Last Updated: June 24, 2013
Which is the best Samsung Plasma HDTV
E6500, E7000, or the E8000?
Which series delivers the best overall value,
and at which screen size?
Part 2: Performance Analysis and Discussion
In the first part of this Samsung plasma TV review, we discussed the features on offer on mid-tier, premium, and flagship Samsung plasma HDTVs. We now continue our review of Samsung E6500, E7000, and E8000 2012 plasma HDTVs by analyzing in detail each series for overall performance while pointing out the pros and cons of each, to determine where each of these series fits best in the overall value equation.
We conclude this discussion by presenting our arguments as to which series represents the best Samsung plasma TV option for 2012 at the different screen sizes; you may join our discussion by submitting your comments using the comments submission form at the end of this page.
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.
Performance Analysis and Discussion
In this second part of our 2012 Samsung plasma HDTV review, we carry out a comparative analysis for each of the upper-tier series with respect to each other. This whole discussion crops up as all three series — E6500, E7000, and E8000 — exhibit almost identical picture quality.
This comes to no surprise as these Samsung plasma HDTVs series use of the same Real Black PRO panel instead of the standard Real Black panel used on the less expensive series; the only differing picture quality related feature between these three series is the use of the Clear Image Panel on the E8000 flagship, a feature whose advantage mainly comes into play when watching your TV at extreme angles as it helps eliminate the appearance of doubled/layered images. All other upgrade features on premium and flagship series HDTVs with respect to the E6500 are convenience features that do not impact picture quality.
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Furthermore, the same set of user adjustable picture settings is present on all three lineups, meaning each of these HDTVs series gives the viewer the same possibility to adjust the picture to the best settings and enjoy a superior picture performance irrespective of series. We say superior picture because the advancement registered in picture quality by 2012 Samsung plasma HDTVs is such that it represents more than just some incremental improvement over 2011 sets, with mid-tier HDTVs being capable of a performance that is at least on par with the best flagship models from 2011!
This similarity in picture quality at the upper-tier Samsung series is in line with the similarity we experienced in picture quality between ST50, GT50, and VT50 in our 2012 Panasonic plasma HDTV review.
This improvement in picture quality registered by 2012 Panasonic and Samsung plasma HDTVs turned out to be a major surprise that contrasts heavily with the rather overall disappointing picture quality we have seen so far with 2012 LED TVs; this despite that big screen 55-inch plus LED TVs are selling at $500 to $900 more than corresponding plasma TVs! The 60" Samsung UN60ES8000 flagship LED TV is selling online at $3,000, $900 more than the 60" PN60E8000 Samsung plasma HDTV equivalent! Both share almost the same features and the only significant difference is their display technology; and notwithstanding the push by retailers towards the more expensive LED LCD TVs, it is the Samsung plasma HDTV that is enjoying the best customer ratings!
E6500 Mid-Tier Samsung Plasma HDTVs
There is a lot to like about E6500 Samsung plasma HDTVs when it comes to the picture, with a 2D picture that is superb and a 3D picture that though may be classified as 'fair' is still pleasing.
We did see a number of E6500 owners complaining about a soft 'buzzing noise' that would become louder as the average picture brightness increases. We did not encounter similar complaints for the E7000 and E8000 HDTVs.
We do not think this is really an issue with these Samsung plasma HDTVs. A very soft buzzing noise is typical of all plasma TVs and is mainly caused by the electrical charges used to create the images on the screen. But the level of buzzing is generally quite low and audible only from a too close a viewing distance mainly during nighttime and with the sound level practically turned off.
One should keep in mind here that there are a number of factors that may influence this noise phenomenon and its audibility from the viewing position. Changing the picture mode to one using lower power such as Movie will reduce the buzzing level when present since this affects how much power the panel is processing. This also explains why the perceived buzzing changes with picture content. Equally important is the panel installation; a hard wall surface directly behind a wall mounted plasma TV will reflect more of the buzzing noise than a wall covered with soft furnishing.
The picture quality of E6500 HDTVs is without doubt among the best irrespective of price bracket, delivering exceedingly deep blacks and a black level that remains stable irrespective of how dark or bright the content is. With 2012 HDTVs, you may safely say good-bye to the so called 'brightness pops' or sudden brightening of blacks — at least with 2D content — an issue which plagued 2011 Samsung plasma HDTVs.
E6500 Samsung plasma HDTVs exhibit excellent shadow detail even in the darker parts of the image. They also support accurate grayscale tracking that remains neutral along the full brightness range and with no distinguishable color casts especially in the very dark area; this is an aspect of picture performance in which many HDTVs fail.
