Samsung PN60F8500 review

The Samsung PNF8500 series is a top-shelf plasma HDTV line that delivers outstanding color quality, solid 2D and 3D imagery, and very dark blacks. You'll shell out some big bucks for this model though, and you may want to pick up a universal remote while you're at it.
Photo of Samsung PN60F8500

If plasma technology is on the way out, someone forgot to tell the folks at Samsung. It’s easy to see why the 8500 series of plasma HDTVs represent the company’s flagship line; the 60-inch PN60F8500AF reviewed here is aesthetically pleasing and delivers beautiful colors, inky blacks, and amazing image detail in both 2D and 3D modes. Our gripes are minor; at $2,799.99 (list) this HDTV doesn’t come cheap, it’s a bit of a power hog, and its unique remote can be tricky to master. Nevertheless, the PN60F8500AF is our newest Editors’ Choice for high-end plasma HDTVs.

Design and Features
The PN60F8500AF looks good even when it’s powered off. The 60-inch, 600Hz Subfield panel is framed by stylish brushed metal bezels that are capped off with shiny chrome trim. The slender (1.9-inch) cabinet weighs in at 64 pounds and comes with a unique metal teardrop-shaped stand that runs the width of the set (54.8 inches). The stand is sturdy and attractive, but it does not allow you to swivel the cabinet.

At the rear of the cabinet, on the lower left corner, is a small joystick mechanism that functions as a power switch, volume control, channel changer, and input selection button. It can also be used to access the extensive settings menu system and the Smart Hub. Like all on-panel controls, it’s an interface of last resort against the HDTV’s unique remote.

Left-facing connections on the back of the screen include four HDMI ports, three USB ports, and a digital audio output, all of which remain easily accessible when the TV is mounted on a wall. A cable/antenna port, an Ethernet port, shared mini component/composite AV ports, an IR output, and Samsung’s EX Link service port all face downward. The top of the cabinet has a pop-up camera that can be used for gesture commands and video chat, and there’s a microphone embedded in the remote that accepts voice commands. As with the UN60ES8000F reviewed here last year, both features require a good deal of patience and practice to get them to respond correctly to perform tasks like raising and lowering the volume, searching for content, and navigating the settings menus. Personally, I think these features are more gimmicky than useful and can be downright frustrating at times, but your mileage may vary.

The same can be said for the Smart Touch remote. Covered in brushed metal and measuring a little over 5 inches long, this remote touts a more minimalist design than your typical 40-plus button remote. It offers only 16 buttons and features a touch pad that is used to scroll through menu options, Web apps, and settings choices. It takes some getting used to and is not the best control mechanism for children or anybody with limited patience. It has dedicated Smart Hub and 3D buttons as well as a voice button that activates the built-in microphone.

Picture settings are abundant. In addition to the various picture modes (Movie, Relax, Standard, Dynamic), there are controls for Cell Light, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Color, and Tint. The 3D Settings menu lets you adjust perspective and depth and toggle between 2D and 3D. Advanced settings include Dynamic Contrast, Black Tone, Flesh Tone, Color Space, White Balance, 10-Point White Balance, Gamma, and Motion Lighting (brightness control). Other options include Color Tone (temperature), Film Mode, Motion Judder Cancellation, and Black Optimizer. The motion judder option should be left disabled unless you want everything to look like it was shot with a home camcorder.

The PN60F8500 offers both wired and wireless networking and comes with a slew of Web apps that can be accessed through the Smart Hub. Here you’ll find social networking apps Facebook, Skype, and Twitter, streaming video apps like YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and Hulu Plus, and an extensive catalog of current movies and TV shows available through a membership to Samsung’s Smart Account service.

Performance
The PN60F8500′s out-of-the-box performance is nothing short of dazzling. It produced a peak brightness reading of 301.21 cd/m2 and an excellent black level reading of 0.0054 cd/m2, both measured with a Klein K10-A colorimeter and software from DisplayMate and SpectraCal.  The resulting 55,779:1 contrast ratio produced exquisite highlight and shadow detail while displaying scenes from The Bourne Legacy on Blu-ray disc, and colors seemed to jump from the dark black screen. Viewing angles were ideal with no loss of color fidelity or brightness even when viewed from an extreme side angle.

Color accuracy was good, as evidenced by the chromaticity chart above. Each box represents the ideal color coordinates as determined by the International Committee on Illumination (CIE). The closer each color dot is to the center of its corresponding box, the more accurate the color. In this case reds, greens, and blues were all just a tad heavy but still very close to their respective ideal measurements and not overly saturated.

The PN60F8500 uses active shutter technology to display 3D images, and comes with four pair of lightweight shutter glasses for watching 3D content. Image depth was terrific while watching the Sharks 3D Blu-ray disc, and the glasses were comfortable. There was no obvious crosstalk either, even when viewed from a side angle. My only issue with the glasses is that they let a little too much light in through the sides. 

Plasma TVs are notoriously power hungry and the PN60F8500 is no different. It used a staggering 392 watts of power during testing with Eco mode disabled. Power consumption dropped to 320 watts with Eco mode set to low, 240 watts at medium, and 142 watts at high. Although the medium and high Eco settings help conserve power the resulting picture is much too dim. In comparison, the LED backlit 60-inch Vizio E601I-A3 used 118 watts of power.

Conclusion
There’s a lot to like about the Samsung PN60F8500AF. Amazing picture quality, inky blacks, and a robust feature set put this set at the top of its class and earn it our Editors’ Choice for big-screen plasma HDTVs. Be forewarned though, you’ll have to part with a good chunk of money for all this big-screen goodness. If money is tight and you aren’t locked in to a plasma set, the Panasonic TC-L55ET60 is an affordable alternative that delivers good performance and a solid feature set.

Specifications
Video Inputs Component, Composite, HDMI, USB
Width 54.8 inches
Depth 1.9 inches
Weight 64.4 lbs
Diagonal Screen Size 60 inches
Pixel Refresh Rate Speed 600Hz
Height 32.7 inches

Verdict
The Samsung PNF8500 series is a top-shelf plasma HDTV line that delivers outstanding color quality, solid 2D and 3D imagery, and very dark blacks. You'll shell out some big bucks for this model though, and you may want to pick up a universal remote while you're at it.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc