Samsung E8000 (PS64E8000) Flagship 3D Plasma TV Review
Does Samsung's big screen beauty deliver on its promise of great images and reference features
IntroductionIf you're looking for big screen plasma action this year, your choices are fairly limited. First there's Panasonic's 65" flagship P65VT50 which we reviewed here, it combines elegant design with exceptional performance but all that is going to set you back around £3,000. Then there's Panasonic's more accessible 65-incher, the P65ST50 which we reviewed here, this option includes an impressive picture and a great set of features and will cost a far more reasonable £2,000. Finally there is Samsung's 64" flagship plasma, the PS64E8000, we reviewed the 51" version here and discovered an excellent performer with a reference set of features. Since the PS64E8000 can be picked up for as little as £2,200, if it can match the PS51E8000 in terms of image quality then we could be looking at a serious Best Buy contender. Let's find out...
Design and ConnectionsThis year Samsung have taken a step back from the more flashy and highly influential silver designs of last year, returning to a slightly more understated gunmetal grey bezel, surrounded by their traditional transparent strip. We definitely prefer this design, even if it is reminiscent of Panasonic's ST50, and overall we'd class the 64E8000 as one of the more attractive display's currently on the market. We're also glad to see that the bezel on Samsung's plasma series is still reasonably wide, even if it is for technical rather than aesthetic reasons. A wide and dark bezel sets off the picture better by framing the image and providing a point of reference. There's another advantage to a wider bezel, as it allows Samsung to hide the built-in camera and microphone within the bezel itself, rather than sitting on top as it does on the ES8000. Sadly the classic good looks of the 64E8000 are slightly ruined by Samsung's continued use of the 'quad foot', which we still consider a design misfire and the chrome finish probably won't age with grace. On the plus side, the stand does at least swivel to allow for easier positioning.
At the rear of the 64E8000 are the connections, which include three sideways facing HDMI inputs. Last year's displays had four HDMI inputs and quite why Samsung has decided to drop one is a mystery, especially on their flagship plasma. Although, whilst we're on the subject of missing connectors, the 64E8000 also has no VGA input or RS232 serial connector. The three HDMI inputs that are included have specific functions assigned to them, with HDMI1 allocated for use with a DVI cable. There is a 3.5mm audio in jack next to HDMI1 for passing the audio if you are using a DVI cable. HDMI2 is allocated as the ARC (Audio Return Channel) and HDMI3 is assigned as the MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) port for connection of supported tablets and smartphones. There are also three USB ports, with one of them allocated for use with an external HDD. Other sideways facing connections include an optical digital audio output, a RGB input with provided Scart adapter and a headphone socket. Facing downwards there are connectors for an external aerial and a satellite dish, inputs for composite and component video and stereo analogue audio. There is also an Ethernet port, although the 64E8000 has built-in WiFi. Finally, on the left-hand side there is the power cable socket, which uses a detachable 1.5m long three-pin cord.
The standard remote control is made of black plastic and is comfortable to hold, well laid out and easy to use. There are all the normal buttons but annoyingly Samsung has dropped the Aspect Ratio button found on previous remotes. This means that you have to go into the picture menu and then into the screen sub-menu in order to change the aspect ratio, making it a very long-winded procedure. There is a button for accessing the Smart TV functions which is in the shape of the Smart TV logo and there are also four new buttons. These buttons are called History (which shows you the most recent channels or inputs selected), Family Story (which accesses Samsung's Family Story feature), Camera (which activates the built-in camera) and Support (which brings up the e-manual and other support features). Personally we would rather that Samsung drop one of these buttons (ideally Family History) in favour of providing direct access to the aspect ratio menu.
The 64E8000 also comes with a second remote control that has a touchpad to make navigating the Smart TV features easier. There are simple controls for changing the volume and channel, as well as buttons for accessing the Smart TV features and the voice control menu. There is even a microphone built into the remote to enable you to use the voice control without shouting across the room. Although if you have the remote in your hand, it is probably just as easy to use it in the more traditional manner. We found that once we had got used to using the remote and learning all the shortcuts, it was actually quite effective, especially when navigating the numerous Smart TV features.
