Review: Samsung F8500 (plasma)

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Samsung’s latest high-end plasma TV is the F8500. With it Samsung hopes to challenge Panasonic for the plasma crown through a series of picture improvements. F8500 also incorporates Samsung’s new Smart TV platform, including TV apps and the voice and gesture controls.

Does Samsung have a real challenger to the Panasonic VT60 that we recently awarded with our Reference Award? Is Samsung’s F8500 that good? We will find out in our full review.

We have the 64 inch version. F8500 exists in 51, 60 & 64” in USA called PN51F8500, PN60F8500, and PN64F8500. It exists in 51 and 64” in Europe, called PS51F8500 and PS64F8500.

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Size: 64" widescreen
Resolution: 1920x1080
Response time: -
Contrast ratio: -
Brightness: -
Viewing angles (H/V): Angle Free
Panel type: Plasma TV
Wall mounting:
Swivel stand:
Dimensions (HxWxD): 87.7cm x 148.3cm x 5.5cm (without stand)
Weight 32.8 kg
Built-in speakers:
Inputs
VGA
DVI (but possible to convert through HDMI)
Audio (type) (Audio in/out)
Component
HDMI (4 inputs, 1 HDMI 1.4)
Outputs
Audio (type) (1 output, headphones)
S/PDIF (optical)
Other

Price and retailer:

US retailerUK retailer


Our first impressions

We have the 64-inch version of F8500 – and it is huge. It certainly makes the 55-inch LEDs standing next to it in our testing room appear tiny. The TV panel is obviously much larger but the bezel is also wider, even though Samsung has managed to reduce it compared to previous top plasmas.

Samsung F8500 review
Samsung F8500 review


The base is a curved metal bar and it actually looks better in real life than on press photos. It feels solid, balanced and it offers great support for the relatively heavy TV. However, the construction does not allow for a swivel function so you have to do without.

Samsung F8500 review
Samsung F8500 review


Input and output connectors are found on the back and point either down or to the side. Unfortunately, Samsung has not yet found a solution for the power connection, which still points backwards. A power cable with a 90-degree house is bundled in the box.

Samsung F8500 review
Samsung F8500 review


On top of the TV there is a camera. It can be hidden behind the TV whenever it is not in use. You have to manually pop it up when you want to engage in for example Skype calls.

Just like Panasonic’s plasma TVs, Samsung F8500 suffers from buzzing. It is audible even from a typical viewing distance; or at least it was on our sample. That is a shame. We know that it can vary from different sets of the TV so chime in and let us hear if you have buzzing on your model.

Test tools

Our TV signal is DVB-S (satellite) from Canal Digital and DVB-T (terrestrial). Testing is done with the DVE (digital video essentials) and Peter Finzel test DVD. Testing is also done via Blu-Ray and Media center/PC.

We use our own monitorTest. The software supports some of the traditional test patterns used to evaluate displays as well as some new and unique test patterns developed by the people here at FlatpanelsHD.

Sony PlayStation 3 is our Blu-Ray player.

All contrast measurements are based on the ANSI methodology.

Functionality

Samsung F8500 comes bundled with two remotes; the same ones as those bundled with Samsung’s LED models. The first one is a small silver remote with a large touch pad in the center. Samsung seems to have implemented its plastic-that-looks-like-other-materials-strategy from smartphones. The back of the remote is made to look like carbon fiber but it is just plastic. The front and the buttons are made to look like metal but for the most part it is plastic, too.

Samsung F8500 review
Samsung F8500 review


That said the remote control is actually quite good for controlling the Smart TV features. It has become much easier to navigate the menus and the few buttons found on the remote are adequate in most cases. The touch pad has some clever tricks such as the ability to scroll in lists and on web pages when swiping the right side.

Samsung F8500 review
Samsung F8500 review


Samsung has also included this backup remote. It is a small plastic thing with a myriad of buttons that seems to do everything - except making it easy to control and navigate the increasingly advanced features of the TV. This remote belongs in the analog days but Samsung seems to think that some buyers still need it.

Besides that, Samsung F8500 has the same Smart TV platform, quad-core processor, voice and gesture controls and the Smart Evolution Kit that allows you to upgrade the Smart TV platform each year until 2016, as the F8000 LED model. We went through everything in detail in our F8000 LED review so we suggest you read that review and jump to Functionality section to learn much more.

Energy

Compare power consumption measurements on different TVs and monitors with our interactive power consumption applet here.


