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(Pocket-lint) - The Samsung QN90 is a mid-range Neo QLED 4K TV, using an LCD panel with a Quantum Dot filter and a Mini LED backlight to increase the number of dimmable zones – which is all designed to make for more accurate backlighting, without haloing or other irksome undesirables. 

There's a Tizen-powered operating system, along with support for a variety of high dynamic range format – HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, but not Dolby Vision – while all the main streaming platforms are present and correct, plus a bevvy of gaming-related features that we'll get into in this review.

Design, connections and control

  • 4x HDMI inputs with eARC; 2x USB; Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; AirPlay 2

The Samsung QN90 retains many of the same design cues found further up the Neo QLED range, with a minimalist appearance, nearly bezel-less screen, and cleverly hidden speakers. The stand is well made, provides solid support, and measures 465 x 205mm – so is ideal for narrower surfaces.

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It's amazing that Samsung can cram a full-array backlight into a panel only 15mm deep, but it means the QN90 looks gorgeous when wall-mounted (especially using the optional 'slim-fit' bracket). As a result it's ideal for installing in a bedroom as a second TV.

The main difference between the QN90 and the higher-end QN95 is the lack of a One Connect box – which, in the latter set, houses all the connections away from the panel itself. With the QN90, however, all the connections are instead located at the rear, with four HDMI inputs, one of which supports eARC, and all of which are capable of handling 4K/120Hz, VRR and ALLM.

There are also two USB 2.0 inputs, twin tuners for terrestrial and satellite broadcasts, a CI slot, an optical digital output, and an Ethernet port. In terms of wireless connections, there's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and support for Apple AirPlay 2.

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In addition to the standard controller, Samsung has included the new Solar Cell remote. It's remains sleek, metallic and ergonomically-shaped, but now this intuitive zapper sports a solar panel on the back to recharge the batteries – making it eco-friendly and economic as well.

Features

  • HDR Support: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ Adaptive
  • Processing engine: Neo Quantum 4K Processor with AI
  • Anti-reflection screen and Ultra Viewing Angle
  • Filmmaker Mode

The Samsung QN90 uses a Mini LED backlight that's based on a newly-designed micro layer that eliminates the protective packaging and lens around an LED, resulting in thinner panels, more LEDs, and an increased number of zones. In total there are 448 independently dimmable zones, all of which are coordinated by the Quantum Matrix system.

Samsung's Neo Quantum Processor increases the processing power by employing "multi-intelligence deep learning". Instead of a single neural network, this processor combines up 16 to create a neural analyser that's specialised for upscaling and processing video. This processing automatically adjusts the brightness, sharpens the contrast, and upscales non-4K images.

High dynamic range (HDR) is supported in the form of HDR10, HLG (hybrid log-gamma), and HDR10+ Adaptive – the last of which uses dynamic metadata designed to adapt the tone-mapping on a scene-by-scene basis, and employs a sensor to customise the performance based on the ambient lighting conditions in your room.

Sadly, Samsung still refuses to support Dolby Vision – which is a shame, as it's perhaps the most utilised HDR format.

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The combination of Mini LED and Quantum Dot technology produces increased brightness and a wider colour gamut, which should result in a better HDR experience. The QN90's peak brightness hits 750nits in Dynamic Mode, and 650nits in the more accurate Filmmaker Mode, while the colour gamut covers 94 per cent of the DCI-P3 colour gamut (as tested using Portrait Displays Calman Color Calibration Software).

Another feature is an anti-reflection layer on the screen to reduce the impact of ambient light in the room, making this an effective TV for daytime viewing. Finally, there's ultra viewing angle technology to reduce the colour and contrast drop-off experienced when viewing LCD TVs at extreme angles.

Picture quality

The Samsung QN90 might be a mid-range model, but its performance is comparable to the higher-end TVs in the Neo QLED line-up. It certainly puts those local dimming zones to good use, coordinating them in a way that delivers deep blacks and bright peaks without clipping the highlights or crushing the shadow details.

The QN90 also handles 4K images with precision, ensuring every pixel of detail is finely rendered. As a result a high-quality source will look exceptional, although thanks to the AI-enhanced processing it can also get the best out of lower resolution and more compressed content. So whatever your viewing habits, this TV has you covered. 

