Samsung remains the preeminent TV manufacturer when it comes to LCD, and while the brand triumphantly returned to OLED last year with the S95B, the major technological innovations and cutting-edge features have been saved for its QLED, and especially high-end Neo QLED models.
Samsung’s 4K flagship for 2023 is the QN95C Neo QLED TV, which offers an evolutionary leap in terms of its Mini LED backlight, doubling the number of dimmable zones compared to last year. It also includes quantum dots for purer colours, and AI-enhanced processing for a superior image.
The QN95C sports most of Samsung’s other high-tech features such as HDR10+, Dolby Atmos, comprehensive smart system, next-gen gaming features, and Object Tracking Sound Plus. An elegant design and screen sizes ranging from 55 to 85 inches rounds out an impressive package.
The Samsung QN95C is a Neo QLED TV, which means it uses an LCD panel with a quantum dot filter and Mini LED backlight. The latter is composed of individual LEDs that are 40 times smaller than those used previously, not only allowing for a slimmer chassis and sleeker design, but also significantly increasing the number of independent dimmable zones.
In fact, the QN95C has 1,344 (48 x 28) of these zones, and when their ability to more precisely focus light is combined with Samsung’s class-leading local dimming system, the resulting black levels and contrast performance can rival the best an OLED has to offer. The addition of 14-bit contrast mapping also helps, by bringing out greater detail in the shadows.
This cutting-edge beauty has a couple of other proprietary tricks up its sleeve, with Quantum Matrix Technology and Shape Adaptive Light processing combining to enhance the backlight performance by redirecting energy from darker parts of the picture to brighter areas, thus boosting the energy efficiency and perceived contrast ratios.
All of this state-of-the art backlight wizardry certainly delivers the goods, with absolute blacks on a par with an OLED, and a peak brightness of over 2,000 nits on a 10% window. What that means in English is the QN95C has the ability to display bright objects against dark backgrounds without any glowing (sometimes referred to as blooming or haloing) around them.
This makes the QN95C a genuine alternative to an OLED TV in terms of its dynamic range and contrast ratio – the difference between black and white within the same image. Even LG’s new G3 OLED TV with its MLA technology can’t compete with peak highlights that hit over 2,000 nits of luminance (although to be fair, it does get surprisingly bright).
While 1,344 zones might sound like a lot, it obviously doesn’t come close to the eight million self-emissive pixels in an OLED TV, but despite not being quite as precise, the QN95C still produces highlights that really pop, such as sunlight reflecting off the sea or a flare exploding at night. It’s only with the most demanding of material that this TV’s local dimming sleight-of-hand is revealed.
Perhaps more importantly, the QN95C can also deliver over 700 nits of brightness on a full-screen white image, which is three times that of an OLED. This means that the snowy landscapes of The Revenant or the desert sands zooming beneath the planes in Top Gun: Maverick have far greater impact on the Samsung, especially when directly compared to an OLED TV.
The other area where the QN95C is strong is in terms of colour reproduction, thanks to the use of quantum dot filters. This technology precisely focuses wavelengths at a nano level to deliver colours that are purer and more vibrant, even when dealing with very bright images. This colour prowess allows the TV cover the much larger DCI-P3 gamut used for HDR content.
This is especially apparent when watching films that have deliberately exaggerated colour schemes such as Inside Out, The Greatest Showman, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2. All three look dazzling thanks to deeply nuanced and wildly dynamic colours, and the combination of luminosity and saturation result in HDR images that are rich and impactful.
Of course, the unprecedented brightness levels and expansive colour gamut would be meaningless if the results weren’t also very accurate, ensuring the images hit the industry standards for SDR and HDR, thus retaining the content creator’s intent. Just select the Filmmaker mode and you’ll be rewarded with natural-looking images free of unwanted manipulation.
One of the key aspects of accurate HDR images is effective tone-mapping that also matches the industry standards, and here the QN95C once again impresses. The fidelity of the tone-mapping is exceptional, ensuring all the information at both ends of the dynamic range is correctly rendered without crushing the shadow detail or blowing out the brighter highlights.
