Last Updated: June 25, 2013
2009 Samsung Plasma TV Reviews
Samsung B650 1080p Plasma HDTVs
Extensive features, deep blacks and accurate colors
Series 6 Samsung Plasma HDTVs form part of the latest Samsung lineup for 2009. They do not come in an ultra thin package as Samsung Series 8 or Panasonic V10 and Z1 plasma HDTVs, but overall design is still extremely stylish. Nor do they feature THX display certification as some of the latest plasma TVs from Panasonic and LG, but Samsung B650 HDTVs still deliver superb picture performance with deep black, accurate colors, and clean video processing.
Picture performance is not exactly up to that of the more expensive V10 plasmas from Panasonic, but still very close. Besides, the B650 extensive feature set, numerous user-adjustable picture controls, and more than adequate connectivity, make these affordable Samsung HDTVs a great option for home entertainment.
Discover more in this Samsung plasma TV review article.
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 Series 6 1080p Samsung Plasma TV Sets
Samsung Series 6 represents Samsung 1080p premium series of plasma TVs. It comprises two models, the 50-inch PN50B650 ($1,299) and the larger 58-inch PN58B650 ($2,199).
Series 6 prices are in line with those of the Panasonic S1 plasma TVs, but the Samsung 58-inch B650 delivers more in terms of features for the price. The most significant enhancement that Samsung Series 6 delivers over Panasonic is the latest hot feature of the day, a full suite of interactivity options with Yahoo widgets.
This explains why the PN58B650 Samsung plasma TV is the most popular HDTV at this big screen size; presently it enjoys a sales rank of #49 on amazon in the electronics best-sellers category. Even more popular though - mainly because of the cheaper price - is the 50-inch PN50B650, with a sales rank of #17 among the best-sellers. But Samsung Series 6 success is not just a matter of a reasonable price only.
Rather, it strikes the right balance between features, price, and an overall picture performance to stand up against the tough competition from Panasonic. Some may complain about the B650 anti-glare coating, or rather its inability to minimize reflections in a sufficient manner under bright lighting. But this is not worst than other 'shiny-screen' HDTVs. In any case, if you want to enjoy the best picture that these Samsung plasma TVs can deliver, viewing under controlled lighting is a must, and this applies to any big screen HDTV.
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It is interesting that Series 6 Samsung plasma TVs come with the full feature set found on Samsung's inch-thin Series 8 except that the less expensive Series 6 HDTVs come in the traditional 3-inch thick package, apart from a slightly different anti-glare filter technology.
The fact that both 2009 Series 6 and Series 8 Samsung plasma TV series share the same features and picture related specification should not be taken to imply that picture quality on Series 6 and Series 8 plasma HDTVs is the same. It takes more than just a re-arrangement of the electronics inside the panel to achieve a 60% reduction in panel thickness. In other words, Series 8 warrants a separate review
Series 6 Samsung Plasma TVs - in Detail
Design: Like 2008 Samsung HDTVs, this year Series 6 Samsung plasma TVs come with Samsung's unique Touch of Color design; there is a significant different though.
The red touch on the B650 takes a subtle red rose accent instead of the more prominent red found on last year models.
Samsung seems to have become aware that the original red ToC is not for everyone and has instead scaled back considerably - with just a minimal hint of red along the top and bottom of an otherwise all-glossy black the frame.
Overall design takes a minimalistic yet stylish look.
Finished in glossy black (Samsung calls it platinum black) with a transparent plastic edge that stretches just beyond the four sides of the frame - similar to Samsung Series 7 LCDs we reviewed on our site.
Transparent is also the support stand - a see-through transparent glass column with a subtle red rose touch and clear edging - that complements the rest of the set overall panel design.
Samsung subtle red ToC design with transparent clear edging
The matching table-stand also allows the set to swivel by 20 degrees to the left or to the right. Having a swivel table-top stand is surely a welcome bonus. With the stand in place, the 50-inch Series 6 Samsung plasma TV measures approximately 48.4(W) x 11.4(D) x 32.2(H) inches; without the stand, the Samsung PN50B650 measures 48.4 x 2.9 x 29.8 inches.
