I remember the excitement when companies started launching HD TV and then Full HD. Over the past decade 4K has become the standard but it has not been fully adopted and in streaming services like Netflix you have to pay extra for HD content. Over the past few years, the amount of 4K media has grown exponentially across the board from streaming movies and TV shows to YouTube. So, is it time for the next spike in resolution to 8K? I’ve been checking one of Samsung’s 8K TVs over the past few weeks to see if I can answer this question.
From the front, the 65-inch unit looks huge, especially if you’re used to a smaller screen. The thickness of the screen is much larger than my 65″ OLED but the bezels are smaller which is what matters the most. I really like the perforated metallic strip around the sides which gives it an industrial look.
The stand consists of a central base with a width of 36 cm and a depth of 30 cm. This is more convenient than the old 55″ Samsung TV which has legs at both ends and requires a tall TV stand. Of course, you can also install it from the back to the wall mount if you prefer. The installation is a two person job and you really need to take your time and follow the simple instructions provided by Samsung.
The TV uses Samsung’s One Connect box which basically has a single cable that goes from the back to the TV. Connections like power, HDMI X4 (2.1 and one with eARC), USB ports (x3), optical, air and satellite connections are all in this box which can be hidden out of sight instead of loading cables dangling from the back of the TV.
When you turn on the TV for the first time, it will guide you through the setup process. By far the quickest and easiest way is to use a smartphone, and since I still had the Z Flip 4 in review, I used that to get everything up and running. You can also choose to do it manually but long WiFi passwords can take some fun out of the procedure. At least, you only have to do it once and you can also use the Ethernet port on the back of the One Connect if you prefer a wired connection.
The TV runs on Samsung’s Tizen OS with a limited set of apps and games that you can download. The user interface is intuitive and easy to navigate with all your favorite streaming apps like Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video and Irish networks including RTE and TG4 players but not Virgin Media media player.
The two remote controls that come with the TV have dedicated buttons for Netflix, Samsung TV Plus, Disney +, and Prime Video. Switching between these apps using the remote buttons was almost instant.
The QN800B has some intelligence already built in and you can use Alexa or Samsung’s Bixby smart assistant or if you have a Samsung phone, you can use it to control your TV.
The Xbox app was one of my favorite features of this TV. If you have an Xbox GamePass Ultimate subscription, you can connect a Bluetooth controller or in my case, a wired Gambit controller to one of the USB ports to play all your Xbox games from the cloud. While the image quality isn’t as sharp as playing the same games locally on Xbox Series X, it works brilliantly — assuming you have a decent internet connection.
8K resolution is the primary reason for customers to buy this TV at the expense of others. Of course, all the latest and greatest Samsung technologies are also featured here. It has AI upscaling technology that takes lower resolution content and automatically converts it to 8K. To test it out, I put the 65-inch LG C1 OLED next to the QN800B for comparison. I watched a variety of 720P, 1080P, 4K, and even 8K content to see if the extra resolution and AI upscaling to 8K could be discerned. My viewing distance was only two meters to rule out my visual as a limiting factor.
In my personal opinion, all content at 1080p and below looked sharper and cleaner on the C1 which can upscale content to 4K. My guess is that the AI upgrade on the QN800B is trying very hard to jam the pixel information when there isn’t any. It is important to understand that resolution is only one part of image quality. Another element that contributes is the contrast that produces the visual perception of sharpness and detail.
Compression is another key factor – a really low bitrate will degrade image quality regardless of resolution. The only source I could use of 8K footage was YouTube which had a low bitrate. While 8K content from YouTube looks great, it doesn’t look much sharper than a 4K picture on the C1. Even with Ultra HD 4K movies on Prime Video, Apple TV, etc., I found the picture on the C1 to be a bit cleaner with less color noise. When you return to a more realistic viewing distance, resolution becomes less important, and differences in things like color and contrast become more noticeable.
The QN800B is ahead of an OLED screen in terms of overall brightness which is especially important if you’re watching TV during the day in a bright room.
