Review: Samsung’s QN75Q800T Lowers The Price For 8K Adoption
Samsung has been driving the 8K Ultra HDTV narrative for the past two years with varying degrees of effectiveness, but slowly the cost/value benefit is building momentum.
This year, Samsung is taking strides to make its 8K Ultra HDTVs more attractive from the standpoint of design, picture quality, sound performance and value. We recently tested the Q800T series, which is Samsung’s entry 2020 8K TV line. It’s seated below the Q900T and flagship Q950TS series, which will be somewhat brighter and have a new Infinity “zero-bezel” design. The Q800T models have a more traditional look with visible bezel trim, though this border is still very narrow giving the set an appealing look. The TV isn’t wall paper thin, but it’s thin enough to make a powerful presentation mounted on a wall or placed on a credenza.
Last year, one of the standout features in top-performing QLED models was the use of a new Ultra Viewing Angle film that both widened the angle of acceptable picture quality closer to OLED levels before losing color and contrast, and significantly diminished screen glare, making the picture look almost like it is projected on a screen. We thought the feature looked fantasitic last year and it still does, though we did detect a slight reflection of lights turned on in the back of a darkened room.
Last year, Samsung came under a lot of heat for this feature from rival LG. This was for creating a very faint mosquito netting effect across the screen and for hurting the set’s ability to achieve the full contrast modulation (CM) measurement threshold for 8K resolution specified by several measurement standards organizations, including the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). We didn’t have the equipment necessary to measure CM (it’s a pretty esoteric issue) but Samsung supplied us with pixel grid magnification shots that the company said indicates the 2020 8K models are capable of presenting CM resolution that complies with the measurement standards for 8K resolution. Samsung did not supply us with an explanation for exactly what it has done in the 2020 models to achieve this change, but from an eye ball test, the resolution and color looked excellent and no visible mosquito netting effects were apparent in our samples of real world content.
As for picture quality, we continue to enjoy native 8K content on Samsung’s screens. On a 75-inch Q800T we felt the overall 8K image looked, in general, superior to 4K models. This, of course, was the result of more than just the extra resolution, which at these pixel densities gets harder and harder to discern from a distance. We attribute the better look to HDR and color, which are more visible than grayscale resolution and come through as greater depth and slightly richer tonality. Admittedly, the benefits are subtle and become of greater value the larger the screen gets. For our money, 75 inches is about as small as you should go.
One test used to check this used static images of blown-up fine-type newspaper stock agate pages, which look tack sharp and are easily readable from a distance of several feet. Up converted 8K video like a sample aerial clip of a city street grid, were brilliantly clear, rich in color without obvious artifacts to distract the eye and took on a three dimensional quality. Peak luminance in the set was listed at 2,000 nits in “Dynamic” picture mode, which isn’t recommended for typical movie viewing and not a level you are going to see in real world movie viewing.
Testing peak brightness in CalMan calbration software from Portrait Displays found the set reached nearly 1,500 nits (10% D65 white window pattern) in Movie HDR picture mode. This was plenty bright enough to deliver eye-squinting specular highlights in upconverted 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray movie sequences., but not as bright as last year. We like to use the brilliant yellow/orange campfire scenes from the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of The Revenant, which can vary in color brightness from display to display. On the Samsung QN75Q800T the bright fire detail was a vibrant orange. Similarly, colors in the 4K Ulta HD Blu-ray space monster battle scene during the opening credits of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 popped with comic-book-like saturation paired with even more visible textures in faces and uniforms. This was paritally the result of new processing improvements in this year’s lineup.
The Q800T has the least amount of LED backlight dimming zones of all of the 2020 Samsung 8K series, so we expect the Q900T and Q950TS models to look even more impressive for some of this.
We compared the screen performance of the QN75Q800T with a 2019 Samsung model that had more LEDs and LED dimming zones and found small improvement from last year in blooming/flashlighting issues. We are pleased to report that even with fewer dimming zones, the brightness and wide HDR contrast performance are very comparable to last year’s excellent performance levels.
