- Spectacular high-contrast HDR pictures
- Vivid, precise HDR/WCG colour
- Potent audio
- Currently looks a bit expensive
- Occasional backlight distractions, especially with off-axis viewing
- No Dolby Vision
*** Note : £1 = $1.31 (correct at time of post)
- Review Price: £3099
- 4K TV with direct LED lighting and local dimming
- QLED colour technology
- HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG HDR support
- Ambient mode design feature
- More than 2000 nits peak brightness
What is the Samsung Q8DN?
The Samsung Q8DN is potentially the perfect solution for anyone who wants the flagship Samsung Q9FN but can’t quite afford one.
Like its more expensive sibling, it uses a direct LED lighting system with local dimming. It’s also one of Samsung’s QLED TVs, using the company’s metal-clad Quantum Dots. Also encompassing Samsung’s latest Q Engine processor, this set runs extremely bright in its single-minded quest to make high dynamic range playback look awesome.
Tested here is the 65-inch Samsung QE65Q8DN, yours for £3099. You can find the 55-inch Samsung QE55Q8DN for £2399.
Design and build
The Samsung Q8DN’s design is a bit of a surprise. For starters, instead of using one of Samsung’s trademark external connections boxes, its connections are built into its rear like everyone else. This means there’s no longer just one single, slender connection running into the screen. While this is a pity, Samsung has at least provided cable tidy channels in the Q8DN’s feet.
These feet are themselves slightly unexpected given that Samsung tends to favour glamorous, centrally mounted stands with its premium TVs. They may also present an installation issue, since they require the TV to sit on a stand almost as wide as the screen.
While the Q8DN’s screen frame is on-trend skinny, its rear is chunkier than most. This is a necessary evil, though, associated with the TV’s use of a direct LED lighting system.
Samsung has at least made the chunky rear look smart by applying a subtle, striped finish. In truth, however, none of this rear panel talk matters much unless you’re in the peculiar habit of looking at your TV’s behind.
While the Samsung Q8DN lacks some of the design extravagances of the step up Q9FN, it’s very well built and still carries Samsung’s new Ambient mode. This lets you call up a digital artwork onscreen, or one of your own photos, when you’re not watching the TV. This is far preferable to staring at a black ‘hole’ when the TV’s off.
Note that the Ambient mode only uses a fraction of the power the TV uses in normal mode.
Accompanying the Q8DN are two remote controls. One is a standard unit full of buttons. The other is a slinky silver metal affair, with few buttons, which is easily Samsung’s finest ‘smart’ remote to date. The only catch is that its dearth of buttons makes its universal remote control capabilities confusing.
The Samsung Q8DN uses a direct LED lighting system with local dimming – just like the outstanding Q9FN. However, to keep its price down, the former uses only 40 individual dimming zones, rather than the 400-plus zones used in the 65Q9FN.
Clearly, this is a significant difference, one that inevitably impacts the cheaper model’s performance. However, the Q8DN does boast the same new Q Engine picture processing engine as the Q9FNs. And as with the Q9FN, this helps the Q8DN handle its backlight zone management exceptionally well.
The TV also employs the same ‘QLED’ technology as the Q9FN. In other words, it creates its colour using proprietary metal-clad Quantum Dots that can be driven much harder than typical QDs, enabling them to deliver greater brightness and colour. While the Q8DN can’t get quite as bright as the Q9FN, its 2100 nits of measured peak brightness on a 10% white HDR window is still exceptional.
This helps its colour performance enjoy a significantly greater ‘volume’ (what you get when you combine colour with brightness) than you get with most TVs. Also, Samsung has narrowed the bandwidth of its Quantum Dots for 2018, so that they produce bolder but also more precise tones.
Smart features on the Q8DN come courtesy of Samsung’s home-grown Eden platform. This does a mostly excellent job of providing fast access to a huge array of content via a compact, logical menu structure.
Eden also supports Samsung’s excellent voice-recognition and control system, which lets you talk your way into even the furthest reaches of the Q8DN’s menus.
