What is the Samsung PS64F8500?
Design and Connections
Samsung’s name for this new look is ‘Magnum’ (presumably ‘Blue Steel’ will be used next year) which is meant to be a perfect blend of both design and function. This futuristic design utilises a single piece of metal for the bezel and incorporates what Samsung refer to as a ‘Titan Black’ colour scheme, although it looked more like a dark gun metal grey to us. The bezel has a brushed metal finish and measures 2.5cm at the top, 3cm at the sides and 4cm along the bottom. We’re glad to see Samsung returning to a wider and darker bezel on their plasma displays as it offsets the screen and improves the perceived image. There is a gloss black strip along the top of the chassis and chrome edging on either side, all of which combines to create what we think is a genuinely beautiful design. Despite a screen size of 64 inches, Samsung have managed to cram everything into a chassis that is only 3.5cm - a feat that would impress even the TARDIS.
At the top of the PS64F8500 in the centre of the bezel there is a five mega pixel camera which can be retracted, thus serving a double purpose of maintaining the display's clean lines and acting as a security measure. There have been fears that someone might hack into your camera, so when not in use you can push it back into the chassis, thus deactivating it. 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. We found that even with minimal lighting, we were still clearly visible when making Skype calls and this also meant that the motion control worked much better as the TV could actually see us.
Among the connections you will find a 3.5mm connection jack for the IR blaster, which is thankfully much smaller than last year, and once you have paired it with the TV you can use it to convert the second remote into a universal controller. You can then use a menu wizard to set the second remote to control your make of set top box and Blu-ray player, thus minimising the number of remotes lying around. We set the second remote up to control both our PVR and BD player and whilst it certainly worked, we found the implementation could be rather slow and the number of available controls is limited.
As is the case with all of Samsung’s high-end models, the PS64F8500 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 PS64F8500 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.
The PS64F8500 uses active shutter 3D and comes with two pairs of RF glasses that are basically the same as last year, although there has been a slight make-over. The shape of the lenses has been redesigned slightly but, despite this, they’re still reasonably large and can fit over regular glasses. They possess certain advantages, they’re very light and there is very little tint to the lenses which means that images in 3D appear more accurate and brighter. The disadvantage is that they’re quite fragile, an unfortunate side effect of their lightness. We also didn't like the fact that you can't fold the arms of the frames in but our main issue with the glasses was the lack of any sides to the frames which meant they couldn't block out ambient light. The glasses provided with the PS64F8500 use batteries but you can also buy an optional USB rechargeable version if you prefer.
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 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.
Within Advanced Settings there are also 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 or a ten-point White Balance control which will allow a professional to accurately calibrate the greyscale.
The Picture Size menu allows access to the Picture Size options and whilst there are a number of different choices, for watching high definition material Screen Fit is the most appropriate because it shows the content without zooming in and adding unwanted scaling. You can also change the image's position on the screen, as well as select if you want to watch 4:3 material in its original ratio or stretched across the 16:9 panel.
Within 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.
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), the amount of 3D Depth, L/R Change which swaps the images for each eye and the 3D-2D which shows 3D content in 2D.
Audio and Features
Voice interaction lets you interact with your TV by simply talking to it using natural speech via the touchpad remote. You can control your TV, run applications or combine it with Samsung's S-Recommendation technology for a truly personalised TV experience. Just ask the TV to find you something to watch and it will search live TV and online content and make recommendations based on what you like. Using everyday language you can easily search for content by actor, title or genre. As an alternative, motion control lets you simply wave at the TV and take charge. You can change channels and the volume level with ease, swipe though the 5 panel Smart hub and grab and select the content you want just like you would on any smart mobile device. New two handed gestures recognise natural movements enabling you to zoom in and out and rotate images, making interaction much easier. Whilst both these technologies are a definite improvement on last year, we found that just grabbing the remote was still the quickest and easiest approach.
The latest version of Samsung’s remote app is slick and effective and there are versions for both iOS and Android, although we found the Apple version worked best. When we launched the app it immediately started streaming live TV and offered both a simplified and full version of the remote control. It also included a touchpad, a microphone feature for voice control and a full keyboard, so it's only a matter of time before your smartphone or tablet becomes the primary remote control. Overall we found the 2013 version of Samsung's Smart TV System to be absolutely superb, setting a reference to which other manufacturers will aspire - a full in-depth review can be found here.
Moving on to the colour management system, we have always liked Samsung’s implementation and found it to be very effective, with the PS64F8500 proving to be no exception. After calibrating the greyscale white was now hitting its target and the accuracy of the primary and secondary colours had increased, so it was an easy task to fine tune them to hit their targets for Rec.709. As you can see in the graph above, the hue, saturation and luminance measurements of all the primary and secondary colours are now spot on and the overall errors are all below 1, which again is a reference performance.