This year’s Samsung 8K TVs support many of the HDMI 2.1 features, including Auto Low Latency Mode, Variable Refresh Rate (VRR)/Freesync, eARC, and HDR metadata (Dolby Vision is not supported by Samsung TVs) . (UPDATE: Among these new HDMI 2.1 features will be support for up to 8K/60p content over HDMI input #4, but the company clarified that this is not ready at launch, and will “only apply to 12-bit systems,” where everyone in the consumer display part of the industry, including Samsung, are still using 10-bit hardware — so forget it).
Also added is support for the new AV1 compression codec that will be used by YouTube and probably other services for 8K content. Of course, the sets also support HEVC for 4K and 8K content. Keep in mind that at the time of launch very little native 8K content is available and it might be some time before the selection ramps up. That means you are buying this and any 8K set today primarily for its ability to upconvert lower-resolution content to fill the added pixels on the screen. This is one of the reasons that 8K is really best enjoyed only on very large screen sizes. By the way, the Samsung AI upconversion system this year has been improved, and last year, it was one of the best in the business. Upconverted images look great to us from 4K Ultra HD, Full HD, HD and even 420p/SD DVD sources. Naturally, the lower the resolution level of the original content, the less sharp, clean, bright and colorful the end result will appear.
In addition, Samsung confirmed that all of its 2020 8K (including this model) and some 4K QLED TVs will have new ATSC 3.0 tuning (called NextGen TV) to receive the new advanced over-the-air broadcasts slated to go live in various markets across the country later this year. That’s a great bonus and will help to keep the set relevant with cord cutters into the future.
We reviewed the Samsung 75-inch QN75Q800T ($4,999.99 UPP) 8K Ultra HDTV, which is one of three initially available models in the 2020 Q800T Series: The other models include the 65-inch QN65Q800T ($3,499.99 UPP) and the 82-inch QN82Q800T ($6,999.99). Each model has similar feature sets and picture and sound quality benefits. The 82-inch model has more LED zones.
The Samsung QN75Q800T TV features what the company calls its “Boundless” design. It has a high-end-looking metallic finish with a center-positioned pedestal base. Like the Q900 series, these models omit the One Connect box featured only in the Q950 series this year. The stand elevates the screen above the tabletop surface with sufficient clearance to place most soundbars in front the screen without blocking any portion of the image. Panel depth is less than 10mm (0.393 inches), which is thinned down from Samsung’s 2019 8K offerings. The overall cosmetic of the TV uses a simple, black, ultra-thin bezel trim ringing the perimeter of the screen.
Samsung continues to use the Tizen OS as its TV platform. This year the menu has been expanded to make accessing apps snappy, and the app library provides support for virtually all of the major streaming services including Disney+, and Apple TV+.
Voice control continues to support Works with Alexa, Works with Google Assistant, and Samsung’s own Bixby platforms. Users can switch between the desired platforms in the user menu. The Bixby option provides greater control for the television’s settings as well as Samsung Smart Things devices. Alexa and Google Assistant support basic TV operations and can be used to control various smart home devices, answer general questions using the internent and perform many other tasks.
All of the 2020 QLED models are designed to work with Samsung’s SmartThings system to control smart home devices throughout the house. The smart TVs link with Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors to let TV watchers easily turn on the lights, check the contents of a smart refrigerator and run intelligent smart devices like a robot vacuum cleaner.
Samsung continues to use its by now familar black plastic One Remote with a minimal button design and an arched shape to fit comfortably balanced in the hand. The remote design is integral to the on-screen menu which performs most of the heavy lifting. Unfortunately, the few buttons the remote does offer are not backlit making it difficult to find the proper menu buttons and other commands in the dark. Otherwise, the remote makes operating the TV and finding apps and programs a breeze. Selections are quick and snappy.
