Last Updated: June 25, 2013
Samsung Plasma HDTV Sets for 2010
Product Evaluation Part 2: Key Features
Do the many features on offer really help deliver
The latest Samsung Plasma TVs come with a most impressive list of features. New E-panel and 600Hz subfield motion technology for all TVs, much improved web-connected Samsung Apps, the hottest specs for 2010 - 3D, and Series 8 motion judder canceller are just but a few of the many features on offer.
In this second part of our Samsung plasma TV review article, we discuss each of these features to see what is exactly being offered by Samsung to attract as many of those in the market for a new HDTV.
But our discussion does not stop there! At the end of the day, what really matters is whether these features contribute to an improved TV experience. Read here to discover more.
60-inch PN60F5500 3D
Plasma HDTV with Samsung Smart TV
The F5500 series shares a very similar feature set to that of the flagship for a much cheaper price tag. The reason is that it lacks the Real Black Pro panel of the F8500, and hence all of its picture performance benefits. But overall picture quality of the F5500 is very good - delivering the best value plasma TV option from Samsung for the inexpensive price.
Key features for Samsung Plasma HDTVs
Extensive features and improved functionality but...
Samsung Plasma TVs have always been characterized by extensive list of interesting and often innovative features for the price. In this respect, Samsung has always offered more to its end customers than what is offered by Panasonic.
Samsung plasma HDTVs for 2010 are no exception - from budget class plasma TVs that offer more than just a solid TV picture, to high-end models that come with all sort of imaginable features and conveniences.
Features are many and include a new improved E-panel capable of lower power consumption and improved mega contrast ratings, the much totted 3D, motion judder canceller, an extremely aesthetically pleasing ultra-slim design for premium HDTVs, the much improved Web connected Samsung Apps, and Samsung's updated Wiselink feature which for 2010 has been renamed as AllShare and MediaPlay.
Samsung AllShare comes with the ability to connect your Samsung plasma HDTV with compatible Samsung mobile phones to view call arrivals, SMS messages and schedules set on your mobile phones right on your TV screen. But apart from a few innovations such as 3D, most of the features on the new Samsung plasma HDTVs represent an upgrade to innovations we first saw in 2009. Still, these are upgrades that represent important improvements worth talking about.
Obviously, the more features you get, the higher the price you pay, but it is also a fact that the more you pay for your HDTV, the more you expect to have an enjoyable TV experience. Is this the case with the new features present on the latest Samsung plasma HDTVs?
We analyses each of these features to see what exactly is being offered and how they impact TV performance.
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New Samsung Plasma HDTVs: Key features for 2010
Samsung E-Panel for improved picture performance and reduced power consumption
All Samsung plasma HDTVs for 2010 feature the new Samsung e-panel, termed E3 panel. First seen on 2009 plasma TVs, Samsung e-panel is characterized by a superior picture performance thanks to improved saturation and contrast, and much brighter image at significantly lower power consumption than previous generations PDPs.
According to published information on the Samsung website, the new E-Panel consumes some 40% less power than previous panels and results in HDTVs that are 26% more efficient than the Energy Star minimum requirements. This makes the new 2010 Samsung plasma TVs more eco-friendly. It is also the main reason behind Samsung plasma TVs compliance with the latest revised Energy Star 4.0 requirements without too much compromise in image brightness. Power consumption of the new Samsung plasma HDTVs is still not in line with corresponding size LCDs but the power gap between the two technologies especially with 2D TVs and 3D TVs operating in 2D mode has now been greatly reduced to the point that it is becoming a non-issue.
The new e-panel also uses improved phosphors that help achieve a pixel response of 0.001msec. This is a thousand times faster than that reported for the latest 2010 LED LCD TVs; this help both minimize blurring in motion during fast action sports and movie content, as well as help minimize 3D image crosstalk in 3D TVs.
Clear Image Panel, FilterBright Anti-glare technology, and Real Black Filter
Directly tied up with Samsung's new e-panel is the use of a special reflection-reducing coating, termed Clear Image Panel - on the inside of the pane-.
In addition, on mid-end series 6 and high end series 7 and 8, Samsung is also using a new anti-glare technology - originally pioneered in 2009, and for which for 2010 is being termed FilterBright Anti-Glare, to minimize reflections and glare caused by ambient light. The new anti-glare formulation has turned out to be is extremely effective in minimizing glare and reflections off the screen of bright objects in the room - much better than the 2009 FilterBright version.
The new formulation is also effective in preserving the set black levels under bright room conditions, much the same as 2009 Samsung HDTVs, so no improvement here for 2010; in this respect, the new Panasonic filter technology can do better.
Flagship Series 8 Samsung plasma HDTVs also feature what Samsung is referring to as Real Black Filter. This filter technology helps improve the blacks further especially under bright light conditions while still maintaining good black shadow and dark detail irrespective of ambient light levels.
Mega Contrast Levels
Directly tied up with the new E-panel technology in use on 2010 Samsung plasma HDTVs, is improved mega contrast rating on mid and high-end series. Last year, we saw the first 2,000,000:1 and 3,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratings. This year, the latest high-end Samsung plasma HDTVs feature a 5,000,000:1 for Series 6, 7 and 7,000,000:1 for Series 8 HDTVs.