Standby 0.9 W 0.9 W
SD+HD 273 W 310 W
3D 460 W 420 W (Movie)


Power consumption after calibration comes in at 310 W on average. This is a bit lower than on last year’s E8000 plasma TV but still quite high for a modern TV.

Power consumption during 3D use is very heavy, a bit disturbing actually. It peaked at over 600 W and averaged around the mid-400s in the Standard as well as the Movie mode. So… plant some trees if you want to watch a lot of 3D on this mammoth TV.

Stand-by usage is 0.9 W when the wake-on-WiFi feature that allows you to turn on the TV form a smartphone is enabled.

Calibration on Samsung F8500

Below you see an out-of-box measurement in the Standard mode without the light sensor activated.

Samsung F8500 review


The graph says this:

Right graph: The number on the left is the delta value. Delta is a difference between two; here it’s the difference between the measured color on the panel and the desired color.

  • A delta value higher than 2 means that a human eye can perceive a slight visible deviation from the actual color.
  • A delta value over 4 or 5 results in visibly wrong colors.
  • A delta value between 1 and 2 means that colors it is very hard to perceive a visual deviations in colors.
  • A delta value lower than 1 is basically perfect color accuracy. Our target value is 0.
  • Everything between 0 and 1 is barely visible to the human eye.

  • Color us surprised. The Standard profile is actually quite good. Color deviations are lower than what we typically see from out-of-box picture settings and although the overall color balance is pushed a bit towards the bluish – because of the too high color temperature at 8306 Kelvin –pictures actually looks fairly good due to the low color deviations.

    There is a bit of artificial sharpening, too, but not much. Great to see, Samsung.

    We switched to the Movie profile and took a new measurement.

    Samsung F8500 review


    The Movie profile has the same very positive characteristics. Color accuracy is great and the color temperature is now very close to our 6500 Kelvin target. Brightness is also fairly high for a plasma TV; something we think will please a lot of users, especially those looking to invest in a living room TV. Still, it is a bit weird to see a higher brightness level for the Movie profile, which is often calibrated for darkroom viewing, as opposed to the Standard profile.

    There is not much left to say than to praise Samsung for its efforts with F8500. It is so great to see TV manufacturers putting effort into the built-in color profiles. It makes our job of testing TVs easier and benefits the consumer. Also, we don’t have to complain so much, which surely makes us seem less grumpy. We aren’t by the way. We are nice people, really.

    We calibrated F8500. Here is what we got.

    Samsung F8500 review


    After calibration we managed to improve things only slightly. As explained in other reviews we do not take advantage of the most advanced color settings, as these cannot be shared between devices so it would make no sense to include them in our suggested calibrated settings.

    As you can see the color performance is improved slightly over the Movie profile that gave us an excellent starting point. We now have the correct color temperature and brightness remains fairly high.

    Below are our calibrated settings.


    Picture preset: Movie
    Cell light 18
    Contrast 95
    Brightness: 45
    Sharpness: 0
    Color: 50
    Tint: G50/G50
    Picture size: Screen Fit
    Dynamic Contrast Off
    Black Tone Off
    Flesh Tone 0
    Color space Auto
    Gamma 0
    Color tone Warm2
    Digital Clean View Off
    MPEG noise filter Off
    HDMI Black level Low
    Motion Judder Canceller Off
    Black Optimiser Dark Room
    R-Offset 24
    G-Offset 25
    B-Offset 26
    R-Gain 23
    G-Gain 22
    B-Gain 27


    Picture quality on Samsung F8500

    In this section we go through picture quality with the calibrated settings.

    Samsung F8500 is a plasma TV, obviously, and consists of glass layers. Samsung has tried hard to reduce reflections in its plasma TVs over the years and it shows on F8500. It still suffers from reflections, sure, and colors get a bit faded in brightly lit rooms but Samsung’s filter is quite effective in screening of light coming from top – and bottom. Jump to the viewing angles section for a bit more on the subject.

    Samsung F8500 review
    Samsung F8500 review


    Another contributing factor is that Samsung F8500 can actually output a higher brightness than most other plasma TVs, including Panasonic’s plasma TVs such as the Panasonic VT60. The higher brightness helps reduce color washout during daytime and makes F8500 a better fit for brightly lit living rooms. It is not as bright as LED models but it is getting closer.

    Samsung F8500 review
    Samsung F8500 review


    Color gradation is great and we only saw mild bands in our color gradient tests. Because plasma TVs still utilize pixel dithering to render some specific colors, color banding can occur on plasma TVs. That is also true for Samsung F8500 but during movies and games we found that it rarely shows. Color performance on F8500 is impressive and on par with Panasonic’s plasma TVs. We think that even discerning users will find themselves satisfied.

