- 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
What is the Samsung Q8C?
The Q8C is the mid-range model in Samsung’s new QLED range of Ultra HD 4K TVs, that includes the flagship Q9F and entry-level Q7F and Q7C. The suffix denotes whether the model is curved or flat and the Q8C only comes in a curved option. Thankfully this year Samsung have decided to use consistent model numbers in different territories, thus preventing any consumer confusion when it comes to identifying the new TVs. Although Samsung have promoted their new QLED range quite heavily, it is not strictly a new technology but rather an LCD panel that uses an LED backlight and quantum dot technology to deliver increased brightness levels, more colours and wider viewing angles. Samsung claim that their new QLED TVs can deliver a peak luminance of 1500nits and a colour gamut that is 100% of DCI-P3, they also support High Dynamic Range, specifically HDR 10+and HLG, and are certified as Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance.
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/$5,698 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…
Although not hugely different from last year’s KS9000, Samsung has refined the overall design to deliver another TV with a sleek finish and an equally contemporary appearance. They have retained their 360 degree design ethos, which basically means the Q8C looks attractive from every angle. Samsung have also improved the build quality (there were reports of production problems last year with poor quality control in some cases) and the Q8C is well made and uses an all-metal construction for both the main chassis and the stand.
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 all-metal chrome stand has had a slight redesign, with a tubular shape to the front support, a more rounded look to the rear column and nice brush metal finish. However in terms of its overall appearance it’s very similar to last year with a v-shaped rear that gives the impression the screen is floating in mid-air. If you’re thinking of using the stand it measures 910 x 370mm, it can’t be swivelled and there’s 110mm of clearance beneath the screen itself. Around the back is where all the main differences are and most of these are related to tidier cable management.
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.
The Q8C retains Samsung’s 360 degree ethos but now uses an attractive all-metal construction
Connections & Control
The QLED range uses the latest version of Samsung’s One Connect box but new for 2017 is the dedicated ‘Near-Invsible’ connection. This is a thin fibre optic cable that uses proprietary connectors and runs from the TV to the One Connect box where you will find all the other connections. You simply connect the fibre optic cable to the rear of the TV and then run it to wherever the One Connect box is located and you have an almost invisible connection.
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 Connect box has also undergone a make-over, it’s still black with a brush metal finish but now it’s larger measuring 360 x 115 x 30mm and includes all the connections (previously a few were still located on the TV itself). The box now has a power cable of its own, presumably previous versions of the One Connect box drew power from the TV via the connector but with the thin fibre optic cable that isn’t possible. The box doesn’t have any fans built-in, so there’s none of the noise associated with earlier versions, but due to the amount of processing inside it can get warm to the touch.
In terms of actual connections there are four HDMI 2.0b inputs, all of which support 4K at up to 60p, High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Hybrid Log-Gamma), Wide Colour Gamut and HDCP 2.2. There are also three USB ports, twin terrestrial and satellite tuners and an Ethernet socket for a wired connection, although the Q8C also includes built-in WiFi. There’s also the proprietary connector for the fibre optic cable and the two pin socket for the power cord. On the side there’s a CI (Custom Interface) slot and a connector for a extension link.
The One Remote has also had a slight make over and is now composed of metal, which feels comfortable in the hand but also gives the controller a nice high-end appearance. The button layout is the same as last year, with everything you need for day-to-day operation of the TV and there’s even a built-in microphone for voice control. There are centrally positioned navigation and OK buttons around which you’ll find multi-purpose controls for numbers, colours, return and play/pause. There’s a power button in the top left hand corner and a Home button, along with volume and channel controls, further down, which now have rounded edges to make them more ergonomic. In addition to moving the volume up and down with the volume control, you can mute the sound by pressing it. On the back of the remote is a black button which opens the remote and there are also release buttons to make changing the batteries as simple as possible.
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.
There’s a nearly invisible fibre optic connector for the One Connect box and a redesigned One Remote
Features & Specs
The Q8C uses a curved Ultra HD 4K 10-bit panel with edge LED lighting along the bottom and a new quantum dot layer that covers these LEDs. This quantum dot layer uses a metal core and an improved metal coating that protects the core, keeping its colour properties pure, and increasing the brightness. This new quantum dot can deliver a very precise wavelength for the three primary colours of red, green and blue, along with a 15% increase in the brightness efficiency. As a result Samsung claim that their new QLED TVs can deliver 100% of DCI-P3 and over 1,500 nits of peak brightness, which means they can cover the entire colour volume used for HDR content graded at 1,000 nits. However content graded at 4,000 nits will still require a degree of tone mapping to match the larger colour volume of the content to the display.
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.
