If a manufacturer can’t offer perfect blacks in a television, then they better put a ton of horsepower behind pure panel brightness and color quality. That appears to be what Samsung aimed for here with the QN90B.
While it can’t hit the “inky” blacks of an OLED, the Mini LED array and Quantum Dots make up for it with enough brightness and glare resistance to offer a great viewing experience even in a brightly lit room. But as good as the panel is, Samsung’s frustrating software along with its high asking price holds the QN90B back.
Samsung QN90B – Photos
Samsung QN90B – Design and Build
The QN90B is an attractive television when viewed from the front or the side. If you’re not going to wall mount it, the included stand is both heavy and sturdy while also managing to look nice below what is basically an uninterrupted giant screen.
Most televisions these days look basically the same now as they aim to put as much emphasis on what is displayed than on anything else. Samsung’s stand design lets it do that but also raises the panel up above your console just enough to fit most slim form-factor soundbars comfortably underneath, something that the Sony A95K doesn’t allow you to do, even if that stand is a real show stopper.
So while the QN90B isn’t going to drop your jaw quite like that, it’s far more practical for more people.
If the trend of big, thin, and heavy that comes with some televisions (especially OLEDs) scares you, not to worry: the QN90B is very light by comparison and a lot tougher. While it is still quite thin for a non-OLED, it feels a lot less like you’re going to break it while you’re setting it up.
The rear of the TV is just as simple as the front, which is nice to look at but it does result in some downsides. For one, it’s hard to tell what any of the ports are because the labels are either very subtle or missing altogether. Luckily, the eARC port can be located pretty quickly and since all four HDMI ports support full bandwidth HDMI 2.1 (which is required to get 4K at 120Hz on current-generation consoles), you probably won’t need to poke around that much back there. The QN90B supports FreeSync Premium Pro, G-Sync, and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), and Samsung also has a low-frame rate compensation system (LFC) that kicks in when there are low refresh rates to help reduce screen tearing.
In addition to those four HDMI ports, the QN90B has two USB ports, digital optical audio out, a cable coaxial port, and ethernet, but there is no 3.5mm headphone jack. The TV also supports Bluetooth 5.2 and WiFi 5 (not WiFi 6, unfortunately).
The second issue with this super-simple backside is that the cable management is pretty poor. While yes, technically you can run cables through the gutters on the back of the TV and down the rear of the stand, it’s a tedious and often frustrating and fruitless endeavor. It doesn’t fit all cable sizes, such as the extra thick HDMI cables, and I’ve never had any luck with thinner cables (such as the TV’s power cable) staying in place.
Samsung QN90B – The Remote
I have generally been a fan of Samsung’s recent remote controls and that remains the case here. The QN90B’s remote is slim, simple, and features solar charging via a panel on the back. This completely eliminates the need for AA or AAA batteries which does contribute to how slim the remote is.
While I appreciate removing unnecessary buttons like the number pad, Samsung may have gone a bit too simple here. The company combined settings, a digital number pad, and the shortcut tools into one button, which makes accessing any of those three items much slower than if they had their own dedicated button. That is especially ironic for the shortcut menu.
It’s also not that intuitive to get to the Game Bar, which requires that you hold down the Play/Pause button while a compatible gaming console is plugged in. If you miss that prompt on screen, you’ll be mashing buttons until you’re blue in the face to try and get it to pop up.
The remote has four pre-set shortcuts for different services – my review unit featured Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, and Samsung TV Plus.
Samsung QN90B – Software and UI
Speaking of Samsung’s free streaming service – it is where some of my least favorite aspects of the Samsung Tizen operating system coalesce.
I don’t know anyone who will say they love Tizen, and other reviewers I’ve spoken to are at best lukewarm on it. For me, it has become my least favorite smart TV operating system for a number of reasons.
First and most notably, Samsung shoves Samsung TV Plus down your throat at every opportunity. When you first set up the television and are looking through the settings, it will auto-start the Samsung TV Plus constantly and unrelentingly. I get that it is smart to have some actual content on screen before you decide how you want to view it, but the QN90B has so few picture options that anyone who has some familiarity with televisions is likely just going to set it one mode and leave it there, especially since there are so few options on this television (more on that shortly). You also cannot delete the TV Plus app, at least not through any means I could find.
Tizen also finds multiple clever ways to advertise to you, and by clever I mean extremely intrusive. The main app screen will always have some kind of ad on it, as will the gaming standby screen. The way it is set up, the operating system makes it hard to not hover over the advertisement which will immediately begin to auto-play. This TV loves auto-play and will always be trying to get something to start no matter what your actual desire is at the time. In short, it’s just a lot to be forced to look at for the price that Samsung asks for this TV.