For those who like to multi-task when watching TV, Samsung offers Multi View, which is a function that splits the TV screen for picture next to picture presentations, allowing content being viewed on one side of the screen to share the screen with content from a smartphone or tablet mirrored on the other side. This way, viewers can watch workout videos, check sports stats and perform other tasks without missing a minute of a favorite TV program or sporting event.
This year, Samsung has changed up the screen brightness nominclature to make setting adjustments somewhat more intuitive than in the past. The 2020 models have renamed the “Brightness” control “Shadow Detail” to indicate more accurately what the adjustment is intended to tune. In addition, Samsung said it is again offering Autocal through Portrait Display’s CalMan display calibration software, although this year it is to be connected via wireless IP, as Sony and LG TVs use, rather than by a tethered serial connection used for the past several years. This is intended to simplify use in the field for professional calibrators and enthusiasts, alike. However, this year’s version of Autocal was not finished as the first models — including the review sample — arrived so it was not used for this evaluation. It will be coming via a firmware update later in the year, a Samsung representative told us.
The Samsung QN75Q800T is a great display for presenting HDR. The 65 and 75-inch Q800T models are equipped with Samsung’s Direct Full Array 24x LED backlight system with local dimming. We counted more than 300 LED zones on the 75-inch model. The 82-inch model has a larger Direct Full Array 32x implementation. In post HDR calibration, the set hugged close to the Electro Optical Transfer Function (EOTF) bar reflecting very acurate performance. EOTF is a term used for HDR to indicate how acurately a display converts data to a particular brightness level on the screen.
Samsung told us that the QN75Q800T has a peak luminance performance of nearly 2,000 nits in “Dynamic Mode,” although this is an an overly bright mode for most home theater content. In Movie/HDR mode, the QN75Q800T measured about 1,490 nits in a 10% D65 white window pattern. Across a range of window sizes the set measured at more than 700 nits in a 1% white window ranging down to 505 nits in a 100% full-screen pattern. This isn’t the brightest television on the market, but the results are nevertheless very good and more than competent for handling bright specular highlights in HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG supported content, which are the three HDR profiles Samsung continues to feature. It still doesn’t offer Dolby Vision HDR with dynamic metadata, meaning any Dolby Vision content played on these sets will default to static HDR10. We’ll let you decide if that’s going to be issue or not. The differences are very subtle.
We found the 75Q800T produced excellent dark shadow detail via the local zone dimming control. We observed a wide field of stars including dim ones in the opening credit scenes from the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of The Martian. The moving HDR starfield backgrounds from the 4K UHD Spears & Munsil test disc minimized the cloud-like blooming around some groups of moving stars we observed last year. In the dark shadow detail torture scene from the SDR Blu-ray Disc version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows vol. 2, — this is where Voldemort gathers his legion of dark wizards to do battle against Hogwarts — a dark clouding effect and vignetting that often appears on the left side of LCD screens in the top and bottom corners was well handled.
In HDR, black level measured zero in Portrait Display’s CalMan calibration software, which was as granular as the light meter used for the calibration would go. That’s not to say that black is as pure and inky as found on OLED screens, but Samsung is getting better and better at this on its QLED models.
Problems detected with blooming/haloing/flashlighting in top-end QLED models two years ago were significantly reduced this year, testing very close to last year’s 8K screens that actually offered more LED zones. Samsung said it was able to accomplish this using a new power management technology, reminiscent of what Sony has long used in its HDR displays to take power from dark areas of a picture and reassign it where it’s needed in the very peak bright areas. This is all driven by a more powerful Quantum Processor 8K with Deep Learning Artifical Intelligence (AI) to make key adjustments on the fly. We noted that where Sony LED-LCD TVs continue to exhibit issues with flashlighting into black letterbox borders on screen, the effect is much less noticable and distracting this year on the QN75Q800T. The Quantum Processor 8K also drives Samsung’s excellent AI upscaling technology that takes sub-native 8K content and blows it up to fill the 33 million 8K pixels with clear images and minimal artifact duplication.
