Tuesday, October 18, 2011

3D Plasma HDTV: Samsung PN51D8000

Samsung PN51D8000
  • Pros
    Slick design with a thin panel. Superb picture quality with excellent shadow detail. Includes 3D support, built-in Wi-Fi, and a wide selection of services and apps. Useful remote with a QWERTY keyboard and both IR and Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Cons Expensive. Not energy efficient.
  • Bottom Line
    While it's not for the thin of wallet or flimsy of fuse box, the Samsung PN51D8000 is an excellent, full-featured 3D plasma HDTV that delivers plenty of bang for its significant buck.

    Price Range
Will Greenwald Will Greenwald
Junior Analyst, Consumer Electronics
A couple of months ago, I compared LCD and plasma HDTVs and found LED-backlit LCDs to be the soundly superior choice. While I can’t say I’ve been proven wrong, I will admit that Samsung offers a very strong counterargument in its high-end plasma screens. The Samsung PN51D8000 is a 51-inch plasma HDTV with 3D, built-in Wi-Fi, and tons of features that puts out a terrific picture with excellent shadow details and color reproduction. Unfortunately, it’s $2,299.99 (list) price is isn't cheap when you compare it with other, similarly sized LED-backlit LCD HDTVs that offer similar features. If you have a big budget and your mind is set on a plasma TV, however, this is the one to get. It's the highest-performing plasma display with the best features we've seen this year, and thus our Editors' Choice.
Design and FeaturesThe PN51D8000 uses Samsung’s "Plasma +1" Screen, which means it’s smaller and thinner than previous Samsung plasma displays. The bezel measures just 1.2 inches wide and the screen itself is only 1.5 inches deep, which is incredibly thin for a plasma. The bezel is a flat, brushed metallic surface edged by a clear material that gives it an elegant flair without drawing attention away from the screen itself. The lower right corner holds touch-sensitive controls on the clear surface of the border, giving limited control without a remote. The screen is held up by a sturdy, shiny chrome-finished four-legged stand that lets the display rotate about 15 degrees left or right.


Screen Size
51 inches
Supported Refresh Rates
Video Inputs
28.3 inches
47.1 inches
1.5 inches
The back of the HDTV is elegantly simple, with all the connections facing to the right or downwards, keeping the back panel itself clear for wall-mounting while keeping the ports accessible. Four HDMI ports, two USB ports, and an optical audio output face the left edge of the screen from their recessed location on the back panel, while component video, VGA, and Ethernet ports can be found on the bottom.
The remote is much better than your typical bundled HDTV remote. It's a wedge-shaped, two-sided device that measures 2.5 by 5.9 by 0.9 inches (HWD), with a standard remote control layout on one side and a QWERTY thumbpad with number pad and navigation controls on the other. It’s a combination infrared and Bluetooth remote, meaning you can type away in social networks or browse the Web on the HDTV without pointing the remote at the TV. The buttons are flat and tightly packed on each side, but a scattering of bumps and the recognizable shape of the direction pads make blindly controlling the HDTV a little easier, and the buttons are too shallow to activate accidentally. It feels very chunky initially, but it’s easy to get used to.
As Samsung’s high-end plasma set, the PN51D8000 is packed with features to justify its price tag, especially when compared with the similarly sized but bare-bones PN51D550C1F ($1,299.99, 3.5 stars). It’s a 3D HDTV with Samsung’s 600Hz Subfield Motion feature that boosts the refresh rate. As a Samsung Smart TV, it features multiple online media services and Web apps, and can access them wirelessly with built-in Wi-Fi. Highlights include Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and Vudu among the streaming media services, and Facebook and Twitter among the social networks. Between the social-media apps and the built-in Web browser, the QWERTY thumbpad on the remote is likely to be used regularly. To view 3D content, you'll need active shutter glasses from Samsung, which will cost you around $50 to $130 depending on features. Glasses are not bundled with the set. The HDTV is also equipped with Skype, but it requires a $170 camera kit.
Performance and ConclusionsPicture quality is top notch, with excellent white levels, black levels, and colors out of the box, along with a broad selection of picture tweaks to perfect the view. We use a chromameter and DisplayMate software to measure brightness, darkness, and color temperature on HDTVs. In our tests, the PN51D8000 produced a peak white level of 244.92 cd/m2 and reaches its darkest black levels at a solid 0.04 cd/m2, producing an impressive contrast ratio of 1:6,123 and blowing the 50-inch Panasonic TC-P50ST30 plasma ($1,499.99, 3.5 stars) out of the water. Color temperatures are fairly accurate, running a bit warm in Movie mode and slightly cool in Dynamic mode, and individual gain and loss settings for red, green, and blue mean you can tweak the picture until it’s just right. For the best experience, Movie mode is preferable in nearly all viewing cases; Dynamic mode, while brighter, blows out and oversaturates the picture.
I tested the PN51D8000 with a trio of Blu-rays: Robocop from the Robocop Trilogy set, The Big Lebowski Limited Edition, and IMAX Under the Sea 3D. Robocop and The Big Lebowski both looked great in Movie mode, with fine details (and lack of details, in Robocop’s grainy television scenes) appearing both crisp and clear. Shadow detail was excellent, with the screen’s good black levels bolstered by its ability to get surprisingly bright. The 3D in IMAX Under the Sea 3D looked awesome, popping clearly from the screen.
Like most plasma screens, the PN51D800 is a power hog. We tested general power consumption by measuring how much energy the screen uses while displaying The Big Lebowski and Robocop on Blu-ray. In Movie mode, the screen consumes an average of 185 watts, while the blown-out Dynamic mode eats up a whopping 335 watts. Only the HDTV’s screen-darkening Standard mode merits the EnergyStar logo, and even that consumes an average of 105 watts. It’s not an energy hog like the PN51D550 (which ate up 281 watts on average), but if you want an anergy efficient set, look elsewhere. Our Editors’ Choice LED-backlit LCD, the LG Infinia 47LW5600 ($1,699.99, 4.5 stars), offers an excellent picture while consuming just 95 watts.
At $2,300, the Samsung PN51D8000 is a hefty investment, and that's before considering its sizable energy needs. However, its excellent feature set and impressive picture make it our Editors’ Choice plasma HDTV. When LED HDTVs, like the $1,700 LG Infinia 47LW5600, offer great picture quality, a solid feature set, and much better energy efficiency for a much lower price, it’s hard to make the case for the PN51D8000 unless you’re really dedicated to getting a plasma screen. But if you are, this is the plasma to get.

Posting source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2390455,00.asp#fbid=BwNmrY0QAQU

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