Samsung PN51F8500 Review: A 51-Inch Plasma HDTV With SmartHub

Video Processing and 3D Crosstalk

This part of our benchmark suite is unique to our HDTV reviews, so I’ll explain the results as I go. We use a series of pass/fail tests to determine a display's ability to process different kinds of video signals. Most of the time, you want your source components handling this because they're more capable. If you own an Oppo Blu-ray player, for instance, it exceeds the capabilities of pretty much any display. Set your player to output 1080p video, and the display does no video processing whatsoever. An example of the reverse would be a cable or satellite receiver, which is usually poor for scaling and deinterlacing.

The first tests consist of a group of video clips from the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark Blu-ray Edition, available to anyone for about thirty bucks online. Here’s a quick rundown of what's covered:

2:2 pulldown: This is the cadence most commonly found in content shot on video cameras (at concerts and sporting events, for example). The original image is interlaced, two fields per frame, and the display must integrate them into a single progressive frame.

3:2 pulldown: The cadence most often used to convert 24p film to 60i video, its order is two fields of the first frame and then three fields of the next, in alternating sequence. If the display doesn’t integrate the extra field properly, there is a very obvious artifact that shows in our test clip and results in a failure.

Accepts 24p: Film content on Blu-ray is encoded at 24 frames per second, and all current players can output the signal at that rate. Most displays can accept this signal and process it to a refresh rate that’s a multiple of 24 by using repeated frames.

  • 2:2 pulldown: Pass
  • 3:2 pulldown: Pass
  • Accepts 24p: Pass

Very few displays of any type or price pass the 2:2 test. Samsung's F8500 is a very capable de-interlacer, though. Where would you find interlaced content? It’s most common in high-def broadcasts, which are usually 1080i. A notable exception is Fox, which sends its signal out at 720p. For film-based content on Blu-ray, the set processes 24p correctly without user intervention. Each frame is shown four times to match the native 96 Hz refresh rate.

The second group of tests covers an HDTV’s ability to show signals below black and above white. Unlike PC signals, which range from 0 to 255, a video signal truncates that to 16-235. The areas above and below those values are considered head and toe room, and are not used in correctly-encoded content. It is desirable, however, for a display to at least be able to show the levels between 0-34 and 236-255. It makes calibration easier, and occasionally content does stray outside the limits.

The Chroma Burst pattern shows a series of single-pixel lines, in color, to determine if a display actually achieves its maximum native resolution. Most HDTVs return different results for RGB signals than for component (YPbPr) video. 4:2:2 is the minimum bit depth output from a source; 4:4:4 is more common. Some players can output RGB, which usually eliminates a conversion step in the display. Our test shows which signal mode provides the best resolution performance.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Above WhiteBelow BlackChroma Burst

Many HDTVs only show their full resolution when fed an RGB signal. The F8500, however, performs equally well with both RGB and YPbPr signals. Since most Blu-ray players only output YPbPr, this display has a distinct advantage. The passing results on the above-white and below-black patterns mean that it maintains the proper black level threshold for both types of signals.

Christian Eberle
Contributing Editor

Christian Eberle is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He's a veteran reviewer of A/V equipment, specializing in monitors. Christian began his obsession with tech when he built his first PC in 1991, a 286 running DOS 3.0 at a blazing 12MHz. In 2006, he undertook training from the Imaging Science Foundation in video calibration and testing and thus started a passion for precise imaging that persists to this day. He is also a professional musician with a degree from the New England Conservatory as a classical bassoonist which he used to good effect as a performer with the West Point Army Band from 1987 to 2013. He enjoys watching movies and listening to high-end audio in his custom-built home theater and can be seen riding trails near his home on a race-ready ICE VTX recumbent trike. Christian enjoys the endless summer in Florida where he lives with his wife and Chihuahua and plays with orchestras around the state.

  • Nuckles_56
    People still buy plasma screened TV's? I thought they went out like the floppy disk...
  • Merry_Blind
    Damn Samsung TVs have so much lag... They have amazing picture quality, but aren't fast enough for proper gaming... sigh... bring on the OLED!!!
  • n3cw4rr10r
    Am I the only one who thinks this is overpriced? especially with 4k TVs getting close to this range (Vizio P series will be out soon for $1000).
  • n3cw4rr10r
    Am I the only one who thinks this is overpriced? especially with 4k TVs getting close to this range (Vizio P series will be out soon for $1000).
  • colson79
    It is such a shame everyone bailed on Plasma TV's, I still have one and the picture quality blows away LCD in the home theater. Hopefully my Plasma will last until OLED is reasonable. It would suck having to go to LCD.
  • jkhoward
    I love the quality of Plasma TV's.. I truly hope they keep developing this technology.
  • DisplayJunkie
    @Nuckles_56 your level of ignorance is astronomical yet not uncommon; you are making a fool of yourself.

    @n3cw4rr10r It's not overpriced at all, but rather an outstanding value (though not as good a value as the sorely-missed Panasonic P50ST60). The image quality is tremendously better than any 4K TV, even with perfect 4K source content, even if they sold the 4K TVs for $1500 or less. The difference in contrast(dynamic range) is the most important, and it is huge. Side-by-side with the plasma, no one would pick any 4K LCD.
  • nthreem
    It's worth noting that Samsung announced it will discontinue production of plasmas at the end of the year. Better pick one up soon!

    I got a Panasonic VT60 at the beginning of the year, just as stock was running dry. I'm still amazed by the picture quality.
  • Nintendo Maniac 64
    Hopefully my Plasma will last until OLED is reasonable.
    Actually OLED is arguably already there or getting there. Some people were able to pick up LG's 55" OLED TV for $2000 (not a typo) via in-store at Microcenter.

    For a more universal price-point, it's newest revision is now going for $3500.
  • photonboy
    Damn Samsung TVs have so much lag... They have amazing picture quality, but aren't fast enough for proper gaming... sigh... bring on the OLED!!!

    Most HDTV's have a "GAMING MODE" option which disables video processing inside the HDTV for a particular HDMI input such as your game console might use.

    Having said that, burn-in issues have never been completely solved so I wouldn't game on a Plasma anyway (seems an important thing to mention doesn't it?).