The TV retains the same unique game-friendly features first introduced on the Q9FN. Input lag is impressively low at just 15ms in Game mode. The set can automatically switch into this mode when a game source is detected. Best of all, Radeon’s FreeSync is now supported, which tackles screen-tearing problems via on the fly frame-rate matching.
While the Q8DN doesn’t carry an external connections box, it still benefits from plenty of connections. These include highlights of four HDMI sockets, three USB ports, and both Wi-Fi and wired network options.
Finally in this section, there are a couple of features the Q8DN doesn’t support. Namely 3D and the premium Dolby Vision HDR format. However, it does support the industry standard HDR10 format, the HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) broadcast format, and the Dolby Vision-like HDR10+ format, which also uses dynamic metadata to optimise the picture scene by scene.
The Samsung Q8DN is at its stand-out best with the sort of 4K HDR images it was built to display.
Particularly gratifying is how well it combines its truly intense brightness with some of the deepest black colours the LCD world has seen.
Set up sensibly (I provide a short guide to this below), there’s practically no low-contrast greyness hanging over the action. Bits of the image that should look black can essentially look black – especially if the image as a whole is very dark. If you’re watching HDR content, bright highlights and vibrant colours leap off the screen with the sort of intensity most rival TVs can only dream of.
The Q8DN manages to combine its hugely punchy white and colour peaks with its impressive black levels within single image frames, too. More so than any edge-lit LCD TV I’ve seen. More so, too, than the direct-lit Sony XF90, which is arguably the Q8DN’s closest rival.
Average overall brightness levels with HDR sources are high, and the screen’s impressive brightness unlocks a huge volume of colour by current TV technology standards.
Samsung’s Q Engine processor, meanwhile, ensures that even the punchiest, most vibrant areas of colour contain exemplary levels of tonal subtlety. Samsung’s past issues with colour banding in HDR content are essentially gone.
The screen’s high native brightness and potent processing means that the Q8DN hardly ever exhibits even a trace of clipping – a common issue with less-bright TVs, where extremely light parts of an image can look bleached of detail and subtle toning. This is again a key component in unlocking HDR’s charms.
The set’s picture strengths aren’t solely down to its backlight engine and QLED technologies, however. Native 4K sources also look fantastically sharp and detailed. In addition, this sharpness combines beautifully with the screen’s extreme colour resolution to give 4K pictures a much greater sense of depth and three-dimensional space than you get with HD TVs – or most rival 4K TVs, come to that. (Note that the Q8DN doesn’t support actual 3D playback.)
The intense sharpness isn’t badly affected by judder or motion blur either, and HD sources are upscaled to 4K with laudable sensitivity and sharpness. Lots of extra detail is added, but at the same time source noise is ruthlessly removed from the picture. Both these factors help the Q8DN’s 4K experience feel consistent to a degree rarely seen in the 4K TV world.
The Q8DN deserves further kudos for being less affected by on-screen reflections than most TVs. And for retaining more shadow detail in dark scenes –provided you follow my setup advice below – than the flagship Q9FN does.
Having mentioned that flagship model, though, comparing it side by side with the Q8DN does highlight limitations in the cheaper model’s performance.
For instance, reducing the local dimming zone count by around 400 zones inevitably has negative repercussions on the QE65Q8DN’s light management. So while bright objects against dark backdrops in HDR scenes appear without backlight blooming around them on the Q9FN, on the Q8DN, an inch or two of greyness can creep out subtly from around streetlights, bright moons, torches and other extremely bold HDR image content.
Also, since the Q8DN’s 40 zones of local backlight dimming each operate over much bigger areas of the screen than the 400-plus zones of the Q9FN, you’re more likely to see substantial portions of the image adjusting brightness in response to changes in the image.
These light ‘adjustments’ can even sometimes creep into the black bars above and below 2.35/2.39:1 aspect ratio pictures, making them much more noticeable.