Screen: Complementing the all-glossy finish is the set shiny screen - typical of plasma TVs. Samsung uses a new FilterBright anti-glare technology to help minimize glare and reflections off the screen under bright lighting. This comes in three versions; the one adopted on Series 6 Samsung plasma TVs is the Ultra FilterBright coating. This new anti-glare technology is quite effective in minimizing glare but not so effective against reflections under bright lighting.
E-Panel: As with the rest of the 2009 Samsung plasma lineup, Series 6 plasma HDTVs come with the more eco-friendly E-panel. Similar to Panasonic NeoPDP display panel, the new display from Samsung use 40% less power than standard 1080p panels for the same brightness level.
Built to last, these panels have a rated lifetime of 100,000hrs. They also support improved color saturation and the latest mega contrast ratings.
600Hz Subfield Motion Technology: As expressed in our 2009 Samsung Plasma TV product guide, 600Hz panels represent the latest hot number in plasma display technology. It results in improved motion resolution and according to Samsung, it should help deliver full 1080 HD motion for sharper, clearer images during fast action events like games and sports.
This is Samsung's equivalent to Panasonic 600Hz subfield drive system. However, unlike the Panasonic implementation, Samsung's 600Hz technology does fall a bit short of the full 1080 lines supported by the HD standard, though at the levels of motion resolution involved, performance is still exceptional. Rather, at the levels of motion resolution supported by 600Hz technology, it would be impossible for the eye to detect the difference between the two implementations with real video and broadcast content.
Interactivity Suite: Termed Medi@2.0™, Samsung interactivity options represent a whole suite of applications which include 'Internet@TV' in the form of Yahoo Widgets; there is also built-in content and the capability to stream music, photos and video from a networked PC.
Built-in content includes recipes, games, workout guides, and a slideshow of high-definition art and photos with music. To what extent this is of any use is another issue.
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. More of these Yahoo widgets are expected to be available shortly - thus making this Internet-TV mix experience more of a reality.
Plus, you also 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 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.
Picture Controls: This is one of those areas in which Samsung outdo Panasonic. These Samsung plasma TVs come with one of the most complete sets of picture settings besides the usual standard basic adjustments for contrast, brightness, sharpness, color, and tint.
As part of the usual basic picture settings, Samsung adds a cell light setting to adjust the panel brightness (at the pixel level); a proper setting here can help reduce the set running costs while still maintaining a bright enough picture.
Four adjustable picture modes are available - Dynamic, Standard, Eco, and Movie - with the Movie being the most accurate out-of-the-box picture setting. Each of these modes comes with independent memory inputs; this greatly eases optimization of picture parameters for different connected devices. The Eco mode is basically the Standard mode but with a default lower light output to reduce energy consumption.
Five selectable settings are available for color temperature; these can be further customized via the 'White Balance' menu, while additional picture adjustments are also available under the 'Advanced' menu.
These include: a Black level adjustment that affects shadow detail; a Dynamic contrast control that adjusts the picture contrast on the fly; Edge enhancement to sharpen image detail; a Flesh tone setting to enhance the pink flesh color on the screen; a seven-position gamma adjustment to control the progression from dark to light; three Color Space settings - including a custom setting - to adjust the Samsung plasma TV color gamut; three varieties of digital noise reduction, including an automatic setting; three Film modes - Off, Auto 1, and Auto 2 - to engage 2:3 pull-down and that works also with 480i and 1080i sources; there is also a Cinema Smooth setting for smooth playback of film-based content with no jerky movement when working with 24p signals from an external source over HDMI; and xvYCC Color to increase the color space when watching movies from an external compatible high definition source.
These Samsung plasma TVs also come with a Blue Only Mode setting - available under the Picture Options menu to help you adjust the color and tint to the preferred values by switching off the red and green colors. For an explanation of how to adjust the color and tint using the Blue Only Mode feature, please refer to our Samsung LED TV review.
