What is the Samsung Q8C?
Along with the bezel-less curved screen, the Q8C also uses Samsung's 360 degree design ethos, with an all-metal finish, 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. There's also a redesigned One Remote and the company's new Q Smart TV platform which combines Samsung's Smart Hub with the Q Engine for a fast and responsive system that is easy to use whilst at the same time offering the widest possible choice. The Q8C comes in 55-, 65- and 75-inch screen sizes and we're reviewing the QE65Q8C which has a price of £3,799 as at the time of writing (April 2017). So can the Q8C deliver on Samsung's promise of being the next innovation in TV technology or will it be more of an evolutionary process based on last year's successful KS range of UHD TVs. Let's find out...
At the front you have the curved bezel-less screen with a 5mm wide chrome trim and a 5mm wide black border around the image. There's an improved black filter on the screen that only reflects 0.1% of ambient light, whilst an additional layer on the inside of the LCD panel reduces reflections to 1.35%, as a result only 1.45% of all ambient light is reflected, a number that Samsung claim is the world's lowest. Otherwise its all very minimalist and rather similar to last year, with an illuminated Samsung logo at the centre bottom of the screen, although you can turn this off if you prefer.
The stand attaches to the rear of the Q8C in a recessed section that is then covered by a removable panel making the back look very clean. There are minimal connections on the TV itself, merely the connector for the One Connect box and the power cable, and these can also be hidden behind a removable panel and run down inside the stand to keeps things very tidy. If you're thinking of wall mounting, the recessed area where the stand is attached can also be used with the 'No Gap Wall-Mount' which is sold separately. This dedicated mount allows you to install the Q8C flush with the wall, although you also have the option of a standard 400 x 400 VESA wall bracket and spacers are included for the purpose.
Connections & Control
The cable comes in a handy cable tube, there are bending covers to protect the cable and it's 5m long, although there is an optional 15m version for longer cable runs. As mentioned you can run this cable down through the rear of the stand but if you're wall mounting it's thin enough to be easily hidden as well. You can also run the power cable, which uses a standard two-pin connector, down through the stand but if you're wall mounting you could presumably hide that behind the TV.
The One Remote also serves as a universal remote and works in connection with Samsung's auto device detection feature which has been expanded to cover more potential connected sources. When the Q8C 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 also 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, although connecting multiple devices to an AV receiver and then the TV will confuse the auto detection. However for direct connection it offers 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, should you not want the use the One Remote. The standard remote control has all the buttons you'll need but obviously isn't as stylish as the One Remote, nor does it offer universal or voice control. If you'd rather use your smart device as a controller there's also Samsung's Smart View remote app. This is available for both iOS and Android devices and is a simple but effective remote app that was easy to set up and control the Q8C with. The layout of the main control page is 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
The Q8C is Ultra HD Premium certified by the UHD Alliance and supports two forms of High Dynamic Range – HDR10+ and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). HLG was developed by NHK and the BBC and is the proposed HDR standard for broadcast TV, whilst HDR10+ is Samsung's new version of the open source HDR10 that not only uses static metadata but also dynamic metadata to ensure superior tone mapping and a better HDR experience. HDR10+ will be launched globally on the Amazon Video streaming service this year and Samsung say that more content providers intend to use the format going forward. Along with the new quantum dot layer, the Q8C also boasts a new 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.
MORE: What is HDR10+?
The Smart Hub still uses Samsung's Tizen-powered platform, which offers a launcher bar with a single access point for all your content that doesn't just include apps but also various smart devices, making the TV a genuine smart hub in your home. There is a newly designed EPG that includes IP channels, as well as all the premium UHD HDR content from providers such as Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. All you need to do is select something from the launcher bar and a series of choices appear on another tier above that, making it easy to access all your favourite content. There's also the option of customising the launcher bar, making it even easier to access the features you use regularly.
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
One change that is annoying, from a calibration perspective, is that you can no longer turn the local dimming off and instead you have to choose between Low, Standard and High. Although we would still recommend using the Low setting for SDR content, we would normally prefer to turn off the local dimming when calibrating things like the greyscale. However we're glad to see that Samsung have also added two new picture modes – Cal-Day and Cal-Night – although these are only available once the auto cal feature has been run, after which they are permanently added to the service board.
