Just when you think you’ve gotten used to a tech term or naming convention, something new comes along to throw you off guard. Samsung have gone ahead and introduced ‘QLED’ as their naming convention for upcoming TVs, ditching the ‘SUHD’ label that was the previous practice. Their new lineup of quantum-dot TVs are already being labelled by Samsung as their greatest offering yet, but we’ll only believe that once they officially hit the market. Samsung sent over a Q8C 65” review sample to check out for ourselves, which is also available in 75” size.
Build Quality & Design
I’ve always had an admiration for Samsung’s design team, as it seems that they’re hell-bent on making their TVs as slim and as invisible as possible. The Q8C is no exception, sporting a couple of design choices that makes it a gorgeous TV.
For one, Samsung have opted to remove pretty much all of the rear cabling and relegate it to an external breakout box, called the ‘One Connect’ box. This isn’t a particularly new feature as we’ve seen it in previous Samsung models, however the difference this time around is that the cable connecting the One Connect to your TV is a very thin optical cable, rather than the chunky cable we’ve seen before. It comes wrapped around a small circular disc, sort of like a yo-yo, so you can unravel as much as you need and keep the rest of the cable nice and tidy. So for wall-mounting purposes, all you’ll see is a power cord and this thin optical cable, which makes for a supremely clean setup. On the flip side, it also now means that you’ll need two power cables – one for the TV, and one for the One Connect box. Speaking of wall-mounting, the Q8C looks great when wall mounted, though of course you’ll have to spring for Samsung’s ‘No Gap Wall Mount’ to ensure that the TV is flush with your wall.
The Q8C features a slimmer and sleeker remote control, with a brushed metal design. It sadly doesn’t light up in the dark, so you’re going to be groping for a bit to figure out which button is which. Apart from the volume and channel buttons, all other buttons are completely flat, so it’s not the greatest design in my opinion. The remote can also be a bit slippery at times, and I have dropped it (thankfully onto carpet) at least four times during my review. Hopefully it’s built to withstand a fair bit of wear and tear, otherwise you’re going to have to wrap this thing up in bubble wrap. However if you own a Samsung Galaxy S8, you can control your TV with a dedicated app on your phone, which might be a better solution in some scenarios. The remote control also lets you control other connected devices such as a Soundbar or Blu-ray player, which means less remote controllers lying about.
Specs-wise, the Q8C boasts quite a lot to be excited about. Sharper contrast, deeper blacks, stunning 4K and HDR support – what more could you ask for in a TV? Connectivity wise you’ve got 4xHDMI, 3xUSB, RF, Ethernet, and Optical ports all available via the One Connect box. What’s great about the Q8C is that for most devices plugged in via HDMI, it will auto-detect and label them accordingly, so plugging in things like a games console or other source is made much simpler.
The first test for the Q8C was firing up the TV’s native Netflix app to enjoy some 4K and HDR content. My go-to show is always Marco Polo and Chef’s Table, which are shows that really push a TV’s limits when it comes to vivid colors and black levels. Nighttime battle scenes in Marco Polo were superb, with the Q8C having no problems when the camera panned upwards to showcase a volley of fiery arrows shooting across a starry sky. The food in Chef’s Table is filmed superbly, and the Q8C just made it look even better. I now know why so many demo TVs in stores have cooking videos on them – watching food being prepared in such detail is absolutely mesmerizing, and this was no exception.
Next up was our standard test with the Costa Rica 4K YouTube video, which is a beautiful showcase of what nature has to offer. Just look at how crisp the image is in this quick shot:
The Q8C offers a number of picture modes, depending on the content you’re looking at. The four available modes are Dynamic, Standard, Natural, and Movie. Dynamic really brings out the Q8C’s brightness levels, to a point where it can almost be a bit uncomfortable to watch for long periods of time. Most of our viewing was on Natural, which toned down the brightness a little bit in favor of deeper colors. What’s a bit puzzling is that the Q8C doesn’t have a ‘Game’ mode available in the Picture settings. It’s instead been moved into the ‘General’ menu, under ‘External Device Manager’, which makes no sense and is a pain to get to. With the Game mode turned on there was a slight increase in picture sharpness and no immediately noticeable screen lag, so if you're keen to be gaming on the Q8C, you won't be let down.
Samsung says that the Q8C has great viewing angles, and that no matter where you’re sitting you’ll be able to enjoy great picture quality. Unfortunately in real-world scenarios this isn’t the case – the best picture quality was when you’re sat right in front of the screen, or maybe a few steps to either side. Go beyond that and you’ll notice a gradual diminish in color accuracy and contrast. Here’s a quick look at that effect in action:
You’ll get some pretty decent motion handling on the Q8C, especially for sports scenes. For films it’s best to turn it off, and we noticed an occasional spot of juddering when we left it on while watching Netflix.
UI-wise the Q8C is snappy and responsive, and you can also use the remote control’s voice button to issue quick voice commands or searches. Sadly the voice control is neither fast nor accurate at times. It’s not the same as using Siri on your iPhone or Google Now, where it can almost instantly be interpreted – on the Q8C it’s a slightly muddy affair, and certain apps won’t allow for voice input, so you’re stuck with searching for things with an on-screen keyboard.
Samsung HW-K950 Soundbar
While the Q8C has some fairly capable speakers built in, Samsung decided to send us their HW-K950 Soundbar, which comes with Dolby Atmos (priced at AED 5,499). This kit features a wireless Soundbar, subwoofer, and two rear speakers for surround sound. You can run the Soundbar without the rear speakers if you wish, but for complete immersion I recommend you set them up (assuming you have enough power sockets nearby). The overall performance was actually pretty great, with crisp audio coming at us from pretty much every direction, and a deep bass echoing around the room. And once connected to the Q8C, the TV’s remote seamlessly controlled the volume of the Soundbar directly, which made things a whole lot easier. It’s certainly a worthy upgrade if you’re interested in upgrading not just your TV, but your audio experience as well.
The only downside while reviewing the Q8C was that the unit Samsung sent across was quite buggy. Almost every day the I could turn the TV on, but I couldn’t navigate to anything until I rebooted the One Connect box. Another time I was in Netflix and the app just stopped playing and booted me out, and I couldn’t get back in until I rebooted both the One Connect box and the TV itself. I’m hoping that these are just minor flaws that Samsung will be able to patch before the TV hits stores.
While the Q8C is no doubt a stunning piece of tech, it’s sporting newer tech from Samsung that is going to initially make it super expensive. At AED 19,999 it’s still a serious investment to make, but it’s honestly an investment you can make later on when prices start to drop some more. Putting AED 20k on a TV seems ludicrous, no matter how great the picture quality may be. Yes, the TV is well made and has some great features, but there are still some great models on the market (from Samsung and other brands) that will do some serious justice until prices become more affordable.