Samsung E6500 (PS60E6500) 3D Plasma TV Review
Last year's Samsung 6 Series plasma was incredible value. Can the E6500 do the same or even better?
IntroductionHaving recently got our hands on Samsung’s flagship plasma TV for 2012, the, PS51E8000, we were left impressed but, at the same time, with a feeling the Korean’s hadn’t really taken their plasma displays on very much since last year. Not that we’re saying anything was wrong with the 2011 tech, more that we were sensing that PDP is becoming something of the neglected sibling in the Samsung display line-up, which comprises every technology available today. Plasma TVs just aren’t the fashion for the mainstream, despite their obvious merits.
What can the Samsung PS60E6500 do to change that? Probably not a lot is the most likely answer but at a suggested retail price of under £1,900 it has the potential to deliver truly large screen viewing at an extremely reasonable price-point. Given the heritage of the E65000, and the fact that Samsung plasma TVs tend to deliver higher contrast pictures the larger the screen gets, we’re expecting good things do actually come in large packages too!
Design and ConnectionsThin charcoal grey bezel, transparent strip around the outside and swivelling rectangular base-stand. You’ve all seen the classic Samsung TV design before and the E6500 is the epitome of that. We have absolutely no problem with it and we doubt many will. It won’t wow friends and family, other than with its imposing size, but who really cares? OK, we accept that for some design is a major consideration, so the fashion conscious may not be best served with this second tier offering.
The Samsung E6500 plasma is just under 6cm - at its deepest - making wall mounting a possibility as 2 of the HDMI inputs are side-facing. We were disappointed that the lowly 3 HDMI port allocation had carried down from the E8000 but not really surprised. Also on the side connections panel are 2 USB port and a CAM interface. There are proper (non-adapter) input for Scart, Composite and Component video sources to the rear, together with the remaining HDMI port; a S/PDIF digital audio out; L/R audio jacks, a LAN port and the Satellite and Aerial connection terminals.
The remote control is a replica of what we saw with the ES5500 LED TV and is a slimmed down iteration of those of recent years. We were pleased to note the aspect ratio button (P.Size) button is retained as it was missing in the Flagship TVs versions, although it means the lower tiered model gets no backlight. Overall, it’s a highly effective design with button lay-out sensibly deployed and is comfortably operated with just the one hand.
MenusThe Menu system is divided in to 6 sub-menus - Picture, Sound, Channel, Network, System and Support. The Picture Menu houses the usual extensive set of options to look at although the ‘first page’ is fairly basic and unthreatening to novice users. Here we have the standard Contrast, Brightness, Colour, Sharpness, Tint controls as well as the Screen Adjustment (set to Screen Fit for HD sources) and Cell Light options. The cell light acts over and above the Contrast control and is effectively like the Backlight controls found in a LED/LCD TV, as it raises panel luminance rather than having direct governance over white levels. Moving down the page and we have the 3D controls, Advanced Settings and Picture Options.
The 3D Menu allows the user to choose the 3D Mode (2D to 3D, Side by Side, Top and Bottom etc.), the 3D Perspective (which adjusts the 3D perspective), Depth which only affects the 2D to 3D mode, L/R Change which swaps the images for each eye and 3D-2D which shows 3D content in 2D.
Under the Advanced Settings we have Black Tone which allows you to change the brightness level and is best left off; Dynamic Contrast that we’ll look at later on; a global Gamma control that we may need during calibration; Skin Tone, possibly ditto, but hopefully the Colour Management System (CMS) should render it redundant; Expert Pattern which provides a series of test patterns on the built-in tuners and RGB Only Mode which allows you to see each of the three primary colours individually and is a useful for checking correct colour decoding. Also within Advanced Settings is an option called Colour Space which gives you a choice between Auto, Native and Custom; if you choose custom you have access to the CMS which should allow for accurate calibration of the colour gamut. There is also a choice of a two point White Balance control or a ten point White Balance control which will should for very accurate calibration of Greyscale.
Within Picture Options there is Colour Tone (really colour temperature) which gives you a choice of Cool, Normal, Warm1 and Warm2 and a Digital Noise Filter control (3D noise reduction filter) which will reduce analogue background noise. There is a MPEG Noise Filter, a HDMI Black Level control that we left set to Normal and a Film Mode option that has two choices - Auto1 and Auto2 and will be discussed in the Picture Processing section. As with most TVs from the major manufacturers this year, Samsung has included a built-in eManual for users to learn the various functions and features of the TV and it works very well indeed.
Test ResultsWith just a few simple adjustments, we were quickly able to make great improvements. Simply by selecting the Movie Picture mode and setting Contrast and Brightness to match our viewing environment, using the appropriate patterns. Our greyscale is still far from perfect, with the biggest problem being an excess of green, near white, but at least Delta Errors are now still within the scale and gamma tracking is much closer to our 2.2 target, chosen for a moderately lit room. In a batcave style environment the E6500 is capable of hitting around 2.35 without compromising shadow detail, unlike many LED/LCD’s we get to test. With both 2 and 10 point White Balance controls available, we should be able to iron out the greyscale to our liking. The same goes for the colour gamut too, as Samsung’s Colour Management System is amongst the best available in a consumer TV. That said, reproduction has been greatly improved by simply switching picture mode.
As expected we were able to get our greyscale tracking ruler-flat with the excellent controls although they weren’t quite enough to do the same for the gamma tracking; not that we’re really complaining as it is perfectly acceptable as it is. Delta Errors are at negligible levels and certainly well below the ‘safe’ level of 3, where the human eye can’t distinguish any disharmony to the achromaticity.
As with the greyscale, colour reproduction is near flawless at typical picture brightness with just a slight under-saturation of red noticeable; but only to the very trained eye. Now that the Calman calibration software is able to easily display readings for multiple saturation points graphically, we can see from the chart below that red is actually over-saturating in its paler guises. Using some reference material we could see that white flesh tones were just a little baked and necessitated a dial back on the Colour control by a click to balance the picture.Having been just a touch underwhelmed by the lack of improvements displayed by the 51 inch E8000 in this area so we were very pleased to note the obvious improvements to black levels, and that was before taking out the Klein K-10 to back up our ‘by-eye’ observations. First we took the (slightly less useful) On/Off contrast measurement by taking measurements from a full black pattern against a 100% white screen, which gave us the numbers of 0.028 cd/m2 and 104 cd/m2, respectively, for an On/Off contrast ratio of 3714:1. The black level measurement is almost exactly half of that of the flagship E8000 and it shows with pictures providing a fair bit more depth, when the lights are really low in the room.
As we mentioned in the introduction, it’s typical of Samsung plasma TVs to have deeper blacks in the larger screen sizes but the performance here is something of an unexpected surprise. Moving on to the more realistic ANSI checkerboard test which gives a better sense of the intra-frame contrast, and the numbers to note are for the white portions of the pattern. Creditably the E6500 is able to hang on to its blacks very well but is unable to deliver the same levels of luminance, managing only just over 90 cd/m2 at best. In fact, looking at the same chart in Steve’s recent Panasonic VT65 review we can see the white level numbers are extremely similar which backs up our view that there’s not much between the two plasma manufacturers for picture brightness with real world material in their most accurate picture modes. Still with an ANSI contrast of 3000:1, the Samsung PS60E6500 is no slouch.
The 60E6500 picked up where the 51E8000 left off with some very fine picture processing for a consumer TV. As usual, we began with the SMPTE 133 pattern with the E6500 scaling the full 576i image without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The 6500 also performed very capably when it came to video deinterlacing, with jaggies only appearing when the line was at a very acute angle in the first test of the HQV disc. In the second test the motion adaptive deinterlacing was also excellent with only very slight jaggies appearing on the bottom most extreme of the three moving bars. As is usual with the Samsung displays, it failed the test displaying film material with scrolling video text when Film Mode was set to Auto1 but passed when it was set to Auto2- which does promise to handle both video and film, where Auto1 is more a specialist film material setting. In the cadence tests the E6500 correctly detected both the 2:2 (PAL - European) and 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) tests and a few more obscure ones, besides.
