Review: Samsung Q7FN 4K UHD TV Excels With Color
For those looking for a very good performing and affordable 4K Ultra HD/HDR quantum dot television, Samsung’s QN55QFN QLED model has both the color and brightness performance to warrant serious consideration.
We found the model we tested to be a surprisingly bright television with deep blacks, very accurate colors in both standard and high dynamic range (HDR) with some of the widest color gamut and color volume ceilings we’ve tested. It also produces impressively bright HDR specular highlights for a television of this price class.
Like many of Samsung’s QLED models this year, the Q7FN model series offers excellent gaming with very low input lag and the ability to utilize new FreeSync technology from Microsoft’s Xbox One S/X gaming consoles and supporting PC graphics cards.
It also features Samsung’s excellent Tizen OS-based smart TV platform with a large library of popular streaming apps, voice control through Samsung’s own Bixby software and one of the easiest and most convenient setup procedures to not only connect the television to the home Wi-Fi network, but also to control almost every connected component in the home theater system through the TV’s simple and elegant remote as well.
That’s not to say the Samsung QN55W7FN is perfect. Some of its weakest points include significant shadow detail crushing in SDR and HDR, a modest amount of haloing and faint light bleed-through from bright subjects adjacent to on-screen letterbox border bars, which can be a little distracting in some scenes. It also continues to have off-angle viewing issues (progressive color and contrast fading), as do most LCD-based displays, which should be considered if the television is to be placed where viewers frequently sit off-axis to dead center screen.
The 55-inch QN55QFN is one of three screen sizes in the QFN series. This is a step-up from the entry-level Q6FN, and from what we could tell it has noticeably better picture quality than that model class.
We found the Samsung 55-inch QN55Q7FN to be very reasonably priced for the level of performance it produces. As this was posted, the set could be purchased on Amazon at a $1,297.99 street retail price on Amazon, a savings of $300 from its the former asking price. If 55-inches is too small, Samsung also offers the 65-inch QN65QFN and the 75-inch QN75QFN at $1,997.99 and $2,797.99 street prices, respectively.
All are flat-screen 4K Ultra HD televisions with edge-lit LED LCD panels and quantum dot color enhancement film. This QD film layer produces a very wide gamut (we measured 98.4% of the DCI-P3 color space) of highly accurate colors and color volume (brightness) levels that easily outpace comparable OLED models.
If the television is to be used frequently in rooms that are often well lit while viewing, this, like most of Samsung’s QLED model series this year, is an excellent option. It is also a very good choice for hard core video gamers who need a competitive edge.
The Samsung QN55Q7FN features an attractive contemporary design with very thin bezel around the screen, and sliver metallic frame with matching tabletop stand. The screen itself is thin with a rounded back textured matte black backing that is designed to hide the single thin, translucent cable that connects the screen to an external One Connect box, where most of the televisions circuitry, input connections and power supply are housed. This cable that connects the screen with the One Connect box is not fire safety rated, so any runs behind a wall should be handled by a professional, but its stealthy design allows it to be easily hidden or even painted to blend in with the surrounding room infrastructure.
Samsung hides the television’s easy-to-use manual controls under the Samsung logo at the base of the screen.
One Connect Box
The new One Connect Box sits atop a Samsung Blu-ray player.
Like the One Connect Box on Samsung’s top-of-the-line 4K Ultra HD QN65Q9FN and 8K QN85Q900 2018 sets, The QN55QFN has the new beefier One Connect box that has been enlarged to support the internal power supply. It’s also significantly heavier than past year’s modes. Nevertheless, it has a smaller footprint than the average Blu-ray player so it can be easily placed in an equipment rack or on nearby shelving without standing out. The One Connect Box also allows Samsung to develop an “Evolution Kit” that swaps out the original box with a new updated One Connect box if the company decides that consumers would benefit from new connection standards or operating system circuitry down the road. However, at the time this was written no such plans yet existed or had been announced for this model.
The One Connect box features an ample selection of inputs including four HDR-enabled HDMI 2.0b ports (one of which has Audio Return Channel capability); three USB inputs, an digital optical output, an Ethernet port and a serial port input via a mini-plug connector called X-Link, which is used to connect the television to a CalMan calibration software enabled PC to run SpectraCal’s AutoCal feature that significantly speeds up the process of professional display calibrations. (This is for professionals and advanced enthusiasts with the necessary tools and knowledge).
