Our original review continues below:
With an almost constant stream of flagship TVs passing through Expert Reviews’ doors, it’s easy to forget that there are TVs further down the ranges – and at prices that don’t instantly make you wince. Samsung’s Q70R range is a perfect example. Sitting below the premium Q90R, Q85R and Q80R models as part of Samsung’s 2019 4K QLED family, this – ahem – ‘mid-range’ TV is attempting to deliver that QLED magic for a lot less cash.
Samsung Q70R review: What you need to know
Samsung’s Q70R comes in five distinct flavours. The 55in model is on test here, but it’s also available in 49in, 65in, 75in and 82in variants. The key selling point is that it’s the cheapest TV in Samsung’s QLED ranges to include full array local dimming (FALD) backlighting – and that gives it a huge advantage over sets that use basic edge-lit technology.
Naturally, though, you do end up missing out on some of the features from the flagship models. The Q70R lacks the Ultra Viewing Angle and Ultra Black Filter features, and while its stablemates boast hundreds of lighting zones for their FALD backlights, the Q70R has to make do with just 50.
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Samsung Q70R review: Price and competition
It feels a bit strange calling the Q70R a mid-range TV when prices start at over £1,000, but such is the TV market in 2019. In any case, it’s a darn sight more affordable than Samsung’s range-topping Q90R – that launched from £2,099 for a 55-inch model, which soars up to £3,799 for the 75in model. By comparison, the Q70R’s launch prices seem quite reasonable: you can choose between the QE49Q70R (£1,099), QE55Q70R (£1,299), QE65Q70R (£1,799), QE75Q70R (£2,999) and the frankly ginormous QE82Q70R (£3,999).
However, the looming competition in this price range comes from LG’s more affordable OLED TVs. With the superb LG C9 OLED now retailing for as little as £1,299 for a 55-inch model, the only reason not to pick the LG is if you’re irrationally terrified about screenburn – and frankly, that’s a non-issue unless you’re dead set on watching news channels for hours on end. If you want the absolute best picture quality for the money, our advice is quite simple: pick the LG.
Samsung Q70R review: Features and design
Samsung’s Q70R is fairly chunky by today’s standards. As ever, it’s the FALD backlighting which is responsible for filling out the Q70R’s deeper chassis – but in all fairness it’s not something that’s likely to bother most people. Unless, that is, you’re planning on staring at the side of your TV or you’re an OCD stickler for flush wall-mounting.
And if you’re planning to pop the Q70R on your TV stand, a word of warning: although the feet slot in easily without a screw in sight, they are rather widely spaced. This is an important issue because in some cases this will require you to buy a wider TV stand.
There are advantages to the Q70R’s chunky chassis and wide stance, though. Sound quality is solid, with the internal speakers producing impressive bass and volume. The down-firing speaker arrangement means that sound directionality is below par, but the powerful sound more than makes amends. It’s markedly superior to your average TV audio.
We are a little sad to see that Samsung’s ingenious One Connect box hasn’t trickled down to the 7-series model, though. Instead, all four HDMI 2.0b ports are all located on the TV’s rear.
You get the choice of two remote controls in the box. There’s a more traditional remote control, which works as you’d expect it to if you’ve been using TVs since the 1990s, and there’s also a Smart Remote that’s better suited for the point-and-click crowd.
Whichever you choose to use, the Tizen-powered interface is slick. There are HDR-enabled apps for Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and BBC iPlayer, and the Prime Video app supports HDR10+ dynamic metadata. Apple users will be very pleased to see that Airplay support is present alongside the Apple TV app, too. Only the lack of Freeview Play gives cause for some very (very) minor disappointment.
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Samsung Q70R review: Picture quality and HDR
The Q70R’s screen is a VA-type LCD panel, which means you can expect deep blacks and great contrast – or at least you can if you sit in the right seat. One of the limitations of VA technology is that viewing angles aren’t particularly wide, so you’ll lose colour fidelity and contrast as you move off-centre. It’s imperative to sit within a 30-degree angle or so from head-on for the best results.
