Samsung QN90B Review: This QLED TV From the Future’s So Bright
The best TVs I’ve reviewed use OLED screens, but OLED isn’t the be-all, end-all in picture quality. High-end TVs with LCD-based screens can get brighter than any OLED television and come pretty close in other important areas like contrast. Samsung’s QN90B is a great example, delivering searing brightness with few other compromises thanks to QLED, mini-LED and local dimming technology.
It’s a futuristic-sounding mouthful, but it works.
- Best non-OLED picture quality we’ve ever tested
- Incredible brightness with minimal blooming
- Stylish design, packed with features
- Slightly worse contrast, off-angle and uniformity than OLED
I compared the Samsung side-by-side with an LG OLED TV and while the LG won, the Samsung came as close as any non-OLED TV I’ve tested. The QN90B’s ability to focus that light output with very little blooming or stray illumination produces excellent punch, contrast and overall fidelity, surpassing the performance of last year’s excellent QN90A. And as usual Samsung’s design and features are top-notch.
From the slick stand to the tricked-out remote to a raft of gaming extras, including a new cloud gaming hub with Xbox Game Pass compatibility, the QN90B is simply stacked. If you’re in the high-end TV market and looking for an alternative to OLED, or you just have a bright room, the QN90B deserves a look.
Samsung QN90B sizes
I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch QN90B but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have similar specs and should provide similar picture quality.
The QN90B sits at the high-end of Samsung’s 4K Neo QLED TV line for 2022. Its main improvement over the less-expensive QN85B is better local dimming, according to the spec sheet. Samsung does offer a more-expensive 4K model, the QN95B, but its main perk over the QN90B is a separate OneConnect box for the inputs that allows you to run a single cable to the TV.
Samsung also charges more for its 8K series, but we don’t think it’s worth paying extra for that higher resolution. The flagship 8K QN900B has better local dimming than the QN90B and should deliver a superior picture, but it’s more than twice as expensive.
Unlike many TVs that use legs spread out to either side, the QN90B has a central pedestal stand.
Distinctive touches, excellent remote
On the outside the QN90B looks basically the same as last year’s QN90A, and that’s a good thing. Minimalist and nearly all-picture, its most distinctive feature is the stand, which Samsung’s website calls a “bending plate.” I’m here for that.
Centered, with a small footprint, it looks cleaner and sleeker than the dual legs found on most TVs. My favorite aspect is how it suspends the big panel above my credenza, seeming to float.
The clicker includes voice access via the mic button as well as streaming shortcuts keys.
Samsung’s sleek, rounded remote is my favorite TV clicker overall thanks to superior form and function. The keys are well-placed, pleasantly sparse and lack garish colors, the raised volume and channel bars are a nice change from standard buttons and the metallic, wraparound finish feels high-end.
I love that it’s rechargeable rather than reliant on batteries, and you can top it off via USB-C, the solar cell on the back or RF harvesting. I didn’t test the latter two methods.
Cluttered menu, cool cloud gaming
I went through my complaints with Samsung’s new 2022 TV menu design in my Q60B review so I’ll mention them only briefly here. Too much screen real estate is wasted with ads, clutter and items I don’t care about, while many useful functions are buried deep in sub-menus.
All the options can be fun to explore, but overall the menu looks dated and feels less personal than Google TV on Sony, for example. I’m still partial to Roku TV for its simplicity, and this iteration of Samsung’s TV menus is the opposite. Unlike the Q60B, however, I didn’t encounter any lag with the QN90B — responses were plenty quick.
A new feature for 2022 is Samsung’s game hub, which features cloud gaming from services like Xbox Game Pass and Google Stadia, as well as quick access to connected video game consoles.
I tried it out with a fast wired Ethernet connection, as Samsung recommends, and the experience playing Halo: Infinite was pretty good. My Xbox controller paired easily to the TV and responses were quick as I fought grunts and rode the Mongoose across the map. Graphics were quite a bit softer than the game on an Xbox Series X, as expected, but gameplay was similar.
As with all cloud services your mileage may vary. I tried out a much slower Wi-Fi connection, for example, and the game was unplayable. But assuming you have a good connection (Samsung recommends 50 Mbps or more), the ability to play games using just the TV, without needing a console at all, is really cool.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on Samsung TVs lets you play games directly on the TV using cloud streaming, no console required.
As with last year you can choose between Alexa, Google Assistant and Samsung’s own Bixby for your voice assistant, accessible by speaking into the remote or via speaking the wake word (“Alexa,” for example) into thin air. (The always-listening mic can be disabled if you want.) The TV also works with Apple AirPlay.
Cutting-edge LCD TV tech
The most important image quality feature on the QN90B is that Neo QLED, mini-LED powered backlight with full-array local dimming.