There is no doubt that the latest mega-contrast ratings quoted by TV markers for their plasma and especially LED LCD HDTVs are more than just impressive. However, one cannot but remark that manufacturer's rating for dynamic contrast have reached values where the impact in picture performance is far less than what manufacturers are trying to imply with their mega numbers.
In addition, some TV manufactures are taking consumers for a ride by quoting ultra high ratings for contrast ratio using unspecified test methodologies. Their purpose is to help sell their products over that of the competition. Our advice here is: Do not let TV makers play the number game! But more on this contrast ratio issue can be found in our article here.
600Hz Subfield Motion Technology
Again, originally introduced in 2009, Samsung's 600Hz subfield motion technology results in improved motion resolution and is Samsung's equivalent to LG and Panasonic 600Hz subfield drive system.
However, the three implementations are not exactly the same. In particular, while the Panasonic version can achieve the full 1080 lines of motion resolution supported by the 1080p HD standard, 600Hz Samsung plasma HDTVs approach close to 900 lines. Mind you, Samsung's performance here is still very good; at these levels of motion resolution, it is impossible for the eye to detect the difference between the different implementations without the use of appropriate test patterns.
When referring to subfield drive technology in plasma displays, this is referring to the method used to drive the individual picture elements, or pixels. In simple terms, for each frame displayed on the TV, the sub-field drive flashes the pixels 10 times, resulting in 600 flashes per second (600Hz) for 6o frames per second video.
Many professionals would tell you to ignore the 600Hz subfield technology inasmuch as most would also tell you to ignore the 240Hz and 480Hz refresh rates in LCDs. These numbers basically mean superior motion resolution that leads to sharper images when displaying fast moving action. But as explained elsewhere on the site, the difference is one that is often hard to discern with the unaided eye. Furthermore, plasma TVs are less prone to blurring even at the basic 60Hz refresh rate thanks to their much faster pixel response time.
The truth is 600Hz technology was mainly developed by plasma TV makers to help combat the other big number in LCDs - 240Hz and now 480Hz. In other words, the manufacturer's number game continues. These 'big' numbers are mainly designed to help sell the product; you would not experience any significant difference in product performance between 120Hz, 240Hz and 480Hz LCDs; and the same holds true for 600Hz plasma TVs.
3D TV is the real hot spec for 2010 - at least this is what TV makers have been trying to make us believe since CES 2010. In this respect, Samsung is probably the most active TV maker - with a full range of 3D plasma and LED TVs. Samsung 3D plasma TV line comprises Series 7000 and Series 8000 HDTVs; sets such as the popular 58-inch PN58C7000 and the PN58C8000 already among the best sellers in this category.
As with its LED TVs, Samsung plasma HDTVs come with various 3D settings to help the user get the best 3D experience. They also come with a 2D-to-3D converter which can convert 2D content on-the-fly. This partly resolves the present lack of 3D content but the resultant 3D experience does not compare with what you get from content shoot for 3D viewing in the first place. It is still a pleasant expansive 3D effect, but it is also one that lacks the detail and 3D comfort level of true 3D content.
Unfortunately, these 3D Samsung plasma HDTVs do not come with the required 3D glasses; and these do not come cheap.
In addition, you still need to have a compatible Blu-ray player or a home theater system with a Blu-ray disc player capable of reading 3D content.
Some newer players such as the Samsung BD-E6500 3D WiFi Blu-ray Disc Player will be able to do so straight out of the box.
Samsung BD-E6500 3D WiFi
Unfortunately, as further explained under our 3D TV section, your child will not be able to use the same 3D TV shutter glasses that come with the starter kit; you will need to buy the Samsung SSG-2200KR rechargeable Child 3D Glasses for your children. And these are equally expensive.
As with other 3D plasma TVs from Panasonic, 3D Samsung plasma TVs are capable of a pleasing 3D effect with a convincing out-of-the-screen illusion and hardly any 3D image crosstalk. Apart from the larger screen, image crosstalk is possibly the best advantage of plasma over LED LCD TVs when it comes to displaying 3D content.
But 3D is still in the making and definitely not for videophiles, and this applies irrespective of brand. You see, the reality is that the 3D TV experience one can enjoy in the home with the present technology is a far cry from the immersive 3D experience one enjoys at the movie theater. Partly, the reason is the smaller TV screen, the reduced viewing distance, and the reduced 3D parallax necessary to support a comfortable 3D viewing experience within the limitations in the home.
As further expressed in our article on the Challenges of 3D TV, there are still a few major issues which need to be resolved by the industry before 3D will make it 'en mass' to the home. In other words, do not buy a 3D-enable HDTV for its 3D but rather for its 2D image quality and the rest of the supported features- if these meet your needs.
Being ultra-slim is one of the latest trends in HDTV design. And TV makers are investing in some serious technological effort to come up with innovations that support some of the slimmest designs possible.
