Samsung Q90T 4K HDR QLED TV review: Mostly Exceptional
“The Samsung Q90T puts out a stunning picture.”
- Eye-catching design
- Excellent brightness and contrast
- Solid color accuracy
- Excellent for gaming
- Rainbow effect from screen layer
- Still expensive
- No One Connect Box
Given the Samsung Q90R was one of my favorite 2019 TVs, I had high hopes for its 2020 successor, which I presumed would be the Q90T, reviewed here. As it turns out, Samsung had some interesting plans to shake up its 2020 TV lineup, which were revealed at CES earlier this year.
Unlike the Q90R, the Q90T does not come with Samsung’s One Connect box (a feature of which I am a big fan), its backlighting system has fewer local dimming zones, and the panel layer which enables deeper black levels isn’t quite as effective. To get those features, you’ll have to step up to the Q800T, which is an 8K television.
All of this makes the Q90T look like less of a replacement for the Q90R and more of an effort on Samsung’s part to move premium buyers up to its 8K TV line. But it’s not all bad news. The 65-inch Q90T costs $1,000 less than the 65-inch Q90R did when it was released, it has a souped-up sound system, and it is available in more sizes — including 55-, 65-, 75-, and 85-inch variants.
Ultimately, the Q90T may not appear to be as advanced as last year’s 4K flagship, but it is still a remarkable TV, and will likely wind up being one of the best TVs you can buy this year.
Out of the box
The Q90T is one of the heaviest 65-inch sets I’ve wrangled since Samsung and Panasonic sunsetted plasma TVs. Most of the weight comes from the stand, a robust, sweeping brushed metal piece that attaches to the center of the TV. That weight inspired confidence that the panel would be held secure, and it is, but the TV still wobbles far more than I’d like. Definitely install a security strap for safety if you stand-mount this TV.
Do-it-yourself wall-mounters will need a friend. I dare say even the 55-inch set would require a second set of hands to wall-mount safely. I’d also advise drilling the wall-mount plate into studs, as I am not confident drywall anchors would do the trick.
In the box along with the TV and stand are Samsung’s simple yet effective remote, batteries, stand screws, and some product literature which includes a setup guide I encourage buyers to review since the method for installing the TVs stand varies depending on the size of the TV.
Features and design
The Q90T is a very eye-catching television, even if its bezels aren’t as invisible as the Q90R. It’s a bit of a black slab, with a purposefully thick profile, but I like it. Perhaps it’s all the lush brushed metal, but the Q90T looks like it means business.
The Q90T is a very eye-catching television
I’ve mentioned the lack of Samsung’s One Connect box, which takes all incoming connections from game consoles, Blu-ray players, etc. and routes power and video signal through a single, clear cable which is virtually undetectable running up a wall. Its convenience and practicality are missed.
The Q90T does have four onboard HDMI inputs, though only one of them is HDMI 2.1 capable. This means the TV supports eARC along with variable refresh rate (VRR), auto low latency mode (ALLM), and up to 4K 120Hz signals, all of which is great news for gamers.
Samsung’s processing has also improved this year. You’ll see fewer artifacts, especially when streaming content from Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or HBO Max; apps for which are all built right in. Samsung has also backed off on its tendency to over-sharpen the picture by making its picture presets less aggressive in the sharpness department. These are all welcome improvements.
As for backlighting, I mentioned earlier that there are fewer zones, but as I’ll discuss shortly, that isn’t a weak point for this TV. Samsung’s local dimming processor seems to work even better than it did last year, fewer zones or not.
Ease of use
Samsung’s Tizen OS is fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. I think most folks will navigate it easily enough. Perhaps it just feels a bit stale to me because I use it so often and have done so for a long time. I will say that Samsung’s auto-detect feature, which recognizes what you’ve plugged into the TV, labels it correctly, and allows instant control through its own remote, is something I have always appreciated about Samsung TVs and counts greatly toward this TV’s ease of use.
Compared to LG’s webOS, which is looking a little dated, Tizen makes less of an effort to tie in the smart home, which I feel makes it a little more focused on serving TV viewing needs. Tizen also matches LG’s webOS in terms of unifying free over-the-air and free internet-delivered TV channels, corralling everything into one guide.
Compared to Android TV — which is used by Sony, Tizen feels a bit more customized but less friendly to voice control. Samsung has added the ability to make Amazon’s Alexa the default voice assistant — much preferable to Samsung’s own Bixby — but the integration felt awkward to me. With Android TV, using the Google Assistant is very straightforward.
This is where things get a little tricky. From the moment I first turned on the Q90T, I could see it had a panel uniformity problem. Certain areas of the screen appear blotchy, resulting in what is known in TV circles as dirty screen effect (DSE). I have seen this on less expensive TVs, but never on a premium Samsung.