Color accuracy has always been one of Samsung's main strongholds with true to life colors, and the E6500 is no exception. Color accuracy and color saturation on these Samsung plasma HDTVs are superb, with natural looking colors and none of the color push or color casts found on some HDTVs.
On the other hand, peak light output seems somewhat limited with respect to their Panasonic counterparts; as a result, contrast is not exactly on par with that of equivalent Panasonic plasma HDTVs. Possibly, this relatively lower limit on light output has been set by Samsung to ensure that brightness pops do not occur.
However, image on these Samsung plasma HDTVs is still sufficiently bright for a bright room day-viewing environment, with a bright room performance that often supersedes that of even the best LED LCDs HDTVs. While LCDs can get brighter than their plasma counterparts, an excellent bright room performance is not just a bright image but depends also on the display's ability to minimize reflections off the screen surface and preserve black levels; the latter is important to maintain image pop and contrast, an area in which these Samsung plasma HDTVs prevail over the LED TV competition.
Overall processing is very good while playback of 24p content using the Cinema Smooth feature yields a correct filmlike cadence without the jerkiness associate with the playback of 24p content over a 60Hz HDTVs. As indicated in the first part of this Samsung plasma HDTV review, activating Cinema Smooth does not lead to a loss in black levels as instead has been the case with 2011 Samsung HDTV sets.
These sets are also capable of deinterlacing 1080i film-based content correctly without any visual artifacts.
The only complaint we have with the E6500 video processing is that these Samsung plasma HDTVs fail to effectively deal with noisy low quality video sources even with the noise filters on; activating the noise filters leads to a noticeable level of image blur. This is an area where premium and flagship series take the upper hand over the more affordable E6500 HDTVs.
3D picture performance
Another area in which the mid-tier Samsung plasma HDTV fail with respect to both E7000 and E8000 Samsung plasma TVs (and also with respect to the Panasonic competition), is 3D performance. These HDTVs TVs suffer from more image crosstalk.
However, the E6500 3D image performance still represents an improvement over 2011 HDTV equivalents, with a pleasing 3D image both when using a 3D content source, and also via the built-in 2D-to-3D converter.
E7000 Mid-Tier Samsung Plasma HDTVs
This series follows on the footsteps of the E6500, with a superb picture quality that is practically identical to that of E6500 HDTVs. We would not repeat the whole performance write-up for the E7000 as the same E6500 comments for picture performance apply with all its pros and cons.
However there are a few minor (depending on what is your TV main use) differences with respect to video processing and 3D performance.
The PNE7000 series is capable of doing a much better job in eliminating noise from low quality content and standard definition sources.
PNE7000 HDTVs are also solid 3D performers, both when handling a 3D source and also with 2D-to-3D conversion, with a 3D image that exhibits less 3D image crosstalk than some of the best HDTVs from the competition, including the Panasonic VT50. This means that in this respect, the E7000 is in line with E8000 HDTVs.
Picture quality in 3D is also very good with relatively accurate color. But as with the E8000 Samsung plasma HDTVs, there is that rare instance when brightness pops may occur with certain 3D content. The issue is that a 3D TV image requires a much higher level of light output to ensure a sufficient bright image for each eye; yet a higher light output makes an HDTV more prone to brightness pops. This higher light output in 3D also explains why a plasma TV in 3D mode consumes much power than when in 2D.
E8000 Mid-Tier Samsung Plasma HDTVs
There is no doubt that the flagship E8000 Samsung plasma HDTV series (together with the Panasonic VT50) is at the stratosphere of picture quality, delivering exceptionally deep blacks, accurate colors though not as accurate as those on 2011 Samsung plasma HDTVs, and superb video processing. Its overall 3D picture performance is also very good, which makes this TV series one of the best HDTV options for the serious home user — price tag apart.
It is not the perfect TV; it still suffers from limited light output like the E6500 and E7000, and in 3D there is that rare instance of brightness pop.
As stated, picture quality is one of the main strongholds of the E8000, one that is worthy of a flagship from a major brand. However, this Samsung HDTV series fails to get the top post in this respect.
If you were to compare the Samsung flagship with the VT50 Panasonic plasma HDTV equivalent, the Panasonic still leads in this important area, with a picture that exhibit just a bit better overall picture quality, characterized by slightly better shadow detail. The problem with the Samsung E8000 is that shadow detail in the near-black areas of the image appears darker; while this gives the impression of a higher contrast, yet it masks shadow detail in the darker parts of the image. Deactivating Dynamic Contrast under the advanced picture settings leads to better shadow detail in the darker parts of the image but the VT50 still remains just that bit better.
