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Review: Samsung Q70R

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Q70R is part of Samsung's 2019 "QLED" LCD TV line-up and the most affordable model with zone dimming capabilities. It comes in 49 to 82 inches with many of Samsung's latest features, including Bixby and the Tizen 5.0 platform. It also features Apple's TV app and AirPlay 2 support.

Can Q70R bring some of the flagship's Q90R capabilities to a lower price point? And is Q70R a good entry point for those seeking a mid-range TV with good HDR? Read our in-depth Q70R review to find out.


Price and retailers:

US retailer
UK retailer
DE retailer



First impressions

Samsung Q70R is available in a range of sizes from 43 to 82 inches. We have the 65-inch version and we think that it will fit into most living spaces as it is a fairly anonymous-looking TV. The two-pronged stand helps to give the TV a lighter appearance, which is needed because Q70R is actually relatively thick and heavy. Like the more expensive Samsung 2019 Q series, Q70R has a zone dimming LED system, which takes up considerably more space behind the LCD panel than edge LED. The cabinet has been made deeper to accommodate that.

To compensate for the bulky appearance, Samsung has put in some effort to streamline the design. It pays off. Q70R is not an elegant TV but it still looks pleasing from all angles and a clever cable management system routes the power cable down through one of the two feet. Q70R does not come with Samsung's One Connect so all AV ports are found on the actual TV. These AV ports face to the side and are hidden inside a pocket. AV cables can be routed through the foot below, unless you want to connect a lot of cables.

Streaming services are changing the way that we receive and watch video entertainment but virtually all TVs are still equipped with tuners, with everything that entails. As seen below, Samsung has moved the large CI port to another section. We have said this for a few years now but we think that the time is ripe to launch a TV without analog ports and tuners. There are still some roadblocks but we think that Samsung's efforts in the area of the One Connect box, Tizen, remote control, and its general push to simplify the experience could make it possible. On the other hand, Samsung's insistence to not update Tizen - along with many other TV makers - puts the company in a vulnerable position.

We mention this because while these elements may seem secondary they are important factors in the design of a TV. Samsung, along with others, is putting more emphasis on TV design but ultimately Q70R is soft middle-ground between a TV stuck in the old ways and a modern TV. Last year's Q7 (Europe) came with the external One Connect box so we are a little sad to see it gone in Q70R, almost as if Samsung is backtracking. It would not be the first time in this industry; other TV manufactures have backtracked on the simpler remote controls that they introduced a couple of years ago. And while we from a performance perspective applaud Samsung for using zone dimming technology in more LCD TVs, the downside is that it makes an LCD look bulky and a little old-school.

The panel has a semi-glossy coating that helps maintain color and contrast intensity in bright viewing environments but at the same time it produces some reflections. Q70R does not have the same anti-reflective filter as the Q90R flagship, which is a shame. In this area, Q70R is more similar to previous Samsung TVs and you should expect some picture degradation and mirror reflections in bright environments. On the other hand the TV has high enough brightness to suppress most of those effects, which we will get back to in the picture quality section.




User experience & features

Samsung Q70R is based on Tizen version 5.0 and as such it is more or less identical to Q90R in terms of user experience and features. Tizen 5.0 is exclusively available in Samsung's 2019 TVs. Previous Samsung TVs will not be updated to version 5.0 and are stuck on whatever version they came pre-installed with (2018 TVs on Tizen 4.0, 2017 TV on Tizen 3.0 etc.). We refer to our review of Samsung Q90R for a more complete evaluation but there are a couple of things that we wish to expand upon here.

Operation

Unlike the more expensive Q series TV, Q70R comes with a less exclusive black version of the One Remote. Its based on the same concept but looks and feels a lot cheaper. It has far fewer buttons than a conventional TV remote but as noted in our Q90R review, Samsung is slowly caving in to content companies' wishes.

There are at least five too many buttons on this remote, three of which are the Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Rakuten TV buttons. The other two redundant buttons are the voice button on top and the gallery/Ambient mode button. While this may sound a bit controversial in these days of voice assistants, we believe that Samsung's Bixby is half-baked, if that. While voice recognition appears to be fairly accurate, functionality is lacking in a big way. Simple things such as Bixby being unavailable at the exact times when you want to use it - i.e. for voice search in many apps - is inexcusable and in many ways demonstrates how Samsung approaches the task of developing a TV platform.


