(Pocket-lint) - Samsung has made some big advances in its QLED TVs over the last few years, with more colours thanks to Quantum Dot technology, brighter high dynamic range (HDR) images, and an AI-enhanced chipset for clever upscaling. Recent 2019 models like the Q90R have added an ultra black filter and wider viewing angles, bringing QLED to a level that's closer to OLED rivals such as the LG C9.
The problem is all this QLED goodness comes with a lofty price. So what can you do if you fancy the inherent benefits of QLED but don't have the necessary readies? That's where the Samsung Q70R comes in: it has those metal-clad Quantum Dots for purer colours, it has a direct backlight and local dimming, it has the AI chipset, and it has the comprehensive smart platform.
If you're thinking there has to be a catch, you're right: the Q70R uses fewer dimmable zones than the more expensive models, meaning there can be backlight foibles, and it also drops the Q90's filter, thus viewing angles aren't as supreme. There's also no One Connect box to separate the connections to a separate box, so if you're hoping to wall-mount then other options in Samsung's QLED range might make better sense.
Still, for the budget conscious, the Q70R offers heaps. It comes available in five screen sizes too: the 49-inch QE49Q70R (£1,499), the 55-inch QE55Q70R (£1,699 - as reviewed here), the 65-inch QE65Q70R (£2,199), the 75-inch QE75Q70R (£3,499), and the 82-inch QE82Q70R (£4,799).
QE49Q70R: Design, Connections and Control
- 4x HDMI, 3x USB
- LAN, Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2
The Samsung Q70 goes for a minimalist and unprepossessing look that is commensurate with its lower price point. There's essentially no bezel around the screen and a simple black trim around the outer edge. It still reflects Samsung's 360-degree design ethos with a ridged rear panel that adds a bit of visual texture.
The build quality is reasonable, but relies heavily on plastic for its construction. On the plus side it's lighter, which makes wall-mounting easier. The panel otherwise sits on two metal feet that simply slot into holes on the underside. The feet are quite far apart, so bear that in mind when installing the Q70 - since there's no One Connect box all the connections are at the rear of the panel.
Thankfully there's a full complement: four HDMI inputs that support 4K, high dynamic range (HDR10, HLG, and HDR10+), and HDCP 2.2; three USB ports (2x 2.0, 1x 3.0); twin terrestrial and satellite tuners; an optical digital output; a CI (Common Interface) slot; an external link for auto calibration; and a LAN port. There's also built-in Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2.
Unlike arch-rival LG, Samsung has decided not to support HDMI 2.1, because the company feels it is unnecessary. As a result the HDMI connections can still accept 4K at up to 120Hz, dynamic metadata (HDR10+), variable refresh rate (VRR), and auto low latency mode (ALLM). Samsung TVs don't currently support eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), but that could be added later if necessary.
You don't get the classy metal remote found higher up the range, but you do get two controllers in the box. There's a standard zapper with all the usual buttons, and a stripped-down wand that is more ergonomic in design - it has all the main buttons, plus a microphone for voice control, along with direct access for Netflix, Amazon and Rakuten.
QE55Q70R: Quantum Processor 4K with AI
- Processing engine: Quantum 4K Processor with AI
- HDR Support: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+
- 1000nits peak brightness
- 100% of DCI-P3
- Direct Full Array
The Samsung Q70 might not boast all the new features found further up the range, but it does include the new Quantum 4K chipset with AI enhancements. The processing is optimised for 4K resolution (3840 x 2160), and applies machine learning to upscale lower-resolution images. The Q70 analyses and processes images using a database that's periodically updated via machine learning algorithms.
The processing doesn't just upscale lower resolution images to match the 4K panel, it also enhances them by applying detail creation to improve the texture of objects, and reduce image noise where necessary. There's also an edge restoration feature designed to remove jaggies and create lines with precisely-defined edges.
The filter and wider viewing angles might be missing, but the Q70 still uses a VA LCD panel for deeper blacks and has a direct LED backlight. This is combined with about 50 local dimming zones - which might not sound like a lot, but Samsung's local dimming algorithms are so good that the results are often very impressive.
Since the Q70 is a QLED TV it benefits from Quantum Dots that can deliver brighter images and wider colours with purer reproduction. Samsung claims the Q70 can reach 100 per cent of the DCI-P3 colour space (which was confirmed in our testing), but it also markets the TV as HDR1000. This suggests it can reach 1,000nits of peak brightness, but we actually measured it at 800nits maximum.
QE65Q70R: Stripped-down QLED
The Samsung Q70 might not have the black filter and wider viewing angles of the more expensive models in the range, but these omissions can be mitigated with some sensible installation choices. It might seem obvious but avoid nearby windows and that lack of a black filter is less of an issue. The same goes for the viewing angles: if you sit towards the centre then it's no big deal, and who watches telly from steep angles anyway?
Another tip is to pick the best picture mode. The default Standard looks good in the daytime, with its bright and punchy images, but the Movie mode is designed for night-time viewing. The blacks will be deeper, the shadows better defined, and colours more accurate to the original content. It's also purposely not as bright, thus avoiding eyestrain when watching in a darkened room.
Perhaps most importantly, the Q70 still has the direct backlight and local dimming found on its pricier siblings. That means the pictures are bright with HDR content, but the blacks retain plenty of depth. The local dimming is highly effective, despite the limited number of zones, and the resulting images retain excellent contrast with minimal haloing (when a bright edge protrudes around a darker subject when it shouldn't).
The Q70 does an excellent job with 4K content, making full use of the native resolution of its panel. Sadly much of what we watch still isn't 4K (or even close) but the AI-enhanced image processing is impressive, squeezing every last pixel out of lower-resolution content and improving the look of heavily compressed material.