The 64E8000 comes with two pairs of Samsung's latest 3D glasses, which whilst light and comfortable to wear over long periods, do have certain design issues. We found the glasses to be a little fragile, an unfortunate side effect of their lightness and we also didn't like the fact that can't fold the arms of the frames in. We would also have preferred the rectangular lenses to be larger thus providing a better field of view, although they did just about fit over regular glasses. However our main issue with the glasses was the lack of any sides to the frames, meaning they couldn't block out ambient light, which could distract from the enjoyment of the 3D. On the plus side there was very little tint to the lenses which meant that colours on 3D material appeared more accurate and they also use the new RF standard for 3D glasses.
MenusThe 64E8000 uses the standard Samsung menu, which is good news because overall, it's well designed, pleasing to look at and provides a clear and concise series of choices. The main menu offers a basic set of options including Picture, Sound, Channel, Network, Systemand Support but within these main choices are a large number of sub-menus. When a menu option is selected it is highlighted with a light blue overlay and the various sub-menus are listed and can then be selected using the directional keys on the remote control. One useful feature is that when you select the various menu options an overlay appears to the right which briefly explains what that particular control does. This can be handy when dealing with some of the rather more esoteric features that are found on modern TVs.
From the perspective of image fidelity, the Picture menu is the most important and offers a choice of four types of viewing Mode - Standard, Natural, Dynamic and Movie. The latter is designed to approximate industry standards and thus it offers the most accurate out-of-the-box settings. There are also all the usual basic controls that you would expect to find such as Cell Light, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint. The Screen Adjustment menu allows access to the Picture Size options, which in the absence of a dedicated button on the remote is now the only way to change the aspect ratio. There are a number of different choices but for watching high definition material, Screen Fit is the best option as it shows the content without zooming in and adding unwanted scaling.
Within the Advanced Settings sub-menu there is Dynamic Contrast which varies the Contrast on-the-fly and thus boosts the perceived dynamic range; Black Tone which is best left off as it crushes shadow detail; Flesh Tone which primarily adjusts the luminance of magenta; RGB Only Mode which allows you to see each of the three primary colours individually and is a useful for checking correct colour decoding; Expert Pattern which provides a series of test patterns and Black Enhancer. In Movie mode most of these controls default to off which is good as we recommend that you leave them that way.
Also within Advanced Settings are all the key calibration controls, starting with Gamma which globally adjusts gamma across the entire image. Then there's a choice of a two point White Balance control and a ten point White Balance control which will allow for very accurate calibration of the Greyscale. Finally, there's an option called Colour Space which gives you a choice between Auto, Native and Custom; if you choose Custom you have access to a full Colour Management System (CMS). This allows for the accurate calibration of the colour gamut by adjusting the luminance, saturation and hue of the three primary colours (red, green and blue) and the three secondary colours (cyan, magenta and yellow).
Within the Options sub-menu, you can choose the Colour Tone (really colour temperature) which gives you a choice of Cool, Normal, Warm1 and Warm2. We found that Warm2 comes closest to industry standards. There is also a Digital Noise Filter and an MPEG Noise Filter, both of which we would recommend turning off. In this sub-menu, you will also find HDMI Black Level for choosing between PC and Video levels and the Film Mode option for cadence detection.
The final sub-menu within the Picture menu contains all the 3D related controls and can be accessed directly by using the 3D button on the remote. This sub-menu allows you to choose the 3D Mode (2D to 3D, Side by Side, Top and Bottom etc.), the 3D Perspective (which adjusts the parallax), Depth, L/R Change which swaps the images for each eye and 3D-2D which shows 3D content in 2D.
Test ResultsWhilst the default setting on the 64E8000 is wildly inaccurate, this is thankfully easy to correct with just the press of a button. By selecting the Movie picture mode, the TV immediately starts to deliver a far more accurate image. As an added advantage, the Movie picture also turns off most of the unnecessary features to give you a largely unmolested image. As the graphs below show, the greyscale is now much nearer our target and the corresponding errors have been reduced considerably. There is an excess of red in the lower part of the scale which could be seen in darker scenes but at least the gamma is now measuring at our target of 2.2. The same is true of the colour gamut, with all the colours very close to their target coordinates and only red showing some sizeable errors in brightness, saturation and hue. The inclusion of a two point and ten point white balance control and a full colour management system (CMS) means that we should be able to improve the accuracy considerably.
For these measurements we stayed with the Movie picture mode and ensured that all the unnecessary features had been turned off. We also made sure we had optimised the brightness and contrast controls for our viewing environment. We then used the white balance control, starting with the two point and then fine tuning with the ten point, before moving on to the CMS.