Picture Settings – Calibrated
Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
The measurements shown below are for an out-of-the-box performance and as you can see the EOTF (Electro Optical Transfer Function) tracked very closely to the SMPTE 2084 (PQ) target, with the luminance not rolling off until 90 IRE. The greyscale is tracking very well and overall the errors were mostly below two, except where the curve rolls off at 90IRE, where there is a slight increase to six. The Samsung did an excellent job of tone mapping a 10,000 nit signal to its native peak brightness without unwanted clipping of content.
Another area where Samsung have been quite vocal recently is colour volume and here the Q8C was generally impressive. We started by measuring the Relative Colour Volume, this takes the display's own peak brightness and measures the colour volume relative to that peak brightness based on the CIE L*a*b* colour graph and 140 data points. For the Q8C we got measurements of 127% against Rec. 709, 85% against DCI-P3 and 58% against Rec. 2020 which are the highest we have measured so far for a TV.
The Perceptual Colour Volume 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. This measurement uses 393 data points which produces a number expressed in Millions of Distinguishable Colours (MDC) and the Q8C produced an MDC number of 442, which is largest we have measured so far. It just pipped Sony's XE93 which had a higher peak brightness but a smaller colour gamut.
Black Levels and Contrast RatiosSince you can't turn off the local dimming on the Q8C, we were unable to actually measure the VA panel's native black level but with the local dimming set to low we measured black at 0.0003nits and in the High mode we got 0.0001nits. The Samsung was certainly capable of delivering a completely black image even in a darkened room. On a TV as bright as the Q8C we had no issues hitting our target of 120nits for a nighttime mode and that results in an on/off contrast ratio of 400,000:1 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 4,000:1. This would be a good number for an LCD TV if we were measuring the native contrast performance but with the local dimming engaged it isn't as impressive and reveals the limitations of local dimming when the LEDs are only along one edge.
Backlight UniformityDespite the use of edge LED backlighting the Q8C did manage to deliver a surprisingly even backlight. We tested the Samsung 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 clouding or dirty screen effect. We were also pleased to see that Q8C 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 when watching during the day.
Local Dimming and Viewing AnglesThe local dimming on the Q8C was something of a mixed bag, with an effective performance with standard dynamic range content but less impressive results when it came to high dynamic range content. We started testing the local dimming using a test pattern that moves a white circle around the screen and in SDR this looked good, the white circle was well defined as it moved around and there was 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 but once again it is limited by the position of the LED backlight, as evidenced in the contrast numbers.
When we switched to real world content the results were more mixed, with full frame SDR pictures the images were impressive and the Q8C could also handle letterboxed films reasonably well. However it did struggle slightly with our Gravity torture test, where as Sandra Bullock's character tumbles through space there is a single bright white object moving quickly through a black background. On occasion the local dimming struggled to keep up due to the limitations of the edge LED backlighting. When it came to HDR it often also depended on the aspect ratio of the content, a full screen image like Planet Earth II could look stunning but when dealing with darker scenes in letterboxed films the black bars would begin to look dark grey rather than completely black. Given where the LEDs are positioned there isn't really any way the Q8C can avoid this issue.
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 set to high, you need to be sat central to the screen. Samsung have made some fairly bold claims about the viewing angles on their QLED range of TVs and whilst the performance is an improvement on last year's Samsung TVs, you will still get a drop off in contrast and colour performance as you move off-axis and the haloing from the local dimming becomes more noticeable. The Q8C certainly has a better off axis performance compared to other LCD TVs that we've reviewed recently, especially within a 30 degree arc either side of central, but in comparison with an OLED TV like the Sony A1 there's no competition.
