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August 2018

Samsung Q7F TV

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Hardware
Developer: Samsung
Release Date: May 2017


Hardware Review - 'Samsung Q7F 4K Ultra HD TV'

by Adam Pavlacka on Feb. 1, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Upgrade your entertainment setup with this stunning 55-inch Samsung QLED smart TV. Enjoy enhanced color and 2160p-resolution playback thanks to the television's 4K UHD display, which adds realism and vibrancy to movies.

Buy Samsung Q7F 4K Ultra HD TV

Television displays have come a long way since black-and-white images were considered state-of-the-art, with everything from resolution, refresh rate, and color display getting reworked and revamped as technology evolved. Video games have also evolved with the times, as the relatively low-resolution (by today's standards) games of the Nintendo Entertainment System and SEGA Master System consoles have made their way into the UHD and HDR games of the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X. Not all advances in display technology have been good for gamers, though, especially when it comes to input lag and image quality. Unlike the CRT days, picking the right display can have an impact on how your games play, and Samsung's Q7F line attempts to strike the right balance between feature set, performance and price.

Setting up the Q7F was a breeze. The model I looked at was the 55-inch, which was physically large, but still less than 50 pounds (including the stand). Gone are the days when a big screen TV took two or three people to move around the living room. A teenager could easily move the Q7F around a room by himself or herself. That's also good news for the older gamers out there, as you don't have to worry about hurting your back to set up a new display.

The screen is completely flat in front, with a slight curve in the back, where the mounting hardware attaches. The panel is extremely thin at the top and the sides, less than one inch in depth, and reaches a max depth of approximately 1.7 inches at the base. While not as thin as a picture frame, this is a display that you could easily hang on your wall and have it appear to be floating just off the surface.

Connecting devices to the Q7F is done via Samsung's proprietary One Connect box, which is essentially the "brains" of the TV and part of the reason why the panel can be so thin. First introduced by Samsung a few years ago, the One Connect box puts the system motherboard and all I/O ports in an external box, rather than integrated into the TV itself. In this way, the panel can be thinner because it only has to house the panel and two connections: one for power and one for the One Connect cord. The Q7F version of the One Connect box uses a fiber optic cable for its connection to the TV, which means it is extremely thin and very easy to hide in plain sight (in case you don't want to run the cable inside your wall). The downside to using a fiber optic cable is that it cannot carry power. This means the Q7F actually requires two power plugs; one for the TV panel itself and one for the corresponding One Connect box.

The One Connect box for the Q7F has four HDMI ports, three USB ports, one optical audio output, one Ethernet port, one antenna/cable coaxial connection, the One Connect cable port, and the power plug. There are no analog inputs (no composite video, S-Video, or SVGA ports), which means you're not hooking up any classic consoles unless you also purchase an upscaling receiver. If it doesn't have a HDMI port, you can't connect it directly. This means the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are the oldest systems that you can pull out of the closet, unless you're talking about emulation machines like the NES Classic and SNES Classic.

The four HDMI ports are all HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2, so you aren't limited in the number of UHD devices that you can connect. One of the ports is ARC-enabled, which is convenient when using a receiver in conjunction with the TV. The USB ports are all USB 2.0, which isn't a major limitation, as you'll typically only be using them for playback or game controllers. Two of the USB ports are rated at 0.5A, while one is a full amp. The latter is useful for connecting a hard drive or charging power-hungry phones. The one real oddity is that the Ethernet port is only Fast Ethernet and not Gigabit Ethernet.

With solid design and ease of physical setup, the Samsung Q7F leaves an immediately positive first impression right after pulling it out of the box. Unfortunately, it loses a lot of goodwill the first time you turn it on.

Using its default settings, the picture on the Samsung Q7F is pretty ugly. There's no other way to describe it. Samsung uses incredibly aggressive digital processing out of the gate, which ends up making many sources (including Netflix) look like someone went crazy with Photoshop's digital blur filter. All fine detail is gone, including on HD sources, and what you're left with is a muddy mess. It's good if you're going for the watercolor look, but it's bad if you want accuracy in your display.

To be fair, Samsung is not alone in doing this. Many high-end TVs ship with every post-processing feature turned on, and most of them look passable at best. You would think that TV manufacturers would ship their systems so that they were at their best out of the box, but if they did that, there would be a lot of unnecessary features that never get used.

Diving into the settings and calibrating the Q7F is a must. If you can pay for a professional calibration, great. If not, spring for a calibration disc or run through the basic calibration settings on your game console. This will help ensure you have the correct brightness, contrast, and color settings. Disable "Digital Clean View" and "Auto Motion Plus" (this is done automatically in game mode, but you'll have to do it manually on other inputs and modes) to get a more lifelike image. Once the Q7F is properly calibrated, it really shines. Comparing the image pre-calibration with post-calibration is like looking at two different sets.

Blacks are one of the Q7F's strongest points, with the QLED display competing favorably with higher-priced OLED displays. The Q7F can't quite replicate the pure blacks of an OLED display due to the local dimming backlight, but it's an approximation that should please most consumers because it works well most of the time.

Where the Q7F's local dimming causes issues with pure blacks are in high-contrast scenes, such as Eleven's sensory deprivation scenes in "Stranger Things" on Netflix. These scenes are shot with the intention that everything except the main character and whatever she is interacting with are pure black. On a regular TV, you won't get pure black, but you will generally get a consistent very dark background. On a OLED TV, you'll get the intended effect. Here, on the Q7F, you see pure black for most of the frame, and then a lighter halo around the lit area. It's actually more noticeable than it would be if the entire background simply matched the lighter area.

In bright scenes, the Q7F shines, both figuratively and literally. It reproduces color well, in both the standard BT.709 color space and the expanded UHD HDR color space. Feeding the Q7F a proper HDR10 source, either via Blu-ray disc or streaming service, is the only way to make the set look its best. Samsung doesn't support Dolby Vision in its TV lineup, so that is another caveat with the Q7F. If your source supports HDR10, it'll look good here. If your source is only available in Dolby Vision, you'll get the benefit of 4K resolution, but you won't get the benefit of HDR.

Technically, the Q7F doesn't get quite as bright as competing HDR displays, but in day-to-day use that wasn't an issue. It still gets bright enough for HDR to be effective, and it is certainly bright enough to light up a room. If you blow a lightbulb, all you need to do is turn on the TV and show a white image; you'll have plenty of light.

Despite the high brightness levels, the Q7F appears to be immune to burn. While testing the TV, I tried to burn in an image, leaving high-contrast scenes on for hours at a time. I wasn't even able to get the Q7F to display temporary image retention. Whatever Samsung is doing here, it's doing well. It really does seem to be impossible to burn an image into this display.

Content-wise, most people are likely going to be purchasing the Q7F for games and movies. After all, there are no UHD OTA broadcasts yet, so the only sources for 4K content are games, movies and streaming TV shows.

Plugging in a game console was a chance for the Q7F to show how "smart" of a smart TV it really was. Detecting devices based on the ID sent over HDMI, the Q7F was able to properly identify a PlayStation 3, a Roku (hey, you can play Angry Birds on it), an Xbox 360 and an Xbox One X. This allowed the Q7F to display logos for the devices, as well as control the Xbox One X and Roku 3 with the Samsung smart remote. The Q7F couldn't control the Xbox 360 directly, and it doesn't call out the difference between an Xbox One and an Xbox One X, but it does have a distinct logo for the Xbox 360. Likely due to the marketing deal with Microsoft, the PlayStation logo is not the official one. Instead, it is merely a generic game controller.

Controlling an Xbox One X with the TV remote may not seem like a big deal, but the "casual" factor shouldn't be understated if you have a mixed-use house. You're not going to play games on the Xbox One X with the TV remote, but you can turn it on and use it like a set-top box easily enough.

Playing games on the Q7F is a solid experience, thanks to its low input lag (less than 25 ms with HDR enabled). This doesn't compare with TCL's P607, which comes in almost 10 ms lower, but it is still low enough that most players wouldn't even notice it. On a 60 fps game, you're looking at less than 1.5 frames of input lag.

