The Samsung 65-inch 65Q80R is another very good 4K QLED Samsung TV for 2019, offering excellent picture quality that is literally just a shade or two below the excellent flagship Samsung 4K QLED model 65Q90R.

That makes this television a good choice for anyone look for excellent picture and smart TV performance but isn’t prepared to pay top dollar for it.

The Q80R series is a step down from the 4K flagship Q90R QLED series. Samsung offers three screen sizes in this group including the 55-inch 55Q80R ($1,799.99 street retail), the 65-inch 65Q80R ($1,997.99 street retail) and the 75-inch 75Q80R ($3,299.99 street retail). All have the same feature set and are expected to produce the same level of picture and sound quality performance.

The 65Q80R tested here offers full-array backlighting with local dimming, which is the best backlighting approach for LED-LCD TV screens. However, it has fewer (96) LED dimming zones than the 480 zones in the Q90R, so its contrast performance and brightness are not as high or controlled as the pricier model class. Still, the Q80R offers a clear, bright picture with rich and deep black levels that come close to OLED’s “infinite black” dynamic range, but like many OLEDs the set crushes more shadow detail than the Q90R.

What sets both the Q80R, Q90R and 8K Q900R QLED models apparent from most other televisions on the market is the use of Samsung’s new Ultra Black and Ultra Wide viewing angle technologies. These benefit from a new anti-glare filter system that does one of the most effective jobs we’ve yet seen on a flat-panel television in reducing visible on-screen glare. We can’t emphasize enough how much this makes images appear more lifelike and immersive without the visible reflections appearing to shatter the illusion of reality. The off-axis viewing angles this year are even more improved from last year, with the Q80R and Q90R sets getting closer than ever to the viewing angles of OLED televisions. This makes these sets well-suited for wall mounted applications, something that usually is not ideal for most other LED-LCD-based televisions. Almost everyone in a room seated around the screen will get a nice, colorful image.

Design

Rear view of the Samsung Q80R.

Like most other 4K televisions this year, the 65Q80R features an ultra-slim bezel design. This one is stylish with a carbon silver colored frame trim accented by a black interior bezel border around the screen. The depth of the panel is slightly thinner than the step-up Q90R and the back of the screen features a slightly rounded textured plastic that helps to give the television an overall upscale look. For table-top placement, the set ships with a pair of feet that sit flat on the table surface and connect with screen with a metal riser that inserts in holes at the left and right sides of the screen, offering a stable platform with only minimal screen wobble when pushed slightly from the top. The feet were very easy to attach to the screen and position. Alternatively, the television has been designed for easier wall-mount placements by placing the set inputs and power cable on the back of the screen instead of in an outboard One Connect box that is included with the step-up Q90R models. Both connection approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, with many professional installers opting for direct inputs on the panel for more extensive mounting applications.

Inputs

Samsung offers a good assortment of inputs and outputs on the 65Q80R, including 4 HDMI 2.0b inputs (one with Audio Return Channel capability). This will support 4K 4:4:4 60p 18Gbps signals. The Q80R series also will get some (not all) of the HDMI 2.1 features over HDMI 2.0b phyiscal jacks through firmware, including up to 4K/120 Hz, Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), both for advanced video game playing and connectivity; and dynamic metadata (HDR10+) high dynamic range support. However, the set will not support the new Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) feature.

Other inputs include: a pair of USB inputs (one for HDD support); an optical digital audio output; an Ethernet port, an antenna input and Samsung’s Ex-Link port that will support a serial connection for AutoCal calibrations using CalMan software. Missing are analog input options for component or composite video sources, so don’t plan to use your old VCR or DVD player with this display.

The inputs are positioned in a cutout on the back of the screen with the connector pointed out toward the (stage left) side of the screen. The power cord is positioned on the (stage right) opposite side of the panel and plugs directly into the back of the set through a recessed port and channel that helps conceal the cord for flush-mount wall applications.

