Samsung PN51E8000 51" Plasma HDTV


The Samsung PN51E8000 Plasma HDTV In Use

Viewing Drive, the opening heist sequence shows off what the Samsung PN51E8000 is capable of. Full of shadows and spotlights, the Samsung pulls out all of the detail that the Blu-ray has to offer. The black ski mask of a robber is dark but the knit texture and details are completely. Overhead shots of Los Angeles feature the bright lights of windows and signs against the black background of night with phenomenal contrast. Objects in shadows are dark but detailed, with the spotlight from a police helicopter lighting up the screen when it flies by. It is the best I have seen this look on a flat panel display yet.

On The Avengers, the nighttime battle in the forest between Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America was full of detail. Trees had limbs and shadows that were visible and distinct, even with bright lights and explosions happening in the foreground. All of the detail in the night sky was there instead of turning into a dark blob, and there was no red or green tint to the shadows. Bright action scenes in the film were vivid and detailed as well; as the PN51E8000 excelled at bright scenes just as well as it did with night.

For real life images, no film I have compares to Baraka. Scenes in the jungle have lush greens that were rich and dark, but not the unnatural green that many sets produce now. With a screen free from texture or grain, and the motion of plasma, it gets as close to a realistic image as is possible with Blu-ray and current technology. Skin tones are totally natural, without a color push that makes anyone look like they have had a bad fake tan. In the Japanese subway, a man in a dark suit in the background has all the details in his hair and suit visible, where with other displays the suit might either appear dark gray, or be unable to produce the details in the suit while remaining black.

The better motion resolution of plasma was a big benefit when watching football on the Samsung. Fast pans across the field had more detail that was visible without having to resort to motion interpolation and the artifacts that would introduce. Friends can also sit off-center or stand up around the TV without seeing huge shifts in contrast and color fidelity like they do with LCD. Some still worry about burn-in on a plasma, but watching football for three hours straight, with logos and scores on the screen constantly, any residual image lasted under a minute after the channel was changed.

While I am not a 3D fan, I did sit down and watch parts of Avatar and Cars 2 to see how the Samsung performed. While the 3D glasses were nice and light, I was not a fan of the open sides on the design. It makes everything around the screen appear brighter, and any light source behind you reflects off the glasses and distract from the presentation. The pictures coming from the TV looked very nice, and I had to really look to notice crosstalk in the image. A 51" screen will never deliver the immersion of a giant projection setup, but I didn't get the usual headache that I get from 3D on the Samsung. For those that really do enjoy 3D, the Samsung did a bang-up job with it.

Streaming content from the Samsung SmartTV apps worked very well. Netflix and Hulu Plus, my two main sources of streaming content, both worked well with a very nice image and no buffering issues using the integrated WiFi. Late in the review process Samsung also added support for Amazon OnDemand, letting me stream Downton Abbey from Amazon Prime in HD. Even videos that I had converted to MKV or MP4 on my local server played back without issue on the Samsung. Samsung offers a lot of extra apps as well, including Angry Birds and a kids section, but I didn't use those as much as the main services.

In straight performance, there was nothing I really found a flaw with on the Samsung PN51E8000. The only things that bothered me at all were that the menu system had changed from my Samsung plasma and certain features were located somewhere else. There wasn't a real flaw to be found with the image. The only area that an LCD that I've reviewed could beat the Samsung plasma, at least in a darker theater room, is that the letterbox bars on a zone dimming, array LED set gets darker. On the Samsung they were a very dark gray, but not true black. In every other area of performance the Samsung was equal or better than any LCD I have used.