Samsung first showed off its range of QLED TVs at CES this year, and there was a lot to be excited about. The 4K HDR image quality of the Samsung panels on the show floor was spectacular, with dynamic brightness levels that seemed to match what OLED TVs can achieve, but at substantially more affordable prices.
The Q8C family, in particular, is in the middle of Samsung’s new QLED TV range, and you have a choice of 55-inch, 65-inch, and 75-inch models. The Q9F models are the flagships, and the Q7 models are more entry-level. The C in the name indicates a curved panel. We have the 55-inch Q8C model with us for review, and there’s a lot more than just its curve going for it. In fact, this is one of the most interesting TVs in the market today. Here’s our review.
Let’s start with the curved panel since that itself is a deciding factor for a lot of buyers. The curvature on the Samsung Q8C is not as prominent as it was on models a few years ago, so viewing angles have increased greatly. The sweet spot is much wider and that makes a big difference when you have your family or friends seated at up to 45 degrees off-centre. It’s also worth mentioning that due to the enveloping effect that the curved screen creates, this TV immediately felt bigger than a flat, 55-inch model placed right alongside it. There is still an issue if you’re watching TV from way off-centre, so if you really care about the experience, you’ll definitely need to position this TV carefully. If you know that people will be watching TV sitting near the far edges or corners of your room, a curved TV such as the Q8C might not be the best choice on your wishlist.
With that out of the way, the TV itself is super-slim and near edgeless. The screen measures 54.6 inches diagonally. There are front-firing 4.2 channel speakers; the .2 referring to two downward-firing subwoofers, all housed in the body of the TV itself. The back has a silver brushed-metal finish and an extremely clean design since all ports and sockets are in a separate unit called the One Connect box which is bundled with the TV.
The stand itself is curved with a wide angle to match the panel's curvature. The back of the stand conceals the two cables that attach inside of it - the Power cable, and the thin cable that connects to the One Connect Box. Samsung has a specialised wall mount made for this panel that leaves no gap between the rear-centre of the TV and the wall, giving it a true wall-art kind of look. There's no denying that this panel was designed to look good in your room, and it does that job well. Especially by cutting out the clutter of cables that attach to most other TV panels.
As stated before this is a 4K UHD panel with a resolution of 3840x2160, and it offers HDR support. It has a really impressive level of brightness at 1500 nits, but this tends to make colours pop a bit too much by default. Just for a rough comparison, most other TVs in this range have a much lower brightness level, usually between 600 and 1000 nits. Since it uses quantum dot technology - which is the ‘Q’ in QLED, the panel is edge-lit - unlike OLEDs (Organic LEDs), in which each LED is its own light source. The difference here is that while OLEDs are capable of incredibly deep black levels, QLED has an advantage in bright spots.
Samsung has been using Tizen for its Smart TV interface for a while now, and it seems to have gotten to a good level of refinement here. Though still not as spiffy as Android TV, it does give you a very neat interface, intelligently remembering where you left off when you put the TV in standby. The downside to this is that at one point an app became unresponsive and we had to turn the Q8C off and then on again from the main power to exit. Apps like Amazon Prime, Box TV, YouTube and Netflix came pre-installed on the TV, and a host of other apps and games are available in the TV’s app store - no Hotstar though.
The separate One Connect box helps cut the clutter, as all connectivity is routed through it. This includes four HDMI ports, a DisplayPort, Ethernet, three USB 2.0 ports with one supporting 1A power output for hard drives, S/PDIF optical out, and an antenna-in. Besides these the TV also supports Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi-Direct, and Bluetooth. The cable that connects the One Connect box to the TV is around 15 feet long, which is enough for it to be placed at quite a distance from the panel.
If you’d rather have all your source devices and remotes in another part of the room, this unit will make that possible. The One Connect box needs its own power source, which is not really a negative, but something you need to make note of when designing your space. The remote control works over Bluetooth so there’s no need to have a direct line of sight between you and the box.
Speaking of the remote, it’s a bit minimalistic, but it does aim to take over as a universal remote. Most popular Blu-Ray players, soundbars, and other devices are detected automatically and can work directly with this remote. It also has a button for speech input, but that wasn’t very useful in our experience. It misheard almost every phrase we tried, which meant we had to resort to typing manually.
There’s a Samsung Smart View app that’s available on both Android and iOS, which shows your content library and the remote interface right on your phone’s screen. It gives you a touchpad interface that can be used for the cursor in the Web browser and lets you type URLs into the address bar. However, the app doesn’t extend its keyboard support when typing on the TV's apps, which is where it would have made the most sense. The Smart View app does offer you shortcuts to the content. There was also quite an input lag when we tried that out.
