The 55in Samsung QE55Q90R is the smallest version available of Samsung’s top-of-the-line 2019 4K TVs. As Samsung’s 4K flagship QLED set, it promises pin-sharp contrast, cinematic colour and an engine capable of upscaling lower resolution video to an acceptable 4K approximation. But the world doesn’t turn on a promise.
The larger panelled 65in Q90R from Samsung already received full marks from our reviewers and the 55in version should, in theory, fare similarly. It has the same processing, features and quantity of pixels, after all, but packed into a smaller chassis. Of course, it doesn’t always work out like that...
For all that OLED TVs are ultra-thin, they usually have a chunky section on the rear. After all, manufacturers have to put the processing components and speaker driver units somewhere. The Samsung QE55Q90R may not be as thin as an OLED at its narrowest, but at least its profile is consistent. It’s the same 4cm depth all the way down and looks all the better designed for it.
The stand is a tasteful, weighty aluminium bracket, which not only minimises visual impact and creates as small a footprint as possible, but also leaves room for a soundbar.
Screen size 55in
Resolution 3840 x 2160
HDR formats HDR 10+, HLG
HDMI inputs x4
USB inputs x3
Voice assistants Bixby, Google Assistant, Alexa
Max power 200W
Dimensions (hwd) 123 x 78 x 24cm (with stand)
Weight 24.7kg (with stand)
There’s virtually no bezel on the front and you’ll only find one relevant socket on the rear where Samsung’s discreet linking cable joins the TV to the external One Connect box that houses all of the Q90R’s ports – that’s four HDMIs, three USBs, plus optical, LAN and aerial sockets.
The One Connect is a stroke of wall-mounting and cable-changing genius, and something we expect other manufacturers to ape. But for now, it’s just another great reason to buy a Samsung.
Further reasons include the excellent TV interface, the well designed, stripped back remote (there’s also a standard zapper in the box), and the fact that these sets now include the excellent Apple TV app – which hosts the biggest selection of pay-as-you-go 4K HDR films available anywhere – as well as every other important video app, from Netflix and Prime Video, to Google Play Movies and TV and all of the UK’s major catch-up services.
Then, of course, there’s Samsung’s well-implemented Ambient mode, which can turn the TV into a piece of decoration with a choice of tasteful lighting patterns, can display digital pictures or even blend into the surroundings using a picture of the wall behind.
For 2019, what Samsung has here feels like the best around in terms of both user-experience and content. Add in the smart aesthetics and physical attributes of the Q90R and it’s hard to see anything better designed right now.
We put on a 4K HDR disc of The Martian, and the opening shots are breathtaking. The blackness of space is not far from the excellence of OLED. Thanks to some carefully controlled local dimming, it is pin-pricked beautifully by a gorgeous smattering of distant stars that vary in density from sparse to Milky Way thick. The sun rises across the curved surface of the red planet.
As we pan across the landscape of rocky red mountains and giant orange deserts, the colour is subtle, varied and organic. The landscape really pops with the shadows cast by the low sun rendered with great nuance by this TV. The detail in those dark areas is excellent, with enough depth to draw us right in to the three-dimensional martian world.
With the motion processing technology set low, a good trade-off between judder and the dreaded soap opera effect is easy to achieve and the landscape passes by smoothly enough.
Once we switch to the action of the NASA astronauts, we get some spectacular examples of how well this 55in TV handles HDR content (HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG are all supported). Internal shots of the grey and white artificial habitat, populated by white clad scientists, are a wonder of monochrome. Each piece of furniture is clear and well defined and there’s an obvious contrast between the different materials they’re made from.
When we head to an external shot of Matt Damon gathering data, the fabrics and textures on show are superb. There’s a brilliant and striking difference between the dusty surface of the planet compared to the neatly dimpled and carefully engineered finish of Damon’s space suit.
There’s excellent detail on the white polythene tiling of the habitat’s outer layer. We can see every fold in the plastic and the sheen of the harsh light as it ripples in the wind. It all combines for a genuine sense of reality that a film like this needs to help suspend our disbelief with as little effort as possible.
We drop down to Full HD with John Wick. The detail of the sweat on Wick’s face as he scrubs the blood from his floor is not a long way short of the clarity we saw in The Martian. Wick’s pores are well defined and his eyes lay bare the growing conviction of his impending rampage as clearly as the screen picks up every beard follicle on his cheeks.
Dark details remain reasonably good in John Leguizamo’s workshop office. The blacks and greys of the tools and machinery are clear enough to have an idea of what’s back there but there’s also a graininess that creeps in at times.
This is particularly obvious on the roof scene where the Russian gangster kingpin receives his Wick-news phone call. Both the twilight sky and concrete tower come out a little coarse. The Digital Clean View tech helps smooth things out, but it’s not perfect.
Once down into standard definition with Aliens, the action is much more pixelated, but still watchable. Dark areas on the screen become flat patches and the texture of clothing is fairly non-existent, but that’s only to be expected. Broadcast TV at SD is a little easier on the eye – Brooklyn Nine-Nine is an easy view, but the guests on the This Morning sofa are somewhat overblown.
Even at 4K, the colours are just a shade less natural in this 55in size, compared to the 65in Q90R, but there’s little in it.
We play Bohemian Rhapsody in 4K – with its mix of dialogue, and live and recorded performances – to see how the Samsung QE55Q90R performs for sound.
The only real choice for the user is whether to go with audio set to Standard or Amplify. With the latter, the speakers open the sound out, giving a better sense of atmosphere when we see Queen at Live Aid.
We get a proper idea of the huge Wembley crowd and the sound of the band echoing around the stadium. Listening to Mercury play Love Of My Life on the piano, the low level dynamics are kinder, too, and there’s a degree of emotion in his voice that is flattened when we switch back to Standard mode.
There’s more authority at the bottom end in Standard, but it is a little muddy and the detail is less pronounced. We prefer listening to Fat Bottom Girls like this, but on balance, would probably stick with Amplify.
What’s clear is that the speakers in the 55in version of this set pack less of a punch than those in the 65in model. Predictably, it’s the bottom end that suffers on the QE55Q90R. There’s far more weight to the bass in the larger panel size and, if you’re determined to not buy any external sound for your TV (though we suggest you do) then you might want to consider the 65in model, or opt for a more audio-focused TV, such as the Panasonic TX-55GZ950B.
Picture-wise, this is more or less the excellent QE65Q90R in a smaller, more affordable package, and that makes it one of the most stunning 55in TVs you can currently buy.
It’s a little less convincing in the audio department, but we would always recommend partnering a premium TV with a dedicated sound solution anyway. If you’re going to follow that advice, you should definitely consider the QE55Q90R.
- Picture 5
- Sound 4
- Features 5
Read our Samsung QE65Q90R review
Read our Panasonic-TX-55GZ950B review