Sometimes it’s easy to understand the differences between ‘television range A’ and ‘television range B’. They might use different technology, they might have differences in specification, they might have different features, there might be a big difference in the asking price.
But what if the differences are not as obvious as all that? What if ‘A’ and ‘B’ are both from the same manufacturer, both similarly specified, both use the same technology and both have very similar feature-sets? How are you supposed to know which one is best for you?
That's the situation with the Samsung QN90B and Samsung QN85B. Both feature use the mini-LED technology Samsung likes to call ‘Neo QLED’. They look pretty much identical as physical objects. They have a lot of specification similarities.
So let’s look at the differences, and see if we can’t establish which one is more appropriate for your needs – and don't forget to check out our full Samsung QN85B review for extra in-depth info on that model.
Samsung QN90B vs Samsung QN85B: Prices and sizes
Naturally, Samsung wants these models to appeal to as many folks as possible, and so they’re available in quite a wide range of screen sizes between them. But – and we can’t overstate this – it’s important to buy a TV that’s appropriate for your viewing space. Just because you can afford a bigger TV doesn't mean you should necessarily get one. Not unless you want to feel intimidated by your own TV, that is. Equally, buy a television that’s too small and you’ll feel short-changed almost straight away.
The Samsung QN85B comes in four different sizes. It officially costs £1,399 / $1,299 for a 55-inch screen, £2,199 / $1,799 for a 65-inch model, £3,299 / $2,299 for the 75-inch versionm and £4,699 / $3,299 for the 85-inch screen.
The QN90B, meanwhile, can be found in six different sizes. It starts with a 43-inch screen for £1,099 / $1,199, the 50-inch alternative is £1,199 / $1,599, the 55-inch model costs £1,499 / $1,599, a 65-inch version is £2,299 / $2,299, there’s a 75-inch screen that’s £3,499 / $2,999, while the 85-inch whopper is £5,199 / $3,799.
Apart from a) the alarmingly high pricing for UK customers relative to their American counterparts and b) some localized weirdness in pricing (a 50-inch version of the QB90B that costs the same as the 55-inch version in the US?), the most obvious takeaway is that there’s really not all that much to choose where pricing is concerned – though we're already seeing discounts on Samsung's 2022 TVs, so watch for the latest prices, which will change this balance slightly.
But generally, unless you want a 43-inch or 50-inch screen, we need to find more compelling reasons to make a choice between the two sets than the prices.
Samsung QN90B vs Samsung QN85B: Design
The similarities just keep on coming when you look at the TVs. These are both Neo QLED models, which means they use mini-LED backlighting with a Quantum Dot panel, and they both share the same design – Samsung refers to it as ‘sleek design’, and when a television is a mere 27mm deep (and consistent with it) it’s hard to argue with the description.
Put them side-by-side and you’d be very hard-pushed indeed to guess the difference between them. The QN85B has a silver trim and slightly chunkier stand design, while the QN90B is all black with a curvier stand shape, but that's about it.
Both are compatible with Samsung’s ‘slim fit’ wall bracket, and if you don’t fancy that option they both come supplied with a central pedestal stand that makes them usefully laid-back about the size of the surface they stand on.
Samsung QN90B vs Samsung QN85B: Screen and sound
They use the same Neo Quantum Processor 4K picture processing engine. They’re both compatible with Samsung’s ‘Q Symphony’ range of soundbars (which allow the TV’s audio system to continue to contribute even if a soundbar is attached). They both come with a couple of remote controls – a nice solar-powered one, and a nastier battery-powered alternative.
So what exactly are the differences? Can it really be just be ‘+5’ in the model numbers?
Well, no – not quite. The QN85B and QN90B are more similar than they are different, but there are worthwhile divergences. You just have to look (quite hard) for them.
Peak brightness is one. One of the main selling-points of mini-LED is its relative brightness compared to more conventionally backlit LED screens or to the best OLED TVs, but the QN85B is rated HDR1500 (which basically means the screen can deliver 1500 nits of peak brightness). The QN90B, meanwhile, is rated by Samsung at HDR2000 (which – you’ve guessed it – means 2000 nits of peak brightness). So if you’ve cataracts you’d like to cure, you know which model is best for you – although the 50-inch model and 43-inch model are both only rated for HDR1500.
The QN85B has what Samsung describes as a ‘wide viewing angle’ (and if you read our review, you'll know we’re impressed by how consistent the QN85B’s picture stays even when viewed significantly off-axis). The QN90B, though, has an ‘ultra viewing angle’, which is wider still – and includes an 'anti-reflection screen' that should help clarity in bright rooms.
Well, all except the 43-inch QN90B, anyway – the smallest screen has to make do with regular ‘wide viewing angle’. And the 43-inch QN90B goes without the ‘anti-reflection’ screen technology.
It all means that the QN90B should be more visible during daytime in bright rooms – between the extra brightness and the anti-reflective screen, you're less likely to be seeing yourself instead of the picture.
There are differences in the audio systems, too. Both ranges can deal with Dolby Atmos soundtracks, and both ranges feature a couple of upward-firing speaker drivers to try and deliver a hint of spatial audio. The QN85B has six drivers altogether, in a 2.2.2 arrangement – two fire forwards, two sideways, and two upwards. The QN90B has eight drivers, in a 4.2.2 array, with four firing forwards, two sideways and two upwards.
Well, all the QN90B models have this except the 43-inch, which has mere stereo sound. There’s a pattern emerging with the 43QN90B, isn’t there?
Samsung QN90B vs Samsung QN85B: Gaming
There really is nothing to choose here - well, not unless you're planning to do your gaming from radically off-axis, anyway.
Both ranges support every clever feature of your next-gen games console with HDMI 2.1 support on all four connections: 4K 120Hz, ALLM, VRR, Freesync Premium Pro and so on.
And both have Samsung’s ‘Game Bar’ and ‘Super Ultra-Wide Game View’ features if you want to use them as full-on gaming monitors.
Samsung QN90B vs Samsung QN85B: Conclusion
The relative prices suggested there may not be too much to choose between these two model ranges, and that’s how it proves.
Your requirements will have to be fairly specific for the QN90B to make a compelling case over the QN85B if there's a significant price save – unless the smaller screen size availability is a factor (and, let’s face it, the 43-inch QN90B seems to be more like a QN80B based on its specs anyway).
There are improvements from getting the QN90B, no question. If the extra peak brightness and anti-reflection coating of the QN90B will help visibility over reflections in your living room, it's worth it. The two additional drivers as part of the integrated audio system does make a difference too. And if you need something where the family will sit at sideways angles while watching, the QN90B might be better option.
For most people, though – whether you're looking for the best gaming TV or just the best 4K TV for you generally – the close matching of specs and tech means saving the money on the QN85B is probably the smart move.
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Simon Lucas is a senior editorial professional with deep experience of print/digital publishing and the consumer electronics landscape. Based in Brighton, Simon worked at TechRadar's sister site What HiFi? for a number of years, as both a features editor and a digital editor, before embarking on a career in freelance consultancy, content creation, and journalism for some of the biggest brands and publications in the world.
With enormous expertise in all things home entertainment, Simon reviews everything from turntables to soundbars for TechRadar, and also likes to dip his toes into longform features and buying guides. His bylines include GQ, The Guardian, Hi-Fi+, Metro, The Observer, Pocket Lint, Shortlist, Stuff T3, Tom's Guide, Trusted Reviews, and more.