What is the Samsung Q7?
We're reviewing the QE55Q7F which uses a flat 55-inch 4K LCD VA panel with edge LED backlighting. The 55Q7 supports High Dynamic Range, specifically HDR 10+ and HLG, and is certified as Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance. It also sports a bezel-less screen, Samsung's 360 degree design ethos, a newly designed stand and a no-gap wall mount. There's better cable management thanks to the latest version of the One Connect box and a fibre optic connection that goes from the box to the TV itself.
The Q7 also includes a redesigned One Remote and the company's new Q Smart TV platform which combines Samsung's Smart Hub with the Q Engine which is intended to deliver a faster and more responsive system, whilst also offering the widest possible choice. Thanks to some recent price drops, the 55Q7F can currently be picked up for £1,799 as at the time of writing (October 2017), making it the cheapest way to get into Samsung's QLED range. So let's see if it offers both performance and value.
Connections & Control
In terms of the actual connections there are four HDMI 2.0b inputs, all of which support 4K at up to 60p, High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Hybrid Log-Gamma), Wide Colour Gamut and HDCP 2.2. There are also three USB ports, twin terrestrial and satellite tuners and an Ethernet socket for a wired connection, although naturally the Q7F also includes built-in WiFi. There is a proprietary connector for the fibre optic cable, the two pin socket for the included power cord and on the side there's a CI (Common Interface) slot, along with a connector for an Ex Out jack for the auto calibration features.
The One Remote also serves as a universal remote and works in connection with Samsung's auto device detection feature which covers an extensive list of potential connected sources. When the Q7F detects a new device being connected to the One Connect box via HDMI, it automatically identifies that device and sets it up in the Smart Hub. It then loads the remote control codes, thus allowing you to use the One Remote to control that connected device, as well as the TV itself. This is actually a very useful feature and it worked well with all the devices we connected directly to the TV, making it a quick and easy way of setting up, identifying and controlling all your HDMI sources with a single remote.
As with previous models, Samsung also include their standard black plastic remote control, which has all the buttons you'll need to control the TV but lacks the style of the One Remote and of course it doesn't provide universal or voice control. If you'd rather use your smart device as a controller there's also Samsung's Smart View remote app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. This is a simple but effective remote app that is easy to use, with the layout of the main control page designed to replicate the button layout found on the One Remote, and you can also access all the apps on the TV as well as content on your smart device.
Features & Specs
Ultra HD Premium certified by the UHD Alliance and supports two forms of High Dynamic Range – HDR10+ and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG).
Along with the quantum dot layer, the Q7 also boasts a System-on-Chip (SoC) that uses four-way processing, which Samsung claim can deliver a wider optimal viewing angle with an improved contrast and colour performance. There's also the Q Engine which is Samsung's latest processor and uses algorithms to analyse source signals, applying image processing to optimise the picture quality. The Q7F also has a light sensor that, when activated, can adjust the brightness and contrast performance depending on the ambient light in the room
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
Picture Settings – Calibrated
Once everything is connected you run the Home Enthusiast workflow on CalMAN and use Direct Display Control to control the Q7F directly along with your pattern generator and colour meter. Although it defaults to 0.5, you can set the Auto Cal to calibrate to any chosen tolerance level for the greyscale, gamma and colour gamut. The software is quick and easy to use and delivered a very accurate greyscale and gamma. The colour gamut wasn't as good because although the 100% saturation points were accurate, many of the lower saturation points were off, so we preferred to manually calibrate for the colour gamut or, alternatively, you could just leave the Colour Space set to Auto.
Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
In their marketing Samsung have been emphasising their QLED TV's colour volume, which is a combination of peak brightness and maximum colour gamut. The Q7F didn't have as big a colour volume as the Q8C because the latter TV is slightly brighter and has a slightly wider colour gamut but it was still able to deliver 378 million distinguishable colours. This measurement, which is based on 393 data points, represents the Perceptual Colour Volume and uses the PQ EOTF out to 10,000nits and the Rec. 2020 colour gamut measured using the ICtCp colour graph to take into account human visual perception.