Samsung Q70R review


If Samsung wanted to create the best possible user experience - and make Bixby part of that - it would need to update Tizen on all TVs, streamline app development, implement voice search on a system level, and view it as a platform rather than a user interface with features on top. In its current form, Bixby is not useful and the gallery/Ambient mode could easily be hidden in the menu instead of taking up physical space on the remote control.

We praise Samsung for having introduced a far simpler and functional remote control designed for the modern TV experience - and for having had the courage of conviction to make it work unlike some of its competitors - but we must warn that Samsung is once again heading down the wrong path by adding clutter. Simplicity is something worth fighting for. Please get rid of the clutter, Samsung!




During our time with the TV, Samsung pushed out an update to enable Apple AirPlay 2 along with the Apple TV app. AirPlay 2 allows you to push media content from an iPhone, iPad or Mac wirelessly onto the TV. If you push video from YouTube, the TV will take over the server connection to YouTube but you can also mirror your smartphone screen. AirPlay 2 works with more or less all video and music apps on iPhone, except for Netflix and a few others who have purposely deactivated it. If you own the Apple TV you will be familiar with how AirPlay 2 works.

During our testing, AirPlay 2 demonstrated that it can be very useful in a TV. With iTunes movies it supports 4K HDR streaming. Unfortunately, Apple's TV app gave us some trouble. Some of our purchased iTunes movies would not play at all due to copyright issues, while others remained in HD resolution. These appear to be early bugs so hopefully a future update can fix it. In our region, only iTunes is embedded into the TV app at this time but in other regions the app already unifies content from partners such as HBO and Amazon with iTunes' movie and TV show catalog. Later this year, the TV app will offer access to the Apple's TV+ streaming service. The app's user interface looks largely similar to the TV app on Apple TV except for a nice detail, which is scrolling through categories, and auto-play movie trailers. As such, you get the best experience on Apple TV but we think that many will like what Apple has managed to bring to Samsung's TV.

AirPlay 2 includes multi-room capabilities allowing you to use the TV as a multiroom speaker along with other AirPlay 2-enabled speakers in your living room. Unfortunately, we did not have other AirPlay 2 speakers available at the time of testing and because the update from Apple took us by surprise we did not have time to find any. We are told that multi-room should work on Samsung TVs but we will have to revisit this subject another time. Another note here; while in stand-by Samsung's TV was visible as an AirPlay 2 receiver but when trying to push video or music to the screen it did not react. We had to manually turn on the TV first. It appears to be a bug - or so we hope. And lastly, it is worth mentioning that AirPlay 2 audio output is not supported on Samsung TVs. To output TV audio wirelessly to AirPlay 2 speakers you need the Apple TV box.

Starting with iOS 13 this fall, AirPlay 2 devices can be added to home automation through Apple's Home app. However, it is a little unclear if this will work with Samsung TVs. Unlike some of the other TVs that will get Apple's TV features later this year, Samsung TVs will not support Apple HomeKit.


Samsung Q70R review



TV channels, recording & sound

There is nothing to add in terms of TV channel functionality and we refer to our review of Samsung Q90R for more details.

As for the built-in speakers, sound is decent for an upper mid-range model. An acquittance wanted to try Xbox One X, which at the time was connected to Samsung Q70R, and his first reaction was that "the speakers are noticeably better than mine" (meaning his TV) and "bass is decent but a little muddy". That is an apt description of the built-in speaker system, we think.

Like its big brother, Q70R also has Samsung's "AI" sound tuning that tries to adapt sound based on the content type and your room size. It is found under 'Intelligent Mode' and 'Adaptive Sound'. At times, it helps widen the sound space and make a scene sound more impactful but other times it sounds like tuning is off or as if effects get drowned in muddy bass. In addition, the TV can adapt its volume to make sure that i.e. volume during commercials remain in line with the rest of your TV watching.

Ultimately, we ended up deactivating the latter but the former has its merits mainly because it can help compensate for the poor speaker hardware in the TV. We would think that some will find this feature useful, depending on their TV use cases. However, for the best movie and game experience you should invest in a more powerful audio system.


