Last Updated: June 25, 2013
Samsung Plasma HDTV Sets for 2010
Full Product Evaluation Part 1: Introduction
Impressive lineup, extensive features and affordable prices,
but... What about picture performance?
Samsung TV lineups have always been characterized by a large number of models irrespective of display technology. The much awaited line of 2010 Samsung plasma TVs is no exception - with 22 different sets spread over 9 series, ranging from inexpensive 42" HDTVs to costly feature-rich 63" ultra-thin 3D plasma TVs.
While some of the like-price competition can deliver more features for the price, yet with its 2010 HDTVs, Samsung is promising improved performance over the already significant improvements brought about with its 2009 plasma TVs.
So the whole issue is... What is exactly on offer? Does the new 2010 Samsung plasma HDTVs deliver the improved performance they promise? Go through this detailed Samsung plasma TV review 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.
Introducing the new line of Samsung Plasma HDTVs
Samsung plasma TVs are often the preferred choice among those looking for the best value. Partly, the reason is that year after year, Samsung plasma HDTVs continue to register significant improvements. In particular, with its 2009 plasma HDTVs, Samsung raised the bar for the plasma TV market thanks to the many improvements made to the picture of its plasma televisions.
With its 2010 plasma line, Samsung is promising even more. It is a line that provides more than enough choice at all categories and budgets. No surprise Samsung 2010 plasma HDTVs are among the most awaited and among the best-selling HDTVs. Admittedly, the black level issue that cropped up with Panasonic 2009 Plasma TVs last January when these started losing their deep blacks, is giving Samsung a helping hand! But this in no way diminishes the fact that the 2010 Samsung plasma line represents a most interesting range of HDTVs for home entertainment.
Starting at entry-level, the latest Samsung plasma HDTVs represent an affordable species, with sets such as the 42-inch PN42C450 selling for $500. This is the best-selling entry-level plasma TV irrespective of brand. It is a no frills 720p HDTV that is still capable of doing a great job at delivering a solid picture at this price bracket. However, the real hit for Samsung this year is represented by the 50-inch PN50C550, and this despite that this mid-range Samsung plasma HDTV lacks one very hot spec, Internet-driven TV content, a feature found on the like-priced LG PK750 series. Yet Samsung more than makes up for it with a list of promising specs.
At the higher end, Samsung's success is represented by the 58-inch PN58C7000 and PN58C8000 HDTVs.
The PNC7000 is one of a trio of Samsung plasma HDTV series that for 2010 comes with an ultra-slim 1.4-inch thin design. Samsung Series 7 comes with a host of features - including 3D and Samsung's much improved Internet@TV functionality. The PN58C7000 is not among the cheapest HDTVs but at $2,150, it brings you a 3D TV with a larger screen estate for your money, solid 2D image performance, and better 3D image quality than any 3D LED LCD TV. The latter is possibly one of the biggest advantageous of plasma over LCD thanks to the use of short-stroke phosphors that yield a superfast pixel response time a thousand times faster than that of the fastest LED TVs.
Instead, the 58PNC8000 forms part of Samsung flagship Series 8 3D plasma TVs. The PNC8000 tops the PNC7000 feature set with a new Real Black filter for improved black level performance and two additional picture modes which enable more precise adjustment of key picture settings.
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2010 Samsung Plasma HDTV Product Evaluation: What's covered in this Samsung Plasma TV review article
Editor's Note: This Samsung plasma HDTV review is being divided into four parts - including this introduction; this is necessary because of the extensive range of models covered in this year line of Samsung plasma TVs.
Each of the remaining three parts takes a detailed look at specific areas of Samsung's plasma HDTV line for 2010 - from an analyzes of the features on offer and their implication on performance, to detailed reviews of Samsung's most popular series for 2010, the C550, and Samsung PNC7000 and PNC8000 3D plasma TV series.
A true success story!
Samsung plasma HDTVs are once again reliving the success they enjoyed during 2009. Samsung plasma TVs are among the most in demand thanks to one of the best HDTV package deals around - offering solid performance, extensive features, and numerous picture controls for an attractive price.