Motion HandlingThe Q8C is an LCD TV, so no one should be expecting miracles in terms of motion handling but within the inherent limitations of the technology, the motion handling was reasonably good. The Samsung was free of any of the stuttering or frame dropping that we have experienced with their TVs in the past and the Q8C handled all of our motion tests very well, delivering a motion resolution measurement of over 300 with Auto Motion Plus off and the full 1080 lines with it on. Naturally using Auto Motion Plus on the Auto setting does introduce smoothing thanks to the frame interpolation, so with film-based content we would always leave it off. However for sport-based content, which is shot on video, there is certainly room for experimentation, especially with the custom setting, where you can experiment further with blur and judder reduction. The Custom setting is also where you'll find LED Clear Motion, this feature uses black frame insertion, which reduces the brightness of the image and can cause flicker with some people, but it can also result in a better sense of motion although it was still too smooth for our tastes when it came to movies.
Standard Dynamic Range (SDR)We started off with some standard definition content and considering the size of the screen, it looked surprisingly watchable. Samsung have always had good video processing and the Q8C did great job of deinterlacing and scaling a standard definition broadcast like Agents of Shield. The TV can't add what isn't there but the increased resolution of the 4K panel does give the processing more pixels to play with and all the other factors that constitute a good picture still apply. So the excellent greyscale, gamma, colour performance and generally effective local dimming of the Q8C all helped to deliver some very pleasing images.
Of course we don't watch that much standard definition TV these days, aside from the occasional Come Dine With Me marathon, so it's with high definition broadcasts that the Q8C had a chance to really shine. The images it delivered were certainly detailed thanks to the video processing and once again the excellent greyscale, gamma and colour accuracy really helped to produce some lovely images. Our usual benchmarks are the BBC's wildlife documentaries and these often looked superb, whilst a streamed show like Better Call Saul also benefits from some really impressive photography.
In general we found the local dimming to be very effective with standard dynamic range content and the absence of clouding, banding and dirty screen effect also helped. The screen filter proved very useful during the day and the Q8C could deliver a great image with deep blacks regardless of whether it was day or night. For those that are interested in using the automatic day and night setting, it certainly worked but we always found it difficult to get a brightness level that we were happy with, especially if it was one of those days where the sun was going behind clouds constantly. Ultimately we preferred the manual route of selecting the Cal-Day or Cal-Night setting ourselves but the automatic version is always there as an option for those who aren't as fussy.
Regardless of your approach to setup, the Q8C certainly got the most from Blu-rays with wonderful images that were bursting with detail and colour where appropriate but had deep blacks and good shadow detail in other scenes. The Samsung handled the bright scenes in Moana with ease, producing some fantastic images whilst also keeping the black letterbox bars black. The same goes for Rogue One with the later scenes on Scarif looking particularly good but even the darker scenes on Eadu were impressive, as long as you were central to the screen. As mentioned earlier, it was only during certain scenes in Gravity that the local dimming on the Q8C struggled but with other SDR content it was impressive.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)Samsung have been heavily promoting the QLED range as HDR1500, which presumably is supposed to mean that the TV can deliver 1500nits of peak brightness, and also as having a colour gamut that 100% of DCI-P3. As we discovered earlier the peak brightness is over 1500nits in the inaccurate Dynamic mode but the accurate Cal-Night mode delivered 1250nits, which is still very high but not as high as some other TVs like Sony's XE93. As for the colour gamut, we measured it at 99% of DCI-P3 which is close enough for us, and certainly wider than any other TV we've tested to date. As a result the colour volume was the highest we'd measured, just pipping the XE93 thanks to the Q8C's wider colour gamut.
So on paper at least the Q8C should be a stellar performer with High Dynamic Range and in many respects it was with a superbly detailed image on a native 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray like The Revenant. The wider colour gamut meant that the colour accuracy was also impressive with some very realistic looking images and the peak brightness gave specular highlights real impact, whether it was the sun glinting off the waves in The Shallows or shining through the trees in The Revenant. The glorious photography in Planet Earth II was simply breathtaking at times as all of these factors came into play and the shots of the natural world produced some stunning HDR images. The same was true of a film like Pacific Rim, with the Q8C retaining detail in the shadows whilst also producing some impressive peak highlights. The Samsung also reproduced 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 Q8C because in the very next scene the pirate ship flies into a dark tunnel with a bright opening at the end. In HDR the local dimming struggled to keep the black bars black and often failed when there was a bright object against a dark background. In full screen productions like Planet Earth II or Pacific Rim or with brighter films like The Shallows and The Revenant, the Q8C could produce some really impressive images but the limitations of the local dimming were all too apparent in a very dark film like Assassin's Creed. It's a shame because in all other respects the Q8C is a great performer with HDR but it does reveal how difficult it is to deliver the full experience with edge LED backlighting, especially as these TVs are getting brighter and brighter. The Sony XE93 also has edge LED backlighting but it uses dual layers on either side of the screen and a guide plate to reduce the problems of washed-out blacks in the letterbox bars of widescreen movies.