The VT50 is also capable of a surprising more accurate color than the E8000 Samsung plasma HDTV series, and visibly deeper blacks in a dark room environment. The latter is no surprise as flagship Panasonic plasma HDTVs have always been the once with the deepest blacks since Pioneer left the plasma TV market.
There is also the issue that like the E6500 and E7000 HDTVs, E8000 Samsung plasma HDTVs seem to limit the maximum light output to a lower level than Panasonic equivalents, leading to a picture that imparts less 'pop' in comparison to the VT50.
Mind you, the Samsung E8000 is still an exceptional performer with superb blacks, blacks that are deeper than the majority of HDTVs at this category; it is just that the Panasonic VT50 delivers a slightly better picture though at a significantly more expensive price.
This is an area in which the E8000, like the less expressive E7000, simply excels. Here the same comments as the E7000 apply. In other words, unlike the E6500, the Samsung flagship is capable of doing a better job in handling noisy content, eliminating MPEG and other digital noise without excessively blurring the image.
3D picture performance
Again, same comments as for the E7000 apply, meaning that the E8000 series represents a very capable 3D TV, with less crosstalk than the Panasonic equivalent and excellent 3D picture quality. Like the E7000 however, it also suffers from that rare brightness pop with some 3D content.
So... Which is the Best Samsung plasma HDTV for 2012, the E8000, the E7000, or the E6500?
Surely, it all depends on what you are after. The E8000 Samsung plasma HDTV series is the best of the trio. If it were not for its relatively expensive price tag with respect to the other series, this whole issue would not probably crop up.
One may argue that the Samsung E8000 is still a relatively affordable flagship HDTV with a price that is several hundred dollars cheaper than that of the Panasonic equivalent; suffice to mention that at the 60-inch, the E8000 is cheaper than the 60-inch premium GT50 plasma HDTV. It is also true that the Samsung E8000 is a very capable 2D and 3D performer, but...
Is it the ideal TV for the videophile and serious home theater user - more specifically, does its expensive price tag equates to what you get extra in features and performance over the less expansive series?
For sure, the E8000 Samsung plasma HDTV is the ideal TV for the gadget freak with some of the most advanced features you can think of; but it is not the TV for those — videophiles included — who want to enjoy the most out of their budget. Features such as Smart Interaction with voice and gesture control do not deliver a better picture. Worst still, these expensive features fail to deliver a better TV user experience. As stated in our introduction, controlling your TV by waving your hands and 'shouting' at the TV is not more convenient than pushing a button on a standard TV remote. Partly, the reason is that these features seem poorly implemented.
On the other hand, the E7000 premium series fails to deliver the extravagant features of the flagship but then delivers an equally superb picture quality that is exactly on par with that of the more expensive flagship HDTV. And this comes at a price that is some $300 cheaper than corresponding E8000 HDTVs and Panasonic GT50 series equivalents.
Equally important, the E7000 series do not have any of the problems found on E6500 HDTVs with respect to the handling of noisy sources and crosstalk issues with 3D content. In addition, the E7000 brings with it an improved Smart TV experience thanks to the presence of a dual core processor, a feature that the less expensive E6500 series lacks.
This makes the E7000 one of the best Samsung plasma HDTV options especially if your main concern is the TV picture, without the flashy features present on the E8000.
In this respect, even the E6500 series represents a great TV option with a superior picture that comes some $200 cheaper at the 60-inch screen size than a corresponding E7000 HDTV. But we would not suggest opting for the E6500 if you will be watching a lot of 3D, or if your content source comes with higher levels of compression noise.
While the E8000 is the Samsung plasma HDTV series that delivers the best features and picture, one cannot just leave out the price factor from the 'overall value' equation. Unfortunately, the E8000 falls within that same category of flagship HDTVs that like the Panasonic VT50 series, fail to deliver the expected improvement in the TV experience for the added premium one has to pay with respect to the less expensive series within the same manufacturer lineup.
This leads us to the conclusion that the title for the best Samsung plasma HDTV for 2012 deserves to be shared equally between the E7000 and the E6500 series, but only at the 60-inch screen size. Choosing one over the other at this screen size is mainly more a matter of personal preference. But if 3D viewing does not represent one of your entertainment priorities, and if what you will be watching is mainly a pristine HD source with hardly any noise, the cheaper Samsung E6500 plasma TV series represents the best overall value HDTV option; otherwise, we recommend the E7000.
At the 51-inch, the only other screen size at which the E6500 and E7000 series collide, price difference is just $100; this more than equates to what you get extra in terms of features and performance with the slightly more expensive series.
This renders the Samsung E7000 plasma TV series the best overall series at all available screen sizes.
Back to Part 1: Samsung E6500, E7000, and E8000 - Design and Features
You may submit your comments in response to our discussion using the comments box here...