Review: Samsung QN65Q7F Offers QLED Performance At A Value
Back in March we tested Samsung’s high-performing 2017 flagship quantum dot light emitting diode (QLED) 4K Ultra HDTV and found a very bright set with great cosmetic appeal and a very wide color gamut. But we realize the set’s price point is out of reach for a lot of our readers.
This time we decided to take a look at a little more affordable alternative in the company’s QLED entry model series — the Q7F.
What we found was a set with a beautifully sleek design, hairline bezel trim, slick cable management, rich and vibrant colors, respectable black level, strong image processing, motion handling and 4K upscaling.
On the downside, the edge-lit LED system has some issues controlling light leaking into letterbox screen borders, off-angle image degradation and lower peak luminance in high dynamic range (HDR) mode than we saw in the Q9F model.
Overall, the set has a great looking picture in both HDR and standard dynamic range (SDR) with vibrant, natural color handling, good picture quality for both movies and sports and a TV/stand design that’s as impressive as the pictures on the screen.
Samsung’s QLED TVs are now available at the following prices: the 55-inch QN55Q7F ($2,297.99 UPP), the 65-inch QN65Q7F ($3,297.99); the 75-inch QN75Q7F ($4,997.99), the 55-inch QN55Q8C ($3,197.99), and the 65-inch QN65Q8C ($4,297.99). The flagship 65-inch ($5,297.99), 75-inch ($9,998.99) and the 88-inch QN88Q9F ($19,998.99), are also available with slightly different cosmetics and a with very bright picture performance.
According to Samsung, the Q9F series will have the best peak brightness performance of the three QLED series due in part to the use of an edge-lit LED system positioned at the left and right sides of the screen. The Q7F reviewed here uses LED edge lighting from the bottom of the screen with light cast upward across the back of the quantum dot/LCD panel.
Read more of our review of the Samsung QN65Q7F after the jump:
For our review we were sent a 65-inch model, QN65Q7F, and found another very solid performing 4K Ultra HDTV television with HDR10 and Hybrid Log-Gamma high dynamic range (HDR) support. Samsung still is not supporting Dolby Vision and doesn’t appear it ever will. Dolby Vision uses dynamic color grading and offers some benefits over basic HDR10, but the effects of static HDR10 are also very good and the format has mandatory support in the Ultra HD Blu-ray format.
We were impressed to see that the Q7F featured quite a different looking ultra-thin panel design than the Q9F. In fact, we think it looks a little better than the flagship series, which has a deeper panel and a square frame edge that looks more like a big metal picture frame than a television screen. It’s a matter of taste; We can see where others will find the Q9Fs look more appealing.
In contrast, the Q7F looks much more svelte and OLED-like. It also shares the Q9’s super-cool new table-top stand that hides the power cord and optical cable tether that attaches to the outboard One-Connect box, which houses the set’s input and output connections.
The Q7F models all have flat screens this year, as Samsung reduces the emphasis on curved screens in the U.S. model mix. We think this is a wise decision; the screen looks big and wide and is nicely accented by the silver metallic pencil-thin bezel trim. Screen glare also has been reduced through the design and a new 3-layer anti-reflective film.
Samsung put a lot of work into the look of its QLED models this year, and it pays off. An oval matching cover panel conceals the power connection and the upright stand connection point to the panel. The side profile of the set reveals a very thin panel with a round, textured matte black finish across the back of the set. The included tabletop stand is designed to conceal the power and fiber optic (Invisible Connection) cables, the latter of which attaches to the One Connect box.
Samsung also sells an optional “No Gap Wall-mount” that will help make a tight fit against the wall for those who require it.
In addition to making for a clean tight fit, the No Gap mount includes a tilt mechanism to improve the vertical viewing angle in elevated placements and has a special leveling feature to aid with installation.
Both the panel and One Connect box have their own power connections, meaning the fiber optic cable between the box and screen can be safely snaked behind a wall, if desired. If not, the thin white translucent cable will blend in with a white surface.
Samsung continues to stick by its guns on high dynamic range (HDR), supporting the HDR10 format with its PQ, EOTF BT2084 based static metadata system. The sets will also support Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) live HDR when or if that format is selected by broadcasters or cable/satellite TV operators. Alternatively, Samsung has developed a system for bringing dynamic frame-by-frame contrast and color grading to the HDR10 platform.
We were somewhat surprised to see how much peak brightness in BT 2084/HDR mode dropped off from the top-of-the-line . The wasn’t as bright as the QN65Q9 by a long shot, but after some work we managed to get a reading that exceeded the 1,000-nit threshold required in the criteria for the Ultra HD Alliance’s Ultra HD Premium TV certification.
Where the Q9F measured at 1637.8 nits using a D65 10 percent white window pattern, we had to work to get a reading of 1154 nits after repeatedly achieving a max of 941 nits over the first couple of tries. (Note: Our Q7 review sample received a firmware update just before the test sample was shipped to us, which was said to have delivered improvements to brightness and other areas.)
