Samsung Q8 series (2018) review: Luxury design and features meets top-notch picture

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Sarah Tew/CNET
  • 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2
  • 2x USB ports
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • RF (antenna) input
  • Remote (RS-232) port (EX-LINK)

This list is mostly solid, unless you happen to own a legacy device that requires analog video (component or composite) or audio. The Q8 is one of the few TVs that doesn't at least offer one analog input, audio or video.

Unlike the Q7 and Q9, which use an external input box and a new, thinner "invisible" connection between the box and the TV, the Q8 has inputs built into the back of the TV, just like most other sets. Samsung says it received requests for a high-end, box-free model from some consumers and installers.

Picture quality

It's no OLED, but the Q8 is still a serious performer.

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Click the image above for CNET's recommended picture settings.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Compared directly to similar FALD-equipped TVs, the Samsung was my favorite overall by a nose, with superior bright-room performance and the most impressive HDR. At the same time it didn't perform significantly better than the less expensive Sony X900F or the TCL 6 series. The former was the most accurate and balanced in my lineup and almost as bright in many scenes, while the latter delivered deeper black levels in many areas and maintained highlights more consistently. In the end all three earned the same "8" in image quality. 

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Dim lighting: Thanks to full-array local dimming the Samsung showed superb punch and contrast in my dark room, matching and in some ways exceeding the image quality of the three other FALD-equipped TVs in my lineup. They were all exceedingly close, however.

Watching the newly remastered The Matrix on standard Blu-ray, for example, the Q8's letterbox bars provided the kind of inky backdrop that made the rest of the image pop during the initial nighttime rooftop chase. In most spot measurements the Samsung's bars were neck and neck with the depth of black of the TCL, significantly better than the Q7 and visibly superior to the Sony and Vizio M, although of course they couldn't match the OLED's depth of black. (Speaking of black, the 1080p Blu-ray looked a bit, well, grayer than the 4K HDR version, with elevated black levels that robbed some scenes of punch. It's not the TVs' fault, but still worth noting.)

In dark shots from other films, for example The Greatest Showman and Black Panther, the TCL did show a deeper shade of black more consistently than the Samsung, but on the other hand it controlled blooming (stray illumination) a bit better.

On the other hand the Q8 tended to dim highlights a bit more than the other FALD TVs, so in some scenes there was less pop. In The Matrix, as Trinity leaps across the wide street, for example (4:39), the reflections of the streetlights measured dimmer on the Q8. In effect, Samsung's dimming slightly prioritizes black levels over highlights -- and in a dark room, I think that's a good choice in most cases.

The Q8 preserved details in shadows very well, matching the Sony and surpassing the TCL by a hair. The difference would be tough to spot outside of a side-by-side comparison, however.

Bright lighting: Continuing its reign as the brightness king, Samsung again has the brightest TV I've ever measured. The Q8 beat the two runners-up, the Sony X900F and the Q7, by a healthy margin. That said I expect the Q9 and possibly the Vizio P series Quantum to be even brighter.

Light output in nits

TV Mode (SDR) 10% window (SDR) Full screen (SDR) Mode (HDR) 10% window (HDR)
Samsung QN65Q8FN Dynamic 2348 638 Dynamic 2388
Sony XBR-65X900F Vivid 1183 696 Vivid 1203
Samsung QN65Q7F Dynamic 923 588 Dynamic 1781
TCL 65R617 Brighter/Vivid 653 480 Brighter/Dark HDR 824
Vizio P65-E1 Vivid 459 575 Vivid 498
LG OLED65C8P Vivid 419 141 Cinema Home 792
Vizio M65-E0 Vivid 288 339 Vivid 880

Unlike Samsung TVs from previous years, the Q8 didn't cut its HDR light output in Movie mode over time. I measured a rock-steady 1,200+ nits over a period of about 5 minutes. In Dynamic mode with both HDR and SDR it fluctuated much more, however, starting out at more than 2,000 nits but falling almost immediately to just over 600.

Samsung makes the best antireflective screens on the market, which further helps improve contrast and pop in bright rooms. The screens of the Q8 and Q7 were about the same at preserving contrast and reducing reflections, and better than any of the other TVs in the lineup.

Color accuracy: According to measurements, the Q8 was good in this category before calibration and even better afterward. The muted color palette of The Matrix was conveyed nicely, from Trinity's pale face in the club to the green wash of Neo's office cubicle to the more natural light inside the virtual sparring dojo. Saturation was excellent and the only TV in my lineup that looked consistently better with color was the LG OLED. That said, they were all extremely close, and as usual differences would be tough to discern beyond a side-by-side comparison.

Video processing: As usual the Samsung aced my tests in this category, delivering true 1080p/24 film cadence with film-based sources and plenty of motion resolution (1,000 lines) with video-based sources. The TV achieved both results with an Auto Motion Plus setting of Custom with Blur Reduction at 10 and Judder Reduction at 0, so if I had this TV I'd "set it and forget it" right there.

If you're keeping track, the results aren't quite as good as what I saw on the Q7 from 2017, which was clean enough on my test pattern to register a full 1,200 lines in the same settings.

