Hands on: Samsung Q8FN QLED TV (QN65Q8FN) review

No Quantum Dots of Solace here; it’s an impressive machine

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Our Early Verdict

With full-array local dimming, smart home support and HDR10+ functionality, the Samsung Q8FN QLED TV beats out the 2017 Samsung lineup for a fraction of the cost.

For

  • Direct backlight LEDs
  • Screen non-reflective at all angles
  • Bundled with tons of new features
  • Reasonably priced

Against

  • More traditional design
  • Not enough local dimming zones
  • Same brightness as last year
  • Not available worldwide

For its 2018 TV lineup, Samsung has thrown in as many new features into its new TVs as possible, from its Bixby voice assistant to SmartThings IoT connectivity, to a smartphone-based TV setup that supposedly takes less than a minute. 

But connectivity isn't all this TV can do, obviously, and whether or not you want your TV to connect to your smart fridge or your smartphone, you need to know how this latest QLED lineup stacks up against Samsung’s OLED competitors, and how the four newest models – Q9FN, Q8FN, Q7FN and Q6FN – compare in terms of price, features and processing power.

The Q8FN is the runner up in terms of power to the Q9FN, but while the Q9 has more advanced systems for improving contrast, black levels and HDR streaming, the Q8 has most of the flagship set’s features at a greatly reduced price. 

On the other hand, with one or two key exceptions, the Q7FN doesn't lag too far behind the Q8, and both the Q9 and Q7 incorporate some of Samsung’s latest design tricks, while the Q8 looks and feels more traditional. 

Should you break open your wallet for Samsung’s highest-end set, or will the Q8FN fit your needs? We’re here to help you decide. 

Price and availability

The Q8FN will sell in three sizes: 75-inch, 65-inch and 55-inch. Currently, only the 65” set is on sale, and it’s priced at $2999 (about £2,200, $AU4000). There’s no word yet on when the other two sizes will go on sale, or for what price. 

Unfortunately for our European readers, the Q8FN is North America-exclusive. In its place, Samsung is releasing a Q8CN model exclusively in Europe, with identical specs to the Q8FN except for its curved frame and inferior edge LED lighting (see below).

For comparison, the Q9FN 65-inch prices in at $3,799 (about £2,800, AU$4,900), and the Q7FN 65-inch sells for $2,599 (about £1,900, AU$3,300). 

Design

Like last year’s sets, Samsung’s QLEDs uses Quantum Dot technology that is technically more “LED” than “QLED”. They’re built-in with nano-sized crystal semiconductor particles that should theoretically emit their own light (like OLED pixels), but instead transmit colors via an LED backlight. 

Samsung’s Ambient mode turns this shortcut into an advantage. This cool new feature lets your TV blend into the wall behind it, as well as display smartphone updates or play music, without consuming full energy levels. OLEDs can’t imitate Ambient mode because their pixels would burn-in the patterns of your wall, whereas quantum dots, which don’t produce their own light, don’t suffer this defect. 

The Q8’s has an impressively skinny bezel compared to most TVs, which helps it blend into your decor. Though they did choose silver for the frame and stand color, which looked a bit more flashy and futuristic compared to the deep black frame of the Q9. 

In fact, in terms of design, the Q8 doesn’t seem to fully embrace the subtle Ambient theme of 2018 in the way that the Q7 and Q9 do. Both of these sets use Samsung’s One Mount system, which gives your TV interchangeable and easily removable stands – including one that makes your TV look like a canvas on an easel – and lets you mount your TV on the wall easily. The Q8 has a more traditional four-legged stand. 

The Q9 and Q7 also have an “Invisible Connection” cable that carries all power, video and audio data in one skinny, nondescript 15-meter cord, making it easy to put your TV anywhere. For the Q8, you plug them in through the stand, hiding their appearance somewhat. You’ll just need to stick close to the power outlet. 

So the Q8 may be best suited for people comfortable with just plopping their TV on their entertainment center, and who care more about its impressive upgrades on last year’s QLEDs. 