When it comes to picture quality, Samsung plasma TVs are generally renowned for their color accuracy, superb color saturation and relatively better video processing than the competition. They do not deliver the same deep blacks of the Panasonic but then the Panasonic blacks have been tarnished by all that happened earlier this year. In other words, the new Panasonic plasma TVs for 2010 have still to re-confirm themselves in the coming months in this respect.
Innovations for 2010 are many and continue to build on what we saw during 2009; all 2010 sets come with Samsung's new E-Panel characterized by lower power consumption and improved picture performance, and the much touted 600Hz subfield motion technology for improved motion resolution. An improved Internet TV platform is also on offer on premium and flagship series - apart from a sleek 1.4 inch-thin design and the latest hot spec - 3D for the top series.
As with 2009 plasma HDTVs, Samsung has once again failed to offer plasma HDTVs with THX display certification as instead is the case with both Panasonic and LG. However, as we have stated elsewhere on our site, THX does not indicate its exact standards with respect to product certification, meaning that a THX-certified model is no guarantee in itself that it will outperform one that doesn't bear the THX logo.
Admittedly, buying a THX-certified HDTV set offers a great advantage to inexperienced users who do not have the necessary knowledge of how to go about setting up a TV picture for the best image. At the same time, we cannot but remark that Samsung plasma TV reviews published on various sites show that Samsung picture quality provides more than just a good match to the stiff THX display-certified HDTV competition from LG and Panasonic.
Discovering the new lineup - Series by Series
Series 4 Samsung Plasma HDTVs
This represents Samsung entry-level 720p plasma TV series. These are basically a no frills HDTVs but that still offer a few extras.
Series 4 comprises four models, the 42-inch PN42C430 ($540), the 50-inch PN50C430, the slightly more expensive 42-inch PN42C450 ($540) referred to in our introduction, and the 50-inch PN50C450.
Samsung 42" PN42C450
The main difference between the C430 and the C450 HDTVs is the presence of a more comprehensive connectivity suite on the latter. This includes an additional HDMI port on the side apart from the two on the back panel for a total of three HDMI inputs, and a VGA-style PC input.
Features common to both series include Samsung's WideColorEnhancer for a more natural color reproduction; Clear Image Panel that helps eliminate picture distortion; a Game mode which is said to enhance the picture performance by enhancing the dark areas while minimizing image processing response during gaming applications; SRS TruSurround - to help the user experience a virtual immersive soundstage via the TV stereo speakers; a full suite of power saving options including an eco-sensor option that helps reduce the power consumption by automatically adjusting the brightness level according to the light level in the room; a screen anti-burn menu apart from the default pixel shift function to help combat image retention; and Samsung's Anynet+ which allows the TV remote to control compatible Samsung AV devices connected to your TV via HDMI using HDMI-CEC support.
With sets such as the 50-inch PN50C450 selling at under $720, Series 4 Samsung plasma HDTVs deliver the largest screen estate for your money. Some may say that these are just 720p HDTVs. Rest assured however that at the screen sizes concerned here, it would be hard to notice the difference in picture detail afforded by the higher pixel count of 1080p HDTVs with broadcast content from what is considered a healthy, normal viewing distance.
Samsung 50-inch PN50C550
Series 5 1080p HDTVs
Samsung Series 5 represents Samsung's entry-level 1080p plasma TVs. These are also the most popular among the full 2010 Samsung plasma HDTV line.
Series 5 manages to strike the right balance between affordability, overall good picture quality, and an interesting feature set complemented by a more than adequate connectivity suite.
It is also the most extensive of all; it comprises eight different models, starting with the basic 50-inch and 58-inch C540 Samsung plasma HDTVs; these are the 1080p equivalents of the C450 but with added picture-in-picture support.
Next in line within Samsung Series 5 is the popular C550 sub-series with its three screen sizes, the 50-inch PN50C550 ($1,000), the 58-inch PN58C550 ($1,600), and the 63-inch PN63C550 ($2,180). The C550 line adds Samsung Touch-of-Color design with a subtle clear-to-gray accent to the set bezel. There is also a fourth HDMI input, Samsung's WideColorEnhancer II which provides further color improvement especially with the greens and blues, and 15W of audio power instead of the 10W found on Series 4 HDTVs.