Indeed, it is a genuine shame that Samsung’s Ultra Viewing Angle and Ultra Black Filter features haven’t yet trickled down from the top-flight models, as these do a great job of making up for the limitations of VA panel technology. There are no two ways about it: the Q70R’s semi-glossy sheen is simply not as effective as the reflection-absorbing finish of the Samsung Q80R and Q90R.
It’s great to see that FALD is present and correct though, even if the Q70R’s 50 independently dimmable zones fall well short of the Q90R’s 480. Nevertheless, Samsung makes the absolute most of that limited number of zones by tailoring the local dimming algorithm to suit, sacrificing shadow detail and dimming brighter objects to maintain deep blacks and reduce blooming or haloing artefacts.
This generally works well in practice, too, and while the top and bottom letterbox bars aren’t as black as the flagship Q90R, they’re impressively dark. Keep an eye on those bars and you’ll notice significantly less distracting blooming than on rivals such as Sony’s LED LCD models. The very darkest near-black tones look significantly cleaner than on most OLED sets too.
The aggressive local dimming has its downsides: the Q70R isn’t the last word when it comes to colour accuracy. It is possible to massage the picture settings to produce a more natural-looking picture, but this is a TV more concerned with visual impact than out and out accuracy – something we’ll come back to in the HDR performance section.
The Q70R’s picture processing delivers high quality upscaling of SD and HD content, so it’s a shame to see that it doesn’t get a completely clean bill of health in other areas. There are comprehensive motion controls, but enabling these tends to introduce microstutter in 50Hz interlaced broadcast content, and this is most noticeable from the internal Freeview tuner. The TV’s Black Frame Interpolation (BFI) feature suffers from similar issues, too, with motion interpolation artefacts becoming visible on 50Hz content.
Under really close examination, there are some other visual issues worth mentioning. We noted dirty screen effect (DSE) on full-field grey slides and a mild blue tint across all four borders of the screen. Bear in mind, though, that these slides are used to test picture uniformity to the extreme, and these issues shouldn’t be visible in everyday use.
Samsung Q70R review: HDR performance
The Q70R supports HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and HDR10+, but it doesn’t support Dolby Vision – aka the best known premium HDR format – which is a shame.
All-told, though, the Q70R’s HDR performance is very respectable. After calibration, peak brightness reaches 700cd/m2 on a 10% window, and 410cd/m2 on an all-white screen. This means that you can expect a bold, impactful HDR experience.
The Q70R’s presentation isn’t strictly accurate, however. It covers 93% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut – a result which isn’t too far off that of the flagship Q90R model – but by default it has an over-brightened HDR picture, and this can’t be completely corrected because dynamic tone mapping is always active. It also struggles with detail in the very darkest scenes, and this is because – as we mentioned earlier – Samsung’s dimming algorithm prefers to crush shadow detail to obtain deeper, darker blacks.
A less pressing problem is that the Q70R exhibits problems with brightness fluctuations in subtitles. In this instance, it’s the small number of FALD zones which are to blame. If you’re addicted to foreign language crime dramas or use subtitles regularly, then it’d be wise to stump up the cash for a high-end QLED. Or consider buying an OLED instead.
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Samsung Q70R review: Gaming
As we’ve come to expect from Samsung, gaming puts the Q70R right in its element. Auto Low-Latency Mode (ALLM) support means that the TV automatically switches to the low-latency Game mode when connected to a compatible games console, and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) keeps screen tearing at bay. We measured input lag at a mere 15ms, which is about as low as it gets for TVs.
Game Mode does sacrifice a little bit of the Q70R’s picture processing oomph, however, and the reduced local dimming means that blacks aren’t as black and blooming is more apparent. Still, the LED LCD panel means that there’s zero risk of burn-in, which is reassuring for avid gamers.
Samsung Q70R review: Verdict
The Q70R is yet another fine QLED TV from Samsung that puts in a very respectable all-round showing. HDR performance is good, and while the images the Q70R produces aren’t strictly accurate we suspect most people won’t care – the overall impact is thrilling.
The elephant in the room, however, is LG and its OLED family. LG’s cheaper models such as the B8 and C8 have steadily trickled down in price since launch, and now that they’re in the same price bracket, the biggest reason to go QLED is if you’re terrified of burn-in on an OLED set. With that calibre of rival in the fray, we suspect that – for all its charms – the Q70R is going to have its work cut out.