Samsung Q70 series (2019) review: High-performance QLED TV for a midrange price

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MSRP: $1,499.99

The Good The Samsung Q70 has excellent overall image quality with deep black levels and plenty of light output, accurate color, solid video processing and a great bright-room picture. Its sleek design and massive list of features outdo most TVs in its class. The price is relatively affordable.

The Bad Less-expensive TCL and Vizio TVs have similar and in some ways superior picture quality. Bixby digital assistant doesn't hold a candle to Google Assistant and Alexa found on rivals from LG and Sony.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Q70 offers high-end picture quality, design and features for a midrange TV price.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Value 7

The Samsung Q70 is good news for people on some kind of a budget who want the slick design and features of a Samsung but still value picture quality. It's not cheap by any means, but it is the least-expensive Samsung QLED TV to feature full-array local dimming (FALD), which gives it an excellent picture.

Samsung graces its best LCD TVs with the QLED name, but don't confuse it with LG's OLED models. QLED and OLED are definitely not the same, and in our tests OLED has always beaten QLED. Unfortunately higher-end QLED TVs like the Q80 and Q90, not to mention Samsung's 8K models, are really expensive, occupying the same high end of the market as OLED TVs. The Q70, meanwhile, costs hundreds less, making it the best value in QLED TVs this year.

In my comparison tests against other FALD-equipped sets like the cheaper Vizio M8 and more-expensive Sony X950G, the Q70 held its own. Overall image quality was excellent, and while black levels weren't quite as deep as some competitors, especially in high dynamic range (HDR) video, brightness and pop were still great, especially in bright rooms, and the Q70's color and video processing were also top-notch.

Samsung also slathers on the features, extras and design perks. It includes Ambient Mode -- kind of like a screensaver for when you're not watching TV -- a slick cable management system and an excellent Smart TV suite anchored by the Apple TV app and AirPlay, the former exclusive to Samsung (for now). On the downside, the only built-in voice system is still Bixby.

All told the Q70 strikes a compelling balance between price, picture quality and the kinds of features and design you can only get from a Samsung TV. It's not as good a value as the TCLs and Vizios of the world, but it's not really trying to be.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Slickness by Samsung

Samsung TVs always go the extra mile in design, looking and feeling a step above many others, and the Q70 is no exception. There's nothing distinctive about its front-facing parts -- standard super-thin border and black stand legs -- unless you count the fact that the bottom edge of the frame (thicker on many TVs) is the same width as the top and sides. But the back is really cool, with a sleek channel that stretches the length of the TV and allows you to hide cables, and even run them through the legs.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Q70 boasts Samsung's Ambient mode, which is designed to show stuff on the screen when you're not watching TV. It's a cool feature if you don't like the big black rectangle of an inert TV, and can display your photos, designer art, the weather, headlines and even adjust backgrounds to match your wall. Samsung keeps adding to the stable of ambient mode content, and most of it is free.

The remote is the nicest of any TV, with a small manageable size and button count. Dedicated buttons for Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are new for 2019, and welcome.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Bixby on TV, now hands-free

The topmost remote key summons Bixby, Samsung's voice assistant and, as you might expect, a far cry from Google Assistant on Sony and LG TVs (LG's 2019 sets also have Alexa built-in). Bixby was fine for basic commands like launching apps and changing volume, and searches like "show me comedies" were recognized, although the list of results wasn't as well-put together as Google Assistant's. It was also annoying that simply to see weather results I had to dive deep into a permissions section.

Bixby is disabled completely within Netflix. That's not the case with Google Assistant, for example, which functioned normally whether or not I was in Netflix. And if you care about smart home integration, Bixby -- which ties into Samsung's SmartThings universe -- can't work with nearly as many devices as Google Assistant or Alexa.

Sarah Tew/CNET

New for 2019 you can set Bixby to work hands-free, without having to push a button on the remote. Instead you say "Hey Bixby" and the remote's mic -- wherever it is, sitting on your coffee table for example -- "hears" the command and activates Bixby. It worked fine in my tests but had trouble when the volume from the TV was too loud or the remote too far away, and overall didn't seem as sensitive as an Alexa speaker. This function is disabled by default and you can turn it on or off in the Bixby settings menu.

New for 2019, Samsung TVs also work with Alexa and Google Home ($99 at Target) speakers, like most other TVs available today. I didn't test this feature.


Apple's TV app lives in Samsung's app tray.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple and Samsung, like chocolate and peanut butter

Aside from Bixby, Samsung's smart TV system is excellent, with quick responses and plenty of apps. I still like Roku better overall, however, because it has even more apps and gets features updates quickly. Roku doesn't have Apple yet, however.

The biggest addition for 2019 Samsung smart TVs is the ability to work with Apple content and devices, namely the Apple TV app and iPhones, iPads and Mac computers via AirPlay. The Apple TV app is welcome if you bought a lot of stuff on iTunes -- it allows easy access to your purchased TV shows and movies, and lets you buy or rent new ones -- or if you subscribe to Apple TV channels like HBO or Showtime. Unlike the app on Apple TV boxes, however, it can't show content from apps like Hulu, Amazon Prime or ESPN. Instead you'll need to launch those apps separately on the TV.

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AirPlay worked well in my testing, although it's worth noting that it no longer supports Netflix. I was able to fire up my iPhone to share photos and video to the Q70's screen from the Photos app. Screen mirroring also worked as expected and was able to play videos on the TV, and control them from the phone, via Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube and YouTube TV. Mirroring my Mac screen also worked too; the TV showed up as an option on my Mac's AirPlay menu and I was able to stream video in a browser window. It was a bit choppier on the Samsung than via an Apple TV 4K, however.

Features and connectivity

Full-array local dimming sets the Q70 apart from cheaper Samsung TVs. This technology, which improves LCD image quality significantly in our experience, boosts black levels and contrast by making certain areas of the picture dimmer or brighter in reaction to what's on the screen. The step-up Q80 and Q90 have more dimming zones and a brighter image than the Q70, according to Samsung, but the company doesn't say exactly how many zones each has. Those two TVs also have superior viewing angles and anti-reflective screens compared to the Q70.

Key TV features

Display technology LED LCD
LED backlight Full array with local dimming
Resolution 4K
HDR compatible HDR10 and HDR10+
Smart TV Tizen
Remote Standard with voice

Like all of Samsung QLED TVs, the Q70's LCD panel is also augmented by a layer of quantum dots -- microscopic nanocrystals that glow a specific wavelength (i.e. color) when given energy. The effect is better brightness and color compared to non-QD-equipped TVs. The Q70 uses a true 120Hz panel, which improves the TVs' motion performance, but as usual the "Motion Rate 240" specification is made up (note that the 49-inch size is 60Hz/MR 120).

The set supports high dynamic range (HDR) content in the HDR10 and the HDR10+ formats. It lacks the Dolby Vision HDR support found on most competitors' HDR TVs. I've seen no evidence that one HDR format is inherently "better" than the other, so I definitely don't consider lack of Dolby Vision a deal-breaker on this TV -- instead it's just one more factor to consider.

Samsung's gaming features go beyond most TVs. The Q70 is compatible with variable refresh rates, called FreeSync, from some devices, including select PCs and the Xbox One X and One S. The Q70 allows rates up to 120Hz or resolutions up to 4K -- but not both at once. To use FreeSync you'll have to turn on the Auto Game Mode feature. In addition to enabling VRR, the feature lets the TV automatically switch to game mode -- reducing input lag -- when it detects you're playing a game. Game mode also has motion smoothing capabilities, called Game Motion Plus, although they do add a bit of lag (see below for details).