This is the series that in our opinion represents the best feature-to-price deal at this category of HDTVs. It does not offer the best picture; for that you have to jump onto the more expensive HDTVs within the C6500, C7000, and C8000 series. But if what you are after is a big screen HDTV capable of solid overall picture performance without the frills of Internet-enabled TV content and 3D, then the C550 Samsung plasma HDTVs should not disappoint you.
Top on Samsung Series 5 is the C590 sub series with its three screen sizes, the 50-inch PN50C590 ($1,100), the 58-inch PN58C590 ($1,690), and the massive 63-inch PN63C590 ($2,500).
The C590 adds a few extras to the already interesting C550 feature set. These include the addition of a headphone output and an Ethernet connection with DLNA-networking support. Samsung also includes it's DB Wise feature which is said to synchronize all compatible HDMI Samsung devices for the 'perfect' picture quality; and Samsung Cinema Smooth technology supporting improved playback of 24p movies from 1080p/24 sources such as Blu ray. Unfortunately, the latter is not much of use until corrected by a firmware upgrade due to a flaw which causes the picture to flicker.
Best-selling Series 5 Samsung plasma HDTVs include the 50-inch PN50C550 and the 58-inch PN58C550, thanks to their relatively affordable price and a most comprehensive feature set.
It is interesting to note here that the additional features found on C590 HDTVs are more of a convenience nature than picture related enhancements. In other words, from a picture quality perspective, the C550 can deliver the same picture quality of the slightly more expensive C590 Samsung plasma TVs.
According to Cnet, Samsung Series 5 plasma TVs are capable of decent black level performance, better than that of similarly-priced LG PK750 sets, but one that falls short of the initial black levels measured on the Panasonic G20/G25 series. These HDTVs offer good shadow detail, very good color saturation despite the less accurate color that tends to shift towards the blue, and come with an effective anti-reflective screen that is capable of maintaining the blacks and minimizing reflections even under bright room conditions.
We discuss Series 5 Samsung plasma HDTVs and the C550 series in more detail under part three of this Samsung plasma TV review.
Samsung Series 6
Series 6 is Samsung's 1080p premium series. It comprises four models spread over two sub-series, the C6400 and the C6500. The C6400 adds Samsung Internet@TV application to the C590 feature set. However, it is the C6500 with its 50-inch PN50C6500 ($1,300) and the 58-inch PN58C6500 ($1,800) that is really hot.
From a features perspective, C6500 Samsung plasma TVs are the equivalent of the more expensive C7000 series but without 3D.
Apart from Samsung's web-connected platform and the rest of the features found on C590 HDTVs, the C6500 also introduces the latest Samsung plasma line to the new ultra-slim 1.4-inch thin design and the latest FilterBright antiglare technology.
In fact, the C6500 is one of three Samsung plasma HDTV series for 2010 that come this thin. C6500 HDTVs also come with a slightly improved dynamic contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1 instead of the 2,000,000:1 found on the less expensive series. But the latter cannot be considered much of a picture improvement in that as described in our contrast ratio article, we have reached a level of dynamic contrast rating where the difference between the different series is no longer perceivable by the human eye.
As expressed under the features discussion, the new Samsung's Internet-enabled TV application is one of the best for 2010. Samsung also provides a built-in content library which can store a limited amount of pictures and videos for playback on your TV, a 10W stereo sound, Samsung's CrystalFullHD engine for enhanced image performance, Cinema Smooth for playback of 1080p24 content, a basic Picture-in-Picture functionality where you can only view the TV picture in a sub-window when viewing content from an external source, and Samsung latest BD Wise already referred to under Series C590.
Best-selling Series 6 Samsung plasma TV is the 50-inch PN50C6500, though even the 58-inch PN58C6500 is doing well thanks to the attractive slim design and an affordable price at this screen size.
Samsung Series 7
This represents Samsung least expensive 3D plasma TV series. As expressed earlier on, The PNC7000 is the C6500 but with added 3D support.
There is another difference though and a strange one too. C7000 plasma TVs miss on one feature found on the less expensive series, Samsung Cinema Smooth. Cinema Smooth uses a 96Hz refresh rate to enable the processing of 1080p24 content without the use of 2:3 pulldown processing.
Series C7000 comprises three models, the 50-inch PN50C7000 ($1,550), the 58-inch PN58C7000 ($2,150), and the 63-inch PN63C7000 ($2,700) Samsung plasma HDTV.