Top in the list on these Samsung plasma HDTVs is an 'Energy Saving' mode. It comes with three presets - 'low', 'medium', and 'high' - apart from an 'off' setting. These settings mainly affect the TV brightness level to reduce the set power consumption.
Thanks to the new E-panel, these sets qualify for Energy Star 3.0 when the TV is set to the default Standard or Eco picture mode. Average energy consumption for the 50-inch set in default Standard mode is 250W; this is in line with that of equivalent 1080p Panasonic plasma TVs using the latest NeoPDP panels. Power falls to close to 150W in Eco picture mode but the already dim picture in Standard mode would become too dim for normal viewing in the Eco picture mode. Unfortunately, this is a 'trick' used by TV makers to ensure their TVs qualify for Energy Star 3.0.
Samsung also provides a basic picture-in-picture feature on Series 6 (and Series 8) plasma TVs. In view that these Samsung plasma TVs come with one tuner, you can only use the PIP feature together with an external source. Specifically, you can view TV broadcasts on the PIP screen (sub-picture) only when the main picture is from an external device connected to HDMI-1, HDMI-2/DVI, HDMI-3, HDMI-4, Component and PC. It does not work the other way round.
Samsung do provide various options to help minimize the possibility of screen burn and eliminate image retention should the latter occurs.
The default setting is a pixel shift function - which is fully user-adjustable in that you can set both the number of pixel shifts in the horizontal and vertical directions, as well as the time between shifts.
A 'Side Gray' function allows you to set the side bars along 4:3 program content to either the preferred default light gray, or dark gray.
As with the rest of the Samsung plasma TV line for 2009, Series 6 TVs also includes remedy for image retention (IR) should it occur. This comes in the form of a 'Scrolling' function that scrolls a ramp pattern along the screen to remove IR.
It is worth noting that while the use of new phosphors and pixel-shift technology has reduced the susceptibility to burn-in, yet the new brighter phosphors used on the latest greener plasma panels are more susceptible to a slight image retention especially during the first few hundred hours of use. Image retention is not the same as burn in, and unlike burn in, it is totally reversible. It would clear up completely by applying the scrolling function for a few hours.
The reviewed Samsung plasma TV model exhibited a little bit more susceptibility to IR than corresponding 2009 Panasonic plasmas reviewed on our site. It was only a slight presence of image retention and became visible as the screen faded to black after displaying relatively bright still images for approximately 45 minutes. The scrolling function did clear up the whole issue completely. We expect IR to become less of an issue after the first few hundred hours of use.
Talking of image retention and burn-in, it is important to realize that you can do a lot to help protect your plasma TV investment by simply keeping the brightness and contrast levels down, especially during the first 200 hours of use.
Like the menu system, the backlit remote control is almost the same as that of 2008 models except that Samsung has now removed the rotating scroll wheel used on 2008 versions. This is a great remote; it comes with big bottoms that are easily identified by their shape and size even in a darkened environment.
Some may complain that the Samsung B650 remote do not come with a hot key to enable users access the Game mode directly as instead is the case with Panasonic.
However, you will find a dedicated 'Tools' button on the remote to get direct access to frequently used functions, such as the E-manual, sound, video controls and timer.
As with most HDTVs within this category, B650 Samsung plasma TVs offer a complete suite of connectivity options complemented by four HDMI ver. 1.3 inputs with CEC support - three on the rear and one on the side - labeled 1 to 4 with HDMI 2 being used also as a DVI input.
There is no built-in wireless connectivity but you can add wireless support for under $60 through Samsung USB Wireless Adaptor (WIS09ABGN) - supporting up to 802.11n.
Unfortunate, as with some of the latest 2009 flat panel TVs, there is no S-video input; this may be a bit limiting for some.
All Samsung 2009 plasma TVs come with down-firing speakers; these are mainly responsible for the rather compact package of the latest Samsung plasma TVs; total audio power on the B650 Samsung plasma TVs is 10W per channel. You also get SRS TruSurround HD to enjoy a virtual immersive soundstage over the set stereo speakers.