Low input lag is especially important in fast reaction games like the Mega Man Legacy Collection and Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. It's also key for fighting games, like Killer Instinct and Street Fighter V. You don't want to be battling it out online and be at a disadvantage due to your display.

Motion blur is generally not an issue when gaming, but it does creep in from time to time. I couldn't determine a reason why it would be an issue in some games and not others, but it was disappointing to see. Motion blur issues were obvious in Diablo III, with the background looking like it had a transparent twin whenever I was walking around. To a lesser extent, motion blur was also noticeable in Rise of the Tomb Raider.

HDR-enabled games on the Xbox One X were particularly satisfying to see on the Q7F, as they made the best use of the rich color space. Assassin's Creed: Origins is the standout title here. Ubisoft's artists made excellent use of the varying brightness levels and high-resolution textures to produce images that are photo-worthy. If you need a game to show off your new TV, you won't go wrong here.

In addition to games, there is also the question of app support. Sure, you could always use the apps on your game console or Roku, but the Q7F runs Samsung's Tizen OS and has a number of available apps including Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play Movies, Netflix, Plex, Steam Link and VUDU.

If you're looking for UHD HDR video content, Netflix and VUDU are likely to be your primary choices. Both support the HDR10 HDR format of the Q7F, and both have healthy selections of UHD HDR titles. Netflix is identical across platforms, so the only benefit to using the native TV version is that you don't have to boot up another device. VUDU is similar, though it is disappointing that the Q7F version of the app doesn't support downloads. If the PlayStation 3 could support it, you would expect a TV that you can plug a hard drive into would support downloads.

Google Play Movies is kind of a bust on the Q7F due to a poor UI, as well as no support for UHD titles. It's a default app on a UHD TV, and it doesn't offer UHD content. Compared to Netflix, Amazon Video offers a limited selection of UHD TV and movies, though the default app is no easier to navigate than other versions of its video app. Amazon has solid content, but the Amazon Video app has always been lacking.

FandangoNOW is an odd one because it actually appears on the TV twice: once as FandangoNOW and once as TV Plus, which is the custom, Samsung-branded version of FandangoNOW. Both access your FandangoNOW account, but TV Plus has a Samsung skin and syncs information to your Samsung account. This seems to be a pointless duplication of effort and a possible point of confusion among users.

The Plex app on the Q7F is still using the old UI but is functional. If you have a local server, having the Plex app loaded onto your TV is a quick and easy way to browse your collection. Sadly, the current version of the app has a few annoying quirks, such as the inability to recognize direct play support for DTS audio, which causes unnecessary transcodes on the server, and issues resolving remote server addresses when NAT is involved.

For the gamers out there, the Steam Link app is probably the best addition. Once this is installed on your TV, the Q7F becomes a Steam Link. Just connect a keyboard and mouse — or a wired Xbox 360 controller — to the USB ports on the One Connect box, launch Steam Link, and you're ready to stream games from your PC. The only catch is that some games (I'm looking at you, Mortal Kombat) display in the wrong aspect ratio on the Q7F if you don't have a 16:9 monitor attached to your PC. Aside from that, having full access to your PC games while sitting on the couch is a huge plus. Oddly, Steam Link isn't a feature that Samsung advertises … on a TV that is advertised to gamers.

Lastly, the Q7F has the ability to play back media directly from an attached USB device, including hard drives, and it's no slouch. The TV can't decode Dolby Atmos, but it handles Dolby Digital and DTS audio well. To test, I ripped a few Blu-ray discs to MKV files and tossed them onto a hard drive. The Q7F played them without issue.

If you compare the Samsung Q7F to other UHD HDR TVs out there, you can probably find one that beats it on any given feature. It's not perfect, and it doesn't support Dolby Vision. At the same time, the combination of features it does have, and the way it's packaged makes for a compelling choice if gaming is a priority. The remote integration with the Xbox One X is slick, as is the availability of the Steam Link app. If you're eyeing the Super Bowl sales and hunting for a new TV, the Samsung Q7F is a safe bet.

Score: 8.5/10

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