On the Q9FN, by comparison, you hardly ever see the local dimming going through its motions. You just see – and appreciate – the end results. Even though the Q9FN is markedly brighter than the Q8DN.
The Q9FN retains its deep blackness more consistently than the Q8DN, with the latter occasionally leaving black colours looking a little grey with really aggressively contrast HDR images.
Viewing the Q8DN from an angle of any more than 25 degrees also significantly exaggerates the screen’s backlight blooming. This is true of the Q9FN, too – but the scale of the revealed blooming is smaller.
The bottom line is that, overall, the Q9FN’s pictures feel like those of a truly high-end TV able to rival OLED models, while the Q8DN pictures are – rightly, actually – those of a premium-grade mid-range TV.
The Q8DN underlines its mid-range superiority with two further performance strengths. First, it’s an outstanding gaming monitor. The sheer punch and sharpness of its pictures combines beautifully with its dedicated gaming features to serve up a breathtaking gaming experience.
Second, while its audio system is 20W less powerful than that of the Q9FN, and also has just one subwoofer instead of two, it actually sounds really good. Movie mixes appear powerful and direct, and the audio staging expands well beyond the confines of the TV’s bodywork.
Voices are rich, rounded but always clear, and authentically contextualised. Bass is potent and usually joins seamlessly to the lower end of the main speakers’ sound.
There’s a touch more harshness at the top of the mid-range than you get with the Q9FN, and a slightly less full-blooded dynamic range during action scenes. Nevertheless, the Q8DN still shows a clean pair of heels to most current built-in sound systems.
Getting the best out of the Q8DN is fairly complicated – trickier, certainly, than mastering the Q9FN models. This is because you have to work harder to get round the Q8DN’s backlight issues.
Personally, I’d choose the Standard preset for most viewing circumstances, and ensure the dimming setting is on medium or lower. The high setting can exaggerate backlight fluctuations and blooming.
Turn the Contrast Enhancer feature to Low, as turning it off leaves images looking a little pallid, while High leaves images looking forced. That said, I suspect some people may actually like the high setting’s aggressive approach.
Next, make sure you turn off the TV’s Eco settings, since these pretty much mess up picture quality. Especially during dark-room viewing, where they remove too much brightness.
Finally, turn off all noise-reduction processing systems for 4K content; don’t bother with Samsung’s motion processing (even when watching 24p films); and try the colour setting on both its Native and Auto modes. Native gives a noticeably more vibrant look, but Auto is more accurate.
Why buy a Samsung Q8DN?
The Samsung Q8DN is a superb TV, delivering a decent taste of the outstanding quality offered by Samsung’s flagship Q9FN TVs at a cheaper price.
It boasts a rich and easy-to-use smart system, and its Ambient mode gives it a genuine design edge – even though the TV is a bit chunkier round the back than most of today’s models.
Its price at the time of writing does leave the door open to a few rivals, however. At £3099, the QE65Q8DN is currently only a couple of hundred pounds cheaper than its 65-inch Q9FN sibling – and I’d say the Q9FN comfortably offers up more than £200 worth of extra picture quality.
LG’s fantastic OLED65C8 is also available at the time of writing for £2999, offering immaculate black levels and a slinky design. It isn’t as bright, but its pictures still look dynamic and intense.
The Sony KD-65XF9005, meanwhile, can currently be had for just £1800. That set isn’t as clever with its direct backlight/local dimming as the Samsung, and nor does it hit such stellar light peaks. But it looks good value at £1300 less than the QE65Q8DN at the time of writing.
The Q8DN looks expensive right now, then, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the set has only just been introduced in the UK. As a result, it hasn’t yet received the sort of price cuts recently enjoyed by other models in Samsung’s 2018 range – including the Q9FN.
If you’re not in a desperate rush to buy a new TV, then this might be one worth waiting for.
Provided you’re sensible with your expectations, and maybe don’t mind waiting for its price to drop, the Samsung QE65Q8DN is another truly outstanding 2018 QLED TV.