Samsung PN51E8000 51" Plasma HDTV


The Samsung PN51E8000 Plasma HDTV On The Bench

Out of the box, the Samsung performed very well when put into the correct modes. Using Movie mode, with the temperature at Warm2, led to values that were very close to accurate, though the intermediate values are all a bit under-saturated as you can see. Samsung also includes a pair of internal test patterns that you can use to set your basic values, like Brightness, Contrast, Color, and Sharpness without the need for a test disc. If you are OK with clipping the WTW area of the picture I found that Contrast could be pushed all the way to 100, but to preserve the values from 235-255 I had to pull it down slightly as it began to run out of Red.

The gamut chart also looks good with color points that are close, and dE values that are below 5 for all targets.

As you can see from the charts, the grayscale and gamma are both pretty close to the targets without any additional work. Below you see that saturations are a bit off except for 100%, but the Gretag Macbeth chart was also decent. Since this is one of the first reviews to use the Gretag chart, it measures 24 designated colors, including grayscale, skin tones, sky blue, natural greens, and more. These are not points that you calibrate to in the CMS, so you can't cheat the results by hitting the primary color target points and looking good on a chart, but not with actual content. Because of this you'll see dE values that are higher than on the standard gamut chart, but it will be much more representative of real world performance. CalMAN 5 added this and we intend to use it in as many reviews as possible.

Samsung allows you to calibrate 2 or 10 grayscale points, and then adjust all 6 primary and secondary colors using RGB controls. Having 10 points lets you also dial in the gamma to be perfect, even if you want to use a less common value like 2.4 or the Rec. 1886 standard. Starting with the 2 point, then moving onto the 10 point and starting at 100%, I targeted D65 and a 2.22 gamma and was able to get very good results.

The color gamut was also easy to dial in using the RGB controls, and without any major adjustments. Pushing the adjustments too far for slight gains isn't recommended as it can introduce banding and contouring, but I saw none of those issues after calibrating the grayscale and gamut.

After the gamut was calibrated, both saturations and the Gretag Macbeth chart improved, with a more saturated color gamut. The dE on the Gretag Macbeth chart dropped a lot as well and we have a much more accurate image that we can easily appreciate. Overall the errors in the Samsung are very low and bordering on the level of unable to be seen.

With an all-black screen the Samsung measured 0.014 fL using a C6 meter. A 100% white window on the screen gave us 26.9 fL, for a contrast ratio right around 1900:1. The black level isn't as good as some plasma panels, like the older Kuro displays, but is still respectable. It's not dark enough that you won't notice letterboxing on scope ratio films, but still quite good. I also measured the black level with CinemaSmooth engaged, which causes 24p content to run at 96 Hz instead of 60 Hz, but can sometimes lead to a rise in black levels. If I increased the backlight to maximum I was able to get close to 50 fL of light output, and could get more if I clipped WTW values, so the PN51E8000 produces plenty of light for even a well-lit room and not just a dedicated theater room.

The Samsung was able to handle all colorspaces, 4:2:2, 4:4:4 and RGB, without any loss in resolution or chroma information. When set to Auto1 for handling interlaced content, it was able to correctly deinterlace 3:2 and 2:2 cadence content and locked on relatively fast. Mixed film and video content also deinterlaced correctly which can be very important on TV channels that have scrolling tickers on them.

The objective performance of the Samsung PN51E8000 was almost perfect. Out of the box it was good, and after calibration it only got better without any visible artifacts or side effects. The main area for improvement is the black level, as lowering that would only improve the contrast ratio and increase the sense of immersion on letterboxed films.