Black Levels & Contrast RatiosAs we mentioned earlier you can't actually turn off the local dimming on the Q7F, or any of Samsung's other 2017 models, so we were unable to actually measure the VA panel's native black level. However, with the local dimming set to low we measured black at 0.0017nits and in the High mode we got 0.0009nits, which means the Q7 is capable of delivering an almost black image even in a darkened room. The 55Q7F had absolutely no problems reaching our target of 120nits for a nighttime mode and that resulted in an on/off contrast ratio of 70,000:1 with the local dimming in the low setting. However that number isn't representative of real world content and using a checkerboard pattern we measured a far less impressive 1,500:1, which we suspect is a byproduct of the limitations of only having one row of LEDs along the bottom.
Backlight UniformityDespite the inherent limitations of only having LEDs located along the bottom of the panel, the backlight was surprisingly even. This is an area where Samsung are particularly accomplished and their backlight uniformity is often better than the competition. We tested the 55Q7F in its three local dimming modes in a darkened room and the uniformity on a 5% window was very good. There was some minor lighter edges at the bottom where the LEDs were located but the pattern was free of any obvious clouding or dirty screen effect. We were also pleased to see that Q7 was able to avoid visible banding, which meant football looked good with a bright, saturated and detailed image and no obvious banding as the camera panned across the pitch. The filter on the front of the screen also proved very effective, rejecting any ambient light and delivering impressive blacks levels when watching during the day.
Local Dimming & Viewing AnglesWhilst Samsung are quite skilled at delivering an even backlight, they are just as adept when it comes to local dimming and their systems are often among the best. The local dimming on the Q7F was quite effective with standard dynamic range content and using a test pattern that moves a white circle around the screen, the results looked good, with nice definition and no haloing. However once you switched to an HDR signal the brightness increases dramatically and then there was some haloing around the the circle, although the local dimming was still fairly precise as it moved around the screen. The local dimming was also quite effective at retaining shadow detail within darker images, as evidenced using the scene where Voldemort's army amasses over Hogwarts, but once again it is limited by the position of the LED backlight.
In general with full frame SDR material the images were impressive and the 55Q7 could also handle letterboxed films reasonably well, although it struggled with our Gravity torture test, where as Sandra Bullock's character tumbles through space. This scene involves a single bright white object against a black background and whilst the Q7 was able to retain the detail in the star field, there was an obvious column of light, especially when watching in a dark room. When it came to HDR it often depended on the aspect ratio of the content and whilst a full screen image like Planet Earth II could look stunning, in darker scenes on letterboxed films the black bars would begin to look dark grey rather than completely black, especially at the bottom. Since that's where the LEDs are positioned we really can't see how the Q7F could avoid this issue.
The Q7F uses a VA panel which means it has excellent black levels, for an LCD TV, but sadly there's a trade off and that means the optimal viewing angles are also limited. So in order to ensure that you minimise haloing as much as possible, especially with HDR content where the brightness is at maximum and the local dimming is set to high, you need to be sat central to the screen. Samsung claim that their QLED range of TVs have improved viewing angles but in reality once you move more than 30 degrees off axis in either direction, you will see a drop off in contrast and colour performance and the haloing from the local dimming is more noticeable. You will also see similar problems if you are looking up or down at the screen, so bear that in mind when installing the 55Q7F and try to ensure that the main seating positions are as central as possible.
Motion HandlingThe motion handling of the Q7F was actually very good, within the inherent limitations of LCD technology, and the images were free of the stuttering and frame dropping that we have experienced with Samsung TVs in the past. The Q7 performed well in our motion tests and delivered a motion resolution measurement of around 300 with Auto Motion Plus off, which is to be expected, and a full 1080 lines with it on. of course, if you use Auto Motion Plus on the Auto setting it does smooth the motion thanks to the frame interpolation, which can adversely affect film-based content, making it look like cheap video. To avoid this 'soap opera effect' we would always recommend turning frame interpolation off for film-based content but with sport-based content, which is shot on video, there is certainly room for experimentation. The custom setting, where you can customise the blur and judder controls to your own tastes can be quite effective with sport and there is also the LED Clear Motion setting which can be useful. This feature uses black frame insertion to improve motion resolution but, by inserting black frames between existing frames, it also reduces the brightness of the image and can cause flicker with some people. So whilst it can deliver a better sense of motion, even with movies, it won't be for everyone but there's certainly no harm in giving it a try.