For bright specluar highlights, the QN75Q800T was again an excellent performer, effectively using the high peak luminance to present objects with rich bright detail, like yellow/orange campfires in the dim forest scenes from The Revenant. This stands out from the surrounding background for a 3D-like effect.
All told, we came away highly impressed with how this set performs with HDR and we’re eager to see it in a shootout against new OLED rivals.
Samsung QLED TVs all use quatum dot color enhancement film to boost the gamut coverage and elevate color volume to 100% in the P3 wide color space recommendation. The measured UHDA P3 color gamut coverage reached nearly 94.37% (uv), where 90% or better is required for “Premium” 4K UHD TV certificiation qualification. This is slightly below the 98% levels we found from some OLED models, like Sony’s excellent 65A9G 4K Ultra HDTV. However, Samsung’s QLED sets all meet 100% color volume, meaning they are capable of presenting more shades of color at higher brightness levels. Colors in both standard dynamic range (SDR) and HDR are vibrant and accurate. In addition, Samsung has added new processing to make textures in colors pop for added realism.
Color in SDR was similarly excellent, as indicated in sub-3 delta e 2000 performance in the post calibration analysis from CalMan software.
The QN75Q800T does an excellent job handling background noise, color banding and jaggies. Banding isn’t eliminated entirely from gradual color transitions, like a skyline at sunset, but it is significantly reduced and rarely noticeable. When noise reduction is turned off, more visible film grain, low light and processing noise can be seen in certain content like in the nighttime Asian harbor scene at the opening of Blu-ray Disc version of Pirates of the Carribean At World’s End. But with image noise and default motion smoothing turned on this cleans up appreciably without removing the natural film grain that would be seen in the theater. Similarly, upscaled sub-8K content, particularly from 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and SDR Blu-ray content, is sharp and vibrant without significant error duplication.
Samsung is adding to its 2020 QLED TVs the new Filmmaker Mode established by the Ultra HD Alliance in partnership with Hollywood content creators. This will be coming to the Q800T models (and other Samsung TV series) via a firmware update at the end of May. The company said the UHDA made a last minute change at the end of January making Filmmaker Mode a part of the default settings by adding it as one of the picture modes in supported TV presets. Filmmaker Mode was developed to have the television automatically disable post processing such as motion smoothing when film-based content carrying metadata instructions to the TV is detected. This way, viewers will get to view the image in the way that the filmmakers intended through a seamless always-on automated process. This also includes adjusting for the original aspect ratio, color and frame rates the filmmaker selected. Filmmaker Mode can be turned off for viewing live video like news programs and sporting events that can look sharper and more vibrant with motion smoothing and noise reduction restored.
Screen uniformity on the QN75Q800T was for the most part very good. Solid white screen patterns showed slight jail bar patterns when viewed from extreme angles (greater than 70 degrees), but we didn’t detect any signs of smudging or shadowing coming through in pans on real world content. A full screen black pattern maintained solid black evenly across the screen.
The Samsung QN75Q800T has a total of four HDMI 2.1 connectors available out of the box at launch. This includes support for eARC, Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), Freesync/VRR, and HDR metadata (HDR10+ in the case of Samsung TVs). These sets do not have Samung’s One Connect Box like the Q950TS series does, so the HDMI ports are found on the back of the set pointed out toward the side of the screen, such that cables will not interfere with mounting the panel flat against a wall for those applications. These sets also offer two USB 2.0 v. 2 ports, digital optical audio output, ethernet port, RS-232 port and an RF antenna/cable connection.
