Samsung Q85R 4K TV review: Powerful picture performance

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The Samsung QLED 4K TV range raise the LCD TV bar in spectacular fashion, especially the Q90R flagship which we’ve previously reviewed. However, this top-of-the-line model is a serious financial commitment.

Cue the Q85Rs: the step-down model in the range, offering much of the technology that makes the Q90R so special –  but for hundreds of pounds less.

Samsung QE55Q85R: Design

  • One Connect box, no ports on TV itself
  • 4x HDMI inputs, 3x USB ports
  • LAN & Wi-Fi network options

The Q85R is a seriously attractive TV. From the front, its exceptionally narrow bezel, open neck design and minimalistic silver bar desktop support give it a remarkably airy, light, almost floating look for such a large TV.

The set’s rear is a bit chunkier than the norm these days. But it boasts an attractive brushed finish for anyone interested in looking at the wrong side of their TV for whatever reason.

As with the Q90R, the Q85R ships with an external One Connect connections box that passes all pictures, sound and even power to the screen via a single surprisingly skinny, light-coloured cable. This makes the set a great option for people thinking of wall hanging their TV – or for anyone who just hates cable spaghetti.

The Q85R boasts Samsung’s Ambient Mode technology, too. This can display a wide variety of video, photograph or digitised artwork screensavers on the TV (in a low power mode) when you’re not watching it properly. Far preferable to just leaving a big black rectangle in the room when the TV’s in standby.

It’s even possible to take a photograph of the wall the TV is set against and then play that photo on the screen, to optimise the Ambient Mode’s ‘blend in’ potential.

Connections on the external One Connect box are pretty much as expected with a high-end 4K TV. There are four HDMI ports, three USB ports, tuner inputs, and support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networking. The only thing missing is a headphone jack, since the TV only supports Bluetooth headphones.

It’s worth noting that while the HDMI ports support some features associated with the latest HDMI 2.1 specification (more on this in the next section), they are not full-bandwidth (48Gbps) HDMI 2.1 ports of the sort provided on LG’s latest 4K OLED TVs, like the C9.

Samsung QE65Q85R: Picture Features

  • HDR Support: HLG, HDR10, HDR10+
  • Processing engine: Quantum 4K processor with AI and wide viewing angle support

The Q85R carries most of the key features that helped make the Q90R range so stellar. This includes a direct LED lighting engine (where the lights sit right behind the screen) and an advanced local dimming system.

However, this backlight system also provides the main difference between the Q85R and its more expensive siblings: while the Q90R carry 480 dimming zones, the Q85R only has 100.

In every other way, though, the Q85R delivers all of Samsung’s latest and greatest picture technologies. Including the new wide-angle support, which uses a combination of a new screen design and sub-pixel manipulation to let you watch from almost any angle without pictures losing contrast or colour saturation like LCD TVs normally do when viewed off axis.

Image result for Samsung Q85R 4K TV review: Powerful picture performance

This approach does theoretically reduce the screen’s resolution slightly. Such is the strength of the TV’s sharpness processing, though, that it’s seriously hard to notice this in a real world viewing situation. Note that the wide viewing angle tech is turned off if you’re using the TV’s Game Mode.

The set’s 4K AI system uses a huge and ever-evolving database of comparisons of different resolution versions of the same content to deliver its upscaling of sub-4K sources, rather than the old approach of trying to calculate how new pixels should look based on analysis of neighbouring ‘real’ pixels.

The Q85R is a QLED model, meaning it uses Quantum Dots to produce its colour rather than the cheaper and more traditional LCD colour filter system. Samsung’s Quantum Dots are clad in metal sheaths, so that they can be driven harder to deliver more brightness and a wider colour range – key requirements for delivering a convincing high dynamic range (HDR) picture.

The Q85 can pump out around 1500 nits of brightness. The Movie preset delivers more sustained peak brightness, but ‘only’ at 1200 nits.

The Q85R’s HDR pictures can appear in the industry standard HDR10 format, the broadcast/live stream HLG format, or the dynamic HDR10+ format. This last system adds scene-by-scene data to help compatible TVs deliver a more dynamic HDR experience.

As with all Samsung TVs, though, the Q85R does not support the Dolby Vision dynamic HDR format used by many film studios for both streamed and 4K Blu-ray titles.

Other notable features for gamers include automatic switching to the low-input lag game mode when game sources are detected, support for variable refresh rates (both these features are associated with HDMI 2.1 ports, even though the Q85R doesn’t carry one!), and a picture setting that raises the brightness of dark parts of a game picture without impacting the bright parts, to make enemies lurking in the darkness easier to spot. Input lag (the time it takes for a TV to produce pictures after receiving picture data at its inputs) measures under 15ms in Game Mode, which is a great result.

Finally, while the Q85R supports some features associated with the new HDMI 2.1 standard (the Auto Low Latency Mode switching and VRR support), the fact that its HDMI ports don’t support 48Gbps may limit its ability to handle the extremely high frame-rates in 4K being talked about for the next-generation of game consoles.

Samsung QE75Q85R: Smart Features

Samsung’s latest smart engine continues to refine its Tizen-based Eden UI, to the point where it’s now a mostly helpful and thoughtful system.

The home screen is based on two tiers of icons: a bottom layer providing access to everything from apps to the TV’s settings, Ambient Mode and TV listings; and a second layer that delivers direct links to TV shows and features associated with the option you’ve got selected on the bottom layer.

Navigation is reasonably rather than amazingly slick and responsive, and it’s good to see the menus only covering around the bottom quarter of the picture, leaving you able to keep watching TV while you browse.

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