Remote

Sadly, for the United States Samsung has moved away from the upscale-looking chrome metal remote it used in the past in favor of its plastic arch-backed design that looks like remotes used for some Samsung sound bars and other components. However, the nice minimal-button design continues as the interface for the elaborate Tizen smart TV operating system that does most of the heavy lifting in executing commands. The remote features three fast-access buttons for the popular Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu streaming services. It also includes a built-in mic to receive voice commands for some of the television’s spoken-control options. This year’s QLED sets are compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant as well as Samsung’s Bixby voice-control systems.

Tizen Smart TV

Samsung continues to improve the look and feel of its built-in smart TV platform, expanding the number of features and apps. The Tizen OS platform is one of the best in business for intuitive navigation of source input select, favorite app selection and tailored program suggestions. It features a launcher bar in a two-level scrolling ribbon display designed to help the viewer make choices of what to watch at any given time. Selections include virtually all of the top streaming and catch-up services a viewer could hope for to find a favorite program. Moving the selection control to the left on the base (app) bar enables finding the Ambient model/gallery selection, different input sources, and settings menus for sound and picture adjustments.

One of the biggest improvement this year is the addition of Apple’s brand new Apple TV app that makes its debut on Samsung 2018 and 2019 smart TVs through a recent firmware update. This means users will get Apple TV features and services through the app instead of needing a separate outboard Apple TV media streamer. Users get the opportunity to access content on their iTunes libraries and will soon have access to Apple’s new streaming video service when it launches later, as well as other services and content offered inside the Apple TV app. Samsung also offers a large selection of other apps and streaming services, including control of various smart home devices.

If that’s not enough, Samsung has enhanced the Ambient Mode feature it introduced last year, giving users more ways and looks to enjoy the television, even when it’s not playing television programs or videos. The feature allows taking a picture of the television and the surrounding wall with a linked smart phone and relaying the image to the television which displays an image that helps the screen blend in with the room surroundings. Users can also display photos or classic art images to help the television disguise itself as a framed painting.

HDR

HDR peak brightness measured in a 10% D65 white window pattern in Calman calibration software from Portrait Displays.
HDR peak luminance measured in a 10% white window pattern using CalMAN calibration software from Portrait Displays.

Like other Samsung 4K QLED TVs this year, the 65Q80R offers support for three high dynamic range (HDR) profiles including the baseline HDR10 (static metadata), HDR10+ (dynamic metadata) and the hybrid log gamma (HLG) profile, the latter of which does not use metadata and is expected to be used for future over-the-air 4K broadcasting in the United States, when ever that arrives. These televisions do not support Dolby Vision or Technicolor Advanced HDR. Currently, virtually all HDR content will at least be able to default to HDR10, which is very good, even though it is graded at one set level throught out a movie or program. The dynamic metadata profiles (like HDR10+, Dolby Vision and some applications of Technicolor Advanced HDR) can be graded scene-by-scene or even shot-by-shot for more accurate imagry, but in our experience, unless you have two screens with HDR10 and HDR10+ or Dolby Vision side-by-side, it’s very unlikely you are going to notice the difference. And even when comparing directly against each other, the dynamic metadata improvements are very subtle. For those keeping score: it’s impossible to get support for all of the various competing HDR profiles out there right now.

For those who want them all, LG’s OLED and NanoCell TVs come as close as you are likely to get (minus HDR10+) to covering all the bases. Sony supports Dolby Vision but omits both HDR10+ and Technicolor Advanced HDR support. Both LG and Sony claim their sets have built-in tone mapping that will produce the desired HDR10+ enhancements without having the exact profile support built in. In short, you won’t be missing much with any of these brands and televisions, as HDR10 support will kick in for almost any profile that isn’t directly supported in the television.

To quickly find which HDR profile the television is (or isn’t) playing for any given source, the user can call up the settings menu from the bottom menu bar and look one line up at the picture mode selection. This will indicate what picture mode the television is set to and whether it is displaying an HDR10+, HDR, HLG or no HDR (SDR) signal, depending on what HDR profile type is supported by the content. Again, a Dolby Vision supported picture will appear as “Movie HDR,” to indicate the picture settings are in pre-set Movie picture mode (the mode we recommend for most content) running HDR10 profile enhancement.