The Q8C had 60W of amplification built into a 4.2-channel configuration it and could go quite loud without becoming harsh or brittle. The Samsung also produced an expansive front soundstage that could fill the average sized living room, even creating a certain degree of immersion, whilst dialogue always remained clear and centred. We generally find that the Music option in the sound settings tends to provide the most balanced audio and so it was for the Q8C. Whilst this TV is never going to be able to deliver a room-shaking and immersive surround experience with modern blockbusters, it can certainly handle the majority of your regular content watching. However, if you're investing in a 65-inch Q8C, we would certainly recommend that you seriously consider buying an outboard audio solution so that you can get the best from your new TV like Samsung's matching HW-MS6500 soundbar.
Input Lag & Energy Usage
In terms of the Q8C’s energy consumption it proved to be reasonably efficient and using a full window 50% white pattern we measured our calibrated Cal-Night mode at just 42W, whilst the Standard mode that the TV ships in was drawing 140W. Of course once we moved on to HDR the level of energy consumption increased, with the Q8C using 166W of power. These numbers are just for the TV itself, although it's worth remembering that the One Connect box also requires its own power supply but this is minimal in comparison.
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)||9|
|What do these mean?|
- Detailed accurate picture
- Local dimming effective with SDR
- Wide colour gamut
- High peak brightness
- Low input lag
- Easy to setup and use
- Great set of features
- Well made and attractive design
- Local dimming can struggle with HDR
- Optimal viewing angles could be wider
Samsung QE65Q8C QLED 4K HDR TV Review
In terms of the picture quality, Samsung have also increased the peak brightness, widened the colour gamut and improved the off-axis performance, whilst the addition of HDR10+ and HLG support is very welcome. The Q8C's out-of-the-box accuracy was excellent and Samsung have expanded their calibration controls and even added an auto calibration feature. The result is a near reference level of accuracy after calibration and a picture that delivers natural and detailed images. The HDR measurements were impressive, among the best we have seen to date for a TV, and the input lag is low regardless of whether you game in 1080p, 4K or HDR. The local dimming was often impressive but did sometimes struggle with certain HDR content.
Overall the Samsung QE65Q8C is a well made and nicely specified Ultra HD 4K TV that is capable of delivering a very good picture, especially with standard dynamic range content. It's also no slouch when it comes to high dynamic range material but with certain scenes the limitations of the edge LED backlight were apparent, which is a shame. However the Q8C certainly does enough to warrant a recommendation and if you're looking for a curved screen it's probably the only higher option left.
As good as the Samsung Q8C is, at £3,799 it's certainly not cheap and it's going to find it's got some serious competition from Sony's KD-65XE9305. For a start the XE93 also has the looks and build quality, although we definitely prefer Samsung's One Remote and Smart Hub platform over Sony's rubber remote and Android TV. The XE93 has a higher peak brightness but the Q8C has a wider colour gamut, resulting in both TVs delivering almost identical colour volume numbers. They also both have excellent image processing and similar black levels and contrast ratios, although the Q8C is slightly more accurate out of the box. The Samsung also has a slightly better off-axis performance but, thanks to Sony's Slim Backlight Drive+, the XE93 has a better local dimming performance, especially with HDR content. It that wasn't enough to tempt you, the 65XE93 is also £600 cheaper than the Q8C at £3,199, so on a price to performance basis the Sony remains a tough act to beat.
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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