Today, I’ll be checking out Samsung’s 65-inch QN65Q90T Ultra HDTV. It’s a VA panel with a full-array LED backlight, extended color, HDR, and high output. Quality audio comes from six built-in speakers that follow the action onscreen to create a realistic and immersive effect. A well-designed streaming interface pulls in content from every major provider including Apple TV. Gamers will delight in its variable refresh rate which works with FreeSync PCs up to 120Hz. An HDMI 2.1 input connects to the latest PS5 and Xbox consoles. Packed with features and performance, the Q90T could very well be the Ultra HD display you’re been waiting for.
Samsung QN65Q90T Ultra HDTV
- 65-inch QLED/LCD VA Ultra HD (3840×2160) flat panel
- Over 1200 nits peak in HDR mode
- Full-array Quantum Dot LED backlight with 120 dimming zones
- HDR10, HDR10+, Hybrid Log Gamma
- Six built-in speakers
- FreeSync adaptive sync up to 120Hz over HDMI 2.1
Ultra HDTVs are now most definitely “a thing.” Though you can still find plenty of 1080p TVs at super low prices, anything larger than 50 inches will almost always be UHD. And we can now say that there is plenty of compatible content to make these displays shine. Major streaming services offer lots of Ultra HD choices with HDR and extended color. Samsung’s QN65Q90T is equipped to handle all of it with one exception – there is no Dolby Vision support. While this format isn’t as widely available as HDR10, you will find it on Ultra HD Blu-ray and Netflix.
Samsung’s other big feature is its HDMI 2.1 port with FreeSync variable refresh and support for signals up to 120Hz. That’s a big one for gamers who use PCs or who plan to invest in either a PlayStation 5 or the newest Xbox. As an entertainment display, the Q90T has a lot to offer and promises high performance so without further ado, let’s take a look.
Vertical Alignment (VA) LCD
Full-array Quantum Dot LED with 120 dimming zones (15×8)
3840×2160, 16:9 aspect ratio
120Hz, variable w/adaptive sync (40-120Hz)
P3, 10-bit native
HDR10, HDR10+, HLG
1x HDMI 2.1, 3x HDMI 2.0, 1x RF antenna
1x optical output
2x USB, RJ45, Wi-Fi
4.2, 60 watts total power
56.9″ x 32.6″ x 1.4″ (WxHxD), stand depth: 11.2”
Samsung QN65Q90T Ultra HDTV Price:
Review sample provided courtesy of Value Electronics
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Samsung uses a Vertical Alignment (VA) panel as the core for the Q90T. VA is the best LCD technology for contrast with static ratios four to five times greater than In-Plane Switching (IPS). This TV uses a full-array LED with 120 zones which is fewer than last year’s model. More zones mean fewer halo artifacts where bright objects are placed against dark backgrounds. I was able to see the occasional halo when viewing very high contrast images but for the most part, it wasn’t a problem.
To enlarge the color gamut, the backlight is paired with a quantum dot layer. This technology uses chemically deposited dots to increase the spectrum. When light of specific colors hit the dots, they emit color of their own. I measured a total P3 color volume of 84.79% in the Q90T’s Movie mode which is about average for an LCD panel. If you want the greatest possible color volume, OLED is the leader of that contest.
Of course, the most important metric is contrast and the Q90T delivers plenty of it. I quickly discovered that the local dimming feature cannot be turned off, so it was impossible for me to measure the panel’s native contrast as the backlight shuts down completely when a black pattern is displayed. Based on experience, I’d estimate the figure to be around 4500:1. In practice though, the image shows a wide dynamic range with deep blacks, bright highlights, and true natural color. The Q90T looks good out of the box in its Movie mode and calibrates to a high standard.
The feature list is a long one though it has one glaring omission – Dolby Vision. Of the existing HDR formats, Dolby Vision is the best because it uses dynamic tone mapping contained within the picture data. HDR10 uses fixed luminance levels and leaves it to the display to interpolate values that fall below the encoded peak level. Dolby Vision is found on many Ultra HD Blu-rays and in some Netflix streams. But Samsung does support HDR10+ which contains dynamic metadata that works frame by frame, just like Dolby Vision. The rub is that very little content is encoded in HDR10+. But that is likely to change.
Another major feature which I also experienced in the recently reviewed LG 65GX OLED is a 120Hz variable refresh rate. Gamers already know about this if they have built or bought a gaming PC in the past five years. Through the Q90T’s HDMI 2.1 input, a PC, new Xbox or PS5 can vary the display’s refresh rate between 40 and 120Hz to prevent frame tearing and stuttering. Smoothness and response also improve when frame rates go past 60fps.