The set is designed to achieve peak brightness immediately after a 10 percent white window pattern appears on screen, but the brightness levels quickly start to ramp down after 15 to 30 seconds before ramping back up again. This is to both save energy and save wear and tear of the LED edge light system. Peak HDR brightness highlights typically only appear in very localized areas of the screen, and then for only a few seconds on screen at a time. By surpassing the 1,000-nit threshold, the QN65Q7F achieves the peak brightness standard required by the Ultra HD Alliance for “Ultra HD Premium” certification.
However, television’s new edge-lighting system also shared some of the weaknesses we observed in the Q9F, such as light bleeding through letterbox bars on 2:39:1 wide-screen movies, particularly those carried on Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. We also noticed some blooming in very bright whites, along with a slight appearance of banding under certain conditions on the 10-bit panel.
For black level, the Q7F achieved a respectable 0.0091 nits running a pattern designed to keep the edge lighting on when displaying a 0-nit target. That measurement puts the set well within range of the 0.05 nit threshold required for Ultra HD Premium certification on a 4K Ultra HD LCD TV.
On real world material, the television produced deep inky blacks in the deep space sequences from the Ultra HD Blu-ray of The Martian, without crushing fainter background stars. Most people are going to love this picture, but if you are a stickler for brightness stats and want the color and color volume enhancements off a brighter QLED TV, you will want to step up to the Q9F.
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Where the Q7F excels is in color performance. The model we tested measured 98 percent of the Digital Cinema Initiative’s (DCI-P3) color gamut recommendations for professional movie theaters. This is thanks to the advanced capabilities afforded by the on-board quantum dot film technology that boosts the color volume and saturation illuminated by the LED edge-lighting system.
This year, Samsung took another step forward in quantum dot technology through the introduction of its three QLED 4K Ultra HD LCD TV tiers. This year, the quantum dots have been enhanced with a new metal alloy coating that is said to contribute to widening viewing angles and boosting color volume. We can attest that colors are brighter and more natural.
Due to this model’s significantly lower overall peak brightness performance than the Q9F we didn’t conduct a separate test for color volume. Color volume is a measure of the different shades of color achieved by varying degrees of brightness made possible in the flagship model’s very bright light output. Samsung boasts that its QLED technology produces a purer form of peak color brightness without washing out color saturation with white light.
We found colors to look very rich, vibrant and natural. Looking at the Ultra HD Blu-ray version of The Revenant, we found camp fires and candle light that looked very yellow and orange from the HDR color grading, appeared whiter, brighter and more natural to the eye than we saw in last year’s SUHD models.
Samsung is continuously upgrading and improving its Tizen-OS-based Smart Hub smart TV platform. This year’s improvements made controlling the televisions, finding apps and content and setting up the television much easier. Upon setup the Q7F quickly recognized and labeled HDMI-connected source devices, including an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and DirecTV set-top box. The HDMI-CEC capabilities allowed us to operate the basic operations of our connected devices through the television’s One Remote handheld remote control.
Where available, the system defaults to the device’s on-screen graphical user interface – in this case the DirecTV program guide. Samsung continues to maintain a large library of OTT streaming services including the most important ones — Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, and YouTube among many others. It also supports the 4K HDR (HDR10) streaming of those services offering it.
This year’s One Remote has been significantly reduced in size but keeps a familiar form factor and button layout. It also switches from last year’s gray plastic look to a more substantial silver metal appearance.
The remote features a mic to take voice commands. Users can speak simple commands into the remote while holding down the mic button to call up certain menus, search for content and apps, and even make spoken adjustments to picture and sound settings without the need to dig into multiple menu layers.
We found the voice commands to be far more responsive and accurate this year, although learning the correct key phrases that the system recognizes will take some time and practice on the part of the user. Once down, the system greatly speeds up the process of calibration and everyday tasks, making this a highly welcomed addition.
Also, keep in mind that despite reports about spy-agency eavesdropping through Samsung smart TVs, the company’s Tizen models for the past several years have placed the mic pickup in the remotes and users must hold down the mic button on the remote while speaking for it to pick up anything. If you want to ensure MI5 isn’t listening to your private discussions, don’t press the mic button when you’re saying something sensitive.
The QN65Q7F, like all QLED models, was designed to offer improved off-angle viewing from its Vertically Aligned (VA) LCD panel. While improved, the viewing angles aren’t quite as wide as we observed in the Q9F models, which maintain an acceptable picture until 30 degrees off dead center.
The Q7F’s color and contrast begins to drop off at closer to 60 degrees. Still, this is better than we typically see from edge-lit VA LCD panels.
As with the 65Q9F, this set is designed to be viewed with the room lights on, which some home theater fans (particularly those with old plasma TVs) might find odd. In dark rooms the set’s edge-light bleed-through problem becomes more pronounced and distracting. But with the lights on, the issue strangely disappears leaving a rich, dark picture on most images.
A Samsung use study found a majority or consumers watch TV with a modest amount of ambient light on in the room, and are seated 8-to-9 feet from the screen. It’s a good idea to set up the viewing room to take this into account. Just note that most of the viewers will benefit from bunching up toward center screen.