Local dimming improves LCD image quality by making certain areas of the picture dimmer or brighter in reaction to what’s on the screen, which significantly boosts contrast, while CNET’s testing has found mini-LEDs are brighter than larger ones. Judging from Samsung’s obscure “quantum HDR 32X” spec the QN90B has more dimming zones and brighter images than the step-down Q85B, and fewer zones than the 8K models, but Samsung doesn’t say exactly how many zones (or how bright). It does tout new-for-2022 “shape adaptive light control” processing, said to reduce blooming and stray illumination, and it seems to work well.
|Full array with local dimming|
|HDR10, HDR10 Plus|
|Samsung Smart Hub|
|Voice with USB, solar recharging|
Like all of Samsung QLED TVs, as well as most higher-end TVs from Vizio, Hisense and TCL, the QN90B’s LCD panel is augmented by a layer of quantum dots — microscopic nanocrystals that glow a specific wavelength (that is, color) when given energy.
The effect is better brightness and color compared to non-QD-equipped TVs. The QN90B uses a true 120Hz panel, which improves the TVs’ motion performance. The set supports high dynamic range content in the HDR10 and HDR10 Plus formats.
Samsung TVs lack the Dolby Vision HDR support found on most competitors’ HDR TVs. I’ve seen no evidence that one HDR format is inherently “better” than the other, so I definitely don’t consider the lack of Dolby Vision a deal-breaker on this TV.
Connectivity is ample on the Samsung QN90B TV, with 4 HDMI that can all handle 4K/120Hz signals, 2 USB ports, an Ethernet connection and more.
Connectivity is excellent. All four of its HDMI inputs are compatible with 4K/120Hz signals, so if you have multiple devices that output it — like a PlayStation 5 and an Xbox Series X and a high-end PC card (you know who you are…), you’re all set.
The QN90B also handles variable refresh rate, including AMD’s FreeSync Premium Pro and standard VRR formats, ALLM (also known as Auto Game Mode) which lets it automatically switch to game mode to reduce input lag when it detects you’re playing a game, and eARC.
- Four HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.1, HDCP 2.2
- Two USB 2.0 ports
- Optical digital audio output
- RF (antenna) input
- RS-232 port (minijack, for service only)
- Ethernet (LAN) port
The list is mostly solid, unless you happen to own a legacy device that requires analog video (component or composite) or audio. Like many new high-end TVs the QN90B lacks analog inputs entirely, audio or video. On the flipside, it is one of the few TVs with a built-in ATSC 3.0 tuner for Next-Gen TV signals.
The channels also run the length of the TV from the power cable to the input section.
Picture quality comparisons
For my comparisons I set up the Samsung QN90B next to two other high-end TVs, the Sony KD-65X95K, another mini-LED-equipped model, and the LG OLED65C1P, an OLED-based TV and my current Editors’ Choice.
I would have liked to use the newer C2 in my comparison but it wasn’t available, and the C1 is a good substitute since the two have similar picture quality. TV and movies: As usual I started my comparison with the montage from the Spears and Munsil HDR benchmark, and the Samsung’s brightness advantage over the other two was immediately apparent. The snowcapped mountains, desert sand, clouds and other well-illuminated areas had more impact next to the Sony and LG.
Meanwhile in dark scenes with mixed content, like a nighttime cityscape, the LG looked more natural with truer shadows, while the Samsung and Sony appeared slightly more washed-out. The color of the white snow and other areas on the Samsung also looked a bit bluer and less-accurate than the others, but it’s nothing that would be noticeable outside of a side-by-side comparison.
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The Samsung did a superb job of controlling blooming, or stray illumination that can leak into dark areas from adjacent bright ones. In the montage’s difficult black-background scenes, for example the pen tip and the honey dripper, I saw only very faint brightness near the edge of the brightest objects on the Samsung while the Sony was worse.
Especially considering its brightness the QN90B’s lack of blooming is remarkable, although of course the OLED didn’t show any blooming whatsoever. Switching to an actual movie, The Gray Man on Netflix, the LG pulled ahead a bit. In the dramatic dark scenes like the initial interrogation or the Bangkok nightclub, the OLED TV’s ability to preserve darkness in shadows game it a more theatrical look.
The Samsung was still excellent, however, and the brightness advantage in the fireworks over the city, for example, was clear over the dimmer OLED. Again the Sony trailed the other two slightly, with dimmer highlights than the Samsung and more obvious blooming, particularly in the letterbox bars.
Game Mode on Samsung TVs includes numerous settings for various types of games, as well as status displays for advanced features like variable refresh rate and frames per second.
Gaming: The QN90B is a very good gaming TV but I liked image quality in game mode on the other two better. Playing Stray on the PS5, colors looked over-saturated and inaccurate in most of the Samsung’s modes, making the leaves of the foliage appear lime-colored, for example.
The exception was Sports mode, which tamed colors (especially green) somewhat and brought them somewhat closer to the more-accurate LG and Sony. Of the other picture modes – Standard, RGP, RTS, FPS and Custom – I found it difficult to see any difference between the first four. I also noticed occasional banding in bright-to-dark areas of Stray, for example around the lights when the kitty fell down the sewer and the picture faded to black and then back up.
The LG and Sony looked smooth by comparison. In certain mixed scenes the Samsung’s brightness was too much in a dark room, and I ended up using Custom picture mode and reducing brightness from the default 50 to around 10, but that’s mainly a matter of personal preference and room lighting. I did appreciate that the TV automatically detected my Xbox and switched to game mode, and that the game bar displayed status icons for various settings, confirming when I was using VRR or 120 frames per second, for example.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, for example, looked buttery smooth in those settings. There are three choices to reduce input lag and I kept it on “Fastest,” which measured a respectable 10 milliseconds, compared with 14ms and 23ms for “Faster” and “Fast,” respectively. Bright lighting: The QN90B is technically the brightest TV I’ve ever tested, beating out the Hisense U8G in its brightest settings.
I say “technically” because its Dynamic numbers, listed below, are badly inflated. Even so it’s exceedingly bright in its accurate modes too, especially compared to competing OLED models.
Light output in nits
As usual the Samsung’s brightest setting, Dynamic, has woefully inaccurate color. For the accurate measurements I used Movie mode with both HDR and SDR, although for SDR the Movie number was achieved by setting the local dimming to High (go to Home > Menu > Settings > All Settings > Picture > Expert Settings > Local Dimming).
The QN90B maintained steady HDR light output over time in Movie and Filmmaker modes, but in Dynamic mode with both HDR and SDR it fluctuated significantly, starting out at 3,300 and 2,600 nits respectively but falling almost immediately to around 500 — almost a sevenfold decrease, which is massive. I’ve seen that behavior on past Samsung TVs as well and it seems designed to achieve prominence in charts like the one you see above. No other TV brand I’ve tested shows anywhere near that level of brightness change.
This issue in Dynamic mode isn’t a huge deal for me, however, because I don’t recommend using that mode anyway. Samsung’s light-rejecting screen remains the best in the business, maintaining contrast and punch in bright lighting, and reducing reflections, better than the Sony and the LG. The screen, combined with the QN90B’s prodigious light output, make it the best TV I’ve ever tested for bright rooms.
Uniformity and viewing angle: With test patterns I saw minor variations in brightness across the Samsung’s screen, more so than the Sony and LG, but I didn’t notice them during regular video. From off-angle seats to either side of the sweet spot directly in front of the TV, the two LCDs lost color and black level fidelity at about the same rate, while the LG was essentially perfect. The Sony’s blooming was more noticeable from off-angle, however.
In-depth picture settings on the Samsung QN90B include adjustments for its full-array local dimming feature, among many others.
Picture setting and measurement notes
The default Movie and Filmmaker modes were the most accurate, and pretty much equally so.
For HDR, grayscale in bright areas was less-accurate (skewed too much toward green) than I expected in the default Warm 2 setting – switching to Warm 1 helped a bit (it was still too blue, but better) so that’s what I’d recommend using. For the Geek Box measurements below I went with Filmmaker/Warm 1. In its favor the Samsung’s EOTF for HDR was excellent.
Some other reviewers have reported that 2022 Samsung TVs, namely the S95B QD-OLED TV and the QN95B QLED TV, “cheated” measurements by improving brightness and accuracy with standard 10% window patterns. When using non-standard-sized windows, they reported significantly less-accurate color as well as lower brightness. I did not see evidence of cheating on my Samsung-supplied QN90B review sample.
I took measurements with various non-standard grayscale window sizes (7%, 9%, 11% and 13%) in HDR (Filmmaker mode) and they were quite consistent in terms of peak brightness, color accuracy and EOTF compared to the standard 10% window. The same goes for 9% and 10% windows with color patterns (ColorMatch HDR). I also measured peak brightness over time and for a two-minute period the image maintained a healthy 1900-ish nits in Filmmaker mode (although as mentioned above, it fluctuated wildly in Dynamic).
I don’t doubt the reports of other reviewers, but for whatever reason I didn’t experience this issue. Smoothing, also known as the soap opera effect, is completely disabled in Filmmaker Mode, which I prefer for TV shows and movies. In Movie mode there’s more-noticeable smoothing turned on by default (Judder Reduction = 3), but you can adjust it to your heart’s content by choosing a preset or tweaking the Custom sliders (Menu > All Settings > Picture > Expert Settings > Picture Clarity Settings > Custom).
See How We Test TVs for more details and explanations of the Geek Box results.
Portrait Displays Calman calibration software was used in this review.