As the graph above shows, after calibration the 64E8000 can deliver an absolutely reference greyscale performance. All three primary colours are tracking together at our target of 100, resulting in DeltaEs (errors) of less than 1, which is essentially perfect. The gamma is still tracking at our target of 2.2 and overall this is a superb performance resulting in a highly accurate image. The same is true of the colour gamut, which is also delivering a reference performance as the CIE chart above shows. The colour temperature of white is now exactly at its target of D65 and all the colours are hitting their coordinates for Rec.709. There is a tiny bit of under-saturation in red but you would never notice it and all the colours have DeltaEs of less than one. Just as with the greyscale, this is an absolutely reference performance and together they result in an incredibly natural looking picture.
The CIE tracking shows the three primary colours and three secondary colours measured at different saturation points with increments of 25%. There are no controls to adjust the colours at any point other than 100% saturated, so this graph is largely for information purposes. The tracking shows that with the exception of the under-saturation in red mention in the previous paragraph, the tracking is excellent and all the other colours are hitting their coordinates.The 64E8000 was capable of delivering excellent black levels that, whilst not quite as good as the Panasonics, are certainly in the ball park and we suspect most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference without a direct comparison. We measured blacks on the 64E8000 at 0.016 cd/m2 which is excellent but perhaps more importantly, we could get 110 cd/m2 in terms of brightness. This results in a very impressive dynamic range and a very good on/off contrast ratio of 6,875:1. In addition to the excellent black levels, shadow detail was also very effective revealing all the necessary details in even the darkest scenes. However, on/off contrast ratios are only part of the story and of far greater importance is how the display performs when mixed content is on the screen. This is the intra-frame or ANSI contrast ratio, so called because we use an ANSI checker board pattern to take the measurements. The 64E8000 also performed extremely well in this test and as you can see on the graphic above the uniformity across the screen is very consistent. The averaged light output is 78cd/m2 and the averaged black level is 0.018 which gives an ANSI contrast ratio of 4,204:1, which is again excellent and directly comparable with the performance of the Panasonic plasmas.
Video processing is a traditional strength for Samsung TVs and the 64E8000 didn't disappoint. Starting with the SMPTE 133 pattern, the 64E8000 scaled the images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The plasma performed just as well 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. The 64E8000 had no problems displaying film material with scrolling video text as long as Film Mode was set to Auto2 and it also had no issues correctly detecting both the 2:2 (PAL - European) and 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) tests. This is good as many of the other Samsung displays we have tested this year have failed to correctly detect 2:2 cadence.
The Samsung 64E8000 also performed very well in the high definition tests and with the player set to 1080i it correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests (provided the Picture Size is set to Screen Fit). The 64E8000 also showed a fast response to changes in cadence as well as excellent scaling and filtering and good resolution enhancement. The 64E8000 had no problems handling 24p material either and overall motion handling was excellent, with images smooth and free of judder. The TV displayed an 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. In fact the only issue that we noticed was that there is still a small amount noise reduction in the image, even when that control, is turned off. This isn't unusual for Samsung and we suspect most people wouldn't even notice but we wish Samsung would stop doing it.
The 64E8000 provided a nicely responsive experience for our relatively limited gaming activities. We measured the lag at 40ms which is reasonably good and puts the plasma among the better performing TVs that we've reviewed with the LagTest device this year. To achieve the lowest input lag you need to choose the Game mode, which Samsung continue to hide away in the General area of the Setup menu. There have been reports that renaming an HDMI input to PC will lower input lag still further but we found it didn't make any difference with the 64E8000.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 385W
- Calibrated – Movie Mode: 360W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 390W
Picture Quality - 2DWe've been spoilt this year in terms of picture quality, with Panasonic in particular delivering some of their best images to date. Well, the 2D performance of the 64E8000 is so good that it can be considered a viable alternative to the all-conquering VT50 and in some respects, it's superior. First of all the 64E8000 has some excellent calibration controls that are capable of delivering an absolutely reference performance from both the greyscale and the colour gamut. The VT50 also has superb calibration controls and it includes a multi-point gamma control but ultimately both TVs deliver reference image accuracy.
