Samsung Q8 QLED TV: Australian Review

QLED is Samsung's name for its latest quantum dot LED-backlit TVs, and QLED means business. Samsung is promising black levels that you'd only otherwise expect to see on a top-of-the-line OLED TV, and colours that are not only incredibly vibrant and bright, but also accurate. The Q8 is a $4500-plus screen that'll make your Netflix sessions look amazing.

What Is It?

Samsung's QLED TVs are LCD TVs using a quantum dot layer over the sub-pixel structure, with these microscopic nanoparticles responding physically to create monochromatic light from another light source. The cut and thrust of it is that QLED turns an energy-efficient blue backlight into extremely bright red, blue or green light from each pixel, with extremely narrow light emission meaning those colours are incredibly precise and accurate.

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Samsung is putting three variants of its QLED TVs on sale in Australia — the flat Q7 in 55-inch ($4499), 65-inch ($6499) and 75-inch ($10,999) screen sizes, the curved Q8 in 55-inch ($5499), 65-inch ($7499) and 75-inch ($12,499) screen sizes, and the range-topping curved Q9 at a wallet-shattering price for 65-inch ($9499), 75-inch ($14,999) and 88-inch ($39,999). That last one — oof.

The big selling point of QLED is its incredible brightness levels — 1500 nits from the Q8. That's a big deal when it comes to HDR, which requires a panel that can produce the highest peak brightness possible from its LED backlighting. That's also a big deal for colours, which usually drop in brightness throughout the saturation range. Samsung is saying the QLED Q8 and Q9 are the world's first DCI-P3 colour-accurate panels, achieving 100 per cent colour volume.

What's It Good At?

The Samsung Q8 QLED TV has the best picture quality we've ever seen from a LED-backlit LCD TV, hands down. That much is a sure thing. Is it better than an OLED — our current gold standard for TV picture quality? Well, yes and no. Yes in a lot of ways, because it's definitely significantly brighter and has more vibrant colours that are way more true-to-life out of the box than even LG's best. No, because OLED still has that very slight edge on black levels.

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In the same way that Samsung's smartphone skin on Android has improved on itself massively year-on-year, the same is true of the company's TVs. After a misguided dalliance with a 3D-cubed home screen, Samsung's Smart Hub on the Q8 QLED is flat, simple, and straightforward: it's just a slim bar at the bottom of the screen with direct access to video streaming apps like Netflix and Stan and YouTube, and to your most used inputs. Nothing more, no mess, no fuss: no complaints here at all.

Samsung's One Remote is even further refined over last year's already impressive attempt at a one-size-fits-all candybar clicker. For the 2017 QLED range it's a slim, silver device with scant few physical buttons — rockers for both volume and TV channel, and a five-way navigational pad. Beyond that you've only got a quick-access button for the QLED TV's voice control, a quick play-pause and virtual number pad and info button access, and power. That navpad is your main point of contact for pretty much every navigation of Samsung's flat, simple Smart Hub, so get used to it.

What's It Not Good At?

While Samsung's voice recognition software on its Tizen-powered smart TVs is getting better with every iteration, it still feels... superfluous. In my humble opinion, you're better off spending five minutes learning where every feature is on the on-screen interface, and then putting your thumb to good use clicking away. Voice control is fantastic on a smartphone where you have the power or Google or Apple and an ongoing series of contextual responses to guide your navigation, but on a TV where your use is — really — limited to Netflix or YouTube or free-to-air telly, it's not a big draw card for me.

While those fancy quantum-dotted pixels do an extremely good job of blasting bright and accurate and amazingly vibrant colours at your face when you're sitting in front of it, Samsung's Q8 loses a bit of that vibrance as you move to side viewing. What becomes more obvious is the QLED TV's backlighting, which has a bit of obvious bloom when you're looking at bright white objects on a dark background: the impossible test for any LED TV. This is most obvious when you're viewing from an extremely off-axis position, so it's a particularly niche complaint of ours, but it's also worth keeping in mind that this isn't a problem you'll have with Samsung's OLED competition from LG and that tech's individual self-lighting pixels.

And — it feels like I write this on most Samsung reviews I write these days — the Q8 is an expensive piece of hardware. It's an investment, to be sure — you should be keeping your TV for at least five years, not changing it out on a whim, and the QLED tech makes a noticeable and substantial difference to the point that it is worth considering as a direct competitor to OLED. But the QLED Q8 is $7499 for the 65-inch model I tested, and the cheapest QLED is a $4499 flat 55-inch Q7. These are pricy TVs. And you can get a hell of a lot of screen, and sound system, and accessories, and furniture, for that price if you look at Samsung's competitors.

