Samsung QLED Q7F (QE49Q7F) review: Samsung’s QLED tech hits the spot
When it comes to TVs, one thing we’re not short of is acronyms. Just to keep everyone on their toes though, Samsung has added another to the list: QLED.
Not to be confused with OLED (which is a completely different kettle of pixels), Samsung’s QLED TVs take a standard LED LCD panel and turbocharge it with a quantum dot enhancement film to allow it to reproduce a far wider range of colours. Combine that with 4K and HDR and it’s fair to say that Samsung’s QE49Q7 should be pretty special.
Samsung QE49Q7F review: Design & Connections
The Samsung Q7F is a good-looking TV. The bezel is impressively slim for an LCD-based display, and a stylish brushed metal trim skims around the edge of the panel. The panel sits on a sturdy metal stand with an attractive chrome finish and cylindrical feet. Overall craftsmanship and build quality is first-rate.
The Q7F’s beauty isn’t just skin deep, however: the anti-reflective filter on the front of the screen is arguably the most effective on the market, making this television particularly suitable for watching in daytime or with the lights on.
Like most recent Samsung TVs, the connections are outsourced to an external box, but Samsung has beefed up the One Connect box for its 2017 models, and now requires its own power cable. Four HDMI ports are provided, all compatible with HDMI 2.0b for HDR and HLG support at higher frame rates and bit depth, as well as HDCP 2.2 copy protection.
If you’re expecting decent sound from the integrated speakers, then get ready to be disappointed. Sound quality is acceptable enough but far from outstanding – frankly, any TV of this calibre deserves a decent soundbar at the very least.
There are no moans about Samsung’s on-screen menus and interface however. Samsung has employed its usual Tizen operating system, and the result is that the menus feel responsive and are very easy to navigate.
Samsung QE49Q7F review: Picture quality
The Samsung Q7F uses a VA-type panel – this allows it to yield the kind of deep, solid blacks which are only substantially bettered by OLED sets. Samsung has opted for an edge-lit design, and the Q76F’s LED backlighting modules are positioned exclusively along the bottom border of the screen. This means the top and bottom letterbox bars in cinemascope movies never appear completely black, but judicious use of some bias lighting (which involves the use of gentle lighting behind the TV) in conjunction with Samsung’s excellent anti-reflective filter pretty much made this a non-issue.
The dimming algorithm on the Samsung 49Q7F favours minimising blooming by gently illuminating the screen, rather than switching off the unused LEDs completely which will create a very harsh transition from the bright to dark parts of the picture thus exaggerating haloing/ blooming artefacts which will run the entire height of the screen.
For non-HDR sources, colours are supremely accurate after calibration, so much so that images ooze with realism and natural-looking hues. Upscaling from lower-resolution sources to the TV’s 4K resolution is handled deftly, but standard-definition (SD) content can look slightly soft – and this is because the TV doesn’t allow for overscan to be disabled at SD resolution. Still, if you’ve spent this much money on a 4K TV, it’s likely you’ll be watching mostly HD and UHD material instead of SD.
Moving on to motion, this Samsung QE49Q7F is one of the rare 49-inch TVs that feature a native 120Hz panel. This is crucial for smooth panning shots in 24p films, and the smoothness of moving objects on the screen is enhanced through the use of interpolation or black frame insertion (BFI). Best of all, Samsung’s BFI implementation generally introduces less flicker than other TV brands, so you can get high motion clarity without that overly-smoothed soap opera effect, or visible interpolation artefacts hovering around the edges of moving objects.
Samsung QE49Q7F review: HDR performance and gaming responsiveness
The 49in Samsung Q7F is Ultra HD Premium-certified, and it certainly lived up to that billing in our tests. We measured colour gamut to be 98% of DCI-P3, and HDR peak brightness to be 1350cd/m2 on a 10% window – notably, it can sustain that brightness for longer than last year’s SUHD TVs. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that outside of test patterns, peak brightness in real-life HDR content such as 4K Blu-rays will be lower, probably not exceeding 900 or 1000cd/m2. This is because the TV has to juggle between producing the highest brightness, maintaining reasonably deep blacks, and minimising blooming, all within its constraints of its edge-lit backlighting.
Samsung’s HDR tone-mapping algorithm attempts to retain the brightest highlights even if that means the overall image will look darker. Dark HDR scenes looked more washed out than OLED or high-end full-array local dimming LED LCDs, but then that’s to be expected – the TV’s backlight has to cranked right up to meet the peak brightness demands of HDR. Slow panning shots in 4K Blu-rays came across buttery smooth, but like last year’s KS series, there’s more posterisation (where shades of colour don’t blend smoothly) in certain uniform tones than rival TV brands. Looking on the bright side, though, the Samsung’s Quantum Dot tech means that bright scenes look fantastically vibrant.
As ever, gaming is a high point. Input lag is the lowest we’ve measured in 2017, around 19 miliseconds in both 1080p SDR and 4K SDR modes. Another point to note is that, in contrast to OLED sets, the Q7F’s panel has zero risk of permanent screenburn even when playing games with static on-screen elements, such as health bars and points counters, for extended periods. And unlike many other VA-based LED LCDs, there’s very little smearing in dark scenes.
Samsung QE49Q7F review: Verdict
The Samsung 49Q7F is one of the best sub-50-inch TVs you can buy new today – not least because OLED TVs are not available in sizes smaller than 55 inches. It key strengths include a 120Hz panel, stunning colours, great motion, class-leading anti-reflective filter and superb gaming responsiveness. However, for the best viewing experience, we wouldn’t advise using it in a pitch-black room. Add a little gentle bias lighting, though, and the Q7F will create a simply stunning spectacle for the money.