Physically, the Q90T is an elegantly styled display with a uniformly thin panel and a very heavy metal stand that weighs over 15 pounds on its own. The bezel is just 9mm wide and flush-mounted. You will barely notice a frame around the picture when the TV is on. A tiny protrusion in the bottom center has the Samsung logo and is the IR receiver for the remote.
The remote is a minimalist’s dream, but I wished for just a few more buttons. There are dedicated keys for Netflix, Prime Video, and Samsung TV Plus. A Home button takes you to the main screen where you can select a streaming provider or access settings and inputs. The handset is tiny and not backlit. You can download a phone app that allows greater control through the Q90T’s network interface.
The input panel is flush in the back with a large cable trough to keep the wiring tidy. You get four HDMI inputs, one of which is version 2.1 with eARC. You can also hook up a coax cable to the antenna input to use the internal tuner for over-the-air signals. An optical output sends audio back to a receiver or soundbar. Two USB ports can play content from external hard drives or sticks. And an ethernet port supplements the built-in Wi-Fi.
The Q90T has a lengthy setup routine that not only wants to know where you live and what your streaming preferences are but also has you set up a Samsung account. The TV found my Wi-Fi right away and I spent about 20 minutes entering information and verifying the account through an email code. Once this was done, I had to log into my providers, Netflix, Amazon, and Apple TV using their verification routines.
Bringing up the OSD takes seven total button clicks which is a bit annoying. If I could add just one button to the remote, it would be the one with the little gear on it. But I understand that most users don’t want others to have easy access to their carefully tweaked picture settings.
The Q90T has five picture modes. One is called Filmmaker which works with specially encoded content to set image parameters dynamically. On non-encoded content, it looks a bit too dark. The best choice for a natural look is Movie mode. It isn’t perfect but most users will be satisfied without a calibration. But it offers a full array of controls with gamma presets, 2- and 20-point white balance, color management, and video processing options. HDR signals get the same five picture modes but they are independent of the SDR modes so they can be calibrated separately using the same controls.
Interestingly, the Q90T’s luminance sliders work more like those on a computer monitor. Brightness does not control the black level, rather, it adjusts the backlight. Turned to its max setting, it produces over 1200 nits of peak output. To adjust the black level, there is another slider called Shadow Detail. Gamma is also an interesting control. After selecting either BT.1886 or 2.2, you get a seven-position slider that moves the entire curve up or down. You also get color gating where you can display only red, green, or blue. If you know how to adjust a SMPTE color bar pattern, this is extremely handy. Color gamut choices are Auto, Native, or Custom. Auto is the proper choice because it uses Rec.709 for SDR content and the full P3 gamut for HDR. Custom opens up a color management system which I did not need to adjust. In fact, calibration only required a few tweaks in the 2-point white balance menu for great results. With the setup complete, it was time to watch some TV!
Watching premium content on the Q90T was a very satisfying experience. Ultra HD Blu-ray still offers the best possible video quality available with nearly every title mastered in extended color and HDR. Dolby Vision discs play in standard HDR10 which looks very good showing deep blacks and brightly saturated color.
Throughout my viewing sessions, I was struck by the Q90T’s excellent audio quality. The multi-speaker array creates a large soundstage and the effects truly seem to come from different parts of the screen. While it won’t replace a true surround speaker system, I doubt many users will be dissatisfied. Everything plays clearly at high volumes without audible distortion. Turning on the Amplify option in the audio sub-menu enhances bass nicely too. It’s some of the best built-in TV audio I’ve heard to date.
I started with the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek film which is made up of either dark space sequences or brightly lit ship interiors. The bridge of the Enterprise is so white I wonder how the officers can manage to get through a shift without major eye fatigue. These tones looked fantastic thanks to the Q90T’s high brightness capability. Luckily, I didn’t experience fatigue as I was able to watch in total darkness with the TV’s brightness maxed. The zone dimming feature worked well in space scenes and I only saw occasional halo artifacts which never became distracting. I found I could turn off all the picture clarity features like frame interpolation and blur & judder reduction; they aren’t needed. The Q90T’s video processing is first-rate.
Moving on to Justice League, wondered if I’d see a difference between its original Dolby Vision presentation and the HDR10 format that’s displayed by the Q90T. While overall contrast is excellent, the super-deep blacks I see from this title on a display like LG’s OLED GX65 or the VIZIO PX65-G1 I reviewed last year aren’t quite there. If I hadn’t watched this film on those displays, I’d say the Samsung looked fantastic. But it isn’t quite as amazing from my perspective. Fine detail was equal to those displays though. Shadow areas are rich with information and textures like Batman’s suit or a concrete wall have a tactility you can almost reach out and touch.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a torture test for blacks and shadow detail, especially when Rey finds herself in Palpatine’s arena on Exegol. I could clearly see every nuance from the distant throngs of Sith to Palpatine’s distorted face and pearlescent eyes. Though these sequences are monotone, there is a wealth of depth and dimension present. I doubt anyone would not be immersed in this film when watching it on the Q90T.
