Samsung 85″ QN85A Review

Introduction

I have been looking at 85″ TVs for a number of years for my study / studio setup. Partly for gaming and partly for work. Since we have an OLED already, I really wanted a QLED.

Finally, as prices dropped and the new QN models came out, I decided to get last year’s 85″ Q800T. Unfortunately, the Q800T suffered from the worst dirty screen effect (DSE) I have ever seen on a display: pink areas due to the anti glare filter not being even and the FALD (full-array local dimming) LED grid showing through the LCD panel creating an LED grid effect. Apparently these issues were not uncommon on all the FALD models from last year. It goes without saying that the display went straight back to the shop.

Although having become suspicious about Samsung’s (lack of) quality control, I decided to give them one more chance and ordered the 85″ QN85A, which is the only high-end 4K QLED in Australia at this size. I am so glad I did, because it is a night and day difference in terms of panel quality.

Read on to find out more.

Installation

Installation was pretty straight forward. An 85″ TV cannot be laid flat to install its legs (or in this case large foot), so it is assembled while still in its box. The styrofoam packaging comes off the top, and the back to make way for the installation of the foot, after which the TV can be lifted out of its box and onto the TV stand. If you were installing the TV on the wall, you would go through a similar process, except install the wall mounting hardware that goes on the TV while the TV is in its box in a similar fashion and then lift the TV up on the wall-mount hardware.

The TV is extremely heavy – 66kg while in its box and 51.6kgs with its stand once out of the box (44.5kg without the stand). Two of us lifted up the TV on the rather tall TV stand and we managed. However, Samsung recommends 4 people for both TV stand and wall-mount installation for good reason: we almost did our backs out. It is highly unlikely two average-build people can lift this TV up onto a wall mount, unless said mount is near the floor. Definitely have 4 people around if you are planning to wall mount this TV.

Look & Feel

The TV is incredibly slick with its super narrow bezel. As a huge bonus, the Neo QLEDs are half the thickness of last year’s models so the TV is also very thin, without impacting picture quality (such as by pushing that FALD right into the LCD panel).

Half the Thickness Compared to Last Year’s 85″

Usability

The TV is incredibly easy to use – right from setup to day to day use, the Tizen operating system – while pretty old school – is very user-friendly.

Apps are front and centre and the TV’s menu is relatively easy to access. However, menu access requires quite a few button presses.

This leads us to my only gripe with regards to usability: Samsung TVs only come with the simple media remote and they no longer supply the larger full remote – at least not in our region. This means that longer setup sessions will require more button presses to get to the menu and then the relevant menu sections.

The only saving grace here is that the menu is well laid out and easy to use. Samsung really leads the way in this area – even compared to an LG OLED.

The Media Remote – Where is My Full Remote?

Features

This TV is incredibly feature packed. It has all the apps you would want: YouTube Disney+, Binge, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Stan as well as all the local ones for your region. All apps support HDR and Dolby Atmos – if available.

All Samsung TVs have their Samsung branded IP TV service, with heaps of channels – some of them are actually pretty good. For example, I tend to put on the FailArmy channel when I need a laugh. I know it’s not very nice to laugh at other people’s misfortune but that channel is kind of addictive. However, if you so wish you can watch its anti-thesis of a channel called People Are Awesome or the Pet Collective if pets are more your thing.

However, what sets this TV apart from our OLED is that an Apple TV is fully built in which means:

  • Apple TV+
  • Apple iTunes rentals
  • AirPlay 2 for both video and audio streaming and mirroring from a Mac or iPhone

The only thing that’s missing is Home Kit and Apple Fitness+ support, but everything else is pretty much here. You can however access Apple Fitness+ on your iPhone and simple Airplay it to the TV. Problem solved.

Then there is Picture in Picture – however this is limited to YouTube or Samsung’s IP TV service along with another input – such as a Blu Ray player or game console. We sometimes use it if someone wants to watch a YouTube video while someone else is playing the Xbox so it does come in handy. Or how about watching a YouTube video to help with your game if you get stuck? You can do that too.

Picture Quality

General

The 85″ QN85A is a FALD display with a VA type panel and features more than 1000 dimming zones – double than last year’s 85″ top of the line 8K TVs. It also has the Ultra Wide Viewing Angle film applied, which reduces brightness somewhat but ensures you get a great picture from pretty much any angle without a drop in contrast or colour performance.

The smaller QN85A versions feature less dimming zones and an IPS display without the Ultra Wide Viewing Angle film. While they go brighter than then 85″ due to this, they also have much worse off-angle picture quality with a noticeable IPS glow at an angle.

