| August 15, 2017 |
| Richard De Jong, Editor |
Whenever I review a new Samsung TV model, it’s déjà vu all over again. Each year, with their top tier models, like the Q8C, Samsung consistently improves on the past. The design, inside and out, is more refined and most importantly, the picture quality takes another step up.
Of course, to trumpet the improvements, the marketing department conjures up new acronyms. For 2017, "QLED TV" is the minted term to highlight Samsung’s enhanced Quantum Dot technology.
Basically, Samsung’s QLED TVs can consistently display a wider range of colors (Color Volume) and better contrast (High Dynamic Range) at a wider viewing angle. Simply put, QLEDs deliver a perceptibly better picture than older models.
The high performance, 65-inch QN65Q8C, being reviewed here, is a great representative of Samsung’s 2017 QLED TV line-up. Beyond its stellar picture quality, this 4K Smart TV is packed with features and streaming content apps.
With Samsung’s three QLED TV models, a pecking order exists. The Q9F reigns as the king of the hill, with more processing power and more zones of local dimming. But the Q8C is no slouch and sells for a few hundred dollars less.
In addition, the Q9F sports a flat screen, while the Q8C is curved. The Q7F, which is similar in features to the Q8C, also has a flat display and retails for a few hundred less than its curved sibling. (Please check the Samsung site for current Prices and Special Offers.)
The video performance of the Samsung QN65Q8C is excellent. When playing back native 4K HDR content, the display is often jaw dropping. The audio from the integrated 4.2 channel front firing speaker system is just fine for everyday TV watching.
But you will double your enjoyment of a 4K Blu-ray of a blockbuster like Guardians of the Galaxy, V.2 if you add a separate, more robust immersive sound system to complement this dynamic 65-inch screen.
The Samsung designers have stocked the QN65Q8C with a geek’s wishlist full of features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen mirroring, and a remote that you can talk to. The app store is brimming with streaming content providers like Hulu, Spotify, Amazon Video and Pandora. This TV goes beyond Smart and ascends to Smarty Pants status.
Ease of Use: 9.2
The Samsung designers have spent a lot of time and thought into trying to simplify the user experience, but all these features and apps can be a bit overwhelming when first encountered. This is definitely not your grandparents’ old tube TV with three channels. But if you can navigate through the apps on your smartphone, operating the QN65Q8C should not be a problem.
All of QN65Q8C’s high-end picture quality and wide ranging features come at a price. At the time of this writing, on the Samsung website, this 65-inch curved QLED 4K TV is listed at a whopping $4800. To ease the sticker shock, Samsung currently has it on sale for $3500, which may still seem steep considering the range of prices for 65-inch 4K TVs in the marketplace.
But in the hierarchy of Samsung 2017 models, the Q8 is only topped by their Q9. The Q Series (7, 8 and 9) are the cream of the Samsung crop and they deliver a performance to cost ratio that makes them value propositions.
Please remember that all these ratings are relative to the state of the art and marketplace at the time when the review was posted.
Even at a reduced street price, this 65-inch 4K QLED TV seems expensive, but its superior picture quality (PQ) will ease the pain to your wallet.
To begin, I have witnessed a side-by-side comparison of Samsung’s 2016 top of the line model with this year’s and though the differences can be subtle, the 2017 renders a better picture at a wider viewing angle. And the 2016 SUHD TV’s picture quality was excellent. As they say, the 2017 Q8C is more better.
The Q8C’s colors are richer and its volume is fuller. With deeper blacks and brighter whites, the contrast is outstanding.
But no matter the processing power of the TV – and the Samsung QN65Q8C is muscular – the quality of the picture is dependent on the excellence of the source material. To achieve the best from this QLED 4K TV, you should be feeding it native 4K HDR content.
Luckily, Netflix and Amazon are committed to producing much of their original programming like the Defenders and Transparent in 4K. And depending on your Internet Service Provider, the quality of the playback can be remarkable.
Of course, with Disney finally beginning to release movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in 4K HDR Blu-rays, it’s a great time to add a 4K Blu-ray player to your system. The output is ambrosia to a TV like the Q8C.
This QLED TV upscales 2K content, especially Blu-rays, well. Since HD material does not have HDR data encoded in it, upscaling the content will not automatically expand the dynamic range. Samsung does provide a playback option called HDR+ Mode (located under Settings > Picture > Expert Settings).
Basically, the Q8C’s video processor will analyze the source content and extrapolate the data to produce an HDR image. I sometimes find the result too assertive. But it’s definitely worth testing to see if HDR+ Mode appeals to your eye.
For me, who has watched a boatload of 4K content, what I enjoy the most are those aha! moments when my attention is captured by a scene, often by a particular richness of color. And I’m reminded how breathtaking a great 4K HDR source can look on a high quality display. And to its credit, those moments were experienced frequently on this lovely 65-inch QN65Q8C display.
