Review Date: June 30, 2011
 Last Updated: June 24, 2013

Samsung Plasma HDTV Sets for 2011
Product Review

Extensive features and affordable prices, but...
What about picture performance?

Samsung TVs have always been among the most awaited by enthusiasts and videophiles alike. Whether it is a plasma or an LCD/LED TV, if you are after the best features and performance, Samsung is always in the equation; it is Samsung vs. Sony in the LCD/LED TV market, and Samsung vs. Panasonic when it comes to plasma TVs. This is no surprise; Samsung has always delivered some of the best HDTVs at a price the competition would often find it hard to beat.

Samsung plasma HDTV lineup for 2011 is no exception - with seventeen plasma TV models ranging from entry-level 43" cheap plasma TVs that still offer a number of interesting features, to some of the best premium 64-inch HDTVs. It is a lineup that faces tough competition from both Panasonic when it comes to performance, and LG when it comes to features and pricing. But Samsung is promising best overall value. So the whole issue is...

What is exactly on offer? Does the new 2011 Samsung plasma HDTVs deliver the improved performance they promise at a more affordable price than the competition?  Go through this Samsung plasma TV review to discover more.

Samsung 60-inch F5500 plasma TV  Samsung 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.

Samsung Plasma HDTVs: Among the most in demand

Samsung plasma HDTVs are often the preferred choice among those looking for best overall value. Partly, the reason for this is the continued improvement in picture quality of Samsung plasma HDTVs. Since 2009, Samsung plasma TVs registered more than a significant improvement in this respect. And the 2011 lineup of Samsung plasma TVs is promising even more.

Rather, with its latest plasma lineup, Samsung has come up with what Cnet in its plasma TV review of the 59-inch Samsung PN59D8000, dubbed as the best HDTV for 2011 irrespective of display technology. This title has been assigned to Samsung despite the tough competition from the Panasonic VT30 series. It comes to no surprise therefore that the PND8000 is the series enjoying the best ratings in consumer reviews on major retail sites.

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Yet, while the flagship is becoming the TV of choice among videophilesmainly thanks to a more competitive price over Panasonicwhat is a big seller among discerning buyers the 64" PN64D7000 Samsung plasma TV. The PND7000 lacks the Local Contrast Enhancer feature found on the PND8000 flagship TVs. According to Samsung, this automatically optimizes the dynamic contrast for different areas of the picture on the fly instead of averaging over the whole picture area. But then the PND7000 series is capable of practically very similar picture quality of the PND8000 at a cheaper price.

In fact, the PND7000 is more than $600 cheaper than the flagship series and at least $500 cheaper than the equivalent Panasonic GT30 premium series. In other words, the PND7000 Samsung plasma HDTV series has a lot to offer for those looking for a great picture at a more affordable price.

There is one problem though for Samsung to overcome with respect to the competition - one which originally cropped up in 2009. Inasmuch as Panasonic had their black level issue in 2009 - at the same time, Samsung had to face customers complaining of a soft buzzing noise from its plasma TVs.  As expressed in our Plasma TV FAQs article, this is typically of plasma TVs but admittedly, it can also be annoying for some. This issue was mainly solved with 2010 generation plasma TVs when according to Cnet, Samsung plasma HDTVs were 'quite enough' one would doubt if any viewer would ever find such noise level irksome. 2011 seems to have a brought a further improvement in this respect - with practically no audible buzzing.

The 2011Samsung Plasma HDTV Lineup detail

As stated earlier on in this discussion, for 2011, Samsung is presenting 17 different plasma TV models. These are spread over seven series, ranging from the cheapest plasma TVs for 2011, to some of the most advanced 3D HDTVs.

Series 4 and 5 Samsung plasma HDTVs

At the entry-level, we find Samsung Series 4 with the D450 and D490 HDTVs; these are basically no-frills 720p HDTVs available in a rather unusual 43-inch and 51-inch screen sizes. 

Though they are entry-level, these HDTVs are still capable of doing a great job at what a TV should do best, delivering a solid picture. The only significant difference between the D450 and the D490 is presence of 3D support on the latter.