The One Connect box also has a proprietary port to connect the special cable that delivers both control signals and power to the display screen.
High Dynamic Range
EOTF HDR measurement using CalMan HDR10 workflow from Portrait Display/SpectraCal.
Thanks to its very high brightness level, the QN55Q7FN has a nice large contrast range with HDR material. This delivers pleasingly bright specular highlights (points of high brightness in a image) and dark black levels. Unlike the top-of-the-line full-array LED backlighting system with local dimming used in the Q8FN and Q9FN series, all Q7FN models use Samsung’s Ultra Slim Array edge-lit LED backlighting with UHD dimming. Although this helps the television produce nice deep blacks, it crushes some of the dark shadow detail in both HDR and SDR images.
We noticed haloing around bright objects against a black screen, and some bleed-through into letterbox borders, particularly when viewing in a dark room.
As for support HDR profiles, the television will play HDR10, HDR10+ and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). It does not support Dolby Vision or Technicolor Advanced HDR.
We measured peak HDR brightness at 1388.4 nits measuring a 10% D65 center white window pattern, which is well above the threshold Ultra HD Alliance “Premium HDR” level of 1000 nits for LCD displays. This dropped down to 852.8 nits with a 25% window; 808.6 nits with a 50% window and 786.3% with a 100% window.
Black level measured a very good 0.0126 nits from a center black bulls eye in a test pattern of concentric rings of progressively lighter shades of gray. We measured 0.0331 nits measuring a solid black test pattern with 10% white windows in all four corners. This is from Florian Friedrich’s HDR10 Reference Disc 2016 produced for Samsung and used with a custom CalMan workflow.
Looking for shadow detail, we found scenes of star lit deep space in the Ultra HD Blu-ray version of The Martian crushed out a significant amount of the stars in calibrated “Movie” mode. We could bring these out by switching into standard or dynamic picture modes, but this throws off the calibration in other areas. Much more shadow detail is visible in 2018 LG and Sony 4K OLED TV and Samsung’s new flagship QN85Q900 8K QLED we recently reviewed, but at the trade off of significantly higher prices.
Specular highlights were bright and colorful in movies produced to take advantage of this enhancement, like the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in the “Inflated Ego” chapter where The Guardians drill into the side of a rock wall using a large blue white light beam. Here the brightness intensity of the beam shines out of the television filling the from like a lamp, while dark areas of the screen remain black.
Special HDR10 CalMan workflow developed by Florian Freidrich showing 98.4% DCI-P3 coverage in pre-calibrated HDR10.
As we would expect from a QLED, or quantum dot, based television, the Q7FN is very good at reproducing accurate colors and high color volume. In HDR mode we measured a wide color gamut of 98.4% of the DCI-P3 color recommendation for professional cinemas. This is well above the 90% P3 threshold specified by the Ultra HD Alliance as a Premium HDR level set.
Samsung’s QLED televisions are also among the best at reproducing color volume, thanks to the use of the quantum dot film. The set will produce very bright and accurate colors without noticeable clipping from most commercially available content.
Standard Dynamic Range
Pre- and Post-SDR calibration views from the ISF workflow in CalMan software from Portrait Displays/SpectraCal.
The Samsung QN55Q7FN is very bright in standard dynamic range (SDR) as well as HDR. The set also produces accurate BT.709 color gamut coverage with little adjustment required.
In calibrating for SDR, we found the 55Q7FN in the Movie Mode and Warm2 color temperature settings needed only minor tweaking to get the proper readings for a dim room environment.
This comes across nicely in real-world video. Images from the Blu-ray Disc version of the BBC’s Planet Earth Vol 1. appeared realistic and rich without being over saturated. However, the images did lack some of the three dimensionality we enjoy in the 4K Ultra HD/HDR10 version of Planet Earth 2.
Samsung’s Auto Motion Plus motion handling tends to be pretty good every year, and this year is no exception. With the right settings, images are smooth with minimal judder. We found that using the custom settings was required to dial in the right amount of de-blurring vs. de-judder to keep from introducing the dreaded soap opera effect. The standard mode produced a little more judder than we’d like to see in sweeping pans across latticed brick or stone work and tree lines. We find turning the motion controls off is best for movie watching, and we tend to keep it that way except for some sporting events and video gaming.