If you want to tinker, you can always add more smoothing or soap opera effect by increasing Judder Reduction or choosing Auto instead of Custom. Meanwhile the LED Clear Motion option makes motion even sharper with the help of black frame insertion, at the expense of flicker and a dimmer image.

Samsung continues its recent tradition of excellent input lag in game mode with a score just over 14 milliseconds with both 1080p and 4K HDR sources.

Speaking of game mode, new for 2018 it gives you the option of adding motion smoothing and improving motion resolution with the Game Motion Plus mode. According to my test patterns, it boosted motion resolution from 300 lines to about 600 when maxed-out at Blur Reduction 10. Again it can be improved by engaging LED Clear Motion, but the flicker was even worse so I doubt many viewers will want to use that setting. The downside? It doubles input lag to about 30ms.

Uniformity and off-angle: Like the other sets with full-array dimming, the Q8 maintained a uniform image across the screen, with no overt brighter areas, banding or spotting. With full-field test patterns it did look slightly brighter in the middle compared to the edges, and compared to the Sony, TCL and Vizio, the Q8 did look less uniform -- brighter on the bottom in the darkest patterns. I couldn't detect either difference with program material as opposed to test patterns, however.

From off-angle the Q8 lost black level and color fidelity about as quickly as the Sony and the Q7. The TCL maintained black levels better but color shift was worse, while the OLED, as expected, trounced the LCDs from off angle.

HDR and 4K video: The Matrix looks spectacular on the new 4K HDR version -- seriously, if you own a new 4K HDR TV and like this movie (and who doesn't?), seek it out. It trounces the HD Blu-ray version, and makes the movie even more enjoyable.

As I mentioned in previous reviews, among the non-OLED TVs in my lineup the Q8 was my favorite with HDR by a hair, thanks to superior contrast: black levels that matched the TCL in most scenes (and beat the Sony and the Vizio) combined with the brightest highlights. Its advantage with HDR punch wasn't extreme, however; each LCD has its strengths, and none could come close to matching the LG OLED.

I noticed the Samsung's advantage on the very first images, the computer-green Warner lot and logo as well as the stylized characters in the titles. The green looked more saturated and monochrome-sickly (as it should) on the Q8 and the LG OLED than on the other TVs, a difference I attribute to their wider color gamuts.

Samsung also showed a visible, and measurable advantage in contrast. Immediately after the opening title sequence (1:34) the flashlight of a policeman searching the building measured brightest on the Samsung and Sony (about 650 nits), slightly dimmer on the LG and TCL (~600), and significantly dimmer on the 2018 Vizio M and the Q7 (~430).

The Samsung's biggest HDR flaw was the tendency, as seen before with SDR, to dim highlights more than the others. For example, after Trinity's flying leap through the small window the light above measured dimmer (323 nits) than on the other sets, which hovered around 500. On most scenes, however, it maintained the brightest highlights in my lineup.

During the ensuing chase of Trinity, the Samsung and TCL were closely matched as the best of the non-OLED sets in terms of black level, but the Samsung consistently controlled blooming better, and its superior highlights gave it the overall contrast win with more kick and power. It also did a better job exposing shadow details new black, for example the murky uniforms of the police as they ogle the leaping agent as he clears a rooftop (4:47). These scenes also exposed the lighter black levels of the Sony, the Vizio and especially the Q7, while (as usual) revealing the excellence of the C8's perfect black levels.

Switching to streaming I fired up Amazon's Man in the High Castle. I watched the Samsung's internal Amazon app compared to an Apple TV 4K streaming to the other sets, synced for easier side-by-side comparison.

Again the Samsung and the LG led the pack overall, with the TCL and Sony close behind. This subtler title revealed more of the Samsung's color accuracy advantage over the TCL, which looked a bit off and too reddish in skin tones, as well as its more dynamic image compared to the Sony. As revealed by my measurements, the Sony and LG did appear a bit more color-accurate, with the Q8 showing a slightly more yellowish cast, but the difference was subtle.

My setup also allowed me to look for any advantages afforded by Samsung's HDR10+ format -- present in the title as well as Samsung's app, but absent from the Apple TV 4K as well as a Roku Ultra I also used for the same comparison. Although the Samsung looked as good as ever, so did the others. It was difficult to see any difference, major or minor, that I could attribute to HDR10+ and its dynamic metadata in this title.

Geek Box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.002 Good
Peak white luminance (SDR) 2348 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.39 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.69 Good
Dark gray error (30%) 1.04 Good
Bright gray error (80%) 0.46 Good
Avg. color checker error 2.80 Good
Avg. color error 2.64 Good
Red error 1.30 Good
Green error 2.76 Good
Blue error 3.95 Average
Cyan error 2.39 Good
Magenta error 2.08 Good
Yellow error 3.33 Average
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1000 Good
Input lag (Game mode) 14.10 Good



HDR10

Black luminance (0%) 0.006 Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 2388 Good
Gamut % UHDA/P3 (CIE 1976) 97.98 Good
Avg. color checker error 4.88 Average
Input lag (Game mode, 4K HDR) 14.30 Good

Samsung QN65Q8F CNET review calibration results by David Katzmaier on Scribd

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