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Samsung Q8DN (QE55Q8DN) review: QLED brilliance for less?

Vincent Teoh
17 Oct 2018
Price when reviewed 
1,899
inc VAT

Samsung's Q8DN boasts all the usual QLED plus points, but the price puts it up against the very cream of the crop

Pros 
Excellent bright-room performance
Low input lag; great for gaming
High peak brightness and colour volume serve up stunning HDR
Cons 
Narrow viewing angles
Over-aggressive local dimming in dark scenes
Priced too close to the superior Q9FN flagship QLED
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If you’ve been lusting after Samsung’s top-tier QLED TV, the Q9FN, but your budget is stretched to the limit, then you may have found yourself eyeing up the Samsung Q8DN. Sitting one rung down from the Q9FN, this TV promises a taste of Samsung’s high-end QLED technology for just a tiny bit less cash.

Samsung QE55Q8DN: What you need to know

Somewhat confusingly, this TV is marketed as the Q8FN in North America, but in the UK and Europe, the Q8FN actually refers to an edge-lit version. Originally, the full-array local dimming (FALD) version wasn't going to be released in European countries, but after persistent lobbying and petitioning by AV enthusiasts and journalists alike, we now get the Q8DN – which is also marketed as the Q8D.

Two screen sizes are available, namely the 55-inch QE55Q8DN reviewed here and a larger 65-inch QE65Q8DN.

Compared with the Samsung Q9FN QLED, the 55Q8DN doesn't have as many local dimming zones or the external One Connect Box, but still features quantum-dot technology for wider colour gamut, support for the open-standard HDR10, broadcast-friendly HLG and HDR10+ dynamic metadata formats (but not Dolby Vision), and the company's Tizen-based Smart TV platform.

Gamers – and especially Xbox One X owners – will be pleased too with ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) support.

Samsung QE55Q8DN review: Price and competition

At the time of writing, the Samsung 55-inch Q8DN faces some stiff competition. The first competitor is its own stablemate, the superior Q9FN: the Q8DN is currently selling for £1,899, and the Q9FN is now only £1,999.

Similarly-sized OLED TVs such as the LG OLED55C8 (£1999) and Panasonic TX-55FZ802B (£1799) provide even more options. They might not hit the same eye-popping brightness levels for HDR, but their image quality is arguably superior in almost every other regard – although gamers may want to think twice about purchasing an OLED TV due to the possibility of screenburn.

Buy the Samsung Q8DN from John Lewis

Samsung QE55Q8DN: Design and connections

The styling has a very Samsung air about it, with excellent craftsmanship and solid build quality. Granted, the chassis is a tad chunky by modern TV standards, but this is unsurprising given the QE55Q8DN's direct-lit LED backlight configuration. At least there's a classy brushed metallic silver trim to add a touch of elegance.

It looks great, but as the panel is supported by two feet positioned near both ends of the display, it won’t fit on narrower AV racks – you’ll need to check if yours is up to the job.

Perhaps the most controversial design decision on the Samsung Q8DN is the omission of a separate One Connect box. Instead, the Q8DN’s connections are all located on the right side of the TV, where you’ll find four full-bandwidth HDMI 2.0b ports with HDCP 2.2 compliance. Unlike the US Q8FN though, there's no Exlink mini-jack socket to be found anywhere, which means that it's not possible to perform direct display control (DDC) or AutoCal using Portrait Display's CalMAN software on the Q8DN.

Two remote controls are supplied: a traditional clicker and a sleeker Smart remote. The onboard Smart TV portal is intuitive and easy to use, and all the main on-demand/ streaming apps support 4K HDR playback, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Youtube.

The integrated speakers are surprisingly capable too. Helped by the chunkier chassis and skilful tuning, sound quality ranks above average among flat-screen TVs, with intelligible dialogue and decent bass delivery.

Samsung QE55Q8DN: Picture quality

The QE55Q8DN uses a VA-type LCD panel. As is usual for panels of this type, deep blacks come at the expense of viewing angles – you won’t get the best image quality when watching the Q8DN away from head-on. 

The great news, however, is that the Q8DN features the same anti-reflective filter that's implemented on the company's high-end 2018 QLED TVs. Samsung's anti-reflection technology is the best on the market currently, muting reflections and handling glare in a more effective manner than competing TVs.

Screen uniformity is good for an LED LCD, too, but there remains some darkening along the edges, and very mild dirty screen effect (DSE) – something which can affect even the best FALD LCD TVs.

