Design and Connections
The PS51D8000 has a generous selection of connections at the rear and their layout follows the trend that has developed amongst all the manufacturers this year. At the rear there are downward facing inputs for an aerial, a satellite antennae, a LAN port, component video in, composite video in, analogue audio in, a RGB in and a VGA in. With the exception of the aerial, the antennae, the VGA and the LAN sockets the other connections require special adaptors that are provided with the display and are clearly designed to reduce clutter and keep the chassis as thin as possible.
Last year the C8000 series came with a high quality and stylish remote that complimented the avant garde design of the displays themselves. We quite liked the design of that remote and when we heard that the D8000s in the US were shipping with Samsung's dual sided QWERTY remote we were looking forward to trying it out. Unfortunately unlike our cousins across the pond we have been deemed unworthy of this premium remote and only get a very basic remote that is essentially the same as you would get with an entry level Samsung. Whilst Samsung will make the premium remote available for those that wish to purchase it as an accessory, the decision to not include this remote is clearly cost related and reminds us of our position in the world market place. The actual remote included is at least well laid out and includes all the necessary buttons including one for the Smart TV Hub and also one for 3D. The only problems we had with the remote related to the position of buttons next to the up/right/down/left buttons which we kept accidentally hitting during calibration. We also found that quite often the display wouldn't receive the IR command from the remote, even when we pointed it directly at the receiver on the display. We weren't sure if the blame lay with the remote or the display but it was annoying when this happened.
The PS51D8000 uses active shutter glasses and according to the Samsung website there are none included with the display which given the high end status of this display seems a bit mean. Having said that we sourced our review sample from a retailer and there was one pair included so it would be best to check if you decide to buy the PS51D8000. We generally like the design of the Samsung active shutter glasses and they are comfortable to wear even for long periods of time, they can be worn over normal glasses and are designed to stop light from coming in from the sides. Our only real criticisms relate to the size of lens which could be bigger to improve your field of view and the fact that they are quite fragile and could fall victim to clumsy users.
The last of the non-picture menus is the Support menu and in here you will find the e-Manual, a Self Diagnosis function and the Software Upgrade sub-menu. The Picture menu offers a choice of four types of viewing Mode called Standard, Natural, Dynamic and Movie. In lieu of any THX preset the latter is Samsung’s attempt at an accurate out of the box setting. There are the usual basic controls that you would expect to find on a plasma display such as Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint. There is also a control called Cell Light which allows you to adjust the overall brightness of the display by boosting the voltage to the screen and achieving a similar effect to a backlight control on a LCD display. In addition there is the Eco Solution control which adjusts the setting depending on the ambient light but I find that this can cause fluctuations in the display’s brightness and I prefer to leave it off. Both the Picture Mode and the Eco Solution can be accessed directly using the Tools button on the remote.
Within Picture Options there is Size which obviously gives you sizes to choose from including Auto Wide, 16:9, Wide Zoom, Zoom, 4:3 and Screen Fit. This function can be accessed directly using the P. Size button on the remote. There is also 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. 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 3D perspective), Depth which only affects the 2D to 3D mode, L/R Change which swaps the images for each eye, 3D-2D which shows 3D content in 2D and 3D Auto View which automatically selects the correct 3D Mode when it receives a 3D input. The PS51D8000 allows you to save the settings (including White Balance and Colour Space) for each input, this is a very handy function as it allows you to correctly calibrate each input for the device that is connected to it.
Video processing is an area where Samsung displays have always excelled and the PS51D8000 is no exception, we put it through all the usual processing torture tests and the results were absolutely superb. Samsung has previously used processing provided by HQV but more recently they have started using in house software which sits within the HyperReal Engine chipset.
As always we started with the SMPTE colour bar tests on the PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs which the PS51D8000 had absolutely no problems with, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The PS51D8000 also performed brilliantly when it came to video deinterlacing with jaggies only appearing when the line was at a very acute angle in the first test. 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 PS51D8000 also resolved all the fine brickwork in the detail tests and quickly locked onto and displayed a solid image in the film detail test (provided the Film Mode is enabled). However as we expected based on my experience with other Samsung displays the PS51D8000 actually 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, so if you experience any problems with video text over film try changing between the two settings. We're not entirely sure why Samsung includes two film modes but according to the manual Auto1 is optimised for viewing film material and so we generally used that setting. In the cadence tests the D8000 had no problems correctly detecting both the 2:2 (PAL - European) and 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) tests, producing rock solid images that were free of artefacts.
The PS51D8000 also performed very well in tests on the HQV Blu-ray benchmark disc and with the player set to 1080i the PS51D8000 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests (provided the Picture Size is set to Screen Fit). The PS51D8000 also showed a fast response to changes in cadence as well as excellent scaling and filtering and good resolution enhancement. The PS51D8000 had no problems handling 24p material either, reproducing the test images smoothly with no judder or other artefacts, especially when Cinema Smooth was engaged which increases the frame rate from 24 to 96. In fact the only high definition test that the PS51D8000 performed poorly on as the one showing video text overlaid on film based material but once again switching to Auto2 fixed this.
Finally we moved on to our trusted Spears and Munsil test disc which contains a number of very handy test patterns to measure the overall performance of the display and needless to say the PS51D8000 sailed through all the cadence and deinterlacing tests. We find that the ‘Image Cropping’ test is useful for checking if there is any overscan and the ‘Luma Multiburst’ is handy for making sure that the full 1920x1080 resolution is being displayed. These tests are particularly useful for demonstrating why you should always use the Screen Fit aspect ratio instead of the 16:9 ratio. If you leave the PS51D8000 set to the default 16:9 ratio then the image is cropped by up to 30 pixels and the scaling involved results in reduced resolution that is easy to see on the multiburst test. We understand that manufacturers use the overscan to avoid consumers seeing junk at the edges of the video image when the display is in a showroom but if you don’t choose the correct pixel mapping ratio you are no longer watching a full high def image. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that each manufacturer uses a different name for its own pixel mapping option and quite often these names aren’t very informative. In the case of Samsung they call their pixel mapping option Screen Fit but other names we've seen include Just Scan, Dot By Dot and best of all Pixel By Pixel.
In addition we were able to use the ‘Dynamic Range High’ test to check that we had set the Contrast correctly with the PS51D8000 showing excellent headroom performance from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) and absolutely no signs of clipping. On the ‘Dynamic Range Low’ test the PS51D8000 also correctly showed detail down to a video level 17 and reference black below that to video level 0 which confirmed that we had also correctly set the Brightness control. This test also showed why you should leave the Black Tone and Dynamic Contrast controls off because engaging them immediately resulted in lost video levels at the bottom of the dynamic range.
In Game mode the input lag on the PS51D8000 measured at 40ms which is worse than the 20ms we measured on the PS50C7000 last year. This is something of a disappointment and might be a little too high for very serious gamers. Apparently the Game Mode is optimised for use with an X-Box 360 so if that is your game platform of choice you might find the input lag is a little lower. As mentioned previously the Game Mode itself is hidden away in the General sub-menu of the System menu.
For a reasonably large plasma the PS51D8000 is surprisingly energy efficient, although due to the self-illuminating nature of the technology the power usage varies depending on the content being shown on the screen. The consumption figures in Movie Mode using 0, 50 and 100 IRE windows were 85 watts, 99 watts and 180 watts and the PS51D8000 used less than 1 watt in standby. The average power consumption when watching actual full screen material in Movie Mode was about 240 watts which is quite good.
Picture Quality - 2D
When it came to high definition content things were even better and content from FreeviewHD looked especially impressive with plenty of detail and minimal compression artefacts. Obviously with Blu-rays the image quality improved still further with wonderfully natural and detailed images. The PS51D8000 produced impressively film-like images from all our usual test material and also had no problems with 24p content especially when the Cinema Smooth function is turned on. There were also no problems with motion handling as tests using the FPD benchmark disc evidenced. The PS51D8000 includes Samsung's latest Real Black Filter which is designed to reduce the amount of light that reflects off the screen and in this area it was a success with far less reflections than we've seen from other recent displays. The PS51D8000 also includes the Clear Image Panel that uses a new filter and panel structure that is designed to eliminate layered images and improve viewing angles. The viewing angles were certainly good and the PS51D8000 was capable of producing clear and detailed images, although there was some PWM noise.
The only real area of weakness in the Samsung plasmas remains black levels, especially when compared to this year's Panasonics where the Samsung blacks were clearly inferior. Now in all fairness Panasonic has spent a fortune acquiring patents, engineers and technology as well as building state of the art facilities in order to produce the kind of blacks that we're seeing this year but even so the blacks on the Samsung are basically the same as last year. Whilst we ultimately feel that measuring black levels is a pointless exercise but we appreciate that some members place a great deal of importance on them, especially in plasma reviews where more importance is placed on native blacks.
So with that in mind, the PS51D8000 measured using our Klein K-10 in dark surroundings and a calibrated mode produced 0.06cd/m2 at 0IRE and 115.47 cd/m2 at 100IRE (approximately 1,925:1 on/off ratio) using standard window patterns from our Sencore MP500. By comparison our 2 year old Pioneer LX5090 Kuro measured 0.03 cd/m2 at 0IRE and 110.1 cd/m2 at 100IRE calibrated (giving an on/off ratio of 3,670:1 approximately). The ANSI-contrast measurements on the Pioneer were 0.04 cd/m2 black and 85.4 cd/m2 white which gives a ratio of 2,135:1 approximately, whilst the PS51D8000 managed 0.06 cd/m2 black and 94.95 cd/m2 white which resulted in an approximate ratio of 1,583:1. Overall the blacks weren't bad but there was clearly room for improvement and we felt that the dynamic range was also a little disappointing resulting in images that sometimes seemed a little flat. There is the option of choosing Black Level Low rather than Normal in the Picture menu but we found that doing so crushed the blacks and the image lost shadow detail.
