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

With full-array local dimming for a more affordable price, this is the best QLED TV value of the year.

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David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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11 min read

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.

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Samsung Q70 series (2019)

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.

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.

Samsung Q70 QLED TV aims for midrange sweet spot

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 speakers, like most other TVs available today. I didn't test this feature.

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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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Watch this: Apple TV app 2019: Everything you need to know
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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).

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Sarah Tew/CNET
  • 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2
  • 2x USB ports
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • RF (antenna) input
  • Remote (RS-232) port (EX-LINK)

This list is mostly solid, unless you happen to own a legacy device that requires analog video (component or composite) or audio. The Q70 is one of the few TVs that doesn't at least offer one analog input, audio or video.

Picture quality

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Click the image above to see CNET's picture settings, calibration details and HDR notes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Q70 is an excellent performer overall, with very good local dimming and contrast, excellent brightness, color and video processing. It fell short of the black levels of some less-expensive TVs like the Vizio M8 and TCL 6 series with HDR material, but delivered superior brightness for similar overall contrast, earning the same "8" (Excellent) in this category.

Click the image above 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 very darkest scenes, like the attack on Hogwarts from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, showed that the Samsung held its own against the others, delivering deep blacks in the letterbox bars and solid shadow detail in the black clothing of Voldemort's minions. Only the LG with its perfect black levels was significantly better. There were some slight differences but overall all five LCDs looked very similar.

To get a more real-world example I looked at some dark scenes from The Greatest Showman. Again the Q70 acquitted itself well in the exchange between Barnum and Philip behind the curtain (47:56), with black areas and letterbox bars about the same as the TCL and darker (more realistic) than the Sony. Black levels and contrast in both Vizios (and the LG OLED) looked darker and better in this scene, however, with superior contrast and pop. That said the Samsung's shadow detail was as good as any of the displays in this scene, and it controlled blooming well.

Bright lighting: The Q7 is a bright TV, outdoing the Vizio M-Series Quantum and matching the TCL 6 series, but it's not in the same league as the Vizio PQ or higher-end Samsungs like the Q8 or Q9 from 2018 -- or (I'm assuming) their 2019 counterparts.

Light output in nits

TV Brightest (SDR)Accurate color (SDR)Brightest (HDR)Accurate color (HDR)
Vizio PQ65-F1 (2018) 2,1841,5702,4412,441
Vizio M65-F0 (2018) 1,0353181,005790
Samsung Q70R (2019) 1,006592953767
TCL 65R617 (2018) 653299824824
Vizio M658-G1 (2019) 633400608531
LG C9 (2019) 451339851762

As usual the brightest setting, Dynamic, was woefully inaccurate. For the Accurate measurements in SDR I used the Natural picture mode in combination with the Warm color temperature setting (the default temperature for Natural is quite blue). I prefer Vizio's approach of a dedicated, accurate bright-room picture mode.

The Q70 maintained steady HDR light output over time in Movie mode, measuring an average of 704 nitsover a period of about five minutes in my test. In Dynamic mode with both HDR and SDR it fluctuated much more, however, starting out at around 950 nits but falling almost immediately to around 350.

This set lacks the fancy new anti-reflective screen found on the 2019 Q80R and Q90R, but it was still the best in this lineup. It reduced reflections better than any other display and preserved black levels better than any LCD, and about the same as the LG OLED.
Color accuracy: According to my measurements, the Q70's color was very good and watching the colorful Showman bore out the numbers, with skin tones accurate, and bright areas brilliant and well-saturated. Compared to some of the other sets the image did look very slightly less potent, however, for example in the makeup of the performers (27:19) and the red of Barnum's jacket. The differences would only be visible in a side-by-side comparison, however.
Video processing: As usual the Samsung aced my tests in this category, delivering true 1080p/24 film cadence with film-based sources and plenty of motion resolution (1,000 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 at 0, 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 over 14 milliseconds with both 1080p and 4K HDR sources.

Uniformity: Looking at dark, full-field test patterns, I found the Q70 showed a slightly less uniform screen than any of the others, with higher brightness along the bottom and sides than in the top-middle. With brighter such patterns its screen appeared more even, however, and closer to those of the other displays, and in program material (as opposed to test patterns) I didn't notice any uniformity issues. The Samsung maintained color and contrast from off-angle -- seats to either side of the sweet spot in front of the screen -- as well as any of the others, and better than the Sony.

HDR and 4K video: Watching the video montage from the new Spears & Munsil 4K HDR Benchmark disc, I found the Samsung showed ample brightness and punch in bright scenes, as I expected from its measurements. In nearly full-screen bright areas, like the white desert sand under the brilliant sun at 5:21, the Samsung looked and measured brighter than any of the others except for the TCL (which was about the same) and the Sony, which was the brightest by far. The Samsung was also quite bright in more specular highlights, like the sun through the radar dish (5:29), outshining all of the displays except the Sony and the LG, both brighter by a healthy margin.

Local dimming performance and black levels, however, lagged behind the other sets except for the Sony. In the difficult black background sequences, and nighttime shots like the ferris wheel (4:50), the Q70's black was brighter than the others (except the Sony) and showed more blooming. As a result the flowers, honey dipper and other objects looked a bit less dynamic in comparison.

The Q70 did a better job than the Vizio M8, the TCL and especially the Vizio PQ at smoothing banding in difficult transitions, for example the sunset sky at 2:02. On those sets the colors above the lake separated slightly (or significantly, in the PQ's case) while on the Q70, the Sony and the LG, they looked smoother.

Brilliant colors like the orange flower (3:26) and the bed of red tulips (3:56) looked very good on the Q70, quite close to the LG and with more depth of red than the Sony. The Samsung and Sony did have a tendency toward blue in near-black areas however, perhaps a symptom of their lighter black levels. As usual the colors of the TCL were the worst of the bunch, with oversaturated reds, greens and other colors.

Evidence of the Samsung's less-accurate EOTF (see my HDR notes above) was tough to spot in the montage. In some shots the TV's midtones were brighter than the others, for example in the frog on the leaf or the owl, and the honey dipper was brighter too. And in some of the cloud shots there was slightly less definition in the Samsung than the LG and Sony. Overall 4K HDR looked very good on the Q70 however, despite its less-accurate measurements.

Netflix's The Umbrella Academy has some impressive HDR effects in Episode 1 and the Samsung rendered them well, from the bright windows on the moon bus and the flashlights during the raid to the spotlights around the violinist. In darker sequences its black levels held together relatively well, beating the M8 slightly but still falling short of the others (aside from the Sony). Colors like the red carpet under Allison and her lipstick were powerful but not garish.

Geek Box

Test ResultScore
Black luminance (0%) 0.003Good
Peak white luminance (SDR) 1006Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.13Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.82Good
Dark gray error (30%) 1.62Good
Bright gray error (80%) 0.56Good
Avg. color checker error 2.47Good
Avg. color error 1.81Good
Red error 1.62Good
Green error 1.08Good
Blue error 1.57Good
Cyan error 3.30Average
Magenta error 2.10Good
Yellow error 1.23Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) PassGood
Motion resolution (max) 1000Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1000Good
Input lag (Game mode) 14.3Good



HDR10

Black luminance (0%) 0.004Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 953Average
Gamut % UHDA/P3 (CIE 1976) 92.97Average
ColorMatch HDR error 7.66Poor
Avg. color checker error 8.24Poor
Input lag (Game mode, 4K HDR) 14.27Good
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Samsung Q70 series (2019)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 9Performance 8Value 7
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