In terms of HDR support, the QN95C can handle the de facto HDR10 standard, and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) – a backwards-compatible version primarily used by broadcasters and the BBC’s iPlayer. There’s also support for HDR10+, which employs dynamic metadata for more accurate tone mapping, and is now used by Prime, Apple TV and some 4K discs. Sadly, there’s still no support for Dolby Vision, which Netflix and Disney+ use, but given the QN95C’s remarkable HDR capabilities, the benefits would be minimal.
The final key ingredient in producing a great picture is the image processing, and here Samsung is peerless. It’s AI-enhanced 4K Quantum Processor uses neural networks to not only analyse the pictures, but actually learn from them over time as its database of sample images is updated, creating 4K visuals that are incredibly clean and bursting with fine detail.
Naturally the better the content, the more impressive the results, but no matter the quality of the original source material this TV will upscale and enhance it with skill. It’s clever stuff, but let’s just hope the QN95C doesn’t become self-aware and start World War Three!
The overall motion handling is equally impressive, with the 24p motion of movies and TV dramas reproduced perfectly, resulting in movement that’s free of unwanted judder or artefacts. If you’re the kind of person who prefers buttery smooth motion, the frame interpolation setting applies extra processing for improved motion resolution that’s particularly effective with fast-paced sports. Gamers will be delighted to discover the QN95C supports higher frame rates up to 144Hz.
Finally, the overall screen uniformity is also excellent, with no clouding or banding, and the screen filter is a big improvement on last year, absorbing light from the front, rejecting any ambient light in the room, and avoiding the annoying artefacts from light at the side that plagued previous models. Since the QN95C uses a VA LCD panel, there’s no danger of image retention or screen burn, but the optimal viewing angles are more limited compared to an IPS LCD panel or an OLED TV.
The Samsung QN95C is a rare beast these days – a TV that actually sounds good. This sonic prowess is largely thanks to an audio system that manages to cram a 4.2.2-channel speaker configuration into the TV’s svelte chassis. There are drivers along the bottom, sides and at the top, plus bass drivers built into the rear to handle the low-end. It’s a miracle of acoustic engineering, and thanks to Space Fit Sound it can be automatically optimised for your room.
The result is a TV that produces a surprisingly big soundstage, with sufficient presence to fill the space around the screen. It also generates decent amounts of bass, and given the TV’s slimline dimensions, you really do end up wondering how it’s even physically possible. The mid-range and treble are also nicely represented, while dialogue is clearly focused on the screen. It’s a solid all-round performance that ensures the QN95C can handle TV shows and movies with ease.
The Object Tracking Sound Plus processing definitely makes a difference with movies, analysing the audio and onscreen movement to create effects that complement the action. The height speakers clearly add another layer to the sonic presentation, with sound emanating from above the screen, and other audio effects are also smoothly moved around and across the TV to match specific movement on the screen, while the overall presentation is crisp and clear.
The inclusion of onboard Dolby Atmos decoding is another major feature, allowing the object-based audio format to take full advantage of all the speakers positioned around the screen. The result is an Atmos experience with more height, width and depth, and while there’s obviously no surround presence, there is a greater sense of dimensionality.
The QN95C doesn’t disgrace itself sonically, but if you’re investing in a TV at this price point you should probably consider an outboard sound solution. If you do decide to take this approach, the inclusion of Q Symphony means the QN95C can seamlessly integrate with supporting Samsung soundbars to create an immersive and engaging soundstage using all the available speakers.
Despite the inherent sophistication of all the cutting-edge tech inside the QN95C, it’s surprisingly easy to setup and use. Samsung’s SmartThings app takes you through installation, while the Tizen smart system is sensibly laid out and intuitive to operate. There’s also a comprehensive choice of video streaming apps.
One new feature this year is the inclusion of a slim-fit camera in the box. The idea of making video calls or hand gesture controls may seem like a throwback to 2012, but a camera can be useful with apps like Google Meet, Workout, and Samsung Health, along with the two-screen Multi View feature. If none of that’s of interest, you can simply leave the camera in the box.
Of greater benefit is Samsung’s Smart Calibration app, which allows you to get closer to the industry standards by automatically calibrating the TV using a supporting smartphone. It’s very clever, and it actually works, with the Basic calibration producing surprisingly good results. Having said that the Filmmaker Mode is already very accurate, so you may prefer not to bother.