If you turn the lights completely off, you might be disappointed to see the picture lose some degree of contrast, and light will bleed through into letterbox bars when watching either too close or slightly off center axis to the screen.
New One Remote has a sleek, substantial look and feel
New Calibration Methods
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As mentioned, both the Q9F and Q7F model series offer a significant boost in color performance over last year’s SUHD models. Even in Rec. 709 with SDR, the QN65Q7F produces beautifully rich and accurate colors with Delta E levels averaging well below 3 across the color range.
This year, Samsung made some pretty dramatic changes to the way viewers now make adjustments for back lighting and brightness in the QLED lines. In part, this is because Samsung said users were becoming confused by what the various settings did and how they performed, causing them to make images look worse through their untrained adjustments.
For back light, when users make adjustments it is usually because bright scenes appear too striking. The new backlight control takes this into account resulting in what Samsung calls “a more comfortable viewing experience while maintaining a stunning brightness for smaller highlights like the sun in a beautiful sunset.”
For standard dynamic range (SDR), the backlight control now affects different levels of APL differently. With low values of Average Picture Levels (APL), the regulation of the backlight is less intense than with high levels of APL.
The backlight control now offers settings in values from 0 to 20. APL-dependent backlight control can be turned off by switching local dimming to “low.” This might be useful for a better calibration and in order to serve bright light environments.
The brightness control now affects the lower end of the Electro Optical Transfer Function (EOTF) curve, instead of the previously much broader range. Positive values will increase the visibility of dark details in the image without pushing the black levels too far, which is helpful in situations with more ambient light. Negative values are now reducing brightness of dark parts in the image for deeper blacks and more depth in dark room environments.
The new settings for brightness values range from -5 to +5.
Traditionally and because of analog signal dependencies, the brightness control was used for adjusting the black level, which most consumers find counter intuitive.
Nowadays we have digital signals with identical, standardized black levels. The change will enable the use of the brightness control in a more intuitive way to prevent degrading of dark details, Samsung said.
We found the Q7F’s on-board sound to be clear, dialog understandable and music and supporting effects to be relatively full with some limitations at the high-end that produced an overly shrill quality when fed CD music. However, in this price/performance class we expect most users will opt for an outboard soundbar or a full-blown multi-channel surround sound system.
Samsung’s picture processing traditionally has been among the best in the industry. We found images to be acceptably clear from normal viewing distances. Upscaling of lower-resolution images were acceptably sharp from both 480p and 720p sources on the 4K Ultra HD screen.
We used a favorite torture test – the opening ocean cave sequences in the standard Blu-ray edition of “Pirates of Caribbean: At World’s End” to test noise handling. The low-light filmed scenes in the movie are loaded with background noise and film grain. When the upscaling system is bad on a TV, this noise dances around distracting the viewer from the main subjects in the dimly lit scene. The processing in the 65Q7 was very good. Unwanted digital mosquito noise was effectively removed while desired film grain was left in place. Colors and light levels were as we’d expect to see them on a 1080p display showing the content in native format.
Similarly, the Q7’s Auto Motion Plus motion handling system was very good. The 65Q9F has a 120Hz panel. The set features a Custom setting with de-blur turned up by default and de-judder turned up to three. This will add some degree of Soap Opera Effect but can be adjusted to the preference of the viewer. Overall, we were pleased with how the Q7F handled motion.
Connection pack on the back of the Q7F’s One Connect Box.
The Samsung One Connect box offers a good selection of AV in/out ports. The box includes four HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 inputs one of which (HDMI 2) has ARC with 5.1 passthrough for Dolby Digital and DTS; one optical output with 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS passthrough, one Ethernet input, one cable/ant tuner input and three USB ports. As mentioned, the One Connect Box connects to the display panel via a supplied fiber optic cable.
Samsung advances its 4K Ultra HDTV performance through the use of quantum dot technology every year and the 2017 QLED assortment is no exception. Colors continue to get richer and more natural looking to complement the excellent video and motion processing Samsung incorporates into its higher-performing models. The QN65Q7F produces Ultra HD Alliance level peak brightness and black level for less money than the flagship Q9F series, making it a worthy compromise for those who can’t justify the $2,000 price step up into Q9F territory. The picture quality of the QN65Q7F is excellent, and will surpass most other 4K HDR televisions in this class. Plus, the styling design of the Q7F is arguably nicer than the Q9F’s.
Those looking for a good smart TV system won’t be disappointed in the 2017 Tizen platform, either. The 2017 Samsung models offer some of the best voice interaction we’ve experienced in a consumer device, and Samsung has done an excellent job of ensuring all the best apps are available where they can be found quickly and easily.
Gamers also will be pleased to find the 65Q7F has an impressive 24.3ms 1080/60fps and 4K/60fps HDR lag time in Game Mode.
The Samsung QN65Q9F is a recommended top-performing set for movie lovers, console gamers and sports fans alike.
The Samsung QN65Q7F used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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