As I touched on above, another issue I have with Tizen is the lack of picture options. The QN90B only offers a choice between Dynamic, Standard, Movie, and Filmmaker modes, and the settings beyond that are extremely limited. Coming from LG and Sony which give you a lot of customization options to choose from, the Samsung QN90B feels sparse by comparison.
For the casual user, this is probably a pro and not a con, since it’s easier to just start watching content and there isn’t a lot you can mess up. I can appreciate that, but I do wish there was a bit more here to support both sides of that equation.
It should also be noted that Samsung still doesn’t support Dolby Vision, but it does support HDR10+.
In addition to the new main gaming menu which I’ll delve into below, Samsung kept the excellent Game Bar which becomes available when the TV senses a connected PC or console. From here, you can adjust input lag settings and display how many frames per second are currently being shown with on-screen content. You can also adjust HDR, variable refresh rate, screen ratio, and a few other game-specific settings. This is pretty much the only menu in this Tizen operating system I really like, and I’m glad to see it here.
One menu shift over from the gaming section is Samsung’s promised support for NFT art, which can be browsed and purchased directly from the QN90B. That art can be set as the ambient screensaver when the TV is not in use if that’s something that interests you.
Samsung QN90B – Cloud Gaming
Samsung has amped up the gaming capability of this television in a way you probably wouldn’t expect: built-in cloud-based game streaming support via a dedicated gaming menu. You are given the choice among a few streaming options like Xbox Game Pass (via the beta of Cloud Gaming), Stadia, and Nvidia GeForce Now. I tested it with Game Pass and an Xbox controller and I have to admit, it’s pretty awesome to be able to fire up Halo Infinite natively on my television without owning an Xbox.
There are obviously some limitations that come with streaming a video game, and resolution is one of them: it’s capped at 720p at the time of publication. Additionally, during cutscenes, some artifacting was visible due to compression.
The Game Bar also doesn’t seem to work in this mode, which I found strange. Instead, a different and far less useful menu appears that shows games I’m not interested in and a very limited set of streaming-specific controls. I wasn’t able to get the television to display the current resolution or framerate as a result, but I don’t think I was getting 60FPS, even though that is what I told Halo to target.
The QN90B doesn’t handle menu selection requests particularly smoothly while playing a game and it can take a few seconds for it to recognize commands, but the actual game plays quite well and was pretty responsive. I was honestly impressed with how well the overall gaming experience felt, especially considering it was being streamed directly to my television with no other hardware needed besides a controller.
I think children specifically are a great audience for this feature since they will be a lot less discerning when it comes to high-end gaming features and the lower overall resolution and framerates aren’t going to be an issue.
Samsung QN90B – Picture Quality
The QN90B panel uses both Quantum Dots and a panel of Mini LEDs, which means it has a lot more control over what is displayed on screen versus a typical LED television, but not quite as much as OLED. I think of Mini LED as a tech that strikes a solid balance between good black levels and excellent brightness, since OLED panels may provide better black levels but they can’t get quite as bright as LED.
Samsung’s Mini LEDs in the QN90B provide very fine control over dimming zones, and while halo-ing around bright objects on screen is minimized, it’s not fully eliminated and I can still see it in testing. That said, it’s not really noticeable at all when watching regular content or while gaming, so most people will be quite happy with the results.
The television is capable of nailing pretty dark blacks as well, though not nearly the “inky” level that you would see in an OLED. But because the QN90B can get so bright – over 1,000 nits of peak brightness in SDR – the contrast ratio is still significant, and as such content looks fantastic on screen.
Straight out of the box, color accuracy is pretty good. I measured 97.4% coverage of sRGB, 76.7% of Adobe RGB, and 91% of DCI P3 with an average Delta-E of 2.55. Samsung touts its QLED televisions as able to achieve 100% of the DCI P3 color space, but obviously, the television did not reach those lofty heights in lab testing though it is possible that could be achieved with professional calibration.
Samsung QN90B – Screen Tests
Still, over 90% is very good and while it would have been nice to see a Delta E of less than 2, these results are great for a display that is meant to sit in your living room. I don’t, however, think it would make for a very good computer monitor.
Screen uniformity was also very good: the entire screen either hit nominal or recommended tolerance.