    Samsung F8500 review
    Samsung F8500 review


    One of the plasma technologies’ strengths has always been its natural reproduction of low-resolution content, such as TV channels in SD resolution and DVDs. LED/LCD TVs have often had a tendency to reproduce either softer SD or too digital-looking pictures. Samsung F8500 acts just as we expected and gave us great SD picture quality during daytime and nighttime viewing. The high brightness also made pictures appear less dull and more intense during daytime and in this regard F8500 outperforms Panasonic’s plasma TVs that are incapable of reproducing the same high brightness level.

    Samsung F8500 review
    Samsung F8500 review


    HD pictures naturally look more detailed and impressive. The detail level is high, even during fast motion where F8500 maintains details better than LED/LCD TVs. We also noticed that black depth is quite impressive, which, combined with the high brightness, adds vividness to colors and pictures in general. HD picture quality is especially impressive on the 64-inch version that we tested, which really highlights the virtues of HD resolution. Still, we wonder if 4K is required to truly take advantage of such a big TV – especially since we had the Sony X9 running next to Samsung’s TV. More on that in the upcoming Sony X9 review.

    Let us instead compare F8500 to Panasonic’s VT60 that we recently reviewed and gave our Reference Award. The most obvious difference between the two is the higher brightness on F8500. Black depth is amazing on both TVs and Samsung’s F8500 has fairly impressive color reproduction, although with some minor color banding issues. Despite those things we still feel that the VT60 has the edge, with less dithering noise and slightly better picture detailing. But we also have to say that the TVs are very close indeed. It is pretty amazing that Samsung has gotten this far in recent years, to pretty much match Panasonic’s plasma TVs after lacking far behind in the past.

    Motion reproduction on F8500 is excellent. We saw no significant blurring on fast motion (except for blurring introduced during movie production etc.) and we only saw minimal phosphor trailing. Phosphor trailing was visible at times during gaming if we searched for it, but we obviously have trained eyes and we suspect that most users will be more than satisfied by its performance. Overall, motion performance deserves praise, and F8500 is an excellent TV for sports and fast-paced action movies.

    Samsung F8500 review
    Samsung F8500 review


    Input lag varies a lot depending on settings. In the Standard profile we felt that input lag made it impossible to navigate a mouse on a PC desktop. Luckily, many of these picture “enhancement” systems can be turned off and Samsung also offers a Game mode (and a PC mode that is better, so use that). After we changed a few settings we measured input lag to 38-45 ms, which is not impressive for a plasma TV. We had expected better and console gamers should consider Panasonic’s TVs to get optimal performance.

    After hours of PC use, movie watching and gaming we registered no significant retention (only a hint at times). Samsung has had issues in the past so it is great to see that Samsung is now able to control the problems – at least to some extent. If we were to compare it with Panasonic VT60 we would probably put them roughly on par. We might have spotted a bit more retention on Samsung’s TV but we are not sure, really. Samsung F8500 is not retention-free but we did not find much to worry about. Share with us your findings if you are an owner!

    Below we have measured black depth and contrast.

    Black level 0.00 cd/m2 0.00 cd/m2
    Brightness 142 cd/m2 188 cd/m2
    Contrast ratio - -
    Contrast ratio +/- 50


    After calibration we got a 0.00 cd/m2 reading from our testing equipment, which means that black is so deep that it cannot be measured (with our equipment). We did some theoretical testing to confirm just how deep black is on Samsung F8500 and it is close to perfect. We saw the same result on Panasonic ST60 and Panasonic VT60, so we are obviously very pleased to find similar performance from Samsung. Deep black is very important on a TV as it adds intensity and vividness to pictures, especially during dark scenes. Amazing.

    Samsung F8500 review
    Samsung F8500 review


    Shadow detailing suffers from the same pixel dithering that some dark colors do. It is not uncommon for plasma TVs and in fact we saw the same on Panasonic’s plasmas. Still, F8500 does a good job of distinguishing most grey tones, which is important.

    We found no bleeding or floating black issues, which was not expected either. Black is as close to 100 % black as we can get and there problems of any kind on F8500.

    3D picture quality on Samsung F8500

    Two 3D technologies exist. To learn more about the differences between active 3D and passive 3D see this article.