The 64E8000 is also bright, much brighter than the VT50, especially when the Panasonic is in its Professional/ISF modes. This isn't really an issue at night but during the day, the added brightness of the 64E8000 could make all the difference. The ambient light filter did its job well and the screen was free of unwanted reflections, so if you plan on doing the majority of your TV watching during the day or there is a lot of light in your viewing environment, then the 64E8000 is definitely the plasma for you. The 64E8000 also had an excellent off-axis performance, as you would expect from plasma and was also free of any unwanted fan noise. There was a slight buzz but this is common for plasmas and wasn't audible at normal volume levels, although how noticeable someone finds plasma buzz can often depend on where the plasma is positioned and how acute that person's hearing is.
The black levels on the 64E8000 are also excellent, not quite as deep as this year's Panasonics but impressive none-the-less and certainly capable of delivering some beautiful dark scenes with wonderful levels of shadow detail. The lovely bright image also combines well with the excellent black levels to create an image that has plenty of dynamic range. The VT50 can still deliver a better contrast ratio, especially in terms of ANSI but the 64E800 is certainly capable of holding its own. In our review of the 51E8000 we experienced problems with the occasional brightness pop and some floating blacks but not so with the larger screen size. It's possible that Samsung have released a firmware update since the previous review but we had absolutely no such problems in two weeks of solid viewing.
The 64E8000 has excellent screen uniformity and didn't suffer from image retention at all. In fact in two weeks, we never once noticed any image retention when watching normal content and even when we deliberately left static images up, the 64E8000 proved remarkably resilient. If there is one area of weakness with the Panasonic plasmas, it is dynamic false contouring (DFC), which results in coloured contours around objects moving across the screen and during camera pans. There was no such issue with the 64E8000 and the image was clean and free of excessive PWM noise or any DFC. The 64E800 also delivered excellent motion handling with all content including 24p and didn't suffer from the stuttering issue found on some Samsung LCD TVs. The video processing was also excellent, with the 64E8000 passing all our deinterlacing and scaling tests.
The upshot of all this, is that the 64E8000 was capable of producing some of the best images we have seen all year. The image accuracy was immediately apparent, regardless of what content we were watching, with whites free of discolouration and the colours themselves appearing natural. Thanks to the excellent blacks and impressive dynamic range, the image also had real impact, never appearing washed out or dull. Thanks to the excellent video processing, standard definition content looked very good, which is important with a screen this size where any artefacts or limitations are magnified. Instead we were treated to a clean, accurate and artefact free image that presented both standard definition broadcasts and DVDs in the best possible light.
However with high definition content, the 64E8000 really delivered the goods, producing highly detailed images that took full advantage of the increased screen size. Blu-rays in particular were spectacular, with the 64E8000 rendering the high resolution images with breath-taking accuracy and clarity. Motion was also handled well, regardless of whether it was 50Hz, 60Hz or 24p, and the results were smooth and free of judder. The recently released Blu-ray of The Dark Knight Rises was an excellent demonstration of the 64E8000's strengths as the 1.78:1 IMAX scenes filled the big screen with eye-popping detail, deep blacks, accurate colours and plenty of brightness - an absolute treat.
Picture Quality - 3DThe 64E8000 wasn't just a star performer with 2D content, it was equally at home delivering some fantastic 3D images as well. The 64E8000 uses active shutter glasses, which means it inherits all the strengths of that technology and a few of the weaknesses. In terms of resolution, the 64E8000's active shutter system delivered every line of detail from 1080p 3D Blu-rays but it also handled side-by-side broadcast 3D extremely well. The motion handling was equally as good, whether at 50Hz or at 24p, resulting in a smooth and judder-free experience. The generous brightness of the 64E8000 also allowed the display to combat the inherent dimming nature of the glasses, giving the 3D images plenty of impact.
In fact the relative lack of tint on the 3D glasses really helped to deliver a more natural looking image and the excellent calibration controls meant that 3D could look reasonably accurate. The glasses use of the new RF standard meant that we never had any problems with sync and their incredible lightweight meant they could be worn comfortably for long periods of time. The only downside was the lack of shielding which meant that ambient light could enter the glasses and draw attention to the flickering nature of active shutter glasses. There was almost no crosstalk and what little there was we had to look for on especially difficult material such as Happy Feet Two. However, over all the 64E8000 was capable of delivering excellent 3D images that combined depth, accuracy, detail and a lack of distracting artefacts to deliver an enjoyably immersive experience.
