Samsung Q80R QLED TV Review
This Samsung TV offers an exciting feature for a surprisingly low price
The Samsung Q80R QLED (available at Amazon for $1,597.99) isn't Samsung's top-of-the-line, flagship offering for 2019, but given its hardware and performance chops, it might end up being one of the most sensible options for folks who're looking for a good deal on a quantum dot TV.
Quantum dot displays produce vivid, super-saturated colors that rival those produced by OLED TVs. The TVs that feature these tiny technological wonders are often among the priciest in the game—but not this time. The Samsung Q80R offers quantum dot performance at a discount.
Here's the thing, though: If you produce a list of similarly-priced TVs from this year, you'll see a price bracket crowded with fierce competition. In a lot of ways, the Q80R is a potential bargain for high-end TV shoppers, but because its price range is so stacked with competitive TVs, investing in the Q80R won't be a no-brainer for everyone.
If you do plunk down the cash for one, however, there's a very good chance you'll walk away from the deal happy; the Q80R is a phenomenal performer with only a handful of quirks.
About the Samsung Q80R QLED TV Series
For U.S. shoppers, the Samsung Q80R QLED is available in four sizes: 55 inches, 65 inches, 75 inches, and 82 inches. Here are the prices of each model as they appear on the Samsung website at the time of publication:
• 55-inch (Samsung QN55Q80RAFXZA), $1,599.99
• 65-inch (Samsung QN65Q80RAFXZA), $1,999.99
• 75-inch (Samsung QN75Q80RAFXZA), $2,799.99
• 82-inch (Samsung QN82Q80RAFXZA), $3,799.99
Each TV in the Q80R series features full-array local dimming. This means that the TV is broken up into individual zones that can get brighter or darker to match the content. Samsung is stubborn about revealing exactly how many zones each size in the series is equipped with, but typically bigger screen sizes will have more zones, and more zones usually equals better contrast. That said, we can only report on the performance of the 55-inch model that we received on loan.
These are some of the key features that every TV in the Q80R lineup shares:
• 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution
• Quantum-dot display
• Supports High Dynamic Range (HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG)
• Full-array local dimming
• 120 Hz native refresh rate with FreeSync VRR and PWM dimming
• Samsung Tizen smart platform
• Samsung Quantum Processor 4K chip
• Built-in Bixby support
• DCI-P3/10-bit color space
How the Q80R performed in our tests
Before testing a TV, we make sure the panel is on and receiving a continuous signal for at least 24 hours, which gives the pixels plenty of time to warm up. For SDR tests, the Samsung Q80R was set to its "Movie" picture setting. For HDR tests, we also used Samsung's HDR "Movie" mode.
We use a standard 6x6 ANSI checkerboard pattern for most of our basic contrast tests, but we also use white and black windows ranging from 2% to 90% to test how well the contrast holds up while displaying varying degrees of brightness. Here's a summary of some of our findings:
• HDR contrast (brightness/black level): 653.6 nits/0.143 nits (ANSI checkerboard)
• SDR contrast (brightness/black level): 189.4 nits/0.052 nits (ANSI checkerboard)
• HDR peak brightness: 1,136 nits (40% white, "Movie" mode)
• SDR peak brightness: 217.7 nits (90% white, "Movie" mode)
• HDR color gamut coverage: 91% (DCI-P3/10-bit)
• SDR color gamut coverage: 99% (Rec.709)
• Viewing angle: ±35°
The Q80R does not ship with Samsung's One Connect box. Instead, all of its ports connect directly to the back of the panel. Here's the hardware at a glance:
• 4x HDMI (4x HDMI 2.0a, 1x ARC)
• 2x USB 2.0
• LAN ethernet port, RF input
• Optical audio output
What We Like
The Q80R's quantum-dot display gets very, very bright
One of the main selling points of quantum dot technology—particularly in the age of OLED—is its ability to produce searingly bright highlights that even contemporary OLED displays can't top. The Q80R is no exception; in HDR, it's capable of climbing well over 1,000 nits, balancing the TV's relatively unimpressive black levels. I'd even wager that the Q80R's contrast is the most impressive thing about it—4K content mastered in HDR looks fantastic, even if shadow detail is somewhat lost at times.