This new System-on-Chip (SoC) includes the Q Engine which is Samsung’s latest processor that is 30% faster than the previous one and, along with the new algorithms designed to improve viewing angles, the image engine uses algorithms to analyse the source signals and apply image processing to optimise the picture quality. The Q8C also has a light sensor that when activated can adjust the brightness and contrast performance depending on the ambient light in the room. Since it adjusts the image automatically it could be used as an alternative to creating separate day and night settings. Unsurprisingly the Q8C doesn’t support 3D because Samsung dropped the format from their entire line-up last year.
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.
The Q8C supports High Dynamic Range including HLG and HDR10+ with dynamic metadata
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
Samsung have made a few changes to their menu system this year, starting with the Game mode which has now been moved back into the General sub-menu. Ordinarily this would be annoying but it’s so easy to select the Game mode using the voice control that we really don’t mind. Thankfully Samsung have dropped the Sports mode from last year and they have moved the faux HDR mode, called HDR+, into the picture settings. The default Brightness setting is now zero and we generally find that you don’t need to adjust this when setting the TV up. Samsung are using BT.1886 as their default gamma curve for SDR content, although you can adjust this, and they have replaced the 10-point white balance control with a 20-point version.
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 added two new picture modes – Cal-Day and Cal-Night – as an alternative to the automatic day and night setting. Although if you’d like to use the latter but still have an accurate picture, then for SDR content select the Standard or High setting in Movie Mode and for HDR content use the Standard setting in Movie mode.
As you can see in the graph above, the out-of-the-box greyscale is actually very good, with all the colours tracking quite closely to each other. As a result the DeltaEs (errors) were all below the visible threshold of three and most were below two. We found that leaving the gamma setting at BT.1886 gave us a result closest to our target of 2.4, whilst fluctuating slightly between 2.5 and 2.3. Although the Q8C includes both a 2- and a 20-point white balance control, the out-of-the-box greyscale was actually good enough that we wouldn’t necessarily need to calibrate this particular sample, although there may be fluctuations from unit to unit.
The colour gamut performance using the Auto Colour Space was also very good out-of-the-box, with the majority of the colours tracking their targets at 25, 50, 75 and 100% very well against the industry standard of Rec.709. Red and green were over-saturated at 100%, yellow was under-saturated and there were some minor hue errors in green. However the luminance performance, which isn’t shown in the graph above, was also very good and overall this was an excellent result. In fact the Q8C’s greyscale and colour performance right out-of-the-box was so good that calibration probably wouldn’t make a perceivable difference.
Picture Settings – Calibrated
However should you wish to calibrate the Q8C there are now two options – the traditional manual calibration or Samsung’s new auto calibration feature which was developed in conjunction with Spectracal, who created CalMAN. We were able to test both approaches using our profiled Klein K-10A, Murideo Fresco Six-G and CalMAN 2017 software. The results using the Auto Cal feature are shown in the CalMAN screenshots below:
To use the auto calibration feature you’ll need to get hold of a 3.5mm to serial cable and a matching serial to USB adapter, that allows you to connect the Ex Out jack on the One Connect box to your laptop. You then run the Home Enthusiast workflow on CalMAN and use Direct Display Control to control the Q8C directly along with your pattern generator and colour meter. Although it defaults to 0.5, you can set the Auto Cal to calibrate to within a chosen tolerance level for the greyscale, gamma and colour gamut. The Auto Cal is quick and easy to use and delivered a very accurate greyscale and gamma. The colour gamut wasn’t as good because although the 100% saturation points were accurate, many of the lower saturation points were off, so we preferred a manual calibration for the colour gamut or you could just leave the Colour Space set to Auto. However the Auto Cal was still impressive and certainly opens up the possibilities for both enthusiasts and professionals alike.
In terms of the manual calibration there was no need to use the 2-point control, so we jumped straight to using the 20-point and fine-tuned each 5IRE point until we had equal amounts of red, green and blue. As you can see in the graph above it was a fairly easy task to get the greyscale perfect with all three primary colour tracking each other exactly. The gamma was now tracking our target of 2.4, aside from a slight bump at 10 and 90IRE (the Auto Cal actually did a better job of ironing out these bumps than we did), and overall this was an excellent performance.
After calibrating the greyscale white fell precisely on to its target of D65, which is the industry standard for the colour temperature of white. Using the Custom colour space, which gives you access to the colour management system and defaults to Rec.709 for standard dynamic range content, we were able to fine tune the majority of colours but red was still over-saturated at 100% and so was yellow, although it was more accurate at 25 to 75%. However the luminance performance, which isn’t shown on the graph above, was spot-on and overall this was an excellent colour performance and, when combined with the greyscale and gamma, the Q8C was able to deliver a very accurate image with standard dynamic range content.