Calibration

The 'Standard' picture mode (in SDR) is not very accurate; it is too cold and has oversaturated colors. As you can see, Samsung is pushing all colors into the TV's native color space, which means that greens will look greener, reds redder, and blues slightly bluer. It may look appealing in the store but it produces images that are visible off in everything from skin tones to nature. The same applies to 'Dynamic' and 'Game' mode.

Other picture modes

Click the title to expand the view

Standard (SDR)
Dynamic (SDR)
Game (SDR)
Standard (HDR)
Dynamic (HDR)
Game (HDR)
If you care about picture accuracy, you should switch to 'Movie'. It is better and it respects the content's color space, but we had hoped for a slightly more accurate 'Movie' mode. We used it as the basis for our calibration and with some adjustment we were able improve color accuracy visibly. You can find our calibration suggestion for SDR in the next section.

Switching our attention to HDR, we found that our sample of Q70R is actually tracking the PQ EOTF (brightness curve) better than the flagship Q90R. Both 'Standard' and 'Movie' are, from a calibration standpoint, decent HDR modes, while 'Dynamic' is terrible and 'Game' is over-bright and too colorful.

We are a little surprised to conclude that Q70R's coverage of the DCI-P3 (91%) and Rec.2020 (67%) color spaces have shrunk considerably compared to last year's models - and even more so than Q90R. In this area, Samsung's 2019 Q series TVs are now roughly on par with Sony's LCD TVs that use phosphor-based LEDs rather than quantum dots to expand the color space.

What is less surprising is that Samsung continues to market these TVs with "100% color volume", something that 'Verband Deutscher Elektrotechniker (VDE)' has seemingly certified. It was wrong before and it is even more wrong today. It is a discussion for another time but it is important to understand that color volume has many facets, including factors that that relate to the lack of pixel-level luminance control and factors that relate strongly to how color volume is measured with theoretical test patterns that do not represent how the TV behaves in actual use. And now color gamut coverage is down to 91% DCI-P3, which makes the marketing statement absurd. We will comment further on our measurements for HDR peak brightness and color space in the picture quality section.




Measurements

In our "measurements" section we include all measurements and our suggested calibration settings. If you want to learn more about our test methodology click here.


Note: We include calibration settings only for SDR, not HDR. For our calibration we have deactivated the ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the backlight setting according to your environment. You may prefer to have it enabled.




Samsung Q70R review


Picture quality

In the category of Samsung zone-dimming LCD TVs we have most recently reviewed this year's Q90R as well as last year's 8K Q900R, 4K Q9FN, and Q8 (Q8DN in Europe). Just to recap: Q70R has some of the 2019 features but does not feature 'Q Ultra Wide Angle' like the Q90R. In that sense, it is more similar to last year's 8 series Samsung TV and a hardware upgrade over last year's Q7 that was edge-lit. In these times of HDR, many TV makers are transitioning to LCD TVs with zone dimming LEDs to make possible HDR pictures.

Before we move our focus to HDR, which is on its way to becoming the norm in the movie and game industry, we want to talk about SDR (Standard Dynamic Range), meaning everything not in HDR (including SD, HD and 4K resolution) that still rules supreme for broadcast TV, including pretty much all live TV.

In terms of SDR Q70R behaves like most previous Samsung TVs, meaning that it produces overall good picture quality. There is not much new to add on the subject of Samsung's processing engine and to subjects such as upscaling and de-interlacing. DVD and SD video look decent but Samsung TVs continue to exhibit some micro stutter on 50Hz interlaced content. It seems that most people do not pick up on it and given that interlacing is becoming a thing of the past it is not a big concern. But it is still there. We do not recommend using Samsung's "AI upscaling", which has trickled down from last year's 8K TV, as it produces over-sharp and artificial-looking images. The motion engine is an overall good performer but it transitions in "soap opera" fairly quickly unless you use the low settings. You can chose to engage the well-functioning BFI (black frame insertion) system to improve motion resolution but some people may perceive the 120Hz frequency as flicker.

In that sense Q70R is flexible and an overall good TV for SDR viewing - unless you move off-axis, which we will get back to later - and it has plenty of surplus brightness to deliver pleasing pictures even in very a bright viewing environment. If pushed to the limits, it can hit 450 nits full-screen white, which is almost information display territory (those screens you see outside and in malls). The TV's strengths clearly lie in video content that is predominantly bright such as outside sports that can look great at high luminance levels.