Standard Dynamic Range (SDR)We tested the Q7F under two distinct environments, the first was with ambient light in the room, either sunlight during the day or with the lights on at night. In these conditions the Q7 proved very adept, delivering bright and colourful images that retained plenty of detail and a pleasing level of accuracy. Standard definition content looked surprisingly good and whilst it only forms a very small part of our viewing content these days, the 55Q7 deinterlaced and scaled the content very effectively. The combination of the excellent greyscale, gamma, colour performance and generally effective local dimming of the Samsung all helped to deliver some very pleasing images.
The same was equally true of high definition content, where the Q7 was able to take full advantage of the additional resolution, delivering detailed images thanks to the impressive video processing and the excellent greyscale, gamma and colour accuracy. Once again the 55Q7F delivered some lovely images and it also performed very well in an environment with ambient light, so the black levels and shadow detail appeared excellent, there was no obvious haloing or screen uniformity issues and the black filter was very effective. The excellent high definition images also applied to Blu-ray content and recent purchases like Get Out, The Lost City of Z and The Handmaiden all looked gorgeous.
However we also tested the Q7 in a darkened room and here the TV didn't perform as well, primarily because of the location of the LEDs. All the other positive factors still applied and the local dimming, screen uniformity and decent black levels were even more important in these conditions. However in certain scenes, and Gravity was a good example, the location of the LEDs resulted in a column of light, which could be distracting. It did very much depend on content but darker material in a dark room was certainly prone to this issue. The viewing angle was also more important at night, with the fall in contrast and haloing becoming more obvious off axi, although the picture could often look very good when viewed centrally.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)The Q7 is billed as a superior performer in terms of High Dynamic Range and in many respects that is true. It can deliver over 1000nits on a 10% window and nearly 500nits on a 100% full field pattern which, when combined with a colour gamut that is 98% of DCI-P3 and some very effective tone mapping, can deliver a really impressive HDR experience. The 4K images were highly detailed, especially on native 4K films like The Revenant or Passengers, and the colours appeared saturated but natural. The peak highlights were nicely rendered and the increased brightness of the panel meant that the specular highlights had impact, whilst the overall images in darker scenes weren't overtly dark. The Q7F retained some excellent shadow detail as well and the local dimming managed to keep blacks reasonably dark, whilst bright scenes often looked spectacular. The tone mapping was generally excellent and the 55Q7 handled the 'Arriving in Neverland' scene in Pan correctly, with the circle of the sun clearly visible above the edge of the mountain.
However Pan also revealed the limitations of the Q7, with the very next scene showing the pirate ship flying through a dark tunnel with a bright opening at the end. In HDR the local dimming struggled to keep the black bars black in this scene and often failed when there was a bright object against a dark background. The real torture test for any HDR display is the hyenas at night scene in Planet Earth II, which is composed almost entirely of dark images, blacks and shadows. The backlit nature of the Q7F and it's use of an LCD panel was very obvious in this scene, with the increased brightness of HDR resulting in grey blacks and the higher local dimming setting producing haloing around the hyenas glowing eyes. It is an extreme example but it shows the problem of trying to produce over 1000nits of peak brightness from a TV where the LEDs are along the bottom of the panel. It's a shame because for most HDR content the images looked spectacular but every now and then the limitations become all too clear, especially in a darkened room.
Input Lag & Energy Usage
We would always recommend using the Game mode when gaming because the other modes increase the lag to 79ms and you should also avoid using the Auto Motion Plus frame interpolation feature because even in Game mode this will increase the input lag to 79ms as well. We found that a 4K HDR game like Horizon Zero Dawn looked superb on the Q7 and the gaming experience was excellent with responsive game play, smooth motion, impressive HDR and no concerns about screen burn.