However the on/off ratio is only part of the story, after all you don’t just watch a black or a white screen, what is more important is how a display combines both dark and light images within the same scene. Here the PS64F8500 performed very well, delivering an ANSI contrast ratio of 7,821:1. As you can see on the chart above, the spread of measurements is reasonably consistent and the PS64F8500 can maintain an impressive level of brightness even whilst showing black in the same scene. This was also true when it came to shadows, not only could the PS64F8500 maintain detail in dark scenes but it could also deliver shadow detail when other parts of the image were very bright. The Black Optimiser promises deeper blacks and on a completely black screen in Dark Room mode we got that with a measurement of 0.007. Unfortunately the ANSI contrast measurements were identical to the Off setting and this was borne out in actual viewing, with no apparent difference between the two settings.
The performance of the PS64F8500 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 detail and resolution tests were all reproduced correctly, with the PS64F8500 scaling the images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The Samsung also scored very highly in the jaggies tests on both 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 PS64F8500 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. The PS64F8500 also performed well when displaying film material mixed with scrolling video text and correctly displayed the words without blurring or shredding.
When it came to 1080i material the PS64F8500 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests provided Screen Fit was selected. The PS64F8500 also showed very good scaling and filtering performance as well as extremely impressive resolution enhancement capabilities. When it came to 1080p24 content, the PS64F8500 delivered incredibly 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. The PS64F8500 was comfortably capable of hitting reference white and, even more impressively, was able to show 1% black simultaneously. This resulted in a truly impressive dynamic range that delivered an excellent contrast ratio that was free of any clipping, which was evidenced by the six concentric squares in the white, red and green patterns on the Spears and Munsil test disc all being visible simultaneously, there was some clipping in blue and red but nothing likely perceivable with real world content. The motion handling on the PS64F8500 was quite superb, as was evidenced using the FPD Benchmark disc, where the full 1080 lines of resolution were clearly visible on the moving tests.
If there was one area where the PS64F8500 disappointed, it was in terms of input lag. Without Game Mode engaged we were getting a lag of 130ms and with it engaged that dropped to 100ms, which is still way too high for any serious gaming. We managed to get the lag down to 60ms by using the old trick of renaming the input as ‘PC’ but even then that’s too high for hard core gamers. If you’re main interest is in watching TV and movies and you’re just a casual gamer then the input lag won’t be an issue. However if you’re looking for a TV to use for serious gaming then the PS64F8500 isn’t the one for you. Of course a big screen, expensive TV like the PS64F8500 probably isn’t the ideal choice for a gamer anyway but the reality is there are far better TVs for gaming. In fact even Samsung’s own F8000 LED LCD TV is a better choice with an input lag of 40ms, although that might still be too high for the die hards.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 324W
- Calibrated – Calibrated Mode: 306W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 591W
Samsung PS64F8500 Picture Quality 2D
First of all the reference greyscale and colour gamut meant that the PS64F8500 could fill its 64 inch screen with accurate images, natural colours and realistic flesh tones. This is important when there’s a face filling the screen, as the last thing you want is someone looking like they’ve got sun burn. Another area where Samsung has always been strong is video processing and this is very important when scaling content up to this screen size. Whilst we might enjoy the highest quality Blu-ray from time to time, the reality is that a lot of our content is still standard definition or streamed from the Internet, so the quad-core processing in the PS64F8500 has never been more important. Thanks to a recently acquired addiction to Netflix, we found ourselves watching a lot of compressed content on the PS64F8500 and were impressed with how well shows like House of Cards stood up on the larger screen size. The same was true of all our other streamed content, along with standard definition material watched on Freeview or DVD.
Of course it’s when you move up to high definition content that a big 64 inch screen really comes into its own and here the PS64F8500 could strut its stuff in style. The Samsung was capable of delivering some beautifully clean and detailed high definition images, that were generally free of noise and other artefacts like false contouring. There was some dither in dark areas of the picture that you could see when up close to the screen but it couldn’t be seen at any sensible viewing distance. In addition the Real Black Pro filter worked very well during the day, reducing reflections and maintaining effective black levels despite ambient light. As we would expect from a plasma, there was a wide horizontal viewing angle with a great off-axis performance but perhaps due to the filter the vertical performance wasn’t as good, so bear that in mind if wall mounting at a high angle.
Samsung’s efforts in developing their Super Contrast Panel has certainly paid dividends in terms of screen luminance and even the PS64F8500’s big screen could pump out enough brightness to compete with a lot of ambient light during the day. Screen uniformity was also excellent, with no banding or other artefacts apparent on any of our tests. Where they haven’t been quite so successful is in terms of the native blacks, which don’t come close to the subterranean levels found on the new Panasonics. There’s a reason why we list dynamic range and black levels first in the scoring criteria and that’s because the difference between the blacks and the whites is what gives an image its impact. The deeper the blacks, the brighter the whites and the greater the range between the two, the more effective the overall picture will be. The PS64F8500 still has an impressive dynamic range, thanks to its brightness, but the lack of really deep blacks robs the image of some of its overall impact.