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The set is equally impressive when it comes to motion handling, with 24p content looking smooth, free of judder or unwanted artefacts. The Picture Clarity motion settings apply frame interpolation to smooth things out, making them useful with sports content, while LED Clear Motion uses black frame insertion, darkening the image, but improving the perceived motion.

Running through a range of test scenes, the QN90 proves to be a very capable performer. It displays the nighttime sequences in Planet Earth II without introducing noticeable blooming, and reproducing every pixel in the wonderful 4K photography. The bright and detailed Italian vistas in Luca are also delivered using a saturated palette that's bursting with primary colours.

The QN90 renders standard dynamic range (SDR) content with authority and accuracy, especially in Filmmaker Mode, ensuring the original artistic intentions are retained. The same goes for HDR, where the space-bound sequences in Passengers are tone-mapped with precision, while the HDR10+ visuals in Looper are also handled correctly.

Since the QN90 uses an LCD panel, there's no danger of screen burn (as you can find with OLED), and it includes a host of features aimed at next-gen gamers, such as 4K/120Hz, variable refresh rate (VRR) with AMD Freesync Premium Pro, and auto low-latency mode (ALLM). The Game Mode delivers a 9.8ms input lag, and there's even support for the 21:9 and 32:9 ultra-wide aspect ratios offered by a number of PC games.

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To help users optimise their gaming experience, Samsung has added the new Game Bar feature. This provides all the key gaming information at a glance, such as whether there's HDR, the frame rate, and if VRR has been engaged. It also provides direct access to all the gaming settings and adjustments, which makes this a genuinely useful feature.

Whether you're catching up on your favourite TV show, watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or indulging in a marathon gaming session, the QN90 has you covered with an accomplished all-round performance that won't disappoint.

Smart features

  • Tizen OS
  • SmartThings app
  • Alexa/Bixby voice assistants built-in

The Samsung QN90 uses the Tizen-powered smart platform, which is responsive, intuitive and easy to navigate. There's a launcher bar along the bottom and a second layer that provides faster access to the video streaming services, which are comprehensive and include Netflix, Amazon, Now TV, Disney+, Apple TV+, Rakuten, YouTube, and all the UK TV catch-up services.

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The Universal Guide helps you keep track of all this content by presenting it in a user-friendly interface. It uses AI machine learning to analyse your viewing habits and present personalised content on a single page. The Digital Butler allows for quick and easy connection by scanning for nearby devices and representing them in an easy-to-understand graphical fashion.

The QN90 offers a choice of smart assistants, too, with Samsung's own Bixby and Amazon's Alexa both built-in – plus you can also access Siri via Apple's AirPlay 2. Bixby and Alexa offer a degree of voice control, while the SmartThings app not only makes setup quick and easy, but provides a degree of control if you don't fancy using the include remotes or your voice.

Sound quality

The QN90 is competitively priced, available in 50-, 55-, 65- and 75-inch screen sizes. The unit reviewed here is the 50-inch (QE50QN90A) model, which is important to note because it has the 'Lite' versions of Samsung's sound technologies (Object Tracking Sound (OTS; which enhances the presence of sound positioning relative to screen) and Q Symphony (which pairs the TV speakers with a separate soundbar system)) – whereas all the larger panels have the full-fat variants.

As a result the audio performance is actually quite good, with an open soundstage, solid bass, clear dialogue and decent amplification. There's an optimisation feature to fine tune the audio based on the acoustic environment and whether the TV is stand- or wall-mounted, and while there's no on-board Dolby Atmos decoding, the QN90 can send Atmos back via eARC from its internal apps.

Verdict

The Samsung QN90 is a cracking all-rounder at a very competitive price. It might be a mid-range TV, but its performance and features are comparable with more expensive Neo QLED models. There's also a comprehensive selection of most streaming services imaginable, making it a great choice as a second TV for a bedroom.

The QN90 is also an ideal partner for next-gen consoles, with its cutting-edge features and immunity to screen burn resulting in an enjoyable gaming experience. If you're looking for something to use primarily for gaming this TV has you covered, and it's bigger and cheaper than most dedicated gaming monitors too.

The Samsung QN90 is certainly a feature-packed TV, but as already mentioned there's no support for Dolby Vision, and no onboard decoding of Dolby Atmos. Otherwise the QN90 is hard to fault, offering an impressive set of features considering its price.

Writing by Steve Withers. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 28 September 2021.