Last Updated: June 25, 2013
Samsung Plasma TV Sets
Samsung Lineup of Plasma TV Sets for 2009
Full Product Guide
Superb color accuracy, extensive features, and overall value
During past years, Samsung HDTV lineups have always been characterized by a never ending list of models spread over different display technologies that often make the process of choosing a Samsung TV a truly challenging task.
And the 2009 line of Samsung plasma HDTVs is no exception - with a total of 19 different models. These range from inexpensive 720p and 1080p budget-class HDTVs that offer more than just good picture quality, to costly super slim 1.2-inch thin plasma TVs that can deliver excellent picture performance characterized by deep blacks, superb saturation, and accurate colors. Screen sizes range from 42-inch to massive 63-inch.
In this Samsung plasma TV product guide, we introduce you to the full Samsung plasma line for 2009 - with all its innovations - to help you see where each of the different plasma TV series fit best.
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 2009 Line of Samsung Plasma TVs:
Samsung is the world largest TV maker and one of the main leaders together with Panasonic, in plasma display technology.
Samsung plasma HDTVs are often the preferred choice among those looking for the best overall value and features to price deal. 2009 Samsung HDTVs such as the 50-inch PN50B550 and the 42-inch PN42B450 are among the best-selling entry-level 1080p and 720p HDTVs respectively.
Samsung Series 6 50-inch PN50B650 plasma TV is also among the best-sellers - doing better in sales than the corresponding 50-inch G10 Panasonic plasma HDTV. But even at the more expensive larger screen size category, 2009 Samsung plasma TVs such as the 58-inch PN58B650, the 63-inch PN63B550, and the inch-thin 58-inch PN58B860 flagship model, are all doing extremely well in online sales. These Samsung plasma TVs are often characterized by five star ratings in consumer reviews.
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This is no surprise... For many in the industry, it is no surprise that Samsung plasma HDTVs are among the most in demand. As usual, this year Samsung plasma lineup offers an extensive feature set and numerous user-adjustable picture controls for the price. In addition, innovations abound; all models in the 2009 lineup come with Samsung's new E-Panel - characterized by low power consumption and improved picture performance, and the latest 600Hz plasma drive technology for improved motion resolution. Internet TV applications are also available on premium and flagship series - this apart from a super-sleek inch-thin design for flagship HDTVs.
While Panasonic plasma TVs are generally renowned for their exceptionally great picture mainly thanks to a deep shade of black and excellent shadow detail, Samsung plasmas deliver better overall color accuracy.
Although their blacks are not as deep as those on Panasonic HDTVs, Samsung plasma TVs still possess superb color saturation and generally better video processing. They also handle correctly standard definition material, an area in which Panasonic performance fairs rather poor to average.
None of this year Samsung plasma TVs come with THX display certification as instead is the case with Panasonic and LG lineups. Yet Samsung plasma TV reviews published on various sites show that Samsung picture quality still provides a good match to the stiff competition from corresponding 2009 Panasonic plasma HDTVs.
A comprehensive line of innovative plasma HDTVs
For this year, Samsung has come with a most comprehensive line - a total of 19 different models spread over 4 series - Series 4 to Series 8. Admittedly, it is not as extensive as Panasonic 2009 line of plasma TVs but Samsung still provides more than enough choice at all categories and budgets.
Innovations for 2009
Unlike Panasonic which installs its greener NeoPDP panel only on its more expensive series, Samsung took the option of furnishing all its 2009 models - from the inexpensive Series 4 to costly Series 8 flagship HDTVs - with its new E-panel technology.
The new plasma display panel delivers a superior picture performance and much brighter image at significantly lower power consumption than previous panel generations. According to published information on the Samsung website, the new E-Panel consumes some 40% less power than previous panels. This makes the new 2009 Samsung plasma HDTVs more eco-friendly and is the main reason for achieving Energy Star 3.0 compliance without too much compromise on image brightness.
Power consumption of Samsung E-panel HDTVs is in line with corresponding NeoPDP fitted plasmas from Panasonic. It is not exactly in line with corresponding size LCDs but the power gap between the two technologies has now been greatly reduced to the point that it is become a non-issue.