Samsung’s image processing has been very good for some time and it continues to get better. Up conversion from Full HD Blu-ray sources is exceptionally clean, clear and color accurate, while upconversion from standard definition DVDs was acceptably clean without introducing any overt blurring of faces, or overtly pixelized edges around on-screen titles or credits.
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In the Blu-ray version of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, which is our favorite torture test for low-light noise handling, the 55Q7FN presented exceptionally smooth background colors with almost imperceptible moving background noise in the opening ocean cave sequences. Yet, a satisfying amount of grain was left to preserve the look of film.
Streaming content appeared acceptably clear and bright without any glaring artifacts to distract the eye, when available bandwidth supports full-resolution delivery.
Like most VA panel-based LCD TVs, Samsung’s QN55Q7FN suffers from drop off in black level, contrast and color performance when viewed from off axis. The picture quality begins to noticeably decline at about 25 degrees to the left or right of dead center, and gets progressively worse the greater the angle becomes. Similarly, the image quality declines when viewed at an angle from below or above dead center level. This should be considered if the television is to be mounted at a high angle on a wall.
The Samsung QN55QFN has excellent black screen uniformity an only slightly darkening of the screen edges against a gray screen test pattern. This does present any visibly distracting dirty screen effect in most video applications.
Samsung’s Tizen OS-based smart TV platform continues to improve every year, and this year’s version is the most powerful yet. Response time in app use is suitably quick enough to get the job done and user navigation is intuitive, and convenient with the most used apps appearing prominently right up front on the scrolling horizontal bar of app and source selections.
This year’s models are equipped with Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant that let’s users press and hold the mic button on the One Remote to quickly perform desired tasks, like quick between source options by saying “HDMI2” or calling up a favorite app by name. A universal search feature even call up a particular favorite program or movie from the range of available apps the user has loaded and activated in the system.
This year Samsung put a very neat feature in its QLED TVs called Ambient Mode. This makes the television useful when its not being used to watch videos by displaying photos, artworks or important daily information like the time, date weather, news headlines etc. In addition, when the television is wall mounted Samsung has developed a special mobile device app that lets you take a photo of the television against the wall and then uses that image to fill the screen with matching digital wallpaper of the surface behind the screen, which making the flat-panel seem to disappear into the background. Only the ultra-thin bezel trim remains visible to the eye.
Samsung continues to make its televisions smarter every year. The user interface still has a very slick layout with intuitive operation, but the TV does more. For example, the television supports the Smart Things system, through a downloadable app. This will enable control of the television and home automation devices connected through the home Wi-Fi network.
Samsung also adds its Bixby voice-controlled AI system (similar to Siri or Alexa) from its smartphones into the television. To operate a device, the user needs only hold down the microphone button on the remote and speak a command into its pinhole mic.
The system control a range of devices like smart appliances, lighting or robot vacuum cleaners right from the sofa.
The voice control platform in the television also provides a very useful method for making picture-settings adjustments via voice without having to navigate through multiple menu layers. The system is also designed to call up through the TV Plus icon on the selections bar available programming services and content from the smart app platform as well as from live TV sources.
The TV setup was quicker than ever using the free SmartThings mobile device app that the television instructs the user to download upon startup. From there, the app makes all of the connections to the home network without the need of usernames and passwords. It guides the viewer through the connection to cable, satellite TV and terrestrial TV sources.
Devices like Ultra HD Blu-ray players and Roku devices are instantly recognized and labeled on the appropriate HDMI input upon connection to the television.
In the last couple of years Samsung has taken serious interest in developing televisions that can stand up to the latest and greatest video games, and the QN55Q7FN is no exception. We measured a very good good input lag of just over 19 ms in game mode for both 1080/60p and 2160/30p with HDR signal sources.
The television also features the FreeSync variable refresh rate technology for use with Xbox One S/X consoles and some PC graphics cards. This is adaptive synchronization technology for LCD displays that reduces tearing and stuttering caused by frame rate misalignment with the content.
The Samsung QN55QFN is a very good television for most SDR and 4K/HDR viewing applications, particularly video games and sports viewing. It is also a good bright-room performer with an excellent smart TV platform and a large selection of special features. As an edge-lit display, it doesn’t have the best reproduction of dark shadow detail, which could be a consideration if you care about seeing a picture that best matches the artistic intention of the filmmaker, but it will save a few hundred dollars compared to 4K OLED models or better-performing quantum dot televisions.
We therefore award the Samsung QN55Q7F four out of five hearts.
The QN55Q7F used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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