Review: Samsung QN65Q8C Has Color And HDR That Sings
The 65-inch QN65QC is the middle 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD TV series in Samsung’s top-tier 2017 “QLED” (quantum dot light emitting diode) range of televisions.
We found the $3,497.99 (unilateral pricing policy at the time of this posting) television to have a very bright picture with rich accurate colors designed for optimal viewing in rooms with some degree of ambient light (typically 75 lux or higher). Although the set can be calibrated to view in a dark room, these conditions cause some light bleed-through into dark potions of an image, including black letterbox borders on widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio movies.
This makes sectors of the image that are intended to be pure black look slightly gray, but it also helps the set show more dark shadow detail than typical OLED TVs.
This year, QLED is becoming the accepted industry term for quantum dot light emitting diode display technology, which uses nano-particle-sized round red and green quantum dots comprised of non-toxic heavy metals that create a quantum reaction in the form of brightness and color intensity when excited by photons from a blue-colored LED backlight. The size of each quantum dot determines the color it emits.
This year’s variation of QLED from Samsung made the QD particles perfectly round to help increase the viewing angle of the screen and improve image quality in lighted rooms. This change resulted from Samsung consumer use studies that showed a large percentage of people watch television in some degree of ambient light, and for this, the 2017 QLED sets excel.
Black levels and picture quality look richer and darker in lighted rooms, where OLED TVs sometimes have a harder time, particularly with visible screen glare (less so in LG’s 2017 models).
When calibrated for a well- to moderately well- lit viewing environment, the QN65Q8C gave off very little distracting reflection with a picture on the screen. In this regard, the curved screen seems to provide a visual benefit to the picture quality, although its main asset is as a design statement.
Read more of our review of the Samsung QN65Q8C after the jump:
The 65-inch QN65Q8C is one of three models in the curved-screen Q8 series. Other screen sizes are 55- and 75-inches. As mentioned, this series is the mid-step in the three series QLED tier, which also includes the flagship Q9 flat-screen series and the Q7 flat or curved-screen series. As features go, the Q8 and Q7 series are very similar, with the step-up series offering some modest cosmetic differences, higher peak brightness and on-board sound improvements.
This year, Samsung has scaled back its emphasis of curved screen models in the United States, as tastes here apparently run a bit flatter than in Europe and Asia. However, in tabletop placements, the curved design is very elegant, particularly with the Q8C’s silver metallic ultra-thin bezel, rounded silver metal back plate and matching curved-bar T-style stand.
The Samsung QN65Q8C measures 36.1 inches high by 56.7 inches wide by 14.8 inches deep, including its base. The panel measures 4.2 inches at its thickest point and the screen has a glossy finish which handles glare and reflections very well.
As with other QLED models this year, Samsung is introducing a hidden cable system that uses the hollow stand to conceal power cords and a thin fire-safe fiber optic line that connects the display to an outboard OneConnect box. This box houses much of the TV’s main circuitry as well as its inputs and outputs.
The design enables the box and all of the connected source cables to be hidden out of sight.
Samsung’s QLED TVs also can be used with an optional gapless wall mount that allows the TVs to be placed right up against the mounting surface, and when used with some supporting Samsung soundbars, both the soundbar and display can be attached and connected by a single hidden cable. However, because this is a curved-screen TV, it won’t be possible for the set to sit perfectly flat against the wall.
Purely from a cosmetics standpoint, these are some of the most impressively designed televisions on the market this year. They might not have the “wallpaper” thinness of competiting OLED products, but the overall styling helps this set fit easily into almost any contemporary room decor.
As mentioned, all of the source inputs and outputs for the QN65Q8C are found on the external OneConnect box. In the past, Samsung has made the box a part of its Evolution Kit, which essentially allowed swapping out OneConnect boxes to bring new hardware advances such as new versions of HDMI inputs. But Samsung isn’t saying if this year’s models eventually will have an updated box for the forthcoming HDMI 2.1 connector or others.
The 65Q8C has four HDMI inputs, including one with Audio Return Channel (ARC) support. Note that we had to set these inputs manually to “UHD Color” mode for 4K HDR content input. The QLED sets omit any composite and component video inputs.
Other connections include three USB ports, an optical digital audio out, an Ethernet port, Wi-Fi wireless networking and DLNA compatibility, to access files stored on other devices over a home network. Additional connections include: casting of streaming content from a mobile device to the TV via a home network and screen mirroring of a smartphone or tablet on the big screen. Also offered on the OneConnect box is a cable/antenna input to receive unencrypted QAM cable or over-the-air ATSC 1.0 broadcast signals. A special fiber optic cable connector is placed on the rear of the TV panel behind where the table stand attaches to the display to connect the OneConnect to the screen.
The Tizen-OS-based Smart TV system accessed through the Samsung QN65Q8C is more advanced than the 2016 version. The platform brings access to a wide library of streaming service apps, including all of the most popular ones, like Netflix, Amazon Video, Vudu, YouTube, Hulu, HBO Now and many others. It also accesses video games and provides a full Web browser.
The on-screen interface is accessed and operated via Samsung’s One Remote, which is the same in all QLED models, and features a silver metallic body that is durable and fits comfortably in the hand. Buttons are kept to a minimum, allowing the on-screen interface to do all the heavy lifting.
Pressing the home button on the remote brings up a scrolling content options ribbon at the bottom of the screen which will take you to the most frequently watched apps, source inputs and settings menu. Selecting the “apps” option calls up the Smart Hub app store to view the huge selection of service options available to load on the main screen.
Setup of the television is a step-by-step process that the television guides the user through to connect to the Internet, and complete the handshake and connection with source devices, like cable or satellite boxes and Ultra HD Blu-ray players.
We found the system did most of this flawlessly, although for some reason it mislabeled our DirecTV Mini-Genie box as a Blu-ray player.
We tested the Samsung 65Q8C using a SpectraCal C6-HDR colorimeter (made by Xrite), a Xrite i1Pro 2 Enhanced spectrophotometer, a Murideo Six-G HDR test pattern generator, CalMan 5.8.37 software from SpectraCal with workflows from SpectraCal, ISF, and Florian Freidrich. We tested the set in both dark and well-lit viewing conditions.
Since we had a new version of CalMan 5.8.37 software, we gave SpectraCal’s new AutoCal system a try for this review. Currently, AutoCal will only work with Samsung QLED TVs, although SpectraCal said it is working on other brands and models.
The system required the use of a 3.5mm to serial cable and a serial to USB adapter to connect to a laptop running the CalMan software. The other end connected to a Ex Out jack on the left side of the One Connect box. We ran the Home Enthusiast work flow in CalMan with Direct Display Control activated to have the program automatically control the Q8C , the C6-HDR colorimeter and the connected Murideo Six-G test pattern generator. We tried calibrations for both HDR and SDR.
We found AutoCal worked quickly, compared to a manual calibration, and was surprisingly accurate in handling grayscale, gamma and color management for SDR. HDR adjustments needed some additional tweaking, where possible, but we look forward to this becoming a staple feature for all TVs in the future.
We found the 65Q8C’s out of the box color settings to be very close in both Rec. 709 (SDR) and DCI-P3 (HDR) color gamut measurements. We measured the Q8C at 99 percent of DCI-P3, which is about as good as we’ve seen it, and it shows in live HDR video, with images looking colorful and natural without being unrealitically vibrant when not intended.
4K Ultra HD Upscaling
Samsung offers an excellent upscaling system in the QLED model lines. Lower-resolution HD and Full HD sources show very little added noise or artificats, and colors are bright and vibrant. Upconverted SD content also does a presentable job with 480p DVD content and 480i content from old analog television programs. As with most 4K televisions, upconverted SD images are softer looking with less defined edge detail, but color remained close to encoded form. A sample of the DVD version of Unbreakable was colorful with somewhat softer (but watchable) faces and objects caused by weaker available data and additional artifacts in the recording.
The video processing also handles visible noise very well. The darkened sea cave sequences in Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End were relatively clean of excessive low-light noise, with just the right amount of film grain to make images look like film.
The TV streams 4K Ultra HD programs from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and others, and images were clear, detailed and included HDR10 enhancement from supporting services.
High Dynamic Range Handling
The Samsung QN65Q8C is setup to handle three types of HDR content including HDR10, HDR10+ and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG). For now, HDR10 is the most critical and is available through most formats and services. Missing is the Dolby Vision HDR system, which is supported by a growing number of TV and UHD Blu-ray player brands, but for the most part any content that supports Dolby Vision will also offer HDR10. The HLG format is for broadcast HDR and currently has no firm foothold in the United States, although there is talk some cable and satellite TV services might adopt it soon. If so, this TV will handle it. HDR10+ is Samsung’s royalty-free open standard that will bring dynamic metadata to the static metadata HDR10 system. Samsung said it is working closely with broadcasters and cable and satellite providers to provide the benefits of HDR10+ to consumers. Translation: it’s got HDR10 now and it handles it well.
CalMan for Business 5.8 , Portrait Displays SpectraCal
We measured a peak brightness of 1366 nits, which falls below the flaship Q9, we measured that at 1638 nits. The entry Q7F series measured at 1154 nits in our earlier review. Note that these are peak brightness readings that have to be taken quickly and immediately after the 10 percent D65 white window pattern appears on screen, as the set automatically begins to ramp down levels after just a few seconds. Black level measured at the desired 0.05 nits, which is the threshold for Ultra HD Premium certification as an LCD TV under Ultra HD Alliance criteria.