FilterBright Anti-glare technology
Directly tied up with Samsung's new e-panel is the introduction of the latest anti-glare filter coating - termed FilterBright. The new formulation is extremely effective both in minimizing glare as well as preserving the deep shade of black at all ambient light levels. On the other hand, Samsung FilterBright technology does not fare well when it comes to attenuating reflections off the screen of brightly lit objects in a room. In this respect, Panasonic plasmas do a better job but then fail when it comes to maintaining the set blacks under bright lighting.
Samsung FilterBright technology comes in three different versions: entry-level FilterBright found on Series 4 and Series 5 plasma HDTVs - except for the B590; the slightly better Ultra FilterBright found on step-up 1080p Series 6 and Series 5 B590 plasma TVs; the Ultra FilterBright Plus technology used on Series 8 flagship Samsung plasma TVs.
Mega Contrast Levels
Samsung latest display panels support a dynamic contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1 for Series 4 and series 5 HDTVs and 3,000,000:1 for Series 6 and Series 8 sets.
There is no doubt that the latest mega-contrast ratings quoted by TV markers for their plasma and 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.
To discover more on this contrast number game, check our contrast ratio article here.
600Hz Subfield Motion Technology
This represents the latest hot number in plasma display technology. Samsung's 600Hz subfield motion technology results in improved motion resolution and is basically Samsung's equivalent to Panasonic 600Hz subfield drive system. However, it appears that the two implementations are not exactly the same. While the Panasonic version can achieve the full 1080 lines of motion resolution supported by the 1080p HD standard, 600Hz Samsung plasma TVs approach close to 900 lines.
This is still very good; at these levels of motion resolution, it is impossible for the eye to detect the difference between the two implementations in a side by side comparison without the use of the appropriate test patterns.
When referring to subfield plasma 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 content.
Many would tell you to ignore the 600Hz sub-field drive inasmuch as most reviewers would also tell you to ignore the 240Hz refresh rate with LCDs. There is a simple reason for this. These numbers basically mean superior motion resolution that leads to sharper images when displaying fast moving action such as during sports and gaming applications. But as further explained in our recent Series 7 Samsung LCD TV review, 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. The truth is 600Hz technology was mainly developed to help combat the other big number in LCDs - 240Hz. In other words, the manufacturer's number game continues. These 'big' numbers are mainly designed to help sell the respective product; you would not experience any significant difference in product performance between 120Hz and 240Hz LCDs, or 60Hz and 600Hz plasma TVs.
Samsung Plasma TV Lineup for 2009 ...in detail
This represents Samsung entry-level 720p plasma TV series. It comprises three models, two 42" - the PN42B430 and the PN42B450 ($679), and a 50-inch, the PN50B450 ($899).
The main difference between the B430 and the slightly more expensive B450 Samsung plasma TV sets is the presence of a more comprehensive connectivity suite on B450 HDTVs.
42-inch PN42B450 - 720p
This includes an additional HDMI port on the side for a total of three HDMI inputs, a VGA-style PC input, a headphones input and a USB port with JPEG viewing support.
Like the rest of Samsung series, apart from the innovations already referred to above, all models in this lineup also feature a Game mode which is said to enhance the picture performance by enhancing the dark areas while minimizing image processing response during gaming applications; virtual surround - labeled SRS TruSurround - to help the user experience a virtual immersive soundstage via the TV stereo speakers; a full suite of intelligent power saving options apart from the Eco picture mode which further reduces power consumption; a screen anti-burn menu apart from the default pixel shift function to help you combat image retention; and Samsung's Anynet+ which allows your TV remote to control compatible Samsung AV devices connected to your TV via HDMI using HDMI-CEC support.
50-inch PN50B560 - 1080p
Samsung Series 5 is the most popular series among the latest 2009 Samsung plasma TV line.
It just 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 represents Samsung entry-level 1080p plasma series and is the most exhaustive of all. It comprises 10 different models - starting with the basic B540 and B530 50-inch and 58-inch HDTVs, namely the PN58B530, PN50B530, PN58B540 ($2,040), and PN50B540 ($1,275).
B540 and B530 Samsung plasma TVs are identical in specs except for the cabinet color which is platinum black instead of black on the B540 series. Except for the upgraded 1080p native screen resolution, these models come with the same feature set as Series 4 B450 HDTVs, with the only difference being the missing headphones input on these Series 5 Samsung plasma TVs.