Samsung’s SmartTV interface is an intuitive menu that appears at the bottom of the screen when you press the home button. You can call it up at any time and quickly select your preferred provider. All the major ones are easy to find and there are hundreds more available. I signed into Netflix and Amazon and watched a few selections in HDR. Street Food Asia is one of Netflix’s standout food shows and is shot with premium care and quality. Night scenes were a bit gray thanks to the bright streetlights of Ho Chi Minh City but the contrast still looked deep. Color also shone with saturated and natural hues and perfectly accurate flesh tones. It was easy to discern people’s ethnicity by their subtly different skin tones.
I also watched an episode of Making the Cut from Amazon which is streamed in Ultra HD with HDR. This show is all about bright colors and highlights that pop. I had no trouble watching it in the dark even though the peak whites were over 1200 nits. The Q90T handles HDR material properly with a great effect that satisfies without becoming harsh.
To give the Q90T a scaling test, I watched an episode of Man vs Wild streamed from Prime Video. The first season is standard definition, 480p, and can look quite soft. The Q90T handled this show well with a minimum of jagged lines and no visible anti-aliasing. Many displays will add edge enhancement to hide flaws, but Samsung manages to mitigate the coarse image without adding unwanted artifacts. This TV will have no trouble upconverting your DVDs and HD Blu-rays to its native Ultra HD resolution.
With any Samsung TV, Movie mode is generally the best starting point for calibration. In the case of the Q90T, some adjustments are required for the best possible picture. I wouldn’t say the TV is begging for calibration, but a few simple adjustments will make a visible improvement in color, depth, and clarity. I noted that local dimming cannot be turned off, but it didn’t seem to affect my gamma measurements.
The default gamma setting is BT.1886 so I set CalMAN to measure against that standard with the usual D65 grayscale. The pattern looks a tad warm in brightness steps above 50% but the average error isn’t too high. Gamma tracks reasonably straight but the darker areas of the image are too dark which makes fine shadow detail hard to see. You can adjust the gamma slider three clicks brighter or darker to compensate if you want to make a visual tweak.
The Q90T includes both 2- and 20-point grayscale controls. I used the 2-point and got excellent results. A 0.52dE average is pro-monitor level performance with no visible errors over the entire brightness range. It also seems this improves gamma because now it’s tracking perfectly even though I didn’t adjust the slider. If you want to tweak shadow detail only, there’s a separate slider for that but I didn’t have to use it. I was able to see every detail even with moderately bright lights on.
With Color Space set to Auto, the Q90T renders Rec.709 for SDR signals and P3 for HDR, just as it should. By default, the measured average color error is below the visible threshold though I could see a little over-saturation in the red and green mid-tones. This is a minor issue and one that few users will notice when watching actual content.
Samsung takes a unique approach to its color management system that unfortunately leaves out an adjustment for color luminance. Luckily, my grayscale tweaks lowered the average gamut error to 1.60dE, excellent performance. I would have liked to raise luminance for red, blue, and magenta but this is a small thing. Overall color quality is excellent, and I have no complaints when viewing real-world material.
To simulate an HDR10 signal, I added an HD Fury Integral to the signal path. It creates the proper tone map to allow HDR measurements using CalMAN’s special workflow. These tests, and the HDR calibration, were performed in the Q90T’s Movie HDR picture mode.
Samsung keeps the same picture mode names in place for HDR mode, but they can be calibrated independently of their SDR counterparts. I stuck with Movie mode for these tests. I also had to measure 10% window patterns to overcome the Q90T’s zone dimming which cannot be turned off. Grayscale tracking is fair with green errors that appear at 40% brightness and higher. The EOTF luminance curve is very dark at the bottom of the scale and results in some crushing of shadow detail. The mid-tones rise a little too quickly but the transition to tone-mapping is at a very high 75%. This is a very good performance.
I once again turned to the 2-point grayscale sliders and only needed to adjust the gains to achieve a significant improvement in HDR white balance. There are no visible errors across the entire brightness range. The EOTF is unchanged. I found the image very satisfying but if you want to make it darker or lighter in tone, the gamma slider is available with three clicks of adjustment in either direction.