Features

Samsung’s 2018 QLED interface looks a lot like the Eden system from last year’s QLEDs, with a customizable interface of blocky app icons. The key difference is that the new system’s Universal Guide groups together live and on-demand content from your cable and apps into one searchable interface. Look in the Comedy section, and you could find Netflix and Amazon exclusives side-by-side as similar recommendations. 

The Q8FN comes with four HDMI ports and three USB ports along with ethernet, which should meet hardcore gamers’ needs. And as a cool perk for PC gamers, the 2018 QLED line comes built in with Steam Link, so you can cast your library to your TV without having to buy anything. 

You can also cast content from your smartphone to your Q8 if you have a Samsung device – exclusive Samsung-device features was a major theme of the event. 

Last year’s TVs had a voice assistant, but it was limited to controlling your TV with simple phrases. Now, by incorporating Bixby, your Q8 can answer questions like a smart speaker, except it can also pair its answers with graphics. Your Q8 can also serve as a smart home hub for your connected products; in Ambient mode, you can pull up notifications from all your SmartThings devices using their new app, found on both Android and iOS

If you have the app downloaded when you take your Q8 out of the box, it will sync with the app and log into your Wi-fi network without you having to input a password. Then, it’ll troll your phone apps and highlight the ones it has available for download; choose to download Netflix, for example, and it’ll import your login info from your phone so you have instant access. 

Performance

The Q8FN has a 3840 x 2160 resolution, and it supports Motion Rate 240, Samsung’s fancy way of saying a native 120Hz refresh rate. Plus its new Q Engine will take your non-4K content and push it up to UHD levels, and is capable of upscaling HDR10 streams to HDR10+ quality in real time. 

Like last year’s Samsung Q8C QLED, the Q8FN reaches 1500 nits of brightness. But they’ve upgraded from bottom-edge LED lighting to direct backlight LEDs, which allows for full-array local dimming and improves deep black color performance. 

One of the biggest complaints we had about the old QLED TVs was that in low-light settings, the edge lighting would cause backlight clouding and gray banding. But in the dark conference hall, the HDR10+ content looked flawlessly uniform.

Another concern was that unless you were directly facing the TV, colors would lose their contrast because the screen was too reflective. Maybe Samsung read our reviews, because the Q8FN has a new anti-reflective “Ultra Black Elite” screen. Even standing at 45-degree angles, there wasn’t a noticeable drop in color quality. 

We didn’t get the best look at how the Q8 handles dark colors: all of Samsung’s promo images were of vivid colors, showing off the same 100% DCI-P3 color range as last year’s sets. Instead, they showed off the Q9’s beautifully deep blacks. Both sets have local dimming, but the Q9 has more zones, so you’ll get much less light blooming on those sets. Until we get a more in-depth look, we can’t vouch for how authentically the Q8 will handle black and white contrast. 

But that’s the biggest difference between the two models. Both have the same color range and resolution, support HDR10+ streaming and SD-to-UHD upscaling, and impressive brightness (though the Q9 apparently hits 2000 nits). Consumers have to choose whether those deeper blacks are worth the extra $800. 

Compared to the Q7, your main gain is the LED backlighting. The Q7 has an Ultra Slim Array instead of the Direct Full Array that has some of the same unavoidable problems we saw in last year’s lineup. But you’ll still be getting HDR10+ content and a full color array, for much cheaper than most prestige sets. 

Early verdict

If you were impressed by QLED last year but waited to buy one, you made the right call. Aside from raw brightness, the Q8FN is a clear step up from Samsung’s premier Q9F set from 2017, for around half the opening-day price. 

No matter which 2018 set you get, you’re getting an impressive interface for controlling a smart home and consolidating all of your apps’ content into one convenient location. And with the Q8FN, you’re getting a set that will look remarkably colorful and 4K-crisp at any angle. 

You simply have to decide how much you care about versatile TV placement, full array contrast zones and deep blacks, the greatest advantages that the Q9 offers over the Q8. 

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.