What is the Samsung PS51F8500?
Design and Connections
At the top, and situated just behind the brushed ‘titanium’ bezel, sits a five mega pixel camera which can be retracted. Aside from the increased resolution, Samsung has made a number of other improvements to the camera, especially in terms of the light levels it needs but although Steve found it worked very well in his environment it proved useless further North in daylight – not that you’ll catch this reviewer routinely using gesture controls with a TV at this early stage of the technology’s evolution.
As is the case with all of Samsung’s high-end models, the PS51F8500 comes with two remote controls, the first of which is a small black plastic version of Samsung’s standard controller. Whilst it includes all the usual controls, along with a Smart Hub button for accessing Samsung's internet platform, it’s diminutive and simplistic nature shows that Samsung would rather you used the other remote provided. This is the Touch Pad remote, which uses RF to connect to the F8500 and includes basic controls along with its eponymous touch pad. There is also a built-in microphone which is used for voice control and we certainly found the touch pad useful for effectively navigating the Smart TV System. However, despite offering a graphical representation of the full remote onscreen, we found that for basic control the simpler remote was a lot quicker and easier to use, especially when calibrating. As has been the case since last year, there is no P. Size button on either remote, so you either have to use the dedicated Picture Size page in the menu or the Tools button to change the aspect ratio.
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 does nothing we could see, an 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 provides a series of test patterns and Motion Lighting. In Movie mode most of these controls default to off which is good and we recommend you leave them that way.
In the Picture 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 the industry standards. There is also a Digital Clean View and 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. Finally there is the Motion Judder Canceller, which you shouldn’t need and a Black Optimiser feature. This new feature promises deeper blacks using PDP waveform and signal compensation and offers a choice of Off, Auto, Bright Room and Dark Room. We'll come back to the Black Optimiser in the Test Results section.
Much of the marketing blurb surrounding the F8500’s launch centred on its LED-like luminance levels and they certainly weren’t exaggerating those particular claims. Even in the most accurate Movie Mode, the F8500 was capable of hitting an eye-blistering 225 cd/m2 on a white window which should be more than ample in almost any environment, especially when the quality of the filter and anti-reflective coating is considered. No doubt some will have read through the last two paras looking for the numbers so here they are: With Optimiser set to ‘Dark Room’, On/Off Contrast = 20,164:1, going up to 36,885:1 if you max out the Cell Light. With Optimiser off, On/Off Contrast = 6,060:1, maxing out at 11,363:1 if you can stand it. ANSI contrast figures are identical at 5,447:1.
Screen uniformity of a plasma TV is generally not a great concern although we do see the odd bit of trouble along the way. The F8500 was a close to perfect as makes no difference but we could – just once or twice – notice a very faint horizontal line, about 1cm wide, running just below dead centre. We only saw it on a very pale background and, to be honest, had we not been forewarned by our forum members, we might not have spotted it so quickly. In all truthfulness this will be a non-issue for 99.9% of owners so please don’t let it put you off.
The performance of the PS51F8500 in the video processing tests were excellent, as we would expect from a Samsung and there’s no doubt it benefited from the added horsepower provided by the quad-core processing. The Samsung scored very highly in the jaggies tests on both our test discs as well as performing very well on the diagonal interpolation test, with two of the three moving bars appearing smooth and only the bottom most extreme bar showing very slight jaggies. The F8500 had no problems correctly detecting both 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European) film cadence, as long as the Film Mode Auto2 was selected. When it came to 1080i material the 51F8500 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests provided Screen Fit was selected. When it came to 1080p24 content, the PS51F8500 delivered superbly smooth movement and even on the torturous moving wedge tests on the Spears and Munsil disc were reproduced with little sign of moire or flicker.
Samsung haven’t made it easy to get even a half decent input lag figure. Even with the Game Mode activated in the Setup Menu, latency was measuring over 100milliseconds, which is flat out unacceptable. Renaming one of the inputs to PC resulted in a dramatic reduction to around 55 milliseconds but that’s not going to satisfy a demanding online gamer, although for most single player games, it’s possible to adjust.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 343W
- Calibrated – Calibrated Movie Mode: 214W
- Calibrated - 3D Movie Mode: 408W
Samsung PS51F8500 Picture Quality 2D
It’s not really all about how bright a display is capable of going, however, more contrast punch is dictated by just how black it can go and the Samsung PS51F8500 presents a conundrum here. One can achieve noticeably real world darker blacks by using the Back Optimiser in its ‘Dark Room’ setting but that’s at the expense of them being unstable and they’ll fairly frequently ‘float’ up to the level you get without the setting engaged. So you’re left with the choice of truly excellent blacks that will shift or very very good levels that remain as is. In the end - after a lot of experimentation – we set the Optimiser to ‘Off’ as it was just too frustrating seeing the levels alter and we watch lots of content with a many scenes therein. It’s certainly something we’d encourage readers to experiment with as tolerances and tastes vary, quite widely.