But perhaps the best thing I can say about the Q80R's full-array panel is its local dimming performance, which manages to minimize light bloom when light and dark picture elements clash. You will still notice some haloing when viewing the TV at off-angles—which isn't uncommon for backlit VA panels—but the TV's dimming software is quite good. Given that the 55-inch model we reviewed probably features the least amount of local dimming zones of all the sizes in the series, there's a good chance that the 65-, 75-, and 82-inch models handle contrast even better.
Superb color production and motion handling
The Q80R covers 99% of the standard Rec.709 color gamut and approximately 91% of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut, and while the latter number is relatively low for a high-end TV, the Q80R's quantum-dot QLED display goes a long way in producing colors that pop. Neutral tones, too, (that is, whites, grays, and blacks) are largely free of color pollution, and while were disappointed in the TV's lack of wide color voluminosity, there's no denying that the Q80R's picture is one of the better ones we'll see all year.
The Q80R's quantum-dot display also handles motion with the best of 'em, thanks to a native 120 Hz refresh rate and flexible blur- and judder-reduction settings. Although I found it difficult to eliminate judder entirely without the picture taking on an overly processed look, there's enough granularity to suit everyone's taste, and on a fundamental level, the Q80R processes motion just fine without the added software tweaks.
What We Don't Like
The Q80R's beefy, backlit panel sits on top of two T-shaped feet that, unlike most contemporary TV feet, don't stretch to the far ends of the panel. It's good news for people with narrow surfaces, but the look isn't very elegant For most people, a TV is only as good-looking as its picture, but if you were expecting something a little more sleek, you might walk away a touch disappointed.
Given the nature and placement of the TV's feet—which slot into the panel sans screws—you might also find that the Q80R rocks and creaks a bit when jostled. Again—not the biggest issue in the world, but still worth mentioning.
No Dolby Vision support
The biggest complaint I have with Samsung's TV lineups continues to be the company's lack of Dolby Vision support for any of its TVs—even the flagships. Although Dolby Vision content remains relatively scarce compared to HDR10, content mastered to meet the Dolby Vision standard is typically better looking than content that meets the HDR10 standard.
Additionally, if you pay for a platform that offers Dolby Vision content, you're not going to see those benefits up on the screen, which can be a hard pill to swallow if you're plunking down over $1,000 on a TV investment.
Should You Buy It?
Yes—but make sure to shop around before you reach for your credit card
As a reviewer, it's easy for me to recommend both budget-friendly, entry-level TVs and high-end, top-of-the-line flagships. For the most part, the folks shopping in both of those categories know precisely what they want—they're either easy to please or less concerned about cost.
Second-tier TVs like the Samsung Q80R are often harder to contextualize. For instance, the Q80R offers some of the hardware and performance features you'd expect from top-tier TVs (like quantum dots), but doesn't quite hit the marks that a Samsung flagship might hit. Nevertheless, the Q80R is priced considerably less than, say, the best LG OLED of 2019.
If you're looking to spend about the same amount of money as you would on the Q80R for a TV that rivals the Q80R in performance and also features Dolby Vision, take a look at the Sony X950G. It's got a few quirks of its own, but you might find its features and design to be more enticing than the Q80R's. Alternatively, the Vizio P-Series Quantum X only comes in two sizes and costs more than the Q80R, but the Quantum X's outperforms the Q80R in both color and contrast.
Still, if you're a fan of Samsung TVs but don't want to reach for the company's top-shelf offerings this year, the Q80R is a great compromise. It's not quite as good as some of the best TVs we've seen this year, but it shares a lot of their features and costs a good deal less.
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