With companies like Samsung, Panasonic, and LG continuing to release new models, it’s safe to say the death of plasma HDTVs has been greatly exaggerated. The Samsung PNE7000FF line of Smart TVs are a great example of why plasma technology continues to hang on in a market dominated by LCD-based products.
Editor’s Note: This review is based on tests performed on the PN60E7000FF, the 60-inch version of the series. Besides the screen size difference, the $1,649.99 51-inch PN51E7000FF is identical in features, and while we didn’t perform lab tests on this specific model, we expect similar performance.
The PN60E7000FF offers good color and black-level performance, excellent 3D imagery (and glasses are included), and a host of interactive Web services via built-in Wi-Fi or a wired Ethernet connection. The 60-inch plasma panel we tested delivers a sharp picture with wide viewing angles but it requires a lot of power to do so. And its list price of $2,529.99 is high, but if you shop around online, you can shave off a few hundred bucks.
Design and Features
The PN60E7000FF’s relatively thin (1 inch on the top and sides and 1.7 inch on the bottom) brushed gray bezels offer a nice alternative to the basic black design used on most HDTVs. As with the $2,199.99 Editors’ Choice Samsung PN60E6500EF, a slice of clear plastic trim around the edges gives this set an extra touch of style. The 61-pound cabinet sits atop an attractive metallic four-legged stand that offers very easy swivel movement. There’s a Samsung logo on the bottom bezel, but you won’t find any touch-sensitive buttons here. Instead, there’s a round dial positioned under the lower bezel on the left that you use to turn the set on and off, select an input source, and navigate the on-screen display menus. It’s a little awkward using the dial to change picture settings; you’re better off using the remote so you can scrutinize whatever changes you make from a comfortable viewing distance.
The smallish dial also lets you access the SmartHub menu where there are numerous Web services including movie, news, sports, and entertainment channels. Streaming movie channels include Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and CinemaNow. Other apps include AOL HD, You Tube, Facebook, a web browser, and Explore3D, which offers free 3D content. Additionally, you get access to hundreds of free and for-pay Samsung lifestyle, game, sports, and entertainment apps.
The 9-inch remote is backlit and contains 45 buttons, plus the obligatory four-way arrow keys and big Enter/Select/OK button. In addition to the number pad, playback controls, and various menu buttons, it features dedicated Smart Hub and 3D buttons, as well as a handy Support button that gives you access to a comprehensive on-screen manual.
While most big-screen HDTVs offer at least four HDMI ports, the PN60E7000FF only gives you three, though they are all left-facing for easy accessibility. They are joined by two USB ports, an optical audio output, and a Samsung Ex-Link service port. Down-facing ports include a DVI video input, component/composite AV inputs, an Ethernet port, and a cable/antenna port. Wireless networking is built-in to the set.
Samsung HDTVs typically offer a wide selection of picture settings and the PN60E7000FF is no different. Along with Brightness, Contrast, Cell Light, Sharpness, Color, and Tint settings you can tweak black tone and flesh tone levels, select gamma and white point levels, and perform an advanced calibration with the 10-point white balance controls. Samsung also includes expert pattern screens to help you achieve a well-balanced picture.
After a basic dark room calibration, the PN60E7000FF produced a black level reading of 0.02 cd/m2 and a peak brightness reading of 154.84 cd/m2, as measured by a Konica Minolta CS-200 luminance meter. In my tests, shadow detail was excellent in the opening sequence in the BBC’s Planet Earth on Blu-ray, and in Black Swan, a notoriously dark movie. Reds, greens, and blues were very closely aligned with their respective CIE chromaticity coordinates, and colors appeared bold and uniformly saturated across the entire screen. Also, flesh tones looked natural without any trace of the tinting we saw with the PN51E6500EF.
The E7000 series uses active shutter technology to deliver 3D, and the effect is outstanding. Depth of field and background detail were exquisite while watching Sharks 3Don Blu-ray. The battery-powered glasses (two pair are included in the box, and additional pairs are available for $19.99 each) are lightweight and fairly comfortable, but they let a bit too much light in through the sides.
As is typically the case with plasma HDTVs, the PN60E7000FF requires lots of power. With power-saving settings disabled, the set used 312 watts during testing. That’s more than four times more than what the 67 watts the 55-inch LED-backlit LG 55LM6700 uses in the same test scenario. Setting power savings to low brings usage down to 240 watts without sacrificing too much luminance but the medium (192 watts) and high (144 watts) settings are too dim to watch comfortably.
The Samsung PN60E7000FF has a lot going for it including inky blacks, accurate colors with pop, top-notch 3D performance with glasses, and the standard generous stable of Samsung Web apps. The only thing keeping it from becoming an Editors’ Choice winner is its high price tag. As such, it’s less-expensive sibling, the PNE6500EF series, remains our Editors’ Choice for midrange plasma HDTVs because the few picture improvements the PNE7000FF series offer aren’t worth the several extra hundred dollars on the list price. If you can get a good deal on either series, however, you won’t be disappointed.
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|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, DVI, HDMI, USB|
|Diagonal Screen Size||51 inches|
|Pixel Refresh Rate Speed||600Hz|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc