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

Samsung PN51F8500: We Still Love Plasma

Although I’ve only reviewed a handful of HDTVs for Tom’s Hardware, I’ve spent many years testing, calibrating, and comparing hundreds of displays of every conceivable type. For pure image quality, nothing surpasses plasma in my opinion. I am aware of what OLED screens promise as they begin permeating the marketplace, and I'm anxiously awaiting the opportunity to test one. But for now, plasma rules my living room.

Samsung is one of only two manufacturers still making them, and the company didn't cut a single corner with its PN51F8500. An $1800 price tag represents a terrific value not only for its impeccable performance, but for the best smart TV interface we’ve seen. With so many ways to bring in content, SmartHub 2.0 represents a compelling reason to cut the cord.

Now that so many shows and movies are available online and through our own home servers, there are fewer and fewer reasons to keep paying those astronomical cable or satellite broadcast bills. Samsung’s latest effort is a truly polished and full-featured product that makes finding content in the cloud as easy as pulling up your local provider’s channel guide. And a complete connectivity package makes it a breeze to link up with any source, either in your A/V rack or on the other side of the globe. Thanks to built-in Wi-Fi and WiDi support, you don’t even need wires to access a vast array of digital media.

Performance-wise, the F8500 will be hard to beat. We put it up against the iconic Pioneer Kuro Elite TV and it came close enough in every metric to make the comparison pretty much even. Color, grayscale, and gamma accuracy are reference-quality. It even boasts almost double the light output of other plasmas. Add to that an excellent 3D implementation, and the sub-$2000 price appears quite reasonable.

The choice between LCD and plasma technology is a fairly simple one. If you subscribe to our opinions on what constitutes great image quality, plasma is the clear choice. All that remains is to assess your room conditions. If you like to watch television in either total darkness or in low light, plasma remains your best bet. If you have a bright sunny window or a lot of light coming in from another room, you should probably go with LCD.

The final consideration has to be resolution. It seems unlikely that anyone will develop an Ultra HD plasma TV. While there is no rush to buy into 4K, it will become the standard eventually, just as FHD did. Moving forward, then, our best hope is OLED technology. It offers the contrast performance of plasma and the low power consumption of LCD/LED.It currently commands a mighty premium, though. As a result, if my Pioneer were to die today, I would happily stick Samsung's F8500 in its place.

For its polished feature set, high-end performance, and excellent value, we’re giving the Samsung PN51F8500 plasma HDTV the Tom’s Hardware Smart Buy award.

  • Nuckles_56
    People still buy plasma screened TV's? I thought they went out like the floppy disk...
    Reply
  • 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!!!
    Reply
  • 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).
    Reply
  • 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).
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • jkhoward
    I love the quality of Plasma TV's.. I truly hope they keep developing this technology.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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?).
    Reply