The 55Q7F proved to be reasonably efficient in terms of energy consumption and using a full window 50% white pattern we measured our calibrated Cal-Night mode at 60W and our calibrated Cal-Day mode at 82W, whilst the Standard mode that the TV ships in was drawing 76W. Of course given the brightness of the Q7 it shouldn't come as a surprise to discover that once we moved on to the HDR mode the level of energy consumption increased to 142W.
How future-proof is this TV?
|4K Ultra HD Resolution|
|Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best)||74%|
|HDMI 2.0 Inputs|
|HDCP 2.2 Support|
|4K Streaming Services|
|Smart TV Platform|
|Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10)||8|
|What do these mean?|
- High peak brightness
- Effective local dimming on SDR
- Wide colour gamut
- Very low input lag
- Simple setup and operation
- Excellent feature set
- Good design and build quality
- Local dimming struggles on HDR
- Narrow optimal viewing angle
Samsung QE55Q7F 4K QLED LCD TV Review
Should I buy one?The Samsung Q7 is certainly a very capable TV and for those who are interested in buying a QLED model but find the price of the Q8 a bit steep, it makes for an ideal alternative. The Q7F has all of Samsung's usual flair, with an attractive design and a decent level of build quality. There are features galore on this TV with the One Connect box using a near-invisible fibre optic cable and the One Remote offering auto device detection and universal control. The Smart Hub delivers an effective launcher bar combined with a comprehensive set of video streaming services, making it one of the best smart platforms available. The sound quality is surprisingly good for a TV this thin and the input lag is incredibly low at 17ms, making this a great TV for gamers.
The menu system has had a makeover and although there are some useful new calibration features, there are a few annoying idiosyncrasies too. However the auto calibration is very effective and the image accuracy, especially after calibration was excellent. The 55Q7 certainly boasts plenty of picture features with a 4K panel, edge LED backlighting, local dimming and support for both HDR10+ and HLG. The use of quantum dot technology results in brighter peak highlights, a wider colour gamut and Ultra HD Premium certification. The Q7 has a fairly large colour volume, although not as big as the Q8, and it can deliver excellent images with both standard and high dynamic range content. The motion handling is also good, whilst the use of a VA panel delivers excellent blacks for an LCD TV, although the viewing angles are limited.
The only major limitation of the Q7F relates to the location of the LEDs at the bottom of the screen, which can result in columns of light in certain circumstances. The bright colourful images that the TV can produce, combined with Samsung's excellent local dimming and an effective black filter on the screen means that the Q7 is at its best in a room with some ambient light. However in a darkened room or with very dark material then the location of the LEDs becomes more apparent. This issue is particularly noticeable with HDR content where the brightness and local dimming settings are higher. However for the majority of TV viewing the Samsung QE55Q7F delivers a generally excellent performance and thanks to its recent price reductions is certainly worthy of recommendation.
What are my alternatives?That really depends on how important HDR is to you because if you think it will form a large part of your viewing going forward, then you might want to consider the Q8C with its even larger colour volume. However the Q8 does have a curved screen which isn't for everyone and in most other respects the Q7F offers all the same features, plus the QE55Q8C costs an extra £700. However, if you don't feel that HDR is a big deal then you might want to consider the UE55MU7000. This TV is a bit more restricted in terms of HDR but it offers many of the same features and only costs £999, making it a bit of a bargain.
Of course if the idea of OLED rather than QLED appeals to you and you prefer the superior blacks of this self-emmisive technology then there really is only one alternative. You can currently pick up the LG 55B7 for the same £1,799 asking price and when you consider that the B7 includes HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision support, along with Dolby Atmos and WebOS, it's a very tempting proposition. Yes the B7 isn't as bright as the Q7 but in all other respects it's the equal or the superior of the Samsung and is capable of delivering some truly impressive images, making it the TV to beat at the moment.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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