With the HQV Blu-ray benchmark disc the Samsung PS60E6500 also performed very well. With our Blu-ray player set to 1080i the E6500 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests (provided the Picture Size is set to Screen Fit). The Samsung also showed a fast response to changes in cadence as well as excellent scaling and filtering and good resolution enhancement. The display had no problems handling 24p material either when Cinema Smooth was engaged which multiplies the 24 frames to 96 via 4:4 pulldown technique.
Moving on to the Spears and Munsil test disc and the Dynamic Range High test that showed the TV as having excellent headroom performance from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) with absolutely no signs of clipping, even with Contrast and Cell Light set very high. The disc also has a pattern allowing you to check the black and white dynamic range with the E6500 able to display all the darker shades simultaneously with peak white.
The Samsung E6500 proved a slightly more responsive gaming TV than the E8000 showing a latency to controller input of around 38 milliseconds in Game Mode, which is selected from the General area of the Setup menu. The renaming of an HDMI input to PC made no difference. We’ve only seen one TV dip under the 30 millisecond barrier which puts the E6500 toward the top-tier of the 2012 TV ranges.
- Standby: 0.0W
- Out of the Box – Standard Mode: 225W
- Calibrated – Movie Mode: 226W
- 3D – Movie Mode: 301W
Picture Quality - 2DRight from the off we could sense the E6500 was possessed of greater contrast performance than the smaller, flagship E8000 which really paid dividends when room lighting was very low. Subjectively, the filter in the E8000 was a little better which pegs back the advantage in most lighting conditions but the difference is fairly substantial in ideal viewing conditions. Combined with the fantastic calibrated results, the E6500 delivered some of the best pictures we’ve seen this year, with its superb fluidity in motion handling and top-notch video processing.
Like the E8000, the biggest flaw was with ‘brightness pops’, where image luminance will raise and lower at fairly frequent points, which can be distracting. Floating blacks are again present but the steps Samsung have taken to control luminance stability, down low, have certainly moved things on from last year and only the most sensitive of people to this phenomenon are likely to notice. Unfortunately we count ourselves amongst the very sensitive but it rarely troubled us in the way it was handled by the E6500. There’s no doubt the generous 60 inch screen is a contributory factor to the immersion factor but the E6500 is almost all we could have asked for, especially at this price level.
Picture Quality - 3DSamsung has improved the foundations of the 2011 plasmas and 3D images were pleasingly bright and engaging. Sitting through (another) 3D presentation of Avatar and we had no complaints. Happy Feet 2, our real world crosstalk torture test, did reveal a touch of crosstalk with its many high contrast scenes but that’s pretty much par for the course with almost every 3D display we’ve clapped eyes on this year. There were no issues with 50Hz Side by Side (SBS) content, our broadcast standard, and we were able to sit through all our (extensive) viewing of the 3D Olympic coverage. Our resolution tests showed the E6500 was producing the full 1920 x 1080 resolution and it was only the supplied SSG-4100 3D glasses that scuppered our enjoyment any. For the flicker sensitive, they simply don’t shut out enough ambient light and the fact we had a pair of compatible Panasonic RF glasses to hand was a real boon.
FeaturesBar the lack of dual core processing, a built-in camera and voice and motion controls, the Samsung PS60E6500 packs in all the same features as the flagship ES8000 LED and E8000 plasma TVs with the Smart Hub taking centre stage. The Hub is dripping with apps, video on demand content, media sharing possibilities and key ‘regular’ features allowing it to become the command centre for all your TV activities – which is exactly how Samsung hope you will treat it.
The Smart Hub features a good degree of customisability, with the ability to create personalised folders to put content in to, thus avoiding the hub looking cluttered. Top middle of the Hub is the 'Your Video' section that works on a recommendation engine basis, where your viewing habits are tracked and suggestions based on genre, subject matter, director, actor/actress are made for your further viewing. The engine will search material from the various VoD services, including iPlayer and YouTube too. Habits are tracked from EPG selections, searched for material through the Smart Hub and recordings scheduled using the PVR functions as the E6500 also has the ability to make recordings to external storage via USB with them also available through the Smart Hub.