Samsung most popular inch-thin 3D plasma TV: 58-inch PN58C7000.
Like the C6500, C7000 Samsung plasma HDTVs come with a most appealing slim design characterized by a transparent edge around the set dark gray bezel; the latter is finished in a subtle brushed metal-like finish that matches the set brushed metal stand. Complementing the whole design is Samsung's traditional transparent vertical support column.
These TVs are hailed by major review sites for their excellent black-level performance and accurate color; they do not come with THX display certification as corresponding Panasonic and LG plasma TVs. But as stated, the C7000 is still capable of an excellent 2D picture. And the numerous picture controls make it possible for videophiles and home theater enthusiasts to get the best picture for their liking. An innovation for Samsung here is the 10-point white balance system similar to that found on premium LG models but that works better, plus a couple of built-in test patterns and red, green, and blue color filters for color settings and fine adjustment of hue and saturation.
The C7000 also delivers solid 3D image quality and one of the best around, definitely better than that of the significantly more expensive 3D LED TVs thanks to practically zero 3D image crosstalk. The latter is more merit of plasma display technology than a matter of brand superiority. Equally important for 3D is the supported larger screen size - which as stated under our 3D TV section, helps contribute to a better immersive 3D experience.
Best-selling PNC7000 Samsung plasma HDTVs include the 58-inch PN58C7000 followed by the 63-inch PN63C7000.
More information on Samsung PNC7000 and PNC8000 Series 3D plasma TVs can be found in the final part of this 2010 Samsung plasma HDTV review article.
Series 8 Samsung Plasma HDTVs
The Samsung PNC8000 3D plasma series represents Samsung top-of-the-line plasma TVs for 2010.
Like the PNC7000, this series comprises three screen sizes, the 50-inch PN50C8000 ($1,800), the 58-inch PN58C8000 ($2,450), and the 63-inch PN63C8000 ($3,400).
As expected, Samsung flagship series comes with a few interesting enhancements over the already interesting feature set of the C7000.
Samsung flagship 3D plasma TV:
On top, there is a more refined styling that includes a slim brushed titanium bezel but that takes a more dark gray brushed metal look than the silvery titanium look many would expect. All is complemented by a subtle Touch of Color design.
Another major difference between C7000 and C8000 Samsung plasma HDTVs is the presence of two additional picture modes, termed CAL-NIGHT and CAL-DAY which allow the user to select a custom calibrated picture for low light and daylight viewing.
Samsung has also reserved its unique filtering technology for the flagship series, called Real Black filter; it is said to help improve the blacks further especially under bright light conditions while still maintaining shadow detail especially in the darker parts of the image. Other enhancements over the C7000 include Cinema Smooth for 1080p 24 material, a slightly improved dynamic contrast ratio of 7,000,000:1, and motion judder canceller to reduce motion judder inherently found in fast-action scenes in film-based movies.
At the present reduced pricing, jumping onto the flagship series would cost anything between $250 and $700 more than corresponding PNC7000 3D plasma TVs. But then this is the series that delivers the best picture - one aimed for the videophile and home theater enthusiast looking for top 2D and 3D picture quality.
A great picture: There is no doubt Series 8 Samsung plasma HDTVs have the potential to deliver the best picture quality. We have not yet seen an official review of this Samsung series but customer reviews posted online agree that these are capable of the best black level performance and great color accuracy.
A few customers complained about a slight buzzing noise issue with these Samsung plasma TVs - even though the majority seem to have heard nothing. We have to note that none of the professional reviews we came across for the latest Samsung plasma TVs do report a buzzing noise issue. Instead, the only reference to a buzzing noise with the latest plasma TVs for 2010 comes from Cnet in their review of the Panasonic G25 plasma TV.
The bottom line...
If you have the extra cash to spend, then the PNC8000 Samsung 3D plasma HDTVs represent a most interesting big screen HDTV option for your home entertainment - one that will deliver not only 2D but also 3D on a bigger screen than any of the latest LED TVs for much less. And this apart from a superb feature set and a sleek 1.4-inch thin design that would surely add a unique touch to any room in your home!
As with the PNC7000 series, best-selling screen sizes within Series 8 Samsung plasma HDTV are the 58-inch PN58C8000 and the 63-inch PN63C8000.
Part 2: Key Features for 2010