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Samsung QNQ7F series review: QLED TV serves up innovative design, familiar LCD picture quality

Review Sections

Picture quality

The Samsung Q7 can deliver a very good image, but didn't match the cheaper Vizio P series or the more expensive LG E7 OLED TV I had on-hand to compare. (For this review I no longer have LG's C7 OLED TV on-hand to compare, but the E7 delivers essentially identical image quality.)

Its black levels and contrast were worse, particularly with HDR material, and the color advantages Samsung claims with its QLED technology were tough to spot. Video processing and bright-room performance were excellent, and uniformity is better than last year's KS8000, but overall I don't expect the Q7 to end the year among the best performing TVs I've tested.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Dim lighting: The Samsungs were OK performers in a home theater environment with the lights down low, both significantly outdoing the lowly Sony, but neither could best the Vizio or the LG E7 OLED. The Q7's black levels were generally a bit darker (better) than those of last year's KS8000, but the two were still very close.

Watching Chapter 3 of the "Oblivion" Blu-ray disc, for example, where Jack explores the buried building, the Q7's letterbox bars and shadows had a lighter cast than the Vizio or LG, where ideally you'd want them to stay completely black. As his flashlight gun and other lights played across the interior, I saw the stray illumination of blooming in the letterbox bars as well, while the Vizio did a much better job maintaining their integrity (and the OLED's bars were perfectly black). The Q7 did beat the KS8000 in this regard, however, because it lacked that set's brighter top and bottom edges, and also showed slightly darker letterbox bars.

Shadow details were solid on the Q7, better than the washed-out Sony and comparable to the others, albeit slightly less realistic because of their lighter shade of black levels. Compared to the Vizio the Q7 also showed brighter highlights in some areas, for example white credits on a black background, a sign of less aggressive dimming. I still preferred the Vizio by a large margin in a home theater environment, however.

Bright lighting: The Q7 can get brighter than any TV we've tested at CNET, registering almost 1,800 nits at its brightest in Dynamic mode with HDR test patterns, and about half that with standard dynamic range material. That's blinding by any standard.

Light output in nits

TV Mode (SDR) 10% window (SDR) Full screen (SDR) Mode (HDR) 10% window (HDR)
Sony XBR-65X930D Vivid 926 492 HDR Video 923
Samsung QN65Q7F Dynamic 923 588 Dynamic 1781
Samsung UN65KS8000 Dynamic 618 480 Movie 1346
LG 55UH8500 Vivid 610 403 HDR Bright 601
LG OLED65E7P Vivid 473 152 Vivid 728
LG OLED55C7P Vivid 433 145 Vivid 715

There's a bit more to it, however. In Movie mode, which is much more accurate than the others, light output in HDR is lower at about 1,100 nits. How long peak light output could be maintained also varied depending on how I measured it. With my standard static 10 percent test pattern, Dynamic's light output dropped in half after about 15 seconds, while Movie fell by 40 percent after 45 to 55 seconds. A smaller 2 percent test pattern measured dimmer, and one with moving video to better simulate real-world light output (supplied by Samsung and Florian Fredrich) was dimmer still at about 900 nits in Movie, falling to about 550 after about 30 seconds.

The numbers prove that the Q7 can get significantly brighter than any OLED TV and many LCDs. Its advantage over OLED is especially evident when a larger portion of the screen is bright -- think a hockey game or a white-out scene. But in HDR program material, OLED actually looks brighter and better (see below), and in any case I consider OLEDs plenty bright for just about any room lighting situation.

The Q7 dealt with reflections and ambient light very well, maintaining black levels and dimming reflections better than any of the others. The Q7 is the best bright-room TV I've tested, surpassing even last year's KS8000 for that honor.

Color accuracy: According to my measurements the Q7 was very accurate in Movie mode both before and after calibration. In program material the Samsung backed up my measurements, with accurate skin and gray tones in the opening chapters of "Oblivion." The more colorful "Samsara" Blu-ray also looked great, with excellent saturation and accuracy in the green jungles, the tan temples and the vibrant costumes of the dancers. Compared to the other sets, all highly accurate as well, the Q7 didn't show any major color advantages, however.

Video processing: As usual the Samsung aced my tests in this category, delivering true 1080p/24 film cadence with film-based sources and full motion resolution (1,200 lines) with video-based sources. The TV achieved both results with an Auto Motion Plus setting of Custom with Blur Reduction at 10 and Judder Reduction, so if I had this TV I'd "set it and forget" it right there.