The peak brightness and colour gamut measurements were amongst the highest we’ve measured
Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
When the Q8C detects an HDR signal it automatically defaults to the settings you have chosen and we’d recommend using the Cal-Day or Cal-Night picture modes for the best results, with the backlight at maximum and the local dimming on High. You should leave the colour space on Auto because although the Custom mode provides the option of calibrating either the DCI or Rec.2020 colour gamuts we found that Auto delivered greater accuracy. In terms of the PQ EOTF (gamma), the Samsung will default to ST.2084 for HDR10 material and HLG for Hybrid Log-Gamma content.
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.
Samsung have made a big deal about the Q8C being able to deliver a peak brightness of 1500nits and that was true in terms of some of the less accurate picture modes, with Dynamic actually hitting 1700nits. However in the Cal-Night/Day modes we actually measured it at 1250nits using a 10% window and 500nits on a 100% and, unlike last year, the Q8C can maintain its peak brightness for much longer. This is still one of the highest accurate measurements we’ve recorded so far but for the best results you will need to be sat central to the TV and even then the positioning of the LEDs at the bottom of the screen meant that you would get columns of light and the black bars on letterboxed movies would suffer. It seems that although the Q8C is bright, the location of its LEDs is a limiting factor in its HDR performance.
Another area where Samsung have been making some big claims is the size of the colour gamut on the Q8C and here they have certainly delivered. We measured the Q8C at 99% of DCI-P3 using xy and 99% using uv coordinates, which equates to over 74% of Rec.2020. These are the largest colour gamut numbers we have measured on a TV, with only JVC’s Z1 laser projector scoring higher. The graph above shows how the Samsung tracked against Rec.2020 and, within the limitations of its native colour gamut, it was reasonably good.
The graph above shows how the Q8C tracked against the DCI-P3 saturation points within the Rec.2020 container and in this test the Samsung was even better, with the primary and secondary colours tracking their targets closer than they did in the Rec. 2020 test. There was some over-saturation of red but in general the colours were near their targets which resulted in saturated and natural-looking images with actual HDR 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.
The local dimming was very effective with SDR content but struggled with HDR material
Black Levels and Contrast Ratios
Since 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.
Despite 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 Angles
The 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.
The 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.
Despite its slim dimensions, the Q8C actually delivered a reasonable performance when it came to sound quality and there’s no doubt that the larger screen size certainly played a factor. The use of psychoacoustics and clever speaker design can tease a half decent audio performance out of a slim TV but the addition of decent-sized speakers and better amplification resulted in an improved level of sound quality. Thanks to the 65-inch screen size the speakers were wider apart and, as such, the audio had a better sense of stereo separation which resulted in a suitably wide front soundstage. The speakers themselves managed to reproduce the mid-range and high frequencies quite well and although the bass performance isn’t going to compete with even a cheap soundbar that includes a dedicated subwoofer, the low frequency response was certainly sufficient for general TV watching.
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.
The low lag times for 1080p, 4K, SDR and HDR inputs are sure to please gamers
Input Lag & Energy Usage
We measured the input lag on the Q8C using our Leo Bodnar tester, combined with an HD Fury Integral to inject HDR metadata and an HD Fury Linker to upscale the signal to 4K. The results were consistently good, with the Q8C delivering a 1080p lag time of just 24ms, regardless of whether the signal was SDR or HDR and this dropped down to 20ms with a 4:4:4 signal. When it came to 4K the results were equally good, with the the Q8C also producing a lag of 24ms regardless of whether the signal is SDR or HDR and again dipping down to 20ms with a 4:4:4 signal. Whether you’re gaming at 1080p or 4K, always keep the processing to a minimum by selecting the Game mode because the other modes increases to 80ms. You should also avoid using the Auto Motion Plus frame interpolation feature because even in Game mode this will increase the input lag to 80ms as well.
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 Cinema Pro 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.
The Q8C is more a series of refinements than anything ground-breakingly new from Samsung. As a result they have redesigned the look of this LED LCD TV and expanded their feature set, whilst also upgrading the Smart TV platform, the One Connect box and the One Controller. As a result the Q8C has a new all-metal construction, a redesigned stand and an expanded One Connect box with plenty of connections. The use of a fibre optic cable means you have a nearly invisible connection to the TV itself, whilst a separate ‘No Gap’ bracket allows you to mount the TV flush with the wall. The Q8C is easy to setup and control thanks to auto device detection and the One Remote, whilst the Smart Hub is comprehensive and responsive, delivering an effective smart TV experience.
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/$5,698 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/$900 cheaper than the Q8C at £3,199/$4,798, so on a price to performance basis the Sony remains a tough act to beat.