The review of the 64E8000 happened to coincide with the arrival of a number of 3D Blu-rays, including Prometheus, Brave and The Amazing Spider-Man, all of which were wonderfully reproduced by the Samsung. The carefully composed shots and dark scenes of Prometheuslooked magnificent, whilst more frenetic action in Spider-Man was delivered with similar confidence and no apparent motion artefacts. The beautiful 3D animation in Brave was rendered with every pixel of detail and an absence of any noticeable crosstalk, resulting in a thoroughly engaging experience. The recently released 3D Blu-ray of The Creature from the Black Lagoon uses plenty of old-school in your face negative parallax and an insane amount of depth in the background, both of which the 64E8000 handled with ease. Anyone who likes their 3D to really pop out of the screen won't be disappointed where the Samsung is concerned.
Audio and FeaturesIn terms of its audio performance, the increased size of the 64E8000 was clearly a benefit, with the larger chassis providing more room for better speakers. As a result the sound produced by the 64E8000 was superior to most modern TVs, with a reasonable sense of clarity and depth. The 64E8000 could reproduce most audio very well, especially dialogue which was nicely anchored to the centre of the screen. The larger screen size also afforded an excellent degree of stereo separation and thus sound effects and music were equally as well rendered. The audio produced by the 64E8000 will never be as good as a dedicated receiver or all-in-one system but certainly for average daily viewing the sound was expansive enough to accompany the big screen visuals.
As one of Samsung's flagship TVs, the 64E8000 includes their full smart TV platform which is superb in terms of its features and performance. In fact the Samsung Smart TV platform is so feature-packed that we decided to write a separate review entirely devoted to it. You can find that in-depth review here. We particularly like the built-in camera which made making Skype video calls from our sofa very easy and reminded us how incredible technology is sometimes. Our only additional comment is that Samsung has recently released a new remote app for their TVs and whilst the Android version worked just fine, there is obviously a bug in the iOS version, which we were unable to open.
- Excellent black levels and shadow detail
- Impressive dynamic range and contrast ratio
- Reference greyscale and colour after calibration
- Superior video processing
- Incredible set of features
- Superb calibration controls
- Sublime motion handling
- Built-in camera is great for Skype calls
- Attractive design
- Fantastic price
- 3D glasses need a rethink
- Only 3 HDMI inputs
- Quad stand remains an acquired taste
- No aspect ratio button on remote
- iOS remote app doesn't work
Samsung E8000 (PS64E8000) Flagship 3D Plasma TV Review
The Samsung PS64E8000 drops last year's silver trim for a far more appealing gunmetal grey finish but still incorporates a chrome 'quad' foot, which remains something of an acquired taste. The wider bezel is also a definite positive, offsetting the images on the screen and providing somewhere to secrete the built-in camera and microphone. The remote is the standard Samsung design but we would like to see them put the aspect ratio button back. The same goes for the missing fourth HDMI input but otherwise there is a relatively comprehensive set of connections. The included 3D glasses use the new RF standard and whilst they are incredibly light, they could do with more shielding at the sides.
The 64E8000 uses Samsung's usual menu system, which is clear, concise and easy to navigate. The included calibration controls are excellent and the 64E8000 is capable of a reference performance in terms of both greyscale and colour gamut. The video processing is equally as impressive and the 64E8000 passed all the usual tests. Samsung has included all of their current smart features and whilst the motion and voice controls are a bit of a gimmick, we found the built-in camera was very useful for making Skype video calls. The rest of the smart platform is absolutely superb and our only criticism is that the iOS remote app doesn't currently work.
The 2D picture performance was absolutely superb, with the 64E8000 producing wonderfully clean, accurate and bright images. Thanks to the excellent video processing, standard definition held up well on the larger screen size, whilst high definition material oozed with detail. The black levels, contrast ratio and dynamic range were also excellent, as was the motion handling. The screen handled reflections well, the ambient light filter performed its task admirably during the day and the off-axis performance was superb. The 64E800's 3D performance was equally accomplished with bright, accurate and detailed images that were largely free of flicker and crosstalk. The sense of depth and the immersive nature of the larger screen size are sure to please fans of 3D.
In fact, regardless of whether you're watching 2D or 3D content, the Samsung PS64E8000 is sure to please, with an absolutely wonderful image. Once you include the incredible features, the attractive design and competitive price, the 64E8000 becomes very difficult to resist - a definite Best Buy!
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,200.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
3D Picture Quality9
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.