Next in line within Samsung Series 5 is the popular B550 sub-series. It comes in three screen sizes, the 50-inch PN50B550 ($1,099), the 58-inch PN58B550 ($1,899), and one of the two massive 63-inch plasmas within the 2009 Samsung lineup, the PN63B550 ($2,799). The 50-inch is the best-selling 50-inch HDTV within this year Samsung plasma TV lineup thanks to its inexpensive price. The 58-inch is also doing well in sales while the 63-inch is emerging as the most popular HDTV within the 60-inch plus category after the 60-inch LG 60PS60.
The B550 line adds Samsung ToC (touch-of-color) design with a subtle clear-to-charcoal gray accent to the set bezel. There is also a fourth HDMI input, a headphone jack, and 15W of audio power instead of the 10W found on 42 and 50-inch models for the larger 58-inch and 63-inch sets.
Further up Samsung Series 5 are the two B560 sets, the 50-inch PN50B560 ($1,199) and the 58-inch PN58B560 ($1,999).
The B560 adds the CrystalFull HD engine - Samsung's proprietary HD engine designed to provide enhanced imaging performance, and Samsung Cinema Smooth technology supporting improved playback of 24p movies from 1080p/24 sources such as Blu ray.
Top on Samsung Series 5 is the only other massive 63-inch plasma within the 2009 Samsung plasma TV line, the PN63B590 ($3,100). This adds Samsung new Ultra Filterbright anti-reflective screen coating for improved reduced glare instead of the standard antiglare FilterBright technology used on the less expensive sets.
Series 6 Samsung Plasma TV Sets
Series 6 is Samsung's 1080p premium series. It comprises two models, the popular 50-inch PN50B650 ($1,299) Samsung plasma TV and the equally popular 58-inch PN58B650 ($2,199).
This series adds Samsung interactivity suite, a slightly improved dynamic mega contrast ratio of 3,000,000:1 against the already high 2,000,000:1 found on the other series, and Samsung's Wide Color Enhancer-3 for a wider color response.
Series 6 Samsung plasma TVs do not include a headphone input as instead is the case with some Series 4 and series 5 HDTVs. But other than this, it includes the full specs list of the B590 except that the touch-of-color design on the B650 takes a subtitle red rose accent instead of the charcoal gray found on the respective Series 5 HDTVs.
For those who were put off by the prominent red color accent adopted by Samsung in its ToC design on last year models, this year Samsung has opted for a more subtle color accent - just a subtle hint of red along the top and bottom of the frame.
Samsung Interactivity Suite: As expected, the most important enhancement over cheaper models is Samsung's IPTV functionality. Termed Samsung Medi@2.0, Samsung interactivity suite of applications include 'Internet@TV' in the form of Yahoo Widgets. There is also built-in content in the form of recipes, games, workout guides, and a slideshow of high-definition art and photos with music, apart from the capability to stream music, photos and video from a networked PC.
The Yahoo 'TV widgets' are basically small web applications that allow you to access your favorite site via a built-in web browser direct on your TV simply by using the remote control. You can enjoy various types of information, such as the latest news, weather, and stock information, etc. The gathered information from the Internet is displayed in the form of a 'snippet', or a preview bar along the bottom of the screen; each can be activated to reveal its full widget. The interesting issue about these yahoo widgets is that more of them are expected to be available shortly - thus making this Internet-TV mix experience even more complete.
Plus, you get DLNA CERTIFIED™ connectivity to access your PC's personal media - downloaded music, video, and photos - and enjoy these from anywhere in the home where your TV is. Note however that you will need to install the supplied Samsung DLNA application on your PC first. Finally, USB 2.0 multimedia center lets you connect a thumb drive or a digital camera quickly and easily.
Series 6 (and Series 8) Samsung plasma TVs include a basic picture-in-picture feature. It is just a basic PIP functionality where you can only view the TV picture in a sub-window when viewing content from an external source. But it still represents an added bonus over its main competitor in that picture-in-picture functionality is totally non-existent on the 2009 Panasonic plasma lineup - including the very expensive Panasonic Z1 HDTV.
With Samsung 2009 line of HDTVs, you also get an E-manual on a USB stick which you can view direct on your TV screen.
For a detailed review of Series 6 Samsung plasma TVs, please refer to our Samsung plasma TV review article here.
Series 8 Samsung Plasma TVs
58-inch PN58B860: The inch-thin flagship Samsung plasma TV for 2009
This represents Samsung's flagship plasma line and is definitely the most interesting and yes... the most expensive Samsung plasma TV series for 2009.
