Television and display technology hasn’t changed much over the last 10 years, with LED and LCD flat-panel TVs becoming the norm. Although curved screens and smart connectivity in TVs have added to the feature list on high-end TVs, the basic technology has primarily remained the same. At this point, innovative top-drawer manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and LG face more competition from affordable brands that offer big screens at low prices, rather than from each other.
However, there remain distinct advantages to buying a big brand and spending a large amount of money on your next TV. You get a promise of reliability, performance and better picture, along with more features that you would not normally expect to see on a more affordable TV. But what kind of prices are we talking?
Enter the Samsung Q-series Curved QLED TVs. Priced from Rs 2,99,000 for the 55-inch Q7F, the series isn’t affordable by any measure. Today, we’re reviewing the Rs 4,49,000 65-inch Samsung Q8C Curved QLED TV. It’s big, imposing, and features all of the latest technology that you want on a TV, including a 4K-resolution screen, support for HDR content and smart functionality. It also features Samsung’s Quantum Dot LED technology, which the company claims offers better color reproduction and brighter picture. We’ve put those claims to the test, and here’s our review of the Samsung Q8C Curved QLED TV.
Samsung Q8C Curved QLED TV Design and Specifications
When it comes to design, Samsung has done very little in terms of changing design over the last couple of years. And to be honest, I do prefer more minimalist designs when it comes to TVs, considering that the focus should be on giving you as much screen with as little non-screen space as possible. This is exactly what you get with the Samsung Q8C; there isn’t much else to see at the front apart from the screen. With thin bezels all around and a glowing Samsung logo at the bottom, the screen dominates your view.
Despite the curvature of the TV’s screen, you do have the option of wall-mounting the Samsung Q8C, thanks to no-gap wall-mounts from the company which can be installed for you when you buy the TV. The benefit of the curved screen is something I consider a gimmick; this only ensures that every part of the screen is equidistant from your eyes provided you’re sitting in the TV’s sweet-spot, which makes for a slightly improved picture at the edges. ALSO READ: Samsung QLED TVs are crazy, sexy, and insanely expensive
The back of the TV is plain and nondescript, apart from a somewhat neat texture. There is only one significant port at the back, where you plug in the cable that connects to the One Connect box. This is where the ports and connectivity options for the TV sit, allowing for easier access to these ports. It’s a convenient option as it allows the port layout to be placed conveniently, as opposed to having to reach behind the TV to gain access to common ports such as USB, HDMI, component, Ethernet and audio. The box can be replaced as well, allowing for the possibility of upgrades in the future. Samsung maintains standardization for the One Connect format, which means that you can get a newer box with any future connectivity options without having to replace your TV.
If you choose not to wall-mount the Samsung Q8C, you can stand-mount it with its single-spine stand. It’s a solid stand that manages to hold the very heavy TV up without any trouble, and will fit on an otherwise small TV table as well.
Also worth mentioning is the Samsung One Remote, which comes with the Q8C TV. This isn’t a typical infra-red remote; it instead uses RF (radio frequency) for communicating with the TV, which means that it doesn’t need to be pointed at the TV for it to work. The TV automatically detects what device has been connected to what port, and lets you use the remote to control those devices as well. This worked well with my Google Chromecast, although it did force me to use voice commands rather than the play/pause button on the remote itself. The remote looks good, is built well and has simple controls on it, allowing for navigation, quick settings and voice control.
The microphone for voice commands is on the remote itself, making it easy to use the TV with voice commands. However, worth noting is the fact that certain functions force you to use the voice commands, which can often be unintuitive and slow, rather than simply using the corresponding buttons on the remote itself.
When it comes to pure specifications, the Samsung Q8C TV hits all the right notes. The screen has a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels, with support for HDR content and a quad-core processing engine. Connectivity options include four HDMI ports, three USB ports, one component and composite socket each, Ethernet, digital audio out and RF In, all on the included One Connect box. You can also connect to devices wirelessly over Bluetooth, DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct. The TV weighs about 30kg with the stand, and runs Samsung’s improved Smart Hub interface, which is based on Tizen OS.
Samsung Q8C Curved QLED TV Software and Smart Functionality
This brings us to what makes the Samsung QLED so special: the smarts. You can connect the TV to the internet either using a wired Ethernet connection or through Wi-Fi, with the latter being the more convenient option. Once you’re online, you get access to the full potential of Smart Hub, the improved user interface for Samsung smart TVs. Based on Tizen OS, the platform is tailor-made for smart TV use, and has a decent collection of features and apps meant for the big screen. Additionally, the interface has been designed keeping in mind the fact that you will be navigating around the interface using the remote, unlike smart TV interfaces from some affordable brands which are crude Android-based ports.