That’s not to say the PS64F85000 couldn’t handle dark scenes well and in fact its ability to show both dark and bright images within the same frame was excellent, as was the level of shadow detail it was capable of. A good test of this is the last 30 minutes of Zero Dark Thirty, where director Katherine Bigelow is brave enough to show much of the assault on Bin Laden’s compound in almost total darkness. It’s a tough test for any TV but the PS64F8500 does a fantastic job of revealing all the detail within the very black shadows and also handling the sudden bursts of light from explosions. In previous years there have been issues with brightness pops and changing black levels, although we experienced neither issue with the PS64E8000 we reviewed in 2012. The same was true with the PS64F8500 and during the time that we were reviewing we didn’t experience any brightness pops or changing blacks levels.
The PS64F8500 was also very strong when it came to handling motion, fast moving sports looked fantastic and 24p content retained a lovely film-like quality. We were also glad to see that Samsung’s habit of introducing backdoor noise reduction is a thing of the past. There was rare instances of image retention but only after leaving a static image up for some time during calibration and we never had any issues whilst watching normal viewing material - even BBC News 24. Since the PS64F8500 is a plasma, it has an excellent off axis performance with wide viewing angles in the horizontal plane. However we did notice that the performance wasn't so good in the vertical plane at more extreme angles and whilst you're unlikely to be looking down at the TV, it is worth bearing in mind if you plan on mounting it high on a wall. Overall though this was an excellent 2D performance from the PS64F8500, with a bright, detailed and accurate picture that is sure to please anyone who demos it.
Samsung PS64F8500 Picture Quality 3D
We watched Planet Dinosaur and found that the PS64F8500 handled the side-by-side broadcast very well, really giving a solid and believable dimensionality to the computer animated dinosaurs. We also watched a number of 3D Blu-rays and discovered that regardless of what we watched, the PS64F8500 did a superb job of creating a totally immersive three dimensional experience. When we watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey we found that the PS64F8500 perfectly replicated Peter Jackson’s desire to create a world beyond the screen. As a result there was very little in terms of out-of-the-screen effects but a lot of depth behind the screen and plenty of layering in each shot, with scenes like Gollum’s cave looking absolutely stunning. Conversely Michael J, Bassett went for a more old school out-of-the-screen effect in some parts of Silent Hill: Revelation and was clearly trying to poke our eyes out at times. Regardless, the PS64F8500 did a fantastic job with both films and thanks to the the larger screen size it was an enveloping and highly entertaining 3D experience.
- Excellent black levels and shadow detail
- Very good contrast ratio and dynamic range
- Lack of PWM noise and clean looking images
- Excellent out-of-the-box greyscale and colour
- Reference greyscale and colour after calibration
- Reference level 3D performance
- Comprehensive calibration controls
- Sublime motion handling
- Superior video processing
- Built-in WiFi, Freesat HD and Freeview HD
- Reference Smart TV platform
- Built-in camera
- Highly effective remote app
- Well designed menus
- Attractive design and excellent build quality
- Some dither noise in darker elements of the picture
- Limited vertical viewing angles
- HDMI inputs are too close to the edge
- Input lag too high for serious gaming
Samsung PS64F8500 (F8500) Plasma TV Review
The PS64F8500 uses Samsung's usual menu system, which is clear, concise and easy to navigate. The included calibration controls are excellent as always and the PS64F8500 is capable of a reference performance in terms of both greyscale and colour gamut. The video processing is equally as impressive and the PS64F8500 passed all the usual tests with flying colours. Samsung has included quad-core processing along with the latest version of their reference status Smart Hub platform and whilst the motion and voice controls still have a way to go, we found the built-in camera very useful for making Skype video calls. The rest of the smart platform is absolutely superb, with a bewildering array of apps, including a highly effective remote app.
The 2D picture performance was absolutely superb, with the PS64F8500 producing wonderfully clean and accurate images. Thanks to the excellent video processing, standard definition held up well on the larger screen size, whilst high definition material oozed with detail. Whilst the black levels aren't as good as some of the competition, they were still an improvement on last year and the Super Contrast Panel certainly delivered the goods in terms of brightness. The overall contrast ratio and dynamic range were also excellent, as was shadow detail and the ambient light filter performed its task admirably during the day. The off-axis performance was superb and the motion handling and screen uniformity were equally as good. The PS64F8500's 3D performance was just as accomplished with incredibly bright, accurate and detailed images that were completely free of crosstalk. The sense of depth and the immersive nature of the larger screen size are sure to please fans of 3D.
Whilst perhaps not the all-conquering heavyweight that some had expected, there’s a lot to really like about Samsung’s new PS64F8500. It incorporates a striking design with a cutting edge Smart TV platform and the kind of big and bright images that we never thought possible from a plasma. If you’re looking for some of the best 2D and especially 3D pictures around, then you should definitely check out the PS64F8500.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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