    Samsung F8500 uses the active 3D system. Besides our usual complaints about flickering 3D glasses and eye fatigue we have to add one to the list with F8500. Unfortunately, F8500 introduces quite a lot of pixel flicker during 3D. Plasma TVs have always used pixel dithering – often perceived as flicker – to reproduce some colors and with 3D it becomes more apparent. On the 64-inch F8500 we think it is too apparent – even from a typical viewing distance.

    Samsung F8500 review
    Samsung F8500 review


    One could talk about pixels becoming too large on a 64-inch Full HD TV or the need to implement better dithering systems in plasma TVs, but the fact right now is just that you have to sit relatively far away from the F8500 TV to fully enjoy 3D, which is a letdown. Besides that, we did not notice major problems. There is still some crosstalk but it is only visible in very high-contrast scenes. Motion during 3D stutters a bit but that is mainly because 3D movies are shot in too low frame rates. Colors are clearly overboosted in the 3D Standard mode but in the Movie move color accuracy is acceptable.

    Samsung F8500 review
    Samsung F8500 review


    All in all, we believe that Panasonic’s latest plasma TVs are better 3D TVs, and if 3D is important to you our guess is that you will find yourself more satisfied with the Panasonic VT60.

    PC and Media Center

    In order to achieve 1:1 pixel mapping you need to select the aspect ratio called “Screen fit" in the TV settings.

    Viewing angles

    As on most plasma TVs colors and contrast maintain intensity even from extreme angles – at least horizontally. Plasma TVs do not have inherent viewing angles issues similar to LCD/LED models, simply because the picture is created on phosphor layers instead of inside liquid crystal cells on LCD/LED models.

    However, Samsung F8500 has very limited vertical viewing angles; not only from the top but also from the bottom. This is the case because Samsung has implemented an anti-reflective filter that screens light coming from the ceiling; and now also the floor. It reduces reflections and it helps to maintain color intensity in brightly lit viewing environments but it also means that you have to sit pretty much at level with the TV. If you stand up, the picture will become darker and if you lie down on the floor the top of the picture will – again - appear darker. It is not a big issue but it rules out some use cases such as children sitting on the floor close to the TV.

    Samsung F8500 review
    Samsung F8500 review


    Samsung F8500 review
    Samsung F8500 review


    Sound quality

    A 64-inch TV cabinet has more room for speakers than average TVs, so Samsung has implemented a slightly more powerful sound system. Sound is not good but acceptable and the stereo perspective comes forward a bit better than on much smaller TVs.

    Bass and mid-tones are acceptable, too, but you will obviously not achieve anything that resembles a real stereo speaker experience.

    For movies, games and music we recommend separate speakers.

    Conclusion

    F8500 offers all of Samsung’s Smart TV features, including the questionable implementation of voice and gesture controls that we find very gimmicky. Samsung’s 2013 Smart TV platform has improved a lot, including some apps, but the overall user experience still needs work and Samsung has to implement stricter requirements for app developers to, for example, use the standard keyboard so search fields can receive text input via a smartphone or tablet. The ability to stream to and from smartphones and tablets is great but there is so much more potential in there, and we hope to see it unleashed soon. The Smart TV platform in F8500 remains a nice-to-have feature but the fact that game consoles or extremely cheap boxes such as the Roku or Apple TV offer far more is a bit saddening (or uplifting, depending on which company you represent).

    When it comes to picture quality, Samsung F8500 is a positive surprise – again. Samsung has made significant improvements to its plasma TVs in recent years and after many years of standing in the shadow of Panasonic, Samsung has finally stepped out and pretty much matches picture quality of Panasonic’s high-end plasma TVs. F8500 has amazing black levels, great color reproduction, great motion reproduction and far higher brightness than most plasma TVs today. The higher brightness is one of the clear advantages over Panasonic’s VT60 and makes Samsung F8500 better suited for brightly lit living rooms. Despite that, we still believe that Panasonic VT60 has the edge.

    All in all, Samsung F8500 is a great plasma TV and one of the best TVs on the market right now. Some of the classic plasma problems remain and F8500 is more expensive than previous plasma TVs from Samsung, but F8500 is still an amazing TV that definitely deserves our Highly Recommended Award.


    Press the award logo to learn more.


    Price and retailer:

    US retailerUK retailer


    Great picture quality Plasma dithering noise Living room
    Amazing black depth Mild color banding Home Cinema
    Smart TV noticeably faster Still many small issues with Smart TV platform
    Good pre-defined color profiles Very high power consumption
    Slimmer bezel than previous plasma TVs Buzzing not eliminated
    Motion reproduction Input lag a bit too high



    Samsung F8500 debate

    For questions and comments please visits this thread in our forums: Samsung F8500 debate



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