As we’d expect for plasma, and historically a Samsung model, motion handling really was extremely impressive with rapidly panning movement maintaining much of its detail and sport was a pleasure to watch throughout our time with the F85000. If we do have one criticism of the picture – and to some this will be a plus point – is that pictures sometimes appeared too clean and clinical. We’ve checked for backdoor noise reduction and can’t detect any so it’s simply manifest that this is the direction the Samsung engineers have chosen. Part of the reason we love plasma so much is that it can have a beautiful analogue look to it, where the F8500 looks altogether more digitised. Like we say, this cleanliness – for want of a better term – will no doubt appeal to lots of people, particularly those used to LED/LCD so, again, please go and see for yourself.
Of course what many of you reading want to know is, how does it fare in a head to head - with price and status considered – its biggest rival, the 50-inch Panasonic VT65? The first thing to say is that there no cut and dried winner, personal circumstances and tastes will go a long way in making the ultimate purchase decision and owners of each TV should be sitting pretty whilst basking in the glorious pictures presented to them. If we discount the rather niche (and expensive) ZT65, which only ships in a 60-inch screen size in any case, in our opinion the F8500 runs the VT65 incredibly close. For outright contrast performance, the most important element of an image as far as the brain is concerned, the 50-inch VT65 takes it over the 51-inch F8500 but if you’re not one that watches with the lights off, or at least very low, the difference is negligible and you might want to plump for extra brightness the Samsung has to offer. It’s a testament to both manufacturers that the choice is so difficult this year and only a demo can give you the answer. Speaking personally (hi!), I would take the VT for my near exclusively nocturnal viewing habits but I would absolutely delighted to count myself amongst the membership of the F8500 owners club.
Samsung PS51F8500 Picture Quality 3D
- Excellent dynamic range
- Great shadow detail
- Highly impressive in a bright room
- Reference Colours after calibration
- Almost reference greyscale prior to calibration, perfect following
- Class leading smart features
- Gorgeous design
- Incredibly clean images
- 3D performance is superb
- Comprehensive calibration controls
- Sublime motion handling
- Superior video processing
- Built-in WiFi, Freesat HD and Freeview HD
- Reference Smart TV platform
- Built-in camera
- Minor buzz with brighter scenes
- Mild floating blacks with Black Optimiser engaged
- Sometimes images just look too clean and pristine
- Input Lag is too high for gamers
- HDMI inputs are too close to the edge
- Base stand might be a sticking point in some set-ups and for those with no taste
Samsung PS51F8500 Plasma TV Review
Samsung’s suite of Smart features is almost ridiculously comprehensive so we wrote a dedicated in-depth review on it which you can read here. Almost as generous are the set of calibration controls that contain everything one needs to tune the F8500 to perfection. In actual fact, so accurate was it in the out-of-the-box Movie mode, we didn’t really have to utilise them to their full capacity but we still managed to make improvements and ended up with a reference set of results in all meaningful categories. Samsung’s video processing is also pretty nifty with both standard and high definition signals and motion handling is also crisp and detailed.
Samsung’s engineers clearly had their sights set on Panasonic’s ‘King of Plasma’ crown this year and, to that end, have been working hard on improving native black levels by including a new Black Optimiser feature that is semi-successful in its brief. With it set to its ‘Dark Room’ configuration blacks are indeed fantastic but unfortunately ‘float’, i.e. they fluctuate in luminance which can be quite distracting so we chose to disable it, which then puts the F8500 in the category of possessing excellent – rather than outstanding – levels. Other than in terms of dynamic range, it’s pretty much a wash between the two manufacturers and some will value the incredible (for plasma) levels of brightness the 51F8500 can produce over ultimate black performance. To be honest we’d be more than happy to have either gracing the living room as this is a superb year for plasma TV.
The Samsung PS51F8500 is big and beautiful as well as smart and supremely capable of producing stunning pictures. What’s not to like? Frankly, we can’t think of anything significant! Highly Recommended.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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