Samsung provides two controllers: a standard black plastic zapper; and the stripped down Solar Cell remote that uses rechargeable batteries. It’s also made of recycled plastic, and while that a laudable effort on Samsung’s part, the remote is a bit disappointing for a high-end TV. If you’re looking for control alternatives, you can also use the SmartThings app, or even your voice thanks to the inclusion of Bixby, and support for Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.
The Samsung QN95C uses the company’s Infinity One design, which sports a contemporary finish and sleek styling. The Infinity Screen is bezel-less, the build quality excellent, and the elegant angled stand provides solid support while having a smaller footprint for narrower surfaces. It can also be wall-mounted using either a VESA or Samsung’s Slim Fit bracket.
Sadly Samsung has dropped the One Connect box, which is a shame because it was a great idea that made wall-mounting in particular much tidier. Despite this, there’s a full complement of connections, including four HDMI inputs, all of which support 4K/120 and ALLM, plus eARC. There’s also support for variable refresh rates, including AMD Freesynch and Nvidia G-Synch.
This makes the QN95C a fantastic TV for gamers, not just because it supports all these next-gen features, but also because of its incredibly low input lag of 9.8ms. There’s a useful Game Bar that brings all the key controls into a single interface, along with a Game Hub that curates all the gaming related features in one location, including a choice of streamed gaming services.
The Samsung QN95C doubles the number of zones in its Mini LED backlight, and then combines it with class-leading local dimming and state-of-the-art image processing to produce images that rival the best OLED TVs. Once you include the stylish design, solid build quality, capable smart system, easy setup, comprehensive streaming apps, and next-gen gaming support, you’ve got a high-end 4K Neo QLED TV that’s hard to resist.
The Batman (4K Blu-ray)
This film puts the dark into The Dark Knight, with its deliberately gloomy photography often shrouded in deep shadows, making it the perfect test of a display’s ability to render detail just above black. A punch-up in a pitch black corridor that’s only illuminated by the muzzle flashes of machine guns really lets the QN95C sort out the vigilante from the villains.
The Greatest Showman (4K Blu-ray)
This hugely enjoyable musical is chockfull of toe-tappers that prove the QN95C is no slouch in the sound department, but it’s the gorgeous production design and costumes that really impress in 4K and HDR, with vibrant colours that practically jump off the screen, beguiling your visual senses along with your auditory ones.
1917 (4K Blu-ray)
This powerful WW1 drama boasts Oscar-winning cinematography that the QN95C delivers with incredible 4K detail and wonderfully nuanced colours. The use of HDR10+ adds another layer to the already dazzling dynamic range, especially the first nighttime scenes where the inky blacks and deep shadows are penetrated by the light from falling flares.
FEATURES AND SPECIFICATIONS
Panel type: LCD
Native resolution: 4K (3840x2160)
HDR: Yes – HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ Adaptive
Tuner: Freeview HD
Connections: Four HDMIs, two USBs, optical digital audio output, Common Interface slot, satellite and RF connectors, Ethernet port, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.2, AirPlay 2
HDMI features: eARC/ARC on HDMI 3; ALLM, VRR and 4K/144Hz on all HDMIs
Video processor: 4K Neural Quantum Processor
Smart system: Tizen OS
Lag in game mode (1080p/60): 9.8ms
Sound: Object Tracking Sound Plus (OTS+); Dolby Atmos
Screen sizes available: 55-inch; 65-inch; 75-inch; 85-inch
Dimensions (with stand): 55-inch – 1225(w) x 768(h) x 232(d)mm; 65-inch – 1444(w) x 890(h) x 271(d)mm; 75-inch – 1668(w) x 1016(h) x 302(d)mm; 85-inch – 1890(w) x 1142(h) x 319(d)mm
Weight (with stand): 55-inch – 20.6kg; 65-inch – 27.9kg; 75-inch – 39.3kg; 85-inch – 49.2kg
The Samsung QN95C is a significant evolutionary leap that allows this Neo QLED TV to outshine even the brightest OLED alternatives. The result is some of the most dazzling HDR we’ve ever seen, and once you add vivid colours and peerless processing the images are often breathtaking.