There is literally zero DSE on my unit that is visible by eye, even better than my 65″ OLED which has ever so slight vertical banding. No issues with the FALD showing through the panel, either. I either got very lucky or Samsung has improved on last year’s issues.

However, when captured by the camera, it looks like the Anti Glare and / or Wide Viewing Angle filters introduce banding as you move around the room. This effect can be seen by eye when sitting at extreme angles but only when staring at a uniform white screen. I could not detect this effect during normal viewing so it isn’t a concern. Please see below what I mean.

Slight DSE Captured by Camera Due to Viewing Filters – cannot be seen by eye

What is however more noticeable is the slight vignetting on the perimeter of the panel and especially in the corners. This is due to the FALD not reaching all the way to the edge possibly. However, this effect is slight and isn’t distracting during normal viewing.

Vignetting In the Corners

General contrast performance on this set is simply exceptional – and goes way above the Q800T that I had here. Blooming is very very minimal and can only be seen around text in a pitch black room and not with normal content. Black bars – whether in SDR or HDR are kept pitch black. While an LCD panel does not have pixel-perfect contrast that an OLED has, it is very much approaching OLED quality with regards to the black floor and general contrast performance so the TV is exceptional for even Home Theatre type environments.

This is helped along by accurate-looking colour-performance even out of the box, as opposed to Samsung’s previously overcooked colour and gamma performance – such as on the Q800T. The TV can be made to look great even out of the box without much work.

Upscaling of lower-resolution content to 4K is done with clean sharp edges and what looks like excellent chroma upscaling – even red which is normally the most problematic.

4K content is sharp and very well handled. 24hz content is played natively and has no added judder beyond what it in the content – even with motion processing disabled.

Motion processing is generally very good – and aids in motion resolution greatly. However, it can introduce some occasional artefacts but they are not too distracting and might only be noticed by the eagle eyed.

While the TV has intelligent display modes for adapting brightness of the display to the lighting conditions, I prefer to have such features off for critical viewing. However, I understand such a feature might be valuable if the TV is used in a shared space without people wanting to mess with settings continuously. But I am not sure it is appropriate for a blog – and its readers – with cinema in its title. So turn any “intelligent”, adaptive picture settings off right now! 😉

Pretty and Bright

SDR Viewing

The TV gets very bright for SDR content and is great for bright room viewing. Colours are a little over-saturated but not to the point of garish. In fact, the TV’s SDR gamma and colour looks more accurate than an OLED out of the box and is tuned for bright room viewing. My 2018 LG OLED required a lot of work to make its SDR performance acceptable, while this Samsung is fine out of the box – apart from a blue push in all picture modes except for Filmmaker Mode. This is pretty normal for TV sets however and isn’t at all distracting.

As a side note, I don’t know if LG has gotten better with its out of the box SDR performance on their newer OLEDs – probably yes for the sets with the newly added Filmmaker Mode. Of course OLED SDR performance ends up looking exceptional once calibrated, but most people don’t have their TVs calibrated. If out of the box SDR performance is important to you, and you must have an OLED, I would recommend you make sure your OLED has Filmmaker Mode – or it is a Sony.

HDR Viewing

HDR content looks great on the set. While it doesn’t get super bright as some of the other QLEDs – or the lower end IPS models, it gets bright enough for great HDR pop, especially in the evenings. For daylight viewing, dynamic contrast setting might need to be increased to recover some of the pop.

While the QN85A doesn’t reach super high with highlights, full-screen brightness is noticeably improved from even the Q800T I had here. This means that high-brightness scenes get a real boost in overall HDR look. The TV can go from an extreme dark scene to a very bright scene with your retinas literally sizzling out of your eyeballs. It’s likely best to keep a small night light on for watching HDR movies in the dark. Nevertheless, again, excellent showing from the Samsung.

If you are already enjoying your TV, and don’t see any artefacts, it is best to skip this paragraph. As once you see it, you cannot unseen it. Here we go! The only issue with bright highlights is with fast-moving content: the TV’s backlight scanning is unable to keep up with the really fast brightness changes on fast moving smaller highlights, especially if they are next to very dark content. What this means is that they will appear dimmer than they should be until the backlight catches up. It is not overly distracting, but it does come up regularly enough that it’s worth mentioning. This can also happen when the TV switches from very dark content to very bright mixed content: the backlight might take a frame or two to catch up. This can be improved with a firmware update so let’s hope Samsung is able to address it. But I think it’s a small price to pay for the large jump in image quality overall and the inky black levels.