Almost everything looked great on the Samsung QN90B with one exception: there was a bit of stutter when viewing slow panning content. This is a relatively minor complaint as it is not something everyone will notice and it’s really only going to show up in very specific scenes.
I mentioned earlier that I use the Filmmaker Mode picture setting and that is what I recommend for those who pick up the QN90B. Outside of gaming, where you’ll need to stick with the Game Mode, the other three picture modes on this television result in weird colors, especially Dynamic and Standard, where saturation is pushed way beyond where it should be.
Samsung QN90B – Gaming Performance
Gaming on the Samsung QN90B is generally pretty great thanks to the panel’s outstanding brightness, low input lag, and excellent response time. Because the TV has so much dynamic range to work with, HDR gaming in particular can look incredible.
I played mainly Returnal and Destiny 2 on the QN90B and both games looked and played outstandingly. The particle and lighting effects that are at the core of what makes Returnal such a gorgeous game are amped up here to a level that makes them just a joy to look at on screen – even the bits of light that are actively trying to kill you look so fabulous you might not even mind being hit by them.
Gaming at 120Hz in 4K HDR in Destiny 2’s Crucible is also quite nice, and while the combat of those maps often takes attention away from the environments, it’s hard to not marvel at the colors of explosions as much as the subtle details found in hallways or the outstanding skyboxes when seen on the QN90B.
The one issue I ran into is that when in HDR, the television’s panel can be a bit slow to transition between bright and dark, such as a menu and the game world, and from light areas to dark areas.
For example, in Destiny 2, hitting the character menu from anywhere in the game world will cause the screen to briefly flash brightly white and then back to the proper exposure of the menu. Leaving the menu causes it to do that again. The best way I can describe it is akin to how slow autofocus works on older cameras. Sometimes the camera has to overshoot the focus area in order to understand where it is and then come back to proper focus. You do eventually get the photo in focus, but you also have to wait for the camera to calibrate itself every time.
The way the HDR racks in and out of brightness is a bit distracting and every time it does it, it takes me out of the game world just a little bit. It’s even noticeable when changing between games from the Playstation 5 main menu, where icons will flash bright and then dim as I move between games.
Almost every television I’ve tested does this to some degree (and I’ve complained about it before, such as on the Vizio MQ6 Quantum and Samsung’s QN90A), but Samsung’s QN90B is doing it slower and more obviously than many other televisions on the 2022 market, so it stands out.
Samsung QN90B – Audio Quality
Just about every television manufacturer will say something in their marketing about how they’re doing something fancy with audio and it is my experience that they almost always greatly exaggerate reality.
Samsung touts its “object tracking sound” technology that leverages Dolby Atmos to provide surround sound from the television directly, and it certainly does not do that. That said, it’s not terrible and while audio does unsurprisingly lack low-end and even mids, I’ve certainly heard worse from other thin televisions. The QN90B does get pretty loud as well, which is nice.
I think Samsung knows that a slim, flat television isn’t going to be capable of delivering great audio on its own (and that comes down to just the limits of physics) and so – similar to what Sony is doing – the company has a technology that links with Samsung soundbars to combine the audio coming from the TV and the soundbar together. It’s called “Q-Symphony” and while I wasn’t able to test it since I don’t own a Samsung soundbar, it qualifies as a “nice to have” feature.
Samsung QN90B – The Competition
There is a lot to like about the Samsung QN90B, but its $2,600 asking price for a 65-inch set ($1,600 for a 55-inch) feels like a lot, even if it is a Mini LED panel. That’s more than LG’s excellent C2 OLED, and even Samsung’s own new S95B QD OLED isn’t much more expensive for a 65-inch model at $3,000. Sure, these prices are before you might find any sales, but it does go to show what Samsung thinks its Mini LED panel is worth compared to QD OLED, which we know is fantastic since the current TV to beat, the Sony A95K, uses the same panel.
When I look at the QN90B, I think it compares favorably against similar Mini LED-style televisions from the likes of TCL, but it is also a lot more expensive. While yes, I think the picture quality of the QN90B is superior, it’s not so much that it deserves over double the price, especially considering the number of irritations involved with the Tizen operating system.
Since it’s so closely priced to QD OLED and OLED options, the only time the QN90B makes sense is if it is going to live in a room that has a ton of window light. There, its brightness will certainly make it desirable. Otherwise, OLED and QD OLED have better blacks, color, and pixel response time.
The Samsung QN90B features a bright and beautiful panel in a thin and lightweight chassis. It’s a really nice television, it’s just competing with OLEDs and QD OLEDs at its price which, in 2022, puts it in an awkward place.