Should You Buy It?

I loved the Samsung Q8. So much. It has excellent black levels and absolutely phenomenal colours, especially in the brightest scenes of the brightest movies — it's a screen that spoils animated films like Frozen and makes just about the best compromise possible with dark films like The Revenant. It's an amazing panel and it's a TV that would bless any home lucky enough to have it.

But at the same time, it's really hard to recommend a TV that's so expensive. You're able to buy a TV equally as large as any of Samsung's QLEDs with 90 per cent of the picture quality for half the asking price. In the case of an OLED, you'll sacrifice brightness but get slightly better black levels. With any other LED, you'll sacrifice some colour accuracy and brightness, but you have to ask yourself — is it worth it?

For someone like me, whose life is spent in front of a screen of one kind or another, it's a difference that I like to think I could justify to myself and my (increasingly empty) chequebook. It's all a matter of perspective, though — if you're dropping $100,000 on a reservation or $700,000 on a property in the first place, what's another hundred stack between friends?

You spend a lot of time in front of your TV, and it's worth buying a good TV. We think so, at least. And, so, I'll sign this off by saying that the Samsung Q8, and by extension all QLED TVs, are some of the best I've ever seen. If I was buying a new TV, it'd be a close call between this and an OLED.


Comments

    How much $$ did Samsung pay for this article?

    How can an Edge-Lit TV be the best ever LCD panel??

    There is zero chance this TV is better than the Sony Z9D which has the most zones on any LCD ~650 or the Panasonic 920 or any FALD TV.

    OLED still destroys it - not just edges it - This panel cannot get near OLED performance.

    The fact that Samsung are charging a huge premium without a single FALD TV is simply embarrassing and journalists like yourselves are pushing this as good without questioning this.

    Try this test if you want to actually review the unit. Put it side by side a Sony Z9 or LG OLED. Turn the lights off and play the opening crawl of The Force Awakens. Or any movie with black bars.

      Hi pal. Samsung didn't pay a cent for this article.

      I *own* an OLED TV. I have more experience with OLED than just about anyone in Australia.

      I've also seen it in person. Let me tell you that full array local dimming zones ain't everything. When you're face on with it, light bleed and bloom is literally non-existant on QLED despite the edge lighting array. That's what quantum dots can do to cut down on the wavelengths of light being emitted.

      You're talking about one particular aspect -- true black levels -- that I already point out in the article as an advantage of OLED that remains true. BUT one thing OLED can't do is push the same brightness as a new LED TV.

      And y'know what? I did play the opening crawl of The Force Awakens! Along with about 10 hours of other content :)

        I've got a 65" OLED and in a bright daylight I have to block out the window behind me and turn most of the settings to 100% to even see a decent picture and even then I might have to also boost gamma on the PC driving the picture. However at night time I revert to sane settings and the picture is fantastic especially the complete blacks and details in shadows. So basically I'm ecstatic for roughly half my viewing time. Meanwhile, it was the exact opposite situation with my previous LED.
        If Samsung really have managed to get the best of both bright and dark viewing situations in the flat 65" then I would be tempted to swap however my biggest issue is that you can't really tell in the showroom how it will be in your home with your equipment so a balanced review from someone who has tried both is probably as close as you can get.
        p.s. how does it look showing highly compressed video when gradients would normally end up being washed out/grimy?

        To really do a fair comparison and review you need 3 TVs. Z9, LG E6 and this Q8

        I would love to see an Oz TV review where they do something more in depth. Compared to AV forums or flatpanels or others there is much more data and even images and comparisons.

        None of the AV review sites have said anything remotely like what the reviewer mentioned as they all claim the two best panels are LG Oleds (pick any of them) and Sony Z9D.

        Local dimming zones make a huge difference and the Q9 has been confirmed to have 32 vs 650 on the Z9.

        Discrete individual led light control makes a massive difference

        If your able to I would highly suggest doing another review this time at night with the lights out comparing the Sony equivalent to the Qled and an oled.

        I would strongly bet that the Qled would finish last in everything bar maybe brightness - though the Z9 has been measured at 2000 nits

        No such thing as a LED TV, it's a LCD TV with LED backlight.

      Person who hasn't seen it in person, spouting fanboy rhetoric and questioning the person who actually has tested it side by side. Sounds familiar.