One annoying problem last year was the amount of image retention and we were happy to see that Samsung had clearly addressed this with their 2011 models. The PS51D8000 was much better in this area and whilst there were still occasional instances of image retention it was never a problem. There have been reports on the Forums of problems with brightness fluctuations and whilst this has certainly been true with some of the recent Panasonics we found no evidence of this on the PS51D8000. There had also been reports of banding but once again we found no evidence of this outside of limitations in the source material itself. We also saw no evidence of line bleeding of any unwanted noise reduction as reported in other Samsung reviews.
Picture Quality - 3D
Overall when watching 3D blu-rays the PS51D8000 performed reasonably well producing sharp and detailed high definition images but there were instances of crosstalk which we found distracting. The 50” screen is large enough to give the 3D images impact and the overall quality of the display does give the whole experience a real sense of accuracy and dimensionality. The PS51D8000 also performed well with 3D games - thanks i part to the motion handling - and we found the images to be both involving and exciting which greatly enhanced our gaming experience. Finally the PS51D8000 also correctly displayed side by side 3D material provided by a 3D camera which is similar in nature to the content on Sky 3D. We believe that Samsung’s 2D to 3D conversion software is actually one of the more advanced that is available and as such it does work surprisingly well. However we feel it is best suited for use with 2D games, here the software seems better able to determine depth information and the resulting dimensionality is more believable. When used with real world material we found that the software became too easily confused and the illusion was shattered resulting in an uncomfortable experience. Ultimately though it remains a novelty feature and in the same way that you can’t turn a standard definition image into a high definition image, you can’t make just a 2D image into a 3D image, no matter how sophisticated the software.
As much as we like the development of internet TV one of the annoying aspects is trying to type in words with a standard remote and in fact the premium Samsung remote tries to address this by including a QWERTY keyboard. Thankfully Samsung has provided an elegant - and free - solution for those that don't want to stump up for one of these premium remotes. There is now an app that can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices that allows you to both control the display and use their keyboards when surfing the net. There is even the ability to stream content to your device, which might prove handy if you have to move away from the TV but don't want to miss something. The combination of a display, the internet, video on demand, social networking, streaming content and tablet controllers really does place the TV at the centre of the digital home and we can expect to see further integration over the next few years.
- Reference greyscale performance after calibration
- Reference colour accuracy after calibration
- 10 point white balance control
- Colour Management System
- Freeview HD built in
- Impressive internet platform
- Very well designed menu system
- Superb build quality and design
- Excellent video processing
- Excellent off-axis performance
- Built-in WiFi
- Low power consumption for a plasma
- Black levels and dynamic range could be better
- Some PWM noise
- 10 point white balance control can be problematic to use
- Occasional instances of crosstalk
- The input lag could be better
- 3D glasses might be a bit fragile
- Only a basic remote is included
- Display didn't always register the IR signals from the remote
Samsung D8000 (PS51D8000) 51 Inch 3D Plasma TV Review
The PS51D8000 is as featured ladened a display as you are likely to find and comes with built-in tuners for both FreeviewHD and FreesatHD. It also includes Allshare which allows for easy streaming of content such as music, photos and videos and it can time-shift programming using a USB connected HDD. The EPG and the general menu system are well designed and easy to navigate and the Smart Hub provides an excellent home screen for the whole system. Best of all Samsung's Smart TV is one of the most impressive internet platforms available offering applications, video on demand, internet surfing, social networking and Skype. The black levels, whilst not bad, are essentially the same as last year and therefore something of a disappointment, especially when compared to some of the competition. The dynamic range was also rather underwhelming which resulted in images that sometimes felt a little flat. The 3D performance was also a bit of a disappointment, once again it seemed no better than last year and once again it wasn't as good as some of the competition. The 3D images were rather dim and didn't feel as dynamic and immersive as they could but they did at least look accurate, although there were some instances of crosstalk.
We also had some other minor complaints such as the length of the power cable and certain difficulties we encountered assembling the stand. We would also prefer it if the HDMI inputs were further from the edge and we found that sometimes the display didn't receive IR commands from the remote. At 40ms the input lag might be a bit high for serious gamers but it shouldn't pose any problems for the more casual player. Finally we found the 3D active shutter glasses to be a little fragile and considering this is a high end model we would have liked to see Samsung include more than one pair. However overall the PS51D8000 is a very competent plasma that is both attractive to look at and capable of producing an excellent image, especially in 2D. In addition the 3D performance is good and the Smart TV platform is excellent so if you're looking for a good all round performer we'd recommend giving this display a demo.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.