Sound quality on the latest Samsung flat-panel TVs is not bad but it does not match the very good picture quality of the latest HDTVs. It does not deteriorate with an increase in sound volume as is often the case with most flat-panel TVs but down-firing speakers carry a disadvantage over front-facing ones when it comes to sound quality. If you want to enjoy these Samsung plasma TVs at their best, a proper surround sound setup is necessary.
Series 6 Samsung Plasma TVs Performance Analysis
No doubt, Samsung PNB650 Series HDTVs are among the best plasma TVs we have ever come across - relatively affordable, very good picture performance especially under bright lighting, and hardly any flaws to complain about. It is therefore no surprise that the majority of customers leaving feedback at amazon were extremely happy with their purchase. But nothing is perfect...
Black Levels and Color Accuracy: Overall, these sets have solid blacks with good shadow detail and accurate colors. But they lack the deep blacks of Panasonic 2009 plasma TVs. However, in their B850 Samsung plasma TV review, Cnet pointed out that the blacks on the B650 plasma HDTV are a bit darker than those on the B850, although overall picture performance of the high-end Samsung plasma is then better.
Black level performance is an important picture quality parameter as it helps render scenes better at all brightness levels while making colors look richer and more saturated. This is also the primary reason why both Panasonic and Samsung plasma TVs are capable of excellent overall picture performance.
However, while Panasonic delivers better blacks - with a color of black that remains true even in very dark areas, Samsung plasma TVs deliver better overall color accuracy. Cnet in their PN50B650 review noted that both primary and secondary colors are almost spot-on to the HD standard. Colors are rich while saturation is superb. Color decoding on these Samsung HDTVs is excellent with colors that look more natural than on corresponding Panasonic plasma TVs.
Screen Performance: Overall, Samsung 'Ultra-FilterBright' anti-glare technology does a very good job in maintaining blacks and color saturation even under brightly lit environments. In particular, B650 Samsung plasma TVs are capable of maintaining a dark shade of black under bright lighting better than Panasonic G10 and V10 plasma HDTVs.
Video Processing: Processing is relatively clean, free from noise and video artifacts. Series 6 Samsung plasma TVs can also de-interlace 1080i film- and video-based material correctly - achieving full 1080 lines in still resolution tests. In addition, these Samsung plasma TV sets handle 24p material properly when activating Samsung Cinema Smooth function.
Standard definition content looks good on the PNB650 - producing sharp images without any jagged diagonals while resolving every line in the DVD format.
PC Picture Performance: B650 Samsung plasma TVs can very well serve as big PC monitors especially when feed via one of the HDMI inputs - delivering crisp clear text and graphics. The VGA-type analog PC input on the B650 HDTVs can also display a good PC image but the image is not as sharp as when fed via one of the HDMI ports.
Reflections may be an issue under bright lighting. And when it comes to the overall picture performance, top plasmas from Panasonic deliver a deeper shade of black than Series 6 Samsung plasma TVs. Equally irritating can be the rather slow response time of Samsung interactivity suite. These are not the prefect TVs but...
Deep blacks, accurate natural looking colors, good shadow detail, solid image uniformity, solid connectivity, network streaming with DLNA support and Yahoo Widgets/Internet TV access, and an extensive feature set complemented by the latest 600Hz subfield technology, are just but a few of the many pros that characterize B650 Samsung plasma TVs.
You would not get THX display certification but picture quality is still superb. If you like to play around with picture settings, you get one of the most extensive sets of user-adjustable picture controls that would surely enable you to zero in on the best picture for your liking. And if these controls are a bit too confusing, you may always opt to select one of the automatic picture settings. In particular, the 'Movie' mode on Series 6 Samsung plasma TVs delivers a pretty accurate out-of-the-box picture setting.
As if to complement this extensive feature set, B650 plasma TVs also come packed in a stylish yet minimalistic design!
The bottom line: Series 6 Samsung plasma TVs are relatively affordable for their extensive feature set, and despite that they do not provide an exact match to Panasonic V10 plasmas, Samsung PNB650 HDTVs still provide a solid overall picture and one of the best overall performance-feature-price deals.