HDR (High Dynamic Range) video is where the display hardware gets challenged and we observed some curious things. First of all, we measured color gamut coverage to 91% DCI-P3 / 67% Rec.2020, which is considerably lower than last year's TVs, including the Q8 that we reviewed (that on paper would appear to featured similar display hardware), and now on par with Sony LCD TVs that use phosphor-based LEDs instead of quantum dot film LEDs. We measured peak brightness to a little over 800 nits (on 10% window), again considerably less than last year's Samsung TVs. With a 2% window it drops to around 560 nits and with a 1% window to less than 200 nits. You can see all of our peak brightness measurements in the measurement section. We measured the HDR contrast ratio (8x8 ANSI checkerboard pattern) to around 6500:1.

With the dry numbers out of the way, how does this translate into HDR picture quality during actual use? Well, first of all it seems that lower peak brightness is partly caused by Samsung trying to balance its dynamic backlight control (and partly due to less capable hardware). The backlight is less agressive so blooming around bright objects in the picture is reduced somewhat. The distracting delay in reaching peak brightness (and dropping to normal levels after reaching peak brightness) has also been reduced although it is definitely still there. We believe that Q70R strikes a better balance, although not ideal as subtitles still introduce visible blooming (also related to the low number of dimming zones). We would take improved backlight control over higher peak brightness any day.




With that being said, HDR is clearly less impactful on Q70R compared to some other Samsung LCD TVs. Highlights do not pop the same way and colors that should be very saturated appear less saturated in HDR when watching movies and playing games compared to last year's Samsung TVs. It fares better in predominantly bright and open gaming environments but when games transition into darker scenes Q70R has to make compromises. One example is Xbox game Forza where Q70R produces relatively colorful and bright images when you are driving under the open sky but less convincing picture quality when you enter darker areas (deep forests, tunnels etc) where only part of the sky or small lights illuminate the screen. Having seen so many HDR TVs it is hard to find Q70R's HDR performance convincing. Personally I had a hard time really enjoying HDR movies on Q70R and a few times I had to check if the TV really had switched into HDR mode. The biggest problem is probably that HDR performance is so inconsistent. In some scenes it can look good but in many other scenes it leaves a lot to be desired. In this price class Sony's X900F and X950G deliver better HDR performance. It is also worth noting that Samsung continues to shun the Dolby Vision format, while focusing on its own HDR10+ format, which has seen little traction since release.

As mentioned, the TV hits less than 200 nits on a 1% window, which is not HDR territory, and the performance will impact how small bright objects such as stars or lamps appear in HDR. This can be explained by the relatively few dimming zones in Q70R (around 50, depending on the size class). To give you some pratical examples of the size of objects in a picture consider the photos below (but remember that these picture objects are not necessarily 100% peak white).
  • The small bright spots behind the lady each make up far less than 1% of the picture area.
  • The bright part of the sky above the city makes up around 6-7% of the picture area.

    These percentage number can be compared to our measurements in the measurement section.




    We have often said that edge-lit LCD TVs - the majority of LCD TVs on the market - are incapable of delivering proper HDR, and that mid-range LCD TVs with some form of zone dimming represent the first step into HDR. However, we are concerned about how the LCD TV market is developing in this area. The most advanced zone dimming technology continue to be reserved for the flagship LCD TVs year after year instead of trickling down into the mid-range models - likely due to high costs.

    Switching our attention to gaming, this is one area where Samsung has led the TV industry for several years. We measured input lag to 59-86 ms outside of Game mode, and 16 ms in Game mode. This is great performance but still slightly higher than input lag on the LG C9, which is down to 13 ms - not that the small difference matters. Q70R also supports FreeSync but it is only practical for 1080p gaming where it has a wide range of 20 to 120Hz. In 4K, range is limited to 48-60Hz, which is a result of Samsung not having HDMI 2.1 ports in its 2019 TVs. Be aware that the 49-inch Q70R lack these capabilities.