I experienced gaming on the QN800B from a powerful gaming desktop computer with a built in GTX 3080. For some reason, I only managed to get it to run once at 8K and until then, unsurprisingly, I had to turn down a lot of the graphical settings to get to a bootable 30fps. In fact, 8K games are out of reach for high-end gaming PCs. The latest next-gen consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X struggle to deliver HD graphics at 4K 120fps and are several generations away from touching 8K games.
When I connect my PC the TV Game Mode won’t work while I have no problem doing it on my C1. Your PS5 or Xbox Series X console will work and thanks to HDMI 2.1 on all four ports, you can get up to 120Hz at 4K.
Isolated from the others, the QN800B has an amazing level of detail and contrast with deep inky blacks that almost reach OLED levels. TV shows with a lot of bright scenes look great on this TV, but movies or shows with a lot of dark scenes and bright lights show some of the technology’s flaws, which are blooming. This is where the bright areas of the screen seep into the dark areas creating a glow around bright objects that shouldn’t be there.
Unlike OLED technology, which has individual control over each pixel on the screen, the LCD panel (VA) in the QN800B uses local dimming areas for the backlight pixels. While there are 1,300 of these small areas of illumination, the hardware and software in the TV work together to control all of these areas and interpret which ones should be set to brighten on or off.
The QN800B isn’t the best TV I’ve seen dealing with this booming problem. Most of the time in standard dynamic range content the bloom is not visible. However, it can get really bad with HDR content. The new Sandman series on Netflix was a great example of this. In the second episode, there was a scene about six minutes ago where Ethel Krebs (Julie Richardson) talks to Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) in a really dark room with a lot of lights behind him. You can see all these bright lights bleed into the dark areas of the scene. On the C1 OLED, the scenery itself looks completely different with stark contrasts, pure blacks and bright lights that look natural. I asked a number of people to watch the same episode and they all thought it looked great. However, if you’re used to a TV that doesn’t have any booms and picture quality is critical to you, this is a case once you see it, you can’t remove it.
I’ve also found the blooming is noticeable when you pause and titles are displayed with large white text that glows like a lantern adjusting all the black areas around it to gray.
The QN800B is the best LCD TV I’ve seen when viewing off-axis although it’s not quite as good as an OLED. The more extreme the angle, the greater the color shift and contrast.
In general, TVs don’t come with great speakers – unless they have one built right into them – but the QN800B is one of the best I’ve heard and certainly far better than the LG C1. It comes with Dolby Atmos support and object tracking which can produce a relatively wide audio space. However, if you love to watch epic movies or TV shows, at least get a decent soundbar. Samsung was kind enough to lend me the Q800B soundbar to go along with the QN800B for this review. What a difference in the overall experience but with a suggested retail price of €999, it’s not cheap although you get what you pay for.
The Samsung NEO QLED 8K QN800B TV is stunningly bright with a beautiful design and a practical stand. The built-in speakers sound great but movie lovers should at least upgrade to a decent speaker.
Picture quality is generally excellent for a QLED but don’t buy this TV thinking you’re getting a real upgrade in resolution – at the moment, there’s no native 8K content and you can’t play in 8K. Still, not all streaming services have all of their media in 4K and even less support for HDR (High Dynamic Range) with HDR10 or Dolby Vision – Samsung doesn’t support the latter on its TVs.
While the promise of 8K sounds great, the lack of any local content means that for now and in the near future, you won’t need an 8K TV. The AI upgrade claims to produce 8K at a lower resolution but in my experience, it looks no better than a good 4K TV and sometimes even worse. While the QN800B has a lot of great features, you’re paying a lot for 8K. The only caveat I would add is that the larger 75-inch and 85-inch models may show the difference 8K has to make. My review is for the 65-inch model.
I’d suggest getting the 4K version or if peak brightness isn’t important to you, take a look at Samsung’s lineup of OLED TVs.
The Samsung NEO QLED 8K QN800B is available from Soundstore and Harvey Norman in 65-inch (3900 euros), 75-inch (5300 euros) and 85-inch (7100 euros).