If you want to tinker you can always add more smoothing or soap opera effect by increasing Judder Reduction or choosing Auto instead of Custom. Meanwhile the LED Clear Motion option makes motion even sharper with the help of black frame insertion, at the expense of flicker and a dimmer image.

Samsung continues its recent tradition of excellent input lag in Game mode with a score just under 22ms. I didn't test 4K/HDR lag, but plan to soon.

Uniformity: The Q7 improves on the KS8000 with less light leakage around the edges of the screen, namely on the top and bottom. It's less uniform than the Vizio P series and the LG OLED, however, and still shows a brighter screen along the bottom and the sides than along the top and middle with full-field test patterns. As mentioned above, blooming is also an issue.

As I moved off-angle, away from the sweet spot seated directly in front of the TV, the Q7 lost fidelity and became discolored as is typical of LCDs I've tested, a process that happened in dark areas faster than the Vizio. Samsung claims improved off-angle performance, but I found it difficult to discern. As usual the OLED was essentially perfect from off-angle in comparison.

HDR and 4K video: The Q7's 4K HDR picture was a couple steps below that of the Vizio and the OLEDs overall, although colorwise it did outperform the Vizio.

For a TV with such prodigious light output according to test patterns, you might expect a brighter image with HDR on the Samsung. In fact, as I also noted in the LG C7 and E7 reviews, the two Samsungs looked dimmer and less impactful overall than the others in the HDR material I watched, an appearance spot measurements with my luminance meter backed up.

Jack's departure from home base in Chapter 1 of "Oblivion" contains plenty of punchy HDR awesomeness in the 4K Blu-ray version, from brilliant glinting sun to expansive cloudscapes to the sunlit faces of Jack and Julia. In the TVs' best default settings for HDR (Movie mode for the Samsungs, again), the Q7 looked duller than the Vizio and LG, and measured dimmer in most areas, for example the swatch of bright sky next to the plane's engine at 5:05. A few other highlights were closer, but in no case I saw was the Q7 brighter in highlights than the others.

In dark scenes like Jack's exploration of the building in Chapter 3, the Q7 again looked more washed-out and unrealistic than the Vizio and the OLED, with brighter arches and silhouette at 17:46, for example. The blooming in letterbox bars was also obvious. As usual the maxed-out backlight mandated by HDR made these issues even more noticeable than in standard material.

Colors on the Samsungs, the Sony and the LG were much more accurate in HDR than on the Vizio, which had a reddish tint in dark areas and slightly redder cast to skin tones. Other differences in HDR color were tough to spot. Samsung touts QLED's superior "color volume," which it says should make bright highlights more colorful. I don't measure that parameter yet, in part because there's no agreed-upon standard for doing so, but observations of program material are always more important than measurements in my book anyway.

Samsung's QLED technology didn't make a major impact in "Oblivion's" color from what I could see, so to look for differences I turned again to a scene recommended by a Samsung engineer, the Doomsday flight from "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," which features lots of colorful special effects. Differences were subtle even there.

The lines of fire surrounding Doomsday (2:28:13) appeared a deeper red on the Q7 than the Vizio or the other LCDs' and about the same as the OLED -- which jibes with my measurement of the sets' respective P3 color gamuts (see the Geek Box below). The difference was fleeting and restricted to ultrabright spots of color, however, and any Samsung advantage in color I could see was far outstripped by its weaker black levels and blooming.

I also checked out built-in streaming 4K and HDR on the Samsung and it performed very similar to 4K Blu-ray. Watching Netflix's "OA" in HDR10 on the Q7 and Dolby Vision on the Vizio and the LG, for example, the latter two looked better, with brighter images and superior pop and contrast. When I switched all of the TVs to HDR10 by sending the same video via a Roku Ultra, I saw essentially the same differences. The takeaway? As usual the TVs' performance itself has a greater impact on HDR image quality than the format (Dolby Vision or HDR10).

Geek Box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.006 Good
Peak white luminance (100%) 923 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.28 Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.999 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.216 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.356 Good
Avg. color error 1.248 Good
Red error 1.339 Good
Green error 1.535 Good
Blue error 1.707 Good
Cyan error 1.617 Good
Magenta error 0.41 Good
Yellow error 0.881 Good
Avg. saturations error 1.41 Good
Avg. luminance error 1.85 Good
Avg. color checker error 2.15 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200 Good
Input lag (Game mode) 21.8 Good

HDR (Movie mode default)

Black luminance 0.027 Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 1781 Good
Gamut % DCI/P3 (CIE 1976) 97.98 Good
Avg. saturations error 5.4 Poor
Avg. color checker error 4.5 Average

Samsung QN65Q7F CNET review calibration results by David Katzmaier on Scribd

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