Samsung QE55Q8C – Picture Quality and Sound
If your first experience of the Q8C in action is in a bright room – or on a bright shop floor – you may well think it’s the most amazing TV you’ve ever seen. The new screen filter system and the way the Quantum Dots are illuminated reduces the negative impact of on-screen reflections to astonishing levels we’ve only seen on Samsung’s other QLED TVs.
The result is pictures that retain more brightness, colour richness and, above all, greater contrast than you’d normally expect a TV to dish up in a bright environment. This is especially true when you’re watching HDR content, or SDR content with the HDR+ mode on.
Related: Best TVs 2017
This almost-magical ability to ‘punch through’ ambient light is a big deal. After all, most households spend the majority of their time watching TV with the lights on, or in a sun-drenched room. So any TV that can handle such a setting as well as the Q8C is off to a flying start.
It isn’t only the ability to soak up ambient light that makes the Q8C such an effective daytime performer. Its exceptional brightness is also instantly obvious with HDR content, driving both bright highlights and rich, vibrant colours off the screen to spectacular effect. No non-QLED TVs manage to look as dynamic in a bright room.
What’s more, the extreme brightness is able to share screen space with remarkably deep and natural black levels – something that’s usually the first picture quality victim of a brightly lit room. Add all this together and it’s possible that, for the first time in TV history, you have a TV technology that allows even serious AV fans to watch a film without having to turn off all the lights and close all the curtains. At least if that film is available in HDR.
Its bright-room talents are far from the Q8C’s only performance strengths. Its pictures are also exceptionally crisp and detailed, for instance. This is especially true with native 4K content, but it also boasts an impressively precise and intelligent 4K upscaling engine.
The clarity remains largely intact when there’s motion to be dealt with, too. The Q8C suffers with only minor judder and blur, even if you deactivate all the provided motion processing system entirely, as many AV fans will prefer to. However, I’d argue that you can use the motion processing on its Custom setting with judder and blur reduction both set to around level three, without the picture starting to exhibit serious amounts of unwanted processing side effects.
If you switch to a dark-room setting, the explosive impact of the Q8C’s dazzling brightness and colour volumes becomes even more pronounced, making the HDR pictures of many rival TVs look barely HDR by comparison.
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It’s also becomes easier to appreciate just how impressively deep the Q8C’s black levels are able to get by LCD standards – and how much detail it’s able to render in its darkest areas when you’re using its Standard or, to a lesser degree, Movie picture presets.
The Q8C also outperforms any rival TV brand in terms of the amount of detail it’s able to reproduce in the very brightest parts of HDR pictures, avoiding almost all traces of the ‘clipping’ problems that can leave bright highlights looking bleached of detail.
While the QE55Q8C’s dark room pictures often look stellar with both HDR and SDR sources, they do suddenly start to struggle when an HDR image contains a contrast-rich mix of bright and dark image elements.
The issue is that since the Q8C lights its pictures from its horizontal edges, the only way it can illuminate a bright HDR object that appears within a mostly dark backdrop is to shine a beam of light across pretty much the entire height of the screen. Since the TV is able to get different sections of its edge LED lighting to output different levels of brightness, these vertical light beams can stand out prominently over dark parts of the picture that surround the bright object.
To be fair, this sort of backlight striping is hardly unique in the edge-lit LCD world. It’s slightly more pronounced here than it is on many rival TVs, though, by the Q8C’s relatively extreme levels of HDR brightness and contrast.
The curvature of the screen likely isn’t helping here, either; experience suggests that curved screens find it harder to control light precisely. This may explain why the slightly cheaper Q7F actually seems to perform better than the Q8C in this key performance area.
The backlight striping is sometimes sufficiently strong to negatively impact colour tones over which it appears, reducing their otherwise bold saturations. Finally regarding this issue, the striping’s obviousness increases if you have to watch the screen from an angle of more than around 25-30 degrees.
The Q8C also very occasionally suffers from banding over expanses of similar colour when watching HDR/wide colour sources. This affects a number of other brands of HDR TV, too. But there are sets out there – especially Sony’s latest models – that manage to avoid it.
One other minor niggle is that although the Q8C’s screen soaks up reflections fantastically well by the LCD standards, its curved nature means residual reflections are distorted across a greater area of the screen than they are on flat models.
The Q8C deserves to have us wrap up in a positive frame of mind, though. So let’s do that by first pointing out that it takes only 27ms (on average) to produce its images when running in its Game mode, and also that its sound is surprisingly powerful and clean – especially for a TV that doesn’t appear to carry any visible speakers.
Should I buy a Samsung QE55Q8C?
If you spend the majority of your time watching TV in a bright room and you like the idea of a curved-screen TV, then the QE55Q8C is uniquely qualified to satisfy your needs. There really is no other curved TV out there that’s as capable of combating the picture quality issues associated with ambient light. With this unique ability in mind, the set arguably justifies its steep £3,000 asking price.
However, if you’re not caught up on the curve then you could save yourself £700 and get a similarly strong picture from Samsung’s own Q7F QLED model.
LG, meanwhile, offers a different set of picture priorities built around deep, uniform blacks and wide viewing angles with its £3,000 OLED55B7, while Sony’s 55XE9305 combines similar levels of brightness and colour resolution to the Q8C with slightly more precise backlighting for £600 less – although its pictures don’t hold up as well in ambient light.
Exaggerated backlight striping issues may be a distraction for dedicated home cinema fans. But for more casual users the Samsung QE55Q8C is a beautifully designed and uniquely talented TV that’s just about ‘out there’ enough to justify its £3000 price tag.