    Also read: The best TVs for gaming

    The TV also supports ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), which simply means that it can automatically switch to game mode (with an Xbox - PS4 does not support ALLM). Be aware that the game mode per default pushes colors into the TV's native color space (see measurement in calibration section) so you may want to tweak the picture settings. Last year, Samsung made it possible to use its Auto Motion Plus system, including BFI (Black Frame Insertion), with games for smoother performance without adding too much input lag. This year, Samsung has added the 'Real Game Enhancer' to the mix, which brightens dark grey tones to make details appear more clearly - so you can see monsters lurking in the dark. You are free to use it or avoid it, just know that activating it will significantly alter how dark game scenes appear on screen and you are no longer experiencing the game the way the game designers intended.




    In isolation these gaming parameters sound great but as always it is much more important to consider the context. We very much enjoyed gaming in SDR on Q70R and HDR gaming can look good but again it is not very consistent. During gameplay you will encounter many HDR scenes that push Q70R to its knees. In one game scene from Division 2 that caught our eye, we measured a bright sky to around 500 nits but move away a little bit to make a dark area in the game scene appear close to it and it dropped to half. Not because the content dictated it but because of limitations in the TV's dimming zones system. Q70R is a great TV for FIFA but not a great TV for dark role-playing games.

    Our sample of Q70R had decent backlight homogeneity but these things tend vary from one sample to the next so we cannot form meaningful conclusions in this area. However, our shot of the blooming reveals how the crosses on screen tend to illuminate the full width of the LCD panel due to the limited number of dimming zones. We observed this effect a few times during use, too. In the second shot (2 IRE) it appears that the sides of the panel are brighter but a good part of this effect was actually caused by limitations to viewing angles.




    The viewing angles are narrow, which was expected since Q70R lacks the wide viewing angles technology found in the more expensive models. Colors will appear desaturated and contrast (black levels) will lose intensity as you move further to the side, especially with HDR video where blooming is very visible off-axis.

    Video is best enjoyed right in front of the TV.




    Conclusion

    Samsung Q70R has the latest 2019 Tizen features including Bixby, which is a poor implementation, and Apple's TV app and AirPlay 2. The latter two are very useful features although a little buggy at launch. iPhone owners can use AirPlay 2 to send video content from almost any streaming service to the screen. Samsung's TV platform is a good middle-ground for users who have one foot in the "old" camp of TV channels and the other foot in the streaming world. But the biggest issue remains; Samsung still refuses to provide updates to its Tizen platform. 2019 TVs will remain stuck on Tizen 5.0 when next year's models launch with the next major version.

    We applaud Samsung for employing zone dimming in more of its mid-range TVs, even if it makes the TVs thicker and less elegant. If TV makers want to take HDR mainstream, display hardware in mid-range LCD TVs must improve or trickle down from the high-end models (which is not really happening). Unfortunately, Q70R has too few dimming zones plus visibly reduced peak brightness and color space coverage compared to last year's Samsung TVs, and this affects HDR picture quality negatively. HDR is also very inconsistent. Some HDR scenes can look good - not great - while others look very compromised. And it gets much worse if you move away from the center as viewing angles are narrow. SDR (everything that is not HDR) looks more consistent. Q70R is most comfortable with predominantly bright scenes. It is great TV for sports and FIFA but not a great TV for horror movies and dark role-playing games.

    Samsung Q70R is competing head-to-head with Sony's X950G (XG95) and X900F (XF90), LG's "NanoCell" LCD TVs, and others. We see Sony's TVs as better overall performers (our LG SM90 review will be published later). And while it is tempting to think of Q70R as a little brother to the Q90R flagship, we think that there is a big picture performance gap between the two.

    !
    Change in test parameters: Last year, we made a change to a test parameter that relates to the features score, following years of poor practice in the TV industry. Unless a manufacturer of a given "Smart TV" can provide FlatpanelsHD with assurance that the TV platform will be updated to the next major version, the feature score will be lowered by 10 points. We hope that our initiative can help highlight the problem, start a discussion, and change the practice.

    Samsung has not been able to give us such a guarantee for Tizen.


    Price and retailers:

    US retailer
    UK retailer
    DE retailer


    Good SDR picture quality
    New Apple features
    Functional operating system


    Too few dimming zones
    Visibly lower peak brightness, color space
    Narrow viewing angles
    Tizen not getting updates








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