The Samsung QN75Q800T is a strong video gaming display. The QN75Q800T showed a 9.3 ms lag time for both 4K/60 Hz and 1080p/60 Hz input in game mode. This makes Samsung’s TVs among the most responsive in their class for either 4K or 8K products. In addition, Samsung’s TVs this year support support Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) out of the box as part of a suite of HDMI 2.1 features. This will help the display automatically detect a connected ALLM-complaint gaming device and automatically switch the television into Game Mode. Similarly, the series supports FreeSync and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) for connection to similary supported gaming PCs to eliminate sync errors that can result in frame tearing and other issues. We expect the set will sync with next-generation gaming consoles supporting 8K output using game content upconverted in the source device. Similarly native 4K/HDR games are supported, as has been the case for content delivered by the Xbox One S/X family of consoles among other sources.
Samsung also includes in the Q800T models its Real Game Enhancer+, which improves the ability to enhance the picture and sound quality while maintaining low input lag and Freesync support for smooth motion imagry.
Samsung’s new Object Tracking Sound+ feature provides a demonstrable way of balancing sound between the TV’s special top and side-firing rear speaker array so that sound seems to follow on-screen objects around the screen. It’s a cool effect that makes sound seem to be coming directly from the screen. This is similar to what Sony has been doing in its OLED models and more recently in its better-performing LED-LCD TVs as well. The new placement of the speaker system generates remarkably clear and punchy sound for built-in TV audio systems. Dialog remains bright and clear, but at the end of the day, these are smaller speakers built into a thin-form-factor screen and a somewhat boxy/hollow effect results. If that bothers you, Samsung has an answer to this called “Q Symphony” in its HW-Q60T, HW-Q70T, and HW-Q800T 2020 soundbars, which will integrate with the onboard TV sound system to give the overall audio presentation even more depth and spacial qualities. This integrates the sound of the TV speakers with soundbar drivers and a subwoofer. The result is an immersive, three-dimentional effect that sucks viewers into the action. If you can afford both the cash and space, we highly recommend looking into getting one of these add-ons to go with the television. Alternatively, a full home theater system with AVR and Dolby Atmos/DTS:X speakers would make an even more compelling experience when playing supported Atmos or DTS:X content. On the downside, the onboard speaker system in the TV does not support either Dolby Atmos or DTS:X soundtracks natively.
The Samsung QN75Q800T 8K Ultra HD LED-LCD TV is a beautiful performer for picture and, to a degree, sound quality. Although Samsung is making the price for 8K adoption more affordable, it is likely still out of range for even the higher end of the mainstream market. However, for those with the resources to afford it, Samsung’s commitment to moving the resolution threshold forward is to be commended. We agree with those who say that the increased cost for the marginally visible grayscale improvement alone is a little steep. But this is not all you get with 8K. Samsung is putting its best processing systems for image and sound in the 8K model classes, and the greater pixel density 8K provides is visible as very accurate color reproduction, 100% color volume and overall HDR perfomance, most noticeably in fine shadow detail. We can’t help but remember that some of the same arguments being used against 8K now were used at the outset of 4K UHD and even Full HD 1080p. Ready or not, 8K will eventually be the future direction of the market.
From personal experience, I can instantly tell the difference today between the picture quality of an older 1080p TV in my bedroom and a 4K UHD TV on the test bench. In time, I expect to be able to make a similar distinction with 8K screens as content producers learn to use native content in the story-telling process and camera and production systems evolve. That said, is the Q800T the right series for someone in the market for an 8K set today? — That’s a call for the purchaser. My assumption is that anyone in this part of the market will have the budget to go higher and, therefore, I believe most of these folks will be impressed enough by the Infinity Screen design on the Q950TS and Q900T series to go with those. Is the Q800T worth the step up from the top-end 4K Ultra HD Q90T QLED TV? I would have to say, only in the very largest screen sizes — 75-inches at a minimum. We don’t make value judgments on price in our reviews, so we leave that decision to you. But based on picture and sound performance alone we give the Q800T series an HD Guru recommended buy. We are eager to see how the Q950TS and Q900T series test.
We therefore award the Samsung QN75Q800T 8K Ultra HD Full-Array LED-LCD TV five out of five hearts.
The Samsung QN75Q800T used for this review was supplied by Samsung.
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By Greg Tarr
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