Series 8 comprises four models, the B860 series 50-inch PN50B860 ($1,900) and the 58-inch PN58B860 ($2,800), and the B850 series 50-inch PN50B850 and 58-inch PN58B850 HDTVs.
Samsung Series 8 is basically Series 6 HDTVs enclosed in a thin profile. In fact, a Cnet review of the 50-inch PN50B850 shows that picture performance of the Series 8 HDTVs is basically the same as that of Series 6. The main step-up over Samsung Series 6 HDTVs is the ultra-slim 1.2-inch design against the standard 3-inch depth found on most plasma TVs. Samsung flagship HDTVs also come with an improved anti-glare filter coating, termed Ultra FilterBrightTM Plus that is capable of maintaining a higher image contrast even under very bright rooms. All other features are as those present on Series 6 HDTVs.
Interesting is that Samsung manages to achieve its almost inch-thick eye-catching design without resorting to the use of a separate AV box as instead is the case with Panasonic Z1 HDTV.
We say eye-catching because overall design is really unique. Apart from the ultra-sleek profile, Series 8 plasma TVs also come with a rather complementary slim platinum black frame around the display panel edges that is somewhat slimmer than that present on most plasmas.
Equally complementary is Samsung latest trademark, the transparent glass support column - which in the case of Series 8 plasma TVs, sits over a stainless steel metal base.
According to Samsung, both the B850 and the B860 models share exactly the same electronics inside with the only differences being that B860 models also include:
Series 8 Samsung Plasma TV - side view
 An extra picture calibration mode, termed Night/Day mode intended for professional calibration only and activated via the set service menu, and
 A manual option for 1080p/24 processing termed Cinema Smooth - as present on Series 6 Samsung plasma TVs. This allows the user to turn on or off the higher refresh rate for proper display of 24p signals - similar to the 96Hz refresh rate setting on Panasonic V10 plasma HDTVs.
This means that all four Series 8 HDTVs should deliver exactly the same picture quality. Mentioning picture quality, Samsung Series 8 HDTVs are capable of a superb picture. It is true that they lack the very deep blacks and the excellent shadow detail of Panasonic V10 plasma TVs - something that helps Panasonic V10 plasmas achieve richer and more saturated colors. But these Samsung plasma TVs still deliver a very deep shade of black that renders realistic dark and bright scenes alike. And this apart from the fact that Samsung color accuracy is almost spot on to the HD standard - significantly better than that on 2009 Panasonic plasma HDTVs.
A great picture but...
There is no doubt that Series 8 Samsung plasma TV picture quality is superb, and overall performance is among the best in their class. Yet some Samsung flagship plasmas have been reported to emit a slightly audible buzzing noise.
A soft buzzing noise is typical of all plasmas and is mainly caused by the electrical charges used to create the images on the screen. Buzzing can also result from the high frequency power drive coils used in the so called switch-mode power supply (SMPS) board used to drive the panel.
But the level of buzzing is generally quite low and inaudible from normal viewing distance especially during daytime. We have to add here that we did not hear this abnormal annoying buzzing with any of the latest Samsung plasma TVs we have played with. Nor do expert reviews appearing on Cnet and PCmag.com mention anything in their PN50B850 review about this issue. Yet a third of all respondents on the AVS forum site stated that they were bothered by the noise at their main viewing position. However, from the comments submitted, it is clear that in most cases, the viewers were sitting closer to the plasma display panel than the recommended distance for the panel size.
One needs to be aware here that there are many factors that may influence this buzzing phenomenon. Changing the picture mode from say Dynamic 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 bottom line...
Irrespective of the buzzing issue mentioned above, if you have the extra cash to spend, then these ultra-sleek inch-thin Series 8 Samsung plasma TVs represent a most interesting big screen HDTV option for your home entertainment. Both the 50-inch PN50B860 and the 58-inch PN58B860 are capable of delivering a great picture, with accurate colors, solid blacks, and excellent video processing. They also come with a superb feature set and their ultra-sleek design would surely add a unique touch to any room in your home!
For a detailed review of the B860 Samsung plasma TV, please refer to part 1 of our Panasonic V10 vs. Samsung Series 8 discussion.
...next: Series 6 Samsung Plasma HDTV Review