As expected, these form part of the so called cheap plasma TV category - with sets such as the 43-inch PN43D450 and the 51-inch PN51D450 Samsung plasma HDTVs selling for $540 and $700 respectively. This explains why these HDTVs are also among the best-selling TVs within the Samsung plasma HDTV lineup for 2011.

Next in line is Samsung Series 5 entry-level 1080p HDTVs with its five models spread over the D530 and the D550 series and covering screen sizes from 51-inch to 64-inch. The most important difference between the two series is that the D550 feature AllShare (DLNA support) and 3D, otherwise they both share the same picture quality. Most popular among HDTV buyers is the 51-inch PN51D550. The success of the D550 series partly arises as a result of the minimal difference in price with respect to the D530 counterpart.

However, Series 5 Samsung  plasma HDTVs face serious competition from both the Panasonic S30 and ST30, and the LG PZ550. In particular, the Panasonic TC-P50S30 2D plasma TV with its Easy IPTV feature represents a much cheaper and a more interesting TV entertainment option than the Samsung 3D PN51D550. This being especially so if what you are looking for is 'big screen TV entertainment' on a budget.

Series 6 Mid-range HDTVs

Samsung Series 6 PND6500 continues to build on the PND550 feature set by adding the latest Samsung Smart TV feature - or rather Samsung updated Internet@TV. We are using the term 'updated Internet@TV' because the Smart TV version as available on both the PND6500 and the PND7000 series do not support neither Web browsing nor Skype. Mind you, you would not be missing much and you would still be getting a most valid Internet TV entertainment platform. Using Skype on the only plasma TV supporting this feature (the PND8000) requires the relatively expensive Skype camera kit. In addition, Web browsing as supported on smart TVs is still far from what Web browsing should be; it is only suitable for only the occasional browsing.

The PND6500 also introduces Samsung's new ultra-slim 1.5-inch thin design for 2011. The PND6500 is one of three Samsung plasma HDTV series that come with an ultra-slim design; the other two series are the PND7000 premium lineup and the PND8000 flagship series.

A most welcome feature is the built-in Wi-Fi interface; this frees a USB port on your TV apart from saving some $80 in a USB Wi-Fi dongle. As with previous years, Samsung has also remained the only plasma TV maker that is still providing a basic Picture-in-Picture functionality.

The PND6500 does not support the same deep blacks as the PND7000 series; it lacks the Rel Black Filter found on the PND7000 and PND8000 HDTVs. Otherwise, it comes with an almost identical feature set to that of the more expensive PND7000 series, and yes, is capable of practically the same TV picture performance. This renders the PND6500 among the best TV options for general home entertainment.

Best-selling Series 6 Samsung plasma HDTV is the 59-inch PN59D6500 3D TV. For just $100 more than the corresponding PND550 series HDTV, the PND6500 gives you a more stylish ultra-slim design, and one of the best and most complete smart TV platforms available on 2011 HDTVs.

PND7000 Series Premium Samsung Plasma HDTVs

Next in line is the PND7000 plasma TV series with its 51-inch, 59-inch, and 64-inch HDTVs.

As expressed earlier on, the only significant upgrade over the PND6500 is the presence of the Rel Black Filter which helps deliver improved picture performance thanks to deeper black levels and improved picture under bright room conditions.

As with the Panasonic GT30 HDTVs, PND7000 Samsung plasma TVs are mainly aimed for the videophile 'on a budget.' These HDTVs lack the superb picture performance of PND8000 plasma TVs.

Samsung popular 64-inch PN64D7000 3D Plasma HDTV

Samsung PN64D7000
64-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Plasma TV

But overall picture quality is quite close to that of the flagship series. The PND7000 Samsung plasma HDTV is capable of excellent overall 2D and 3D picture quality characterized by deep black levels, highly accurate color that outdo the GT30, and solid video processing.

Despite the tough competition from both the LG PZ750 and PZ950, and the Panasonic GT30, it is the Samsung PND7000, and in particular the Samsung PN64D7000 that is doing better in TV sales. Partly the reason is the price advantage of the Samsung vis-à-vis the Panasonic. Instead, the PZ750 does have a price advantage over the PND7000 HDTVs but the LG picture quality is not exactly in line with that of the Samsung.