The audio from the integrated 4.2 channel front firing speakers is more than adequate for your more mundane programming. Though for a quick upgrade, I playback the audio through Bluetooth connected earbuds.
But with more and more 4K Blu-rays being mastered with immersive audio enhancements like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, your TV and your ears will be significantly better served with a compatible immersive sound system.
2016 SUHD TV side by side with 2017 QLED TV
This Samsung QN65Q8C came packaged with the One Connect box which makes the logistics of plugging in all your devices much easier. Simply you connect all your cables from components like Cable boxes, Blu-ray players, game boxes and AV receivers into the One Connect box, which you can hide away.
The One Connect box has four HDMI inputs, three USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port for a wired network connection, an RF input for an antenna or cable, a digital optical audio output, and a power plug port.
The box then attaches to the back of the TV with one cable that transmits audio and video signals as well as commands. New with this 2017 QLED model, Samsung has replaced this thick, rather clunky cable with an Invisible Connection™ cable. True to its name, this thin, almost transparent fiber cable can run unnoticed up the wall to your TV. Until they design a wireless connection, this inconspicuous cable is a great aesthetic solution.
Of course you still have to plug the TV into a power outlet, which hopefully you can conceal behind the TV.
Once you are connected, the initial setup is quick and painless as Samsung guides you through a few steps. The longest one takes a few minutes as the TV identifies the components you have attached to the box.
After that, you are at a crossroads. You can either accept Samsung’s default settings, which are definitely satisfactory, or you can delve into the Settings Menu to do some minor tweaking. Of course option #3 is to hire a calibrator to fine tune this 65-inch, multi-thousand dollar TV to your specific tastes.
If you opt for self-delving, go into the Settings menu, then to the Picture sub-menu. The first item on the list is Picture Mode. Choose Movie from the four options. Standard is the default and might be suitable if you watch TV in a brightly lit room, but I prefer the subtler looking Movie mode. (For the love of all that’s holy, do not profane this celestial screen by choosing Dynamic mode.)
If the Q8C senses an incoming HDR signal from a 4K source, it automatically shifts into high gear, HDR+ mode. The Backlight is pushed to the max of 20, Contrast is pinned to 100. The settings change to more accurately display the HDR profile, though if you are game, you can go into the Expert Settings and make adjustments.
Now if you want to further explore the video and audio adjustment tools, have fun and remember if your tweaking goes astray, you can always reset to the defaults.
Finally, Samsung supplies you with direct access to a number of streaming content providers, as well as game and music apps. I am not a spokesman for Netflix or Amazon, but I would recommend that you consider signing up to either service for their ever growing 4K offerings, especially if you have a fast download speed. Of note, Netflix charges a couple of extra dollars a month for access to their 4K UHD content.
Samsung QN65Q8C Picture Modes
The C in Q8C denotes a curved screen. I’ve never have been a big fan of curved screens because the bowed displays that I have seen never offered very wide viewing angles, which means the farther that you sit off axis, the more the picture washes out.
As mentioned earlier, this Samsung QN65Q8C does not exhibit this problem. The viewing angles of this QLED display are quite acceptably wide. Therefore, if your aesthetic prefers the gentle arched screen, the Q8C is a great looking candidate.
As for apps, Samsung supplies so many of them, the interface designers have sorted them into categories like Gamefly Games, Music & Radio, and my favorite, Apps to Kill Time.
Last year, Samsung dropped Skype from their App Store, which makes sense since the Q8C does not include a built-in camera, which also means the TV cannot be controlled with hand motions.
Every year, the Samsung designers have redesigned their Smart TV’s interface. It’s an unenviable task considering the ever expanding content sources vying for screen prominence. Luckily, you can customize the positioning of the options.
The design team is also constantly researching ways to improve the remote control. The process has led them to shrinking (6.25” x 1.25”) and simplifying the device with a minimum of buttons. I applaud their minimalist efforts but personally, I prefer a larger remote with dedicated buttons, which with one push take you directly to a function like the Settings menu.
For entering voice commands, a small microphone is integrated into top of the non-backlit remote.
The Samsung QN65Q8C is not capable of displaying 3D content. Though it does offer picture in picture, which could prove essential for the multi-tasking football fan.
Samsung QN65Q8C dimensions
Samsung has packed a powerful processing package into their QN65Q8C curved QLED 4K TV, which produces superb picture quality with luscious colors and dynamic contrast. The floodgates of 4K streaming content and blockbuster 4K Blu-rays are opening. Prepare for the cascade by matching this 65-inch screen with a high speed Internet connection, a 4K Blu-ray player and an immersive sound system.