For 2010, Samsung is presenting three series that fall within the ultra-slim category - the PNC6500, the PNC7000, and the PNC8000. These Samsung plasma HDTVs come at just 1.4 inches thin - even at the largest screen sizes, namely the 63-inch PN63C7000 and the PN63C8000 Samsung plasma HDTVs.
This is a thinness that is more associated with the latest edge-lit LED TVs than standard flat-panel HDTVs. With one significant difference though. At this thinness, plasma still produce a uniform image brightness across the full screen area and has better off-angle performance than even the latest flagship LED TVs.
Obviously, there is a price to pay for this extra thinness. Stepping from Samsung Series 5 to the PNC6500 - the series that introduces Samsung slim plasma design, would cost close to an extra $200.
Series 8 Samsung plasma HDTVs come with Samsung's Motion Judder Canceller. This is equivalent to the 120Hz and 240Hz dejudder processing found on LCD HDTVs. In the case of the PNC8000 series, it is said to help eliminate drag from fast scenes with a lot of fast movement to produce a clearer picture; it comes with two settings - Standard and Smooth - apart from demo and off. The demo is nothing more than a way to visually see the impact on picture performance once this feature is activated.
Some may note here that Series 8 Samsung plasma HDTVs also come with the Cinema Smooth technology. But keep in mind that when it comes to judder, there are actually two types of judder when watching 1080p24 film-based content. The first is motion judder and is a natural byproduct of the rather slow 24 fps film rate - a rate which is often too slow to show moderate speed camera panning and fast action content without breaking down the action. Samsung's Motion Judder Canceller is there to eliminate this type of judder.
However, for the many who enjoy the natural 24p cadence of film may prefer to deactivate the motion judder completely as the extra smoothness brought about by the MJC processing make film appear more video-like - sort of soap opera effect, than 24 fps film.
The second is the judder produced when converting from 24 fps movie content to 30 fps necessary for 60Hz TVs; the conversion process uses 2:3 pulldown processing and does introduce a slightly different kind of judder, as well as some blur during camera pans. Samsung Cinema Smooth is supposed to eliminate this second type of judder by using a 96Hz frame rate (using 4:4 pulldown) to avoid the 2:3 pull down conversion process completely.
AllShare and MediaPlay
Samsung's AllShare is an updated Wiselink feature found on previous Samsung models - with improved functionality that supports most file formats and with better navigation.
It provides a DLNA-compliant network connectivity to share all your digital content - music, movies, and photos from your PC, compatible cameras, and other networked devices - on your TV by controlling them via the network thanks to Samsung's MediaPlay mode.
AllShare requires the user to first install Samsung's DLNA application 'PC Share Manager' on your PC. Despite being labeled as Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) compliant, these Samsung plasma HDTVs do not support third-party DLNA server software. Unfortunately, Samsung's PC Share Manager is not among the coolest things and do lack some of the basic functionality like auto-updating of the library found on other DLNA servers.
However, what is really interesting about the new AllShare feature is its ability to connect your Samsung plasma HDTV with compatible Samsung mobile phones with the AllShare feature to share multimedia content stored on your mobile. In addition, you can view call arrivals, SMS messages and schedules set on your mobile phones right on your TV screen.
The AllShare feature is found on Series 6, Series PNC7000, and Series PNC8000 Samsung plasma TVs. However, a DLNA-compliant Ethernet connectivity is also available on Samsung PNC590 series plasma TVs to browse files from your networked PC direct on your TV.
Web-connected Samsung Apps
Samsung AllShare may be pretty cool but it is not among the best implemented features because of the Samsung PC Share Manager. Instead, Samsung Apps is definitely Samsung's major winning application for 2010.
This represents Samsung's upgraded Internet TV driven application and provides users with an ever expanding array of content.
Services include Blockbuster, Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube for video content, access to photos on Picasa, and Flickr, updates on Twitter (unfortunately, access to the popular Facebook site is missing), eBay, and Pandora free Internet radio service. If you purchase the Freetalk TV Camera ($149), you will also get access to the popular Skype Internet phone service.
Accent is mainly on games and information services like AP News, AccuWeather, USA Today and Rovi. All these services come as pre-installed. And more is to come through a number of updates.
Samsung Apps definitely represents a major and we add successful step towards integrating all these Internet streaming services under one platform. You get most of the Yahoo widgets that were available on previous models, most accessible directly from the main Apps menu.
This is an area where in the past, Samsung did lack behind other major brands like LG and Sony - with content that was too slow to load - rendering some of the applications on Samsung HDTVs pretty useless.
Instead, the new Samsung Apps for 2010 represents a significant improvement over previous implementations - with applications that load much faster than in the past - almost instantly. Equally important, the new Samsung Apps come with an equally much faster navigation both between different widgets and within a widget. The result is a much better widget experience - one that is not only functional, but definitely fun to use.
Samsung's Apps feature is available on all mid- and high- end Samsung plasma HDTV series, namely C6400, C6500, C7000, and C8000 series HDTVs.
Part 3: Samsung Series 5 Plasma TVs