HDR color tracks well except for the red primary which is a bit over-saturated at 80% and under-saturated at 100%. Green also comes up short of its full P3 saturation. Blue, cyan, and magenta achieve their targets with a few hue errors noted in blue. Overall, this is typical of extended color displays I’ve tested. I calculated the P3 gamut coverage at 84.79%. The Q90T’s performance is average in this regard. Actual content shows the benefit of the P3 color gamut with well-mastered HDR material.
The only failure I noted was the Q90T’s inability to render below-black information. I tried various combinations of the gamma and shadow detail settings but levels below digital 16 would not display. Above white information shows up just fine. Interlaced content works perfectly in both 2:2 and 3:2 modes with near-instant lock-on during cadence transitions. The ship clip looked very good with solid handling of jagged lines that were smoothed out with no visible anti-aliasing.
All luminance values are expressed here in nits, also known as candelas per square meter (cd/m2). For those needing a frame of reference, 1fL equals 3.43 nits, or 1 nit equals .29fL. I used 10% window patterns for these tests to mitigate the effect of the zone dimming which cannot be turned off.
After calibration to 161 nits, I was unable to measure the black level. The contrast is theoretically infinite but in practice, the Q90T appears to render the same blacks as other premium VA panels I’ve measured. I’d speculate that the TV’s native contrast ratio is around 4500:1 based on prior experience.
The brightest picture mode is called Dynamic and it will pump out a searing 1487.4229 nits peak. Its black level is also unmeasurable thanks to the zone dimming effect.
In HDR Movie mode, I measured a peak brightness of 1295.4441 nits and was again unable to measure the black level. Samsung claims 2000 nits for HDR highlights but I was unable to generate a sufficiently small window pattern to verify this.
Since the Q90T supports a 120Hz refresh rate and adaptive sync, I tested its input lag and panel response using a 1000fps video camera, Casio’s EX-ZR100. A PC equipped with an AMD Radeon RX 5700XT video card was connected through the HDMI 2.1 input. I shot footage of a mouse sitting in front of the screen. When I touch the mouse, it causes a full white field pattern to appear. By analyzing the video frame by frame, I could determine the length of time between contact with the mouse and the rendering of the pattern. I could also determine how long it took to draw the frame from top to bottom.
The Q90T was set to its Game mode which can be found in the External Device Manager sub-menu. At 120Hz, the screen draw time was 7 milliseconds which is typical for 120 and 144Hz monitors. The total control lag was 62ms which is 7 added to 55, averaged over five tests. This is slower than I expected. Most 60Hz computer monitors have a total lag time of 60-65ms. The fast screen draw is a good thing though because it reduces motion blur and stuttering when the game action gets intense.
- Brightness 15
- Contrast 45
- Sharpness 0
- Color 25
- Tint 0
- Local Dimming Standard
- Contrast Enhancer Off
- Color Tone Warm2
- White Balance 2-point
- R-gain -9
- G-gain -6
- B-gain 5
- Offsets 0
- Gamma BT.1886, slider 0
- Shadow Detail 0
- Color Space Auto
I only needed a few tweaks to the white balance high range to achieve reference-level accuracy for HDR10 signals. The Movie mode again provides the best starting point for calibration.
- White Balance
- R-gain -1
- G-gain -7
- B-gain 4
The Samsung QN65Q90T competes favorably with many similarly priced displays in the premium Ultra HDTV category. It offers solid performance for the money and an intuitive streaming interface.
- Brightly saturated image with sharp detail and excellent motion processing
- 120Hz and adaptive sync is great for gaming
- Convenient streaming interface
- Excellent audio quality from built-in speakers
- Premium styling and build quality
- A backlit remote with more buttons
- More dimming zones
There really is nothing to complain about here. The Samsung QN65Q90T is an excellent display that delivers high contrast, accurate color, and a sharp image. It has some of the best built-in sound I’ve heard, and the streaming interface is super-convenient. It upconverts legacy material expertly and adds in the adaptive sync and fast refresh that gamers need for competitive play.
My complaints are minor. The remote is too minimalist; it’s more like the secondary remote that comes with AV receivers. A full-function handset would be nice (with a backlight please). And I wished for more dimming zones. Though halo artifacts weren’t a distraction, I saw them occasionally. And there are other LCD TVs in this price category that offer better contrast with a greater number of zones. But I really couldn’t complain about the image in practice. It looks great.
The main thing that might put the Q90T on your short list is its HDMI 2.1 input. For users planning to purchase a new Xbox or PS5 system, that is a must-have. Only a few 2020 model displays have HDMI 2.1 and you will need it to get full performance from your bleeding-edge console. With that list being fairly small at present, the Samsung QN65Q90T is a compelling choice. Highly Recommended.
Many thanks to Robert Zohn of Value Electronics in Scarsdale, New York for arranging this review and providing the sample.