The Samsung 65Q80R handles HDR very well. We counted the set’s full array with local dimming (FALD) LED zones at 96, which is below the coverage range of the flagship Samsung 4K Q90R QLED model, but sufficient to output a peak luminance of just under 1,200 nits measured in a 10% D65 window pattern. In a 25% window we measured 1009 nits, in a 50% window 741.2 and in a 100% window 612.3 nits. This is sufficient to pump out a nice full color volume (range of hues produced with brightness) and to drive brief flashes of eye-squinting specular highlights, like the burst of light from an explosion. In “Movie HDR” mode, the television does a nice job preserving color and detail inside of those very bright segments of the screen without noticeable clipping.

Black level measured in a center target pattern using CalMAN calibration software from Portrait Displays.

Like the Q90R, the 65Q80R QLED television handles black levels excellently for an LED LCD TV. Due to the fewer number of FALD LED zones than the Q90R, the Q80R does tend to crush more fine shadow detail, but the set seems to produce somewhat inkier blacks with less overall graying than the brighter model. We measured center black level in a target pattern of concentric gray rings at 0.0078 nits, which is well below the UHDA Premium criteria of 0.05 nits for LED LCD TVs and is getting closer to OLED’s “infinite black” level claims and UHDA’s 0.0005 nit threshold for OLED “Ultra HD Premium” certification.

The Samsung 65Q80R doesn’t totally eliminate haloing or blooming around bright objects on black backgrounds, but the issues are less obvious than on many competitive models in this price class. We saw a nice full star field with more visible stars in the opening segments of The Martian than we typically find in a television with fewer than 100 LED FALD zones, for example.

Additionally, after Calibration, we found the Samsung 65Q80R handled the Electro Optical Transfer Function (EOTF) quite well, with the curve rising only slightly above mid-level tones in the EOTF pattern used by content graders.

Uniformity

The Samsung 65Q80R does have some noticeable dirty screen effect that is occasionally evident in live content. Full white and gray screen test patterns reveal some yellow tinting in the center of the screen, and vertical jail bar smudges are visible across the screeen from right and left angles. These occasionally peak through in panning shots across solid light-colored backgrounds.

Color

Pre-calibrated HDR color management showing 94.1% of P3 coverage in CalMAN software from Portrait Displays.

As with most quantum dot-based (QLED) LED LCD TVs, the 65Q80R does an excellent job at displaying accurate colors across a wide color gamut. We measured the set at 94.1% of the DCI-P3 color space used for professional cinema equipment. Anything matching 90% of P3 or above meets the Ultra HD Alliance color gamut requirements for a “Premium Ultra HDTV”. The sunlight pushing through the green vegetation in the Jungle sequences of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of Planet Earth II were brilliantly lush and nuanced with varying hues drawing on the 65Q80’s ability to produce a full and bright color volume.

Image Processing

Like the Q90R, the 65Q80R has Samsung excellent image processsing technology that does a very good job or minimizing or eliminating the most distract picture artifacts caused by upconversion and background noise. Samsung has done a nice job eliminating some banding artifacts from images like the sun in the sky sequences of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of Pan, but more difficult conditions, like the merky water in the river dolphin outtake sequences of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of Planet Earth II still gave the processing circuitry some trouble in the underwater camera shots.

Upconversion of HD 1080 material was generally very good, although the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Test Disc from Spears & Munsil did produce some moire effect in revolving test patterns for horizontal resolution of upscaled signals, but we didn’t find any evidence of this having a distracting effect on real world content.

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The set handles background and low light noise well. The night Asian harbor sequences in the opening scenes from the SDR Blu-ray Disc version of Pirates of the Carribean At World’s End, which is filled with moving low-light noise, was clear and smooth without background distraction on the Q80R.

Motion Handling

The Samsung 65Q80R features a native 120 Hz LCD panel, which is very good by itself in handling most issues with motion, particularly in 24 fps film-based content. But for live video, like sporting events, Samsung adds its Auto Motion Plus system offering a package of control adjustments for motion smoothing and de-judder, like motion interpolation and black frame insertion solutions. While these should be turned off for most movie viewing, they can be desirable on-screen subjects begin to blur. Just keep in mind that if left on for movie viewing, the television can produce the Soap Opera Effect, which is an overly sharp picture that tends to make film-based content look like video. It can also make those with sensitive eyes feel motion sickness under certain conditions. This reviewer typically turns it off and leaves it that way, as the native 120 Hz panel does a nice all-around job.