We start with full-HD resolution media since that’s what you’ll mostly be spending most of your time watching, considering that 4K media is still pretty rare. As with all UHD TVs, the Samsung Q8C does a pretty good job of upscaling full-HD media, as long as the source is good.
Starting with Blu-Ray discs, the upscaling is quite impressive. Details translate well and the panel does a great job of sharpening edges to the point that you could fool someone into thinking that you’re playing media at its native resolution. The lack of heavy compression on Blu-Ray media serves this TV well, to the point that you wouldn’t feel any need to upgrade your current collection to UHD Blu-Rays. The satellite TV stream we tested ran at 1080i and also looked pretty good on the screen apart from a few noticeable jaggies every now and then. 4K set top boxes are available from Videocon and Airtel in India, which might help you get better picture quality.
Netflix and Amazon Prime had similar issues when it came to non-4K media, with the edges appearing a bit soft and some minor dithering in sections with fine details. It’s a minor thing, but there are some noticeable effects of the upscaling if you have the eye to spot them.
The TV’s HDR+ mode forces tone mapping to identify bright and dark areas and adjust them accordingly, but is pretty aggressive. Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) content looked unnaturally warm, and we had to change the colour tone in this mode from Warm 2 to Standard. There was also a bit of banding in some colour gradients when watching streaming media, which we didn’t notice with Blu-Rays. This could be a result of the compression used for streaming, considering how forced HDR works, the flaws are more easily visible. Also, the HDR+ mode does seem to favour reds over other colours, so you might see a little more intensity there.
In Standard mode, you get pretty good image quality, with no exaggerated bloom in brighter areas and dark areas not pushed to match the scene tone. What mode you set your TV to is completely up to your preferences, but we can say that the Q8C does a pretty good job of upscaling lower-resolution content and forcing HDR+ (after a bit of manual tweaking).
The Q8C really shines with native 4K HDR content. Though we understand that true, uncompressed 4K UHD media is not easy to find (not even on a lot of UHD Blu-Rays), the TV does an amazing job with whatever you can throw at it. Native UHD media works brilliantly with a highly noticeable boost in image clarity which you won’t get from HD media. In movies, the effect is a bit more subtle because of the cinematic film grain added to the media, but if you’re watching a TV show or an animated film, the details are as good as they can get.
Streaming video from Netflix (4K) and Amazon Prime didn’t show that much of a substantial improvement, and won’t make for a compelling argument to jump to 4K. The panel does add an additional layer of clarity and the experience is definitely a step up from watching 1080p streams on a 4K TV, but if you’re thinking of upgrading just to watch streaming media in 4K, this is not the time to make that jump.
This Samsung 2017 QLED TV handled HDR really well. We instantly noticed a much higher depth in the overall colour reproduction, with contrasts reduced to show more details instead. This was especially evident in the games we tested on the TV using a PlayStation 4 Pro, which supports HDR 10 output. The most noticeable change was in Injustice 2 - a DC superhero fighting game with over-the-top visuals and bright colours. Lighting was managed extremely well, and bright spots showed a lot more depth in their colour gradients instead of just burning to a bright white. Characters like Firestorm had more realistic-looking flames with details that were just not seen when using SDR.
The other game we tried was Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s already one of the best-looking games of our generation, and HDR pushed it a step further. With HDR we instantly noticed an even glow to the landscape, which earlier had sharp contrasts. Though subtle, due to the realistic design of the game, the change was still quite evident.
It’s worth noting that the option to turn HDR on for external sources is buried in the System menu of the TV instead of the Picture menu, like in Samsung’s 2016 TVs. This is an odd change that took us a while to figure out.
The Samsung Q8C produces a full sound with good highs, excellent mids and effective lows. The bass is not too boomy, but it is punchy enough to create an impact. The faux-surround effect does fill up a room pretty well and works well for movies and gaming alike. Of course, we were testing it in a 15x20 feet room, so if you’re using the TV in a bigger space, we would definitely recommend a soundbar at least, if not a full surround-sound system to truly enjoy your media with.
Samsung has been pushing the envelope for curved displays for a while now, and now it’s reached a point where we do see the appeal in them. The performance of the Q8C is quite brilliant when it comes to handling colours and filling up a room with its impressive brightness. The upscaling works well, so your HD movie collection will still be relevant. Gaming at 4K with HDR in supported titles is amazing as well.
This TV isn’t perfect. Navigation and the Tizen Store still need a bit of work, and so does the smartphone app. The voice input feature was a complete miss for us. However, those are little things to complain about for a TV that can give OLEDs a run for their money without the massive prices they command.
Price (MRP): Rs. 3,44,900
Ratings (Out of 5)
Value for money: 4.5
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