Samsung QN90C QLED Review: Stunning Picture

The QN90C’s onboard sound quality better matches its premium aesthetic, rising above the majority of TVs I’ve tested. While it can get a little sharp in the upper midrange, it’s got surprisingly hefty bass response and adept object tracking for a relatively immersive soundstage. I’m pretty picky about sound, so the fact that the TV speakers sufficed for the majority of my testing, even with multiple action flicks, was impressive.

I also adore Samsung’s teensy, solar-powered remote. It’s not backlit, but it’s designed to be navigated by touch, with pop-up volume and channel keys, and other controls intuitively arranged. A responsive control ring resides at the center, while a microphone key at the top calls up Alexa or Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant for smart home controls and search.

(Mostly) Posh Picture

Right out of the box, the QN90C revealed superb image quality marked by excellent contrast and punchy brightness, rich and natural colors, and vivid detail that pops across both 4K and HD content, thanks to Samsung’s fantastic picture processing.

I did the majority of my viewing in the Filmmaker Mode, with only minor adjustments. The Movie mode is also a solid choice that provides more brightness, though to my eyes it looks less natural. You can rev up HDR brightness significantly by changing HDR Tone Mapping from Static to Active under the Picture’s Expert settings, which also enhances shadow detail for better clarity in particularly dark scenes.

Shadow detail in general is well showcased, especially in SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) mode. Calling up a go-to HD torture test in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, I was thoroughly impressed with the QN90C’s handling of difficult scenes like Voldemort’s hilltop assault or the thrilling tunnel ride into the Gringotts vault, even with moderate daylight pouring in. The movie was mesmerizing in brighter scenes too, as the TV rendered the subtle color shades with depth and balance, right down to nuances like the dust on Griphook’s striped shirt.

One point where the TV underperforms is in its backlight control. Equipped with mini LED backlighting and loads of dimming zones, it can render appropriately deep black levels and excellent contrast between the lightest and darkest images onscreen. But its local dimming occasionally struggles to keep up in particularly difficult scenes, creating some minor light blooming around quickly moving bright objects.

It was only distracting in a couple of instances, but cheaper options like the U8K and QM8 offer very little noticeable blooming, if any. The QN90C is noticeably more clumsy. The pricier QN95C has more dimming zones and likely performs better in these areas.

The QN90C makes up for the occasional blooming faux pas with its off-axis viewing, which is among the best I’ve seen in a QLED TV. Unlike OLED displays, which generally betray very little picture quality loss from a side view, most backlit TVs struggle to maintain color vibrancy, brightness, and contrast from even a few feet off the center position. The QN90C mostly remedies this issue, without much compromise to other picture elements. (To my delight, its screen avoids the rainbow reflections from overhead lights found in the much pricier QN900C 8K TV.)

The detail on this TV was stunning, from the sparkled pores on Drax’s alien skin in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol II to remarkably clean 1080p and even 720p content. The TV tends to upscale lower-quality SD content with a fair bit of noise considering its cost, but the overall picture clarity was a treat across virtually everything I watched.

While I was occasionally underwhelmed by the QN90’s minor blooming, its mix of searing brightness, rich colors, and vivid details make for a fun ride. I think most picture purists with this kind of cash will still want to consider an OLED TV like Samsung’s S90C or LG’s C3 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) first, which are bright enough for the majority of homes. If you’re on a tighter budget, you’ll find more value in powerful mid-tier options like the Hisense U8K and TCL QM8, especially at sale pricing.

Samsung’s second-tier QLED is still very much a player in this game, though, especially if you’ve got a large space where folks will be seated off to the side. The QN90C is a bright-room beauty that really ties the room together.

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