On-board Sound

The Samsung 65Q80R has a respectable on-board audio system that presents clean, clear dialog and relatively dynamic sound effects from its small internal speakers. However, this is no substitute for having an outboard multi-channel surround sound home theater system or even a very good sound bar, which Samsung is offering this year in its simiarly named and market-positioned Q80 sound bar. You’ll hear all of your programs, but without the same degree of immersion of an add-on sound solution.

Video Gaming

Like most Samsung 4K televisions of the past several years, the 65Q80R has an impressively low lag time (16.4 ms) in both 1080/60p and 4K/30p resolution when in game mode. This was a tad slower than was measured for Q90R but plenty fast for most console and PC-based game play. As mentioned in the inputs section, Samsung supports FreeSync (VRR), which can be switched on or off under the external sources menu. The control menu also offers the option of using Dynamic Black Equalizer to brighten shadow areas for greater detail visibility in certain games.

Conclusion

Like the 65Q90R we reviewed earlier, the Samsung 65Q80R is a top-performing 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TV. What really impressed us is the new anti-glare screen filter and significantly improved wide angle in the better and best QLED model series. The anti-glare filter not only appreciably cuts down on the amount of glare from lights and windows in the room, it adds a mat-like shading to the screen making it look more like a projection screen surface than a glossy glass covered LCD. The “Ultra Black” anti-glare and “Ultra Wide” wide-angle filter technology also helps to avoid any decrease in contrast from scattered light that causes blooming, haloing and light bleeding from the filter itself, as seen in some competitors’ approaches to the wide-angle and reflected-light filtering, and even in some of Samsung’s own attempts in previous years.

Compared to the 65Q90R ($2,799.99) the 65Q80R ($1,997.99) lacks some of the brightness and shadow detail control, but the blacks are very rich and dark and the colors are excellent. If you can swing it, go for the 65Q90R, but we understand the price point is a little steep. We believe the Samsung Q80R is a more affordable option, which is currently available for a lower retail price than LG’s $2,497.99 65SM9500 4K flagship Nano Cell LED LCD TV, which offers brightness levels similar to the Samsung 65Q90R, but suffers some blooming and light bleeding issues. We also found the Samsung Q80R to have a better off-angle viewing experience that held onto color and contrast performance from a wider range of seating positions. (We have yet to review Sony’s 2019 X950 series 4K LED LCD TVs).

We emphasize that what we really like about both the Samsung Q80R and Q90R model series this year is the almost totally glare-free, wide-viewing angle screen. Until you see it in your home, it’s surprising how the presence of visible reflections on a screen cuts down the illusion of reality in the content without being aware of it. Right now, other than front projection, these Samsung TVs are the best displays I know of for reducing these on-screen reflections, and only OLED TVs beat the Samsung Ultra Wide viewing angles.

The primary difference between the Q80R and Q90R models is the Q90R has more local dimming zones (480 vs 96 zones) and is therefore brighter and provides better local black level control to limit haloing and produce better visible details in shadowed areas of the picture. The Q80 also has the in/out ports directly on the back of the television instead of the outboard One Connect box used with the Q90. This makes it easier to wall mount the Q80R in some custom installations, but more difficult to conceal over-the-wall wires if no AV receiver or switcher hub is used, as many DIYers will want to do. The Q90R’s One Connect box has only one thin almost translucent cord to the screen, carrying both source signals and power. This makes it easier to hide the connection in wall mounting for DIY installations where the cable will not run behind a wall or mounting panel.

For many who can’t or won’t step-up to the Samsung flagship 4K Q90R series, we believe the 65Q80R is an excellent buy. For $800 less, you get high-quality HDR and SDR picture quality, with deep black levels and minimal haloing and blooming of bright objects on black backgrounds. The FALD system also contains any light bleeding into letter box borders that has been a distraction on some competitive sets in this class. We therefore award the 2019 Samsung 65Q80R five out of five hearts.


The Samsung 4K Ultra HD 65Q80R QLED TV us ed for this review was a company loan.

By Greg Tarr

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