To add to the near omnipresence of iPlayer and YouTube, there are also VoD services from Netlfix, LoveFilm and more. Samsung’s free 3D streaming service, Explore 3D has quite a lot of decent content. Newly added are the ITV Player and BBC Sport App which, throughout the Olympics alone, delivered over 2,500 hours of content with up to 24 simultaneous events including audio options, and medal tables. We must say that we hammered this feature during London 2012 and it was an absolute triumph for the Beeb which can only reflect back well on Samsung, as a partner.
In terms of non-VoD apps, Samsung still leads the pack in the variety, and number it has on offer. Social networkers are taken care of with dedicated Facebook and Twitter apps as well as the Social TV feature that allows you to enjoy programming with your friends even when you’re not with them, via a chat tab down the right hand side of the screen. They will, of course, have to have a compatible Samsung product to do so.
The PS60E6500 will act as an accomplished media player and we had no problems with anything we threw at it using a variety of media servers – PS3 Media Center/Servio/WMP and Samsung’s own, Smartshare software. Owners of mobile devices – either iOS or Android - can benefit from an App that turns it into a remote control that works through your Wi-Fi home network and those with Galaxy Tabs are able to even stream content from the TV to the tablet using the Smart Share app. To be honest, we weren’t very impressed with the Android remote control app as it’s badly sized for anything other than a tablet.
- Fantastic black Levels
- Excellent contrast
- Extremely accurate images - post Calibration
- More than competent video processing
- Impressive 3D performance
- Motion handling is sublime
- Market leading smart features
- Only 3 HDMI ports
- 3D Glasses don't block out enough ambient light
- Brightness pops and floating blacks
Samsung E6500 (PS60E6500) 3D Plasma TV Review
We’ve always been fond of the classic Samsung TV design, so the PS60E6500’s charcoal grey bezel with transparent strip surrounding was not an unwelcome sight; nor was the rectangular base-stand that we much prefer over the Quad version deployed in the E8000. As with the flagship product, the E6500 is equipped with only 3 HDMI inputs but it’s an easier pill to swallow at this price point. The remote control is a slimmed down iteration of those of recent years with a highly effective design, sensibly deployed button lay-out and is easily operated comfortably with just the one hand.
Menus are simple enough to navigate, although the sheer number of options might bemuse some. Thoughtfully Samsung have provided an excellent e-Manual built in to ease the confusion. As ever, with a Samsung product, the number of Smart features is dazzling and the Smart Hub is filled with Video on Demand services, streaming possibilities, gaming and social networking apps and any number of diversions. Samsung still certainly leads the way in the Smart Stakes.
Following a painless calibration, the PS60E6500 produced some of the very finest pictures we’ve seen in 2012. With outstanding black levels and excellent dynamic range, believable and accurate colours and smooth as silk motion handling, the E6500 is probably the first TV we’ve seen this year to give the Panasonic plasma range a run for their money. Two familiar issues, in floating blacks and brightness pops, were still present but the former is only noticeable to the acutely sensitive although the latter did rear its head more often. Certainly not deal-breakers though, as far as we are concerned.
3D performance was pleasing, although we (I) don’t get on at all well with Samsung’s SSG-4100 3D glasses. As ever some crosstalk could be spotted in high contrast scenes but it was never enough to break the immersion. The Samsung E6500 proved a slightly more responsive gaming TV than the E8000, showing a latency to controller input of around 38 milliseconds in Game Mode which puts it amongst the better gaming displays we’ve tested with the new custom made device.
Once again Samsung’s 6 series plasma offers a serious amount of screen, with a great deal of quality at a price that’s almost shockingly low. As a result, it’s an absolute shoe-in for an AVForums Highly Recommended award.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,900.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
3D Picture Quality9
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money9
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