      Are all you trolls required to follow a script or something?

        I don't believe anywhere in the article was there comparisons done.

        It's not fanboy to say an edge lit tv cannot beat a fald - limited zone count and backlight control does induce blooming. There is no way around that

        Oled is the best followed by fald TVs. Edge lit are fine but considering what samsung are charging here it should be oled levels of best

          And once again you fail to put "in my opinion" you talk as if you are the expert. You were shot down in flames justifiably and you have to have the last word where once again you are wrong.

    I'd like my TV to be voice controlled to do two things. Turn on and turn off. The rest I would like to be able to do with a smartphone app. I'm sick of hunting for remote controls!

      The problem with apps is that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are generally pretty slow compared to IR and RF - more processing involved. I've still not found a smartphone app for TVs that I like.

        My biggest problem with smartphone controls is that they are clumsy compared to something with physical buttons.

        First, unlock your phone, then look at the screen to work out where to touch etc. Then get blinded by the screen because you were watching a movie with the lights out. Once you've finally turned the volume up, you realise that you've missed a critical point so you need to rewind. So you have to unlock your phone again...

        I can use a physical remote in near complete darkness (I just need enough light to find it)

          Wouldn't one just set up the room and TV to suit, push play, and be done with it until the end of the movie!?

    I wonder what the hfr comparisons are. Nothing has gotten close to oled yet

    Makes the $2895 I paid for the LG 55" OLED a few months ago seem an absolute bargain!

      Yes, those prices are truly outlandish, would even consider them, would either buy old gen tvs at present prices or wait 12 + moths for these to drop below 2k or more.

    Curved TV (and phone) screens area total waste of time, effort and money.

    They are a prime example of desperate Samsung managers wanting to be seen to be doing something to justify their existence. It was the same with 3D TV, and we all know how that ended.

    Samsung are rapidly losing the plot.

      The Q7 is the flat equivalent. I quite like curved screens but there's no real point to them, I agree.

    Is there any word on pricing/availability of LG's 2017 OLED range?

    Currently pricing of OLED (or anything 2016) is going to be favourable, but prices will even out later in the year, they always do.

    How would you say the QLED compares to Samsung's 2016 SUHD range?

      LG's OLED launch is a mere couple of days away, if I remember correctly :)

      I have a 2016 SUHD Series 9 at home, and I can far and away say that the QLED is the better TV. Much better peak brightness, more consistent colour representation.

      Both TVs are great, just one is greater -- but costs a LOT more.

        Excellent, I have my debit card loaded up to the eyeballs to go and buy one of the new top of the line LG OLED TV's. Can't wait.

          From what I saw at CES this year, you absolutely won't be disappointed.

    Q: Does Samsung still fail miserably at any form of caching the EPG? I have a relatively new JS8000 and it still takes 20+ seconds when I first open the EPG, or every time I scroll the EPG channel list down that it hasn't tuned into yet.

    Honestly such an expensive piece of equipment and they still can't add a few measly kilobytes of EPG cache... The buy-a-pvr argument doesn't hold anymore since these TV's have a fully fledged OS that does 99% of what a PVR does already.

    Just splurged on a Hisense 75" 7000 HDR 4K set for $2395. Equivalent for the Sammy? That will be $11,000 thanks!

    Whole lot of nope right there.....

      I think the point of the article was to outline why they're not equivalent.

      So you bought the equivalent of what samsung were making 4 years ago. that's cute :P
      The Hisense are good tv's for what they are (worst of the best? best of the worst?cheap!) But they are not anywhere near the level of the major players.. 90% of people would be happy with a hisense.

    Besides resolution and HDR, how does the 65" version compare to the last generation of 65" plasmas in terms of colour rendition, black levels, brightness and transition speed? My 65" Plasma was only $1800...

    All we need now is something worth watching

    Campbell,

    Did you do any measurements of the brightness or colors? You say its brighter than SUHD, when Rtings clearly measured on multiple retail units that Q7 has lower brightness than KS8000.

    These kind of "reviews" make me sick. You dare to call people trolls to dare to contradict you when there isn't one objective thing in your entire useless piece of text.

    Yes it smells like advertising.

    How is the overa─║l contrast with UHD Blu Ray looking compared to the OLEDs ?
    Still flatter with less depth and pop in the picture ?

    I know the blacks are higher but how much higher are they ?
    Visible glow in a dark room even with sdr calibrated to 120nits ?

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