Specular highlights and bright elements of images were noticeably brighter than the background, and colors and contrast have a clearly evident boost in quality and impact over non-HDR 4K and Full HD content. The small step-down in brightness intensity from the Q9F was hardly noticeable.
Images in the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Alien Covenant showed brilliantly bright and rich colors, particularly from the green laser targeting system on firearms, like the rifle aimed by Captain Oram when he guns down the evolving alien fetus to the screaming rebuke of David the android. At the same time, fine detail was visible in the shadowed areas present throughout the dark overall tone of the scene.
Against this, colors in very bright objects remained saturated and vibrant.
In the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, the contrast ratio and color gamut are expanded to make colors and shading in the Blu-ray version appear more realistic and detailed. Surfaces and textures take on a more natural sheen and quality that makes objects look three dimensional without the stereoscopic affectations.
HD SDR Rec. 709 Picture Quality
Like all 2017 Samsung QLED models, the QN65Q8C beautifully handles high definition standard dynamic range material, and the included HDR+ mode gives all images an overall boost in brightness and color, if desired. The HDR10+ system is designed to work with supporting metadata but the HDR+ selector can be applied to non-HDR content. However, this tends to make images look overly bright and blown out (like “vibrant” picture mode), and we expect most people will leave it off.
Contrast and brightness in HD was very good. Images from CNN were rich, vibrant and lifelike, and sporting events were clear with acceptable levels of motion blurring thanks to Samsung’s excellent motion handling technology.
The Q8C, like all 2017 QLED TV models, uses edge-lit LED lighting with “local dimming” that helps to improve black levels.
We found gray-screen uniformity to be goood for an edge-lit LED LCD TV. Only slight shadowing was visible. In black or dark scenes, some light clouding was visible, especially in a darkened room. Again, we recommend this TV be watched with the lights in the room turned on for best picture quality.
As mentioned, this year’s QLED technology was designed to improve the off-angle viewing issues associated with LCD technology. This helps to some extent, but not entirely. Contrast and color performance deteriorate appreciably at approximately 40 degrees offer center access. Similarly, the picture quality fades when viewing from a high or low angle, although this is better than many LCD TVs.
The best way to view the TV is seated dead center about eight to 10 feet in front of the screen at eye level — as would be the case in most tabletop placements.
Samsung’s motion handling system, called Motion Rate 240 in this model, uses a 120 Hz native refresh rate panel. Samsung adds motion smoothing technology to make fast-moving objects on screen, or pans across laticed brickwork or fencing, look smooth without distracting blurring or judder. We preferred the setting for blurring turned up to maximum and judder set to “3” to be the most pleasing to the eye without introducing overly distracting soap opera effect (the look of overly sharp video in flim-based content).
The QN65Q8F should be an excellent 4K UHD gaming display; we measured an excellent 19.7 msec lag time using Leo Bodnar’s 1080p input lag tester with 4K resolution and HDR10 metadata forced into the signal via an HD Fury Integral and AVTop Controller software. However, the 1080p input measured at a significantly higher 72.8 msec. with the picture mode in movie. No game mode was provided.
The Samsung QN65Q8C features a 4.2-channel speaker system with 60-watt sound output. This is an enhancement over the Q7 model series which has just 40 watts of sound. We found overall audio to be excellent for any television, with clear dialog, and passable bass. But with a television in this price range we strongly recommend going with a top-performing soundbar or full object-based surround sound speaker setup.
In a number of ways, we find the Samsung QN65Q8C our favorite of the three 2017 QLED TV series, and therefore one of our favorite televisions of 2017. It’s not quite as bright as the Samsung Q9F series, and it has a curved screen, which is not great for wall mounting, but it looks stunning in both cosmetics and picture quality. The set has rich, deep, and accurate color with some of the highest color volume available. And it’s really the superior color handling that makes these pictures sing. It has some challenges on black level next to an LG or Sony 4K OLED TV, and understandly that is helping those sets win TV shootouts that are often performed in dark room conditions. But it is less expensive than most 4K Ultra HD OLEDs in its class, has a fantastic design and handles HDR10, HLG and Samsung’s own HDR10+ profile effectively.
Sorry, no Dolby Vision HDR support, but any 4K Ultra Blu-ray discs that are equipped to deliver Dolby Vision will also provide HDR10. Most people will have to look pretty hard to see the difference between these two excellent systems.
As a side note for those tweakers out there, we loved the new AutoCal system available for Samsung QLED TVs. It should save a lot of time.
We therefore award the Samsung 65-inch QN65Q8C 4.5 out of 5 hearts.
The Samsung QN65Q8C used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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