The Samsung also handles motion fairly well for an LCD TV - but you may experience a bit of judder or blur with certain scenes. We definitely wouldn't recommend using Auto Motion Plus with movies (unless you want them to look like cheap video, given the resulting soap opera effect), but it can prove useful when watching fast-paced sports.
Like other models in Samsung's QLED range the Q70 really delivers the goods with HDR, where the 4K panel's resolution, inherent brightness and saturated colours all come into play. The result is a superior experience with good tone mapping that ensures the bright highlights don't lose detail and the blacks aren't crushed.
You can watch HDR10+ content on Amazon Prime, and there are around 10 Ultra HD Blu-rays currently available that are encoded in the format. It certainly works well at mapping the HDR images on a scene-by-scene basis, ensuring that on the new 4K disc of Alien all the details in the brighter and darker parts of the picture are delivered to the best of the display's abilities.
The Q70 will undoubtedly prove popular with gamers, not just because it can deliver detailed, bright and punchy images with colours that pop, but also because there's no danger of image retention or screen burn after a marathon session. There are also game-specific features such as variable refresh rate (VRR) and auto low latency mode (ALLM), along with a 14ms input lag.
QE75Q70R: Any issues?
The Samsung Q70's use of a direct LED backlight and local dimming helps to minimise issues like haloing or blooming around bright objects against a dark background, but it doesn't eliminate the problem. In general it wasn't particularly noticeable with standard dynamic range (SDR) content, unless we moved off to the side, but it was more apparent with HDR material. The backlight and contrast are maxed out for HDR, pushing the local dimming to its limits, and as a result some blooming was evident - like slight patchy clouds of brightness on the image where it shouldn't be present.
A 4K disc like Life is good test of a display's local dimming HDR capabilities, with its bright white pressure suits against the blackness of space. The Q70 did an excellent job of tone mapping the content without clipping the whites, but there was haloing and blooming on occasion. The local dimming was caught out a few times by sudden changes in luminance as well, although for less challenging HDR content the TV was able to deliver bright, saturated, and detailed images.
The only other real issue relates to all Samsung TVs: none support Dolby Vision. At present Samsung is heavily promoting HDR10+, and while that version of dynamic metadata is beginning to gain traction, there's no denying that Dolby Vision has a huge head start. This puts Samsung's TVs a disadvantage to manufacturers like Panasonic and Philips - both of which support both formats across their respective ranges.
QE82Q70R: Smart features
- Tizen OS with Bixby
The Samsung Q70 is certainly the equal of its more expensive siblings when it comes to its smart platform. It sports exactly the same Tizen-powered operating system, with its launcher bar along the bottom and a second layer for quickly accessing additional related content.
It's also the very definition of comprehensive, with Netflix, Amazon, Now TV, Rakuten, YouTube, and all the UK TV catch-up services. If that wasn't enough Samsung has added the Apple TV app (May 2019), providing access to iTunes as well.
In recognition of the fact that users are presented with a bewildering array of choice these days, Samsung has also introduced the Universal Guide. This feature curates all your favourite games, movies, sports, and streaming services into a single user-friendly interface. The guide then analyses your viewing habits, creating a single For You page with content to suit your tastes.
Samsung's Bixby smart assistant is now built-in, too, accessed by either pressing the microphone button on the remote or using the far-field mic built into the TV. We'd recommend turning the latter off, unless you want Bixby springing to life at the drop of a hat, but otherwise it's very effective if it's the voice assistant you tend to use (which we doubt, really). However Q70 is agnostic when it comes to smart assistants, and also works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and even Siri thanks to AirPlay 2.
QE55Q70R: Sound quality
The Q70's speakers aren't as impressive as the more expensive QLED models, but the use of direct backlighting in the panel means there's room for a larger pair of drivers here. They sound fairly good, with some nice stereo separation, well-defined mid-range, and higher frequencies that don't sound too bright. In addition, the volume can go fairly high without sounding strained or brittle.
Overall the Q70 is able deliver a solid level of sound quality that can certainly fill the average lounge. The inclusion of the Intelligent Sound mode also helps by analysing the room itself and the content you're watching. The processing is then able to create a more defined soundstage and a greater sense of immersion, although it will never beat a good soundbar.
As with all of Samsung's current line-up, the Q70 doesn't support Dolby Atmos, but it's debatable just how much value object-based audio really adds to a TV with a limited number of speakers. However, the TV is able to send Dolby Atmos soundtracks from internal apps like Netflix and Amazon back to supporting soundbars or AV receivers via HDMI-ARC.
The Samsung Q70 is great all-rounder that delivers many of the benefits of QLED - a wide colour palette, deep blacks and high peak brightness - while avoiding a huge price tag.
The use of a direct LED backlight makes a big difference, especially when it comes to HDR images, while the local dimming is highly effective despite its more limited number of zones compared to the higher-end QLED models - as such there's a small amount of blooming and haloing present in some instances.
The Q70 might be missing some of picture enhancements found higher up the range, but it sports a full smart platform and a comprehensive set of streaming apps that now includes iTunes. Throw in a host of cutting-edge features, and this TV is hard to fault for the price.
So if you fancy taking a ride on the QLED express, this mid-range model might be just the best ticket.
This LCD TV costs a bit more - at £1,899 - but it boasts full array local dimming and great processing from the X1 Ultimate processor. There's no support for HDR10+, but you do get Dolby Vision and Atmos, along with the Android smart platform and built-in Google Assistant.
The LG option is a bit cheaper - at £1,799 - but offers many of the same features as the Sony above. So you get full array local dimming, NanoCell technology for better colours and deeper blacks, wider viewing angles, and the second-generation Alpha 7 processor. LG doesn't support HDR10+ either, but you do get Dolby Vision and Atmos, along with webOS 4.5, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built-in, and an ultra low input lag.