Series PND8000 Samsung Plasma HDTVs
The Samsung PN59D8000 Plasma HDTV 

Samsung PN59D8000 59-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Plasma HDTV

Rated as the best TV Samsung ever made and a TV of outstanding performance by Cnet, the PN59D8000 is characterized by exceptional picture quality, an ultra-slim profile and one of the best smart TV applications complemented by built-in Wi-Fi and Skype among others.

The PND8000 is Samsung flagship series of Plasma TVs. Together with the Panasonic VT30, the Samsung PND8000 series represents the most awaited HDTV lineup by those looking for the best TV picture. Since Pioneer left the plasma TV market, the battle for the best plasma HDTV has always been Samsung vs. Panasonic inasmuch as the best LED LCD TVs title is always one fought between Samsung and Sony.

PND8000 Samsung plasma HDTVs represent Samsung top-of-the-line HDTVs for 2011. As with the PND7000, the PND8000 series comprises three screen sizes, 51-inch, 59-inch, and 64-inch.

The PND8000 design is characterized by a 'more refined' styling with a quad-legged base - which we do not like; but apart from the TV stand, the panel design is extremely stylish. The major difference between Series 7 and Series 8 Samsung plasma HDTVs is the presence of the Local Contrast Enhancer referred to earlier on in this plasma TV review.

This is said to improve the dynamic contrast on the fly on a picture zone-basis rather than the entire picture area. The D8000 also features a more enhanced smart TV platform complemented by a Web browser and Skype support apart from all other features found on the less expensive PND7000 series.

The PND8000 Samsung plasma HDTV come with a more advanced flip-type TV remote (ref. to our Smart TV Guide for more details) that makes it much easier to control the functionality supported by the smart TV platform. It is not as effective as the Magic Motion remote found on LG flagship smart TVs but it still provides an easy way of controlling the smart TV functionality. This is mainly thanks to a small LCD screen on the QWERTY keyboard side of the flip remote. The LCD screen makes it possible to see exactly what you are typing without having to look at the TV screen.

This Samsung plasma HDTV series has been rated in a recently published Cnet review, as the best HDTV overall for 2011 reviewed so far, this notwithstanding it does not deliver the same level of shadow detail supported by the Panasonic VT30 series. The Samsung PND8000 series however delivers outstanding overall 2D and 3D picture quality, with excellent black-level performance, and the most accurate color of any TV.

This outstanding Samsung picture quality goes to prove once again that the presence of a THX picture mode is no guarantee of a superior picture performance. The PND8000 series lacks the THX picture mode found on corresponding flagship Panasonic and LG HDTVs, yet it is still capable of superior overall picture performance.

Equally important, notwithstanding the shiny plasma screen, the new Rel Black Filter on the PND8000 (and PND7000) series HDTVs can also handle bright room conditions well. Again, it does better than any other TV in delivering improve blacks even under bright light conditions while still maintaining shadow detail in the darker parts of the image.

Overall, the Samsung PND8000 series may be expensive. But this is a flagship HDTV and definitely one of the very the best HDTVs for 2011, delivering a picture quality that is equal to that of the Panasonic VT30 but at a significantly reduced price. Add Samsung's extremely stylish ultra-slim design and the extensive feature setunmatched by Panasonicand there you have the best overall HDTV for 2011 irrespective of display technology.

Best-selling models from within the PND8000 series include the 59-inch PN59D8000 and the 51-inch PN51D8000 3D Samsung plasma HDTVs.

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 Article Content

Quick links to issues discussed in this Plasma TV Review article:

Blue bullet  Samsung Plasma HDTVs... Among the plasma TVs most in demand

Blue bullet  Series 4 and 5: Entry-level 720 and 1080p Samsung plasma HDTVs

Blue bullet  PND6500 Mid-range Series: Best TV option for general home entertainment use

Blue bullet  PND7000 Series: For the best-selling 64-inch premium plasma HDTV

Blue bullet  Samsung PND8000: Rated as the best HDTV overall for 2011

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