I believe this is an anomaly. Let me explain.
First off, it is clear that this TV has been used before — the TV stand screws were in a sandwich bag, and I could see some minor scuffs on the rear of the TV. Also, the TV’s box has clearly seen more than the typical shipping action. From conversations I have had with representatives at Samsung, I have also learned that getting review samples out to reviewers has been difficult given the global coronavirus pandemic and that part of that struggle meant the unit I received was probably not checked before it was shipped to me.
The Q90T is a top-notch performer.
I have requested a replacement Q90T sample and will update this review once I have made a second evaluation. I afford this opportunity only in extreme cases when I suspect a TV may have been damaged or is otherwise defective. Until then, my evaluation and score for this TV includes the uniformity issues I witnessed.
Still, uniformity is just one part of image quality. Otherwise, the Q90T is a top-notch performer.
The Q90T’s black levels are the best I’ve seen outside of Samsung’s own higher-end models (like the 8K Q900R and, likely, the Q800T which I have yet to review) and Sony and LG OLED televisions, which use completely different technology. Blooming is well controlled, which is especially evident when subtitles run over the lower black letterbox bars on some movies without turning the black bar grey.
Brightness is more than sufficient. Using Portrait Display’s Calman software along with a SpectraCal C6 HDR colorimeter and Videoforge Pro pattern generator, I measured sustained peak brightness in HDR at 1500 nits, which is plenty bright enough to deliver a stunning HDR picture that pops off the screen. Compared to the 750 nits brightness of the Sony X900H I am currently evaluating, it reads as double the number, though I’d say it is not perceptively twice as bright.
The Q90T puts out a stunning picture
Color accuracy in the Q90T’s Movie picture preset was good out of the box in both SDR and HDR. I made minor adjustments to the white balance which further improved color accuracy, but I think most people will be thrilled with the TVs color without adjustment. So far this year, only Sony’s X900H has provided more out-of-box color accuracy though with slightly lower color volume due to lower brightness in HDR. I still have many TVs to review, though, so I’ll continue to update throughout the year.
Specs and measurements aside, the Q90T puts out a stunning picture. In my case, the dirty screen effect was a distraction, but it did not detract from other performance elements. I suspect that the replacement unit I get will reveal a more typically “clean” panel as I’ve seen in the past.
I do have one complaint that I’m less optimistic will be addressed by a replacement TV, and that is a rainbow effect I have observed on the screen. This may be a side effect of either Samsung’s anti-glare treatment, or its wide-angle viewing layer, both of which are very effective at their intended purpose. This is also something I intend to look into further and will update as I learn more.
As I viewed this TV over several days, I often found myself thrilled with its picture quality. Samsung does tend to over-brighten the picture, especially in HDR modes, but I suspect this step away from technical accuracy will actually be enjoyed by many viewers. Purists, however, may want to look to the Sony A8H OLED, Sony X900H LED, or one of LG’s OLED TVs if strict adherence to creator intent is of paramount concern.
This is an excellent TV for gamers. The Q90T’s response time is among the best I’ve seen from a VA LCD panel, its input lag is also exceptional at just 10ms in game mode, and its support for Freesync VRR is going to be a huge bonus for gamers, especially when the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X arrive.
At this time, the only TVs that can compete with the Q90T for gaming would be LG’s OLEDs, which toss in Nvidia’s G-Sync VRR as icing on the cake.
The Q90T will likely turn out to be one of the best 4K HDR LED TVs you can buy in 2020. Were it not for the suspect panel uniformity problems I’ve witnessed, this TV would get an enthusiastic endorsement from me. I suspect a review of a replacement sample will lift any reservations because the Q90T outperforms every other TV I’ve seen in its class so far this year and in all prior years. It’s no small deal that Samsung is making such premium picture quality available for a considerably lower price than last year.
Is there a better alternative?
At this time, I have not reviewed a superior 4K LED TV to the Q90T. I am eager to see what Vizio brings this year, and I’m impressed so far with the Sony X900H, but if history is any indicator, the Q90T will be one of the best 4K LED TVs you can buy this year.
Check out our best televisions of 2020 for more options.
How long will it last?
With one HDMI 2.1 input, the TV is set to support advanced features for many years to come. I suspect this TV will last well into the future.
Samsung offers a one-year parts and labor warranty for home use and a 90-day parts and labor warranty for commercial use.
Should you buy it?
I’m holding off on giving this TV a Digital Trends Recommended Product award, but I still think the answer is yes, pending a resolution to the extreme uniformity issue my sample had. This is one of the best TVs you can buy this year. If you detect any panel uniformity problems — which has always been an issue to some extent across all TV brands — you can request a replacement from your authorized Samsung retailer.