The most accurate picture preset out of the box is Movie mode, but as we've seen on the top-tier Q9FN, the Samsung Q8DN initially exhibited undersaturated colours especially with red and yellow, causing skin tones to look pastier than expected. Fortunately, calibration can rectify the majority of these inaccuracies to make the picture look more realistic and natural.

Disappointingly, the Q8DN’s FALD backlighting isn’t as sophisticated as its slightly pricier stablemate. We counted 40 independently dimmable zones on the TV, which is a long way behind the 320 zones on the 55-inch Samsung Q9FN. That said, zone count is only part of the equation; the dimming algorithm is arguably even more important to the final picture quality. And what Samsung's local dimming algorithm excels at is keeping the top and bottom letterbox bars in cinemascope movies darker than its rivals, so viewers won't get distracted by grey letterbox bars, at least in SDR content.

It’s not all good news, however. In Samsung's efforts to minimise blooming and keep blacks deep, the dimming algorithm can be overly aggressive from time to time in low-lit scenes, especially with Local Dimming set to "High" – which is absolutely necessary to deliver the peak brightness demanded by HDR. For example, during the opening scene in the 4K Blu-ray of The Martian, the stars disappeared completely until the credits appeared.
Another issue with Samsung's algorithm is a slight dimming lag, which causes visible backlight fluctuations when the scene goes from dark to bright and vice versa, or a residual glow when a bright element disappears from a dark backdrop, for instance the subtitles in the campfire scene from The Revenant.

Samsung QE55Q8DN: Motion performance and video processing

Motion performance on the Samsung Q8DN is similar to what we observed on the Q9FN – engaging Auto Motion Plus is necessary for smooth pans in 24fps movies or higher motion clarity.

There's black frame insertion (BFI) on board too which can be activated using the LED Clear Motion control and, unlike on current OLED TVs, BFI on the Samsung Q8DN actually works very effectively. There's not too much flicker introduced, and even though it does reduce brightness that's easily compensated by cranking up the backlight. The only problem with LED Clear Motion with the 50Hz broadcasts we get in the UK and Europe is that it introduces not only soap opera effect to Freeview and Sky movies, but also various interpolation artefacts when there's complex movement on screen.

Video processing is excellent on the whole, though. The only minor moan is that upscaling from standard-definition material will look slightly softer than on other TV brands, as Samsung doesn’t allow overscan to be disabled.

Samsung QE55Q8DN: HDR and gaming responsiveness

As usual, it’s here that QLED shows OLED a clean pair of heels. For HDR, peak brightness measured 1300cd/m2 on a 10% window after calibration, and 540cd/m2 full-screen – dramatically brighter than what current OLED technology can achieve.

The skies in The Martian still exhibit a touch more posterisation than Panasonic and Sony TVs, but this can be smoothed out by engaging the Digital Clean View setting, albeit at the cost of losing some fine detail as this feature also applies noise reduction. Courtesy of high peak brightness and a tone-mapping algorithm that favours retaining specular highlight detail over overall APL (Average Picture Level), the Samsung Q8DN preserved all the specular highlights in 4000-nit HDR movies in a way that cannot be matched by OLED TVs even with the help of dynamic tone mapping.

DCI-P3 gamut coverage came in at a very respectable 97%, and colour volume will be higher than OLED since QLED can retain colour saturation at higher brightness levels.

For playing video games, input lag measured a super-low 19ms in both 1080p SDR and UHD HDR [Game] modes. The presence of ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) support is great news, at least for Xbox One X owners, too. The final feather in the Q8DN’s gaming cap, however, is that unlike OLED rivals its QLED panel is in no risk from image retention or permanent screenburn. Suffice to say, the Samsung Q8DN is one of the best gaming TVs on the market, and second only to the Q9FN flagship 4K QLED.Buy the Samsung Q8DN from John Lewis

Samsung Q8DN review: Verdict

The QE55Q8DN boasts all the key strengths we've come to expect from 2018 Samsung QLEDs: high peak brightness and colour volume, a class-leading anti-reflective filter, low input lag, auto game mode switching and VRR support, and innate resistance to image retention and burn-in.

However, there is a big but and we cannot lie: when the markedly superior QE55Q9FN can be bought for only £100 more there’s simply no reason to pick the Q8DN. If prices tumble and the Q8DN is heavily discounted then it may definitely be worth considering, but right now we’d advise you spend your cash elsewhere.

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