Apart from the settings and source selection options, you get access to the range of apps along the bottom of the screen. The advantage of this layout is that it doesn’t block the main screen, and lets you navigate around the interface even when you have something playing on the screen, such as a set-top box, Blu-Ray player or even content from a USB drive. The home button at the center of the remote is the all-access button that lets you bring up all of the apps and functions, making the interface extremely easy to learn and use. The focus of the interface is on showing you your content with minimal distractions and interruptions, and the system does this well. ALSO READ: Amazon Prime Video: 7 things you should know
The key aspect of any smart TV interface is its list of apps, and the Samsung QLED TV stands out in this regard. Pre-installed on the TV, you get key streaming services and content repositories, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, BoxTV for Indian content, Cric-o-mania and the official UFC app. You can also install other apps from the marketplace, such as Playstation Now, which lets you install and play a variety of Playstation 3 games on the TV itself without the need for a console, the official TED app, BBC News, Time TV and Skype for big-screen video calling. The focus on content apps and putting all of that screen real-estate to good use makes Samsung Smart Hub among the better smart TV interfaces around, helped by its ease of use and superior connectivity.
Samsung Q8C Curved QLED TV Performance
With 4K and HDR support, the Samsung Q8C can currently play practically every kind of resolution and content commonly used for TVs today. Although satellite and cable television is primarily focused on SD and full-HD content with limited support for 4K, online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are now providing an increasing amount of high-resolution and HDR content. We’ve tried the TV with a variety of content across various resolutions and genres, as well as HDR content to test out the full capabilities of the TV.
Starting with 4K HDR content, the Samsung Q8C excels here. The big 65-inch screen of the TV lets you make the most of the high resolution and pixel count, with picture that is sharp, clean and detailed. Motion is smooth and clean as well, thanks to high refresh rates and superior image processing. The key qualities of HDR are particularly highlighted by more realistic colors and tones that are more natural looking and don’t ‘pop’ too much. Bright parts of the picture are certainly brighter, while dark zones boast of better black levels. ALSO READ: Samsung aims to capture 60% market share in premium TVs in 2017
One department where the Samsung Q8C particularly succeeds is when it comes to brightness. The picture is visibly brighter than on any other TV I’ve used before, and a significant improvement over last year’s flagship QLED TVs from Samsung. This can potentially cause headaches when you’re watching in the dark, but the brightness gives you a better picture in most conditions, and shows the colors as naturally and clearly as can be. The high peak brightness is particularly visible and useful with HDR content, and some of our demo clips featuring the beam of a lighthouse and sunlight did on occasion make me squint just a bit. With an episode of Narcos on Netflix in 4K HDR, the naturalness of the skin tones and light is among the best I’ve seen on a TV.
With ordinary 4K content, certain aspects are retained, such as sharpness, motion refresh rate and detail, as was evident in an episode of Marvel’s Daredevil that I streamed on Netflix. However, the colors and tones certainly appear different in these cases. Perhaps if you aren’t exposed to HDR content, you may not find anything wrong with the colors beyond the slight exaggeration and pop that Samsung is ordinarily known for, but colors certainly appear a bit unnatural to the trained eye. Red in particular seems to be a pain point for the Samsung, with shades of red appearing exaggerated. However, contrast is maintained to a good extent even without HDR content, and duller shades are as good as it gets.
With full-HD content, picture and motion are clean despite the size of the TV. While some flaws in the picture are visible in compressed content and sitting too close to the TV even with good 1080p and 720p content will reveal some flaws, on the whole you get a better picture than you would expect from a typical 65-inch TV. Standard definition content is good as well, with upscaling being handled well by the TV. This is where Samsung has always outdone the competition, and a large-screen Samsung TV is typically better with low-resolution content than similarly placed options from major competing brands.
On the whole, there’s very little to tell the difference between the Samsung Q8C and last year’s flagship QLED models from the Korean electronics conglomerate. The continued use of Quantum Dot technology with some improvements have resulted in better brightness, but apart from this there’s very little to suggest that you need to upgrade to the Q8C if you just bought a flagship Samsung TV last year. Sound is decent for a big TV, but as always, we recommend you get a decent soundbar or speaker system to make the most of the viewing experience and bring it as close to theatrical levels as possible.
The Samsung 65-inch Q8C Curved QLED TV is a part of Samsung’s premium smart TV range this year, and comes with a price tag that proves it. However, if you’re spending Rs 4,49,000 on a TV, you expect no less than the best. The Q8C excels in the important departments such as picture, sound, smart connectivity and functionality, app support and design, which pretty much covers everything that matters. While there are slight niggles and bothersome aspects, the larger picture (no pun intended) is about as good as you would expect from a flagship Samsung TV.
However, competition is strong in this segment, particularly from LG and Sony. With LG’s range of top-end OLED TVs already out and Sony set to release its 2017 models this month, Samsung has its competition cut out. While last year’s QLED TVs were undisputedly the best you could buy, the lack of significant improvements in this year’s models and the small flaws means that it might be worth auditioning options from Sony and LG before you complete your purchase. However, if you’re leaning towards Samsung or like your TV with curves, rest assured that you are offered an excellent overall experience with the Samsung Q8C TV, despite the Rs 4,49,000 price tag.