscaling:
The Q9FN offers up some of the best motion blur control we’ve ever seen in an LCD TV. With response times in onscreen pixels (the speed at which pixels shift colors to adjust for moving objects in content) being the lowest we’ve ever seen in an LCD TV at 3.5 milliseconds. The Q9FN also has some very good motion interpolation capacity in its screen but this can produce a slight soap opera effect when sued for movies that play at different frame rates. It’s usually better to turn it down a few notches by setting ‘Auto Motion Plus’ to ‘Custom’ in the TV’s picture controls and making that custom value no higher than mid-range.
Motion interpolation of content at all major typical frame rates (24p movies, 30fps TV content, high frame rate streamed video and games is something the Q9FN delivers wonderfully on its native 120Hz display panel. 24p Blu-ray discs, DVDs, cable TV and broadcast TV sources as well as streaming media from both native apps and apps inside external streaming media devices can all be played judder-free if they happen to be 24p formatted. Backlight flicker is essentially nonexistent due to some major improvements in how well Samsung manages its LED backlight design in the 2018 lineup of premium QLED TVs.
Input Performance for Gaming and PC:
Samsung’s 2018 4K HDR TVs, like the 2016 and the 2016 models before them all offer excellent input lag performance for console gaming and PC use at different resolution, color and HDR settings as well as at different refresh rates. In fact they have traditionally been some of the best performing 4K TVs we’ve reviewed in terms of low input lag for console games and wide support for resolution and color formats. The Q9FN excels at all of these. It even offers very low input lag with motion interpolation activated. This is something we’ve never before seen a 4K TV pull off to a level of less than 80 milliseconds or so. The above combined with its HDR support specs makes this particular Samsung 4K HDR television into one fantastic console gaming TV for 4K, HDR and normal 1080p Xbox or PS4 Pro gamers. The following are the specific specs for its gaming performance in different console setups:
- 4k @ 60Hz: 21.2 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz: 22.9 ms
- 1080p @ 120Hz: 11 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz + HDR: 21.2 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz + HDR: 21.2 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz Outside Game Mode : 50 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4: 18 ms
- 4K @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4 + 8 bit HDR: 19 ms
- 4K with interpolation activated: 20 ms (leave the interpolation off)
We should also note that Samsung has given the 2018 Q9 some really broad compatibility with PC hardware for use as a huge PC monitor. This TV offers up full 4:4:4 chroma subsampling support and 1080p @ 120 Hz support when coupled with PC rigs. Other fully supported resolutions and color settings for PC connectivity include [email protected], [email protected], 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4. On the other hand, the Q9FN doesn’t offer 4K video at 120Hz, which is a disappointment but to be expected because it can only feed PC video sources via HDMI, which caps at 60Hz.
Like virtually all newer 4K HDR TVs, the Samsung Q9FN comes with today’s now standard and essential advanced connectivity specs. No user should have connectivity problems with this model for connecting it to pretty much any external media device or hard drive as long as all hardware is in working order. In other words, the Q9 2018 edition comes equipped with multiple HDMI, USB ports and other crucial connectivity slots. Samsung gave the Q9FN full HDMI 2.0 HDR supported bandwidth in all four HDMI ports.
We should note that unlike many other 4K HDR TVs, Samsung’s advanced UHD TV models all offer their connectivity specs inside an included One Connect box. From the TV itself, a single cable snakes out to connect to this device, which itself can be replaced and updated as needed. The following are its ports and their specifications:
- HDMI : 4 (all with HDCP 2.2 and full HDMI 2.0a capacity)
- USB : 3 (USB 3.0)
- Digital Optical Audio Out : 1
- Analog Audio Out 3.5 mm : 1
- Tuner (Cable/Ant) : 1
- Ethernet : 1
- HDR10 support: Yes
- Hybrid Log Gamma HDR support: Yes
- Dolby Vision HDR: Yes
The Samsung Q9FN TV models also offer audio connectivity in the following types.
- 1 Passthrough ARC Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough ARC DTS
- 1 Passthrough Optical Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough Optical DTS
Samsung only released the Q9F in two different sizes, 65 inches and 75 inches. Unlike the most other Samsung 4K UHD TVs for 2018, which come in at least three sizes. The two Q9FN television editions sell for the following prices, found in the links below at the time of this writing. Bear in mind that these are subject to sometimes frequent downward change and it’s a good idea to click the following Amazon links for real-time pricing and all available discounts on this model.