Talking of inky black levels, near black performance for very dark HDR content is exceptional and is very close to OLED. We were watching Dr Strange in a pitch black room. The movie has some very darkly lit scenes at times and the QLED handled them very well – with only a hint of crush in the most challenging scenes but without any distracting blooming or lifted black floor. The screen – from any angle – looked pitch black. This is truly exceptional performance rivalling OLED. This performance is in no doubt owing to the VA panel and the large number of dimming zones while the Ultra View Viewing Angle filter ensures there is no gamma or colour shift at an angle lifting the blacks or messing with the colours. The TV is therefore suitable for dark room viewing – even when sitting very close to the TV or when sitting at an extreme angle.

The TV supports HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG, while it does not support Dolby Vision. However, the TV performs Dynamic Tone Mapping on HDR10 content well which means you are unlikely to miss Dolby Vision. If needed, it is possible to get Dolby Vision working using an HDRFury device and a Dolby Vision source such as an Apple TV, but this was not tested. I will be testing this scenario with Dolby Vision gaming for the Xbox however and might report back.

Gaming Features

The TV has a new game bar which pops up when you have game-mode enabled. It has 120Hz support at 4K and picture quality is excellent in game mode. However, it’s worth trying the TV out with game mode disabled as the TV has more picture controls available – especially for story-driven games where latency is less of an issue. However, image quality at 120hz is exceptional and much better than last year’s models – definitely the Q800T that was here.

With regards to picture quality, there is ever so slight banding present with very challenging gaming content, but again the set looks much better than the Q800T which had horrible banding due to the out-of-the-box overdriven CMS and tone-mapping. The picture looks much more natural here.

Audio Quality

Built-In Audio

The TV has object-tracking sound and works really well. The speakers are likely not huge due to the thin panel but they do a respectable job of creating a great sound field – especially when adaptive audio is used. While I am not a huge fan of “adaptive” picture modes, the adaptive sound mode works pretty well here. It continuously measures the frequency response of the signal within the room using a microphone in the unit and EQs the sound appropriate for the content being played. It does work really well in ensuring dialogue is always clear and surround sound is relatively convincing – for a built-in speaker array.

Audio with a Samsung Soundbar – Q Symphony

I got the Samsung HW-Q600A as a freebie with the TV with a Samsung promotion. I have to say that the soundbar elevates the audio quality quite a bit.

Q Symphony gets the TV and soundbar speakers to work together in producing a larger sound field. The feature work well, but I think there isn’t a huge difference for most content. The biggest change is with Atmos content where the sound field does sound bigger with Q Symphony turned on. Is it a must-have feature? I wouldn’t say so!

Conclusion

There is probably a lot more to say about this TV, but I will stop here for now. If you have the QN90A available in your region, it is going to be the better set to go for as it is brighter. However, if you only have the QN85A, especially if you are looking for the 85″ size, I think this set is a great one to go for. I am very particular about having a clean-looking, sharp and accurate picture and the set certainly delivers.

Recommended Settings

SDR

For the most accurate picture mode, switch to Filmmaker Mode and set the following:

Shadow detail: -1 for day viewing, -2 for dark room viewing.

To set up Standard picture mode accurately:

Brightness: to preference (this is the backlight control)

Contrast: 45

Colour: 19

Picture Clarity: Blur reduction (3), judder reduction (5), LED clear motion off, noise reduction off

Local dimming: standard

Contrast enhancer: off

Colour tone: standard

White balance: (change: R-gain to 23, b-gain to -43, every else at 0)

Gamma: BT.1886 at -1

Shadow detail: 0 for bright room, -1 for medium light, -2 for pitch black / home theatre ( I have this at -1 for mixed viewing)

(-2 is the correct setting but shadow detail won’t be visible if there is light in the room)

Colour Space: Auto (I will post more precise CMS calibration soon.)

Out of The Box Graphs – CMS to follow soon

Using the standard picture mode, with default settings, blue is way overdriven and red is under driven. The gamma is a bit all over the place. You can see it is also quite low.

After Calibration Graphs – CMS to follow soon

After calibration, greyscale lines up very well. Gamma is also tracking really well considering you don’t have custom gamma controls or 10-step greyscale in the standard picture mode.

You do have full greyscale controls in movie mode (suitable for also taming gamma even more) but I am not a fan of the movie mode on this set as local dimming is not aggressive enough in my opinion. I may do a full calibration on movie mode down the line anyway and see how it performs.

HDR

Fimmaker Mode:

Everything at default except:

Local dimming: high

Contrast enhancer: low

ST.2084 gamma at -1 setting for dark room viewing and 0 for bright room viewing

Shadow detail: -2 or -1 (for dark room viewing / 0 for bright room viewing)

To be updated with more info as I get to do a full HDR calibration. There is some brightness drop when taking blue energy away so I will be testing how far the display – and its CMS – can be pushed without breaking things but also keeping the picture punchy and the highlights bright.

Measurement Results

Coming soon…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: