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

Packaging, Physical Layout and Accessories

The F8500’s accessory pack includes pretty much everything you need. You get four pairs of 3D glasses, Samsung’s latest touchpad remote, and a power cord with right-angle plugs at both ends. There is no printed documentation, but you can download a user manual online. Other bits include stick-on hooks for cable management, ferrite cores for the power cable, and a component video-to-mini-plug adapter. We would like to see a Bluetooth keyboard included, though if you have one lying around, it will work just fine.

When you first power up the TV, it runs through a setup sequence. I was able to connect to my Wi-Fi network on the first try. Once you have Internet access, the user manual can be pulled up on the screen. You can also contact Samsung support through the menu system if you’re having trouble.

Product 360

The F8500’s bezel is metal in the front with a finely brushed finish. It's not quite black; however, it still blends in nicely and makes the panel look high-end, even when it's turned off. Measuring one inch around the top and sides, and 1½ inches across the bottom, the bezel is fairly narrow, too.

Samsung's screen has a glossy finish. You'd think that make it susceptible to reflections. In reality, though, it's not bad. Still, if you can, place your room’s light sources carefully so as not to diminish the stunning high-contrast image. Clarity is top-notch thanks to a top layer of high optical quality and extremely small pixel gaps.

Attaching to the TV with several screws, the cast-aluminum base is stylish indeed. It appears to simply grow out of the panel’s bottom edge, providing excellent stability and a small footprint.

When you access Skype or use the Motion Control feature, a little camera pops up from the top-center of the F8500. You wouldn't choose it for filming a movie, but the little sensor's picture quality is adequate for video calls.

Plasma TVs are usually bulkier than their LCD counterparts. However, Samsung manages to get the F8500 down to a mere two inches-thick. You do need a little extra air gap if you hang this TV on the wall in order to clear the vents on the upper-rear.

You can see the main ventilation grilles on the top edge and back of the F8500. During regular operation, the set draws 155 W, with a peak load of 467 W. That means a fair amount of heat is generated. As we all know, cool electronics equal happy electronics. Make sure to follow Samsung’s recommendations for proper installation and airflow. Its mounting lugs comply with the 400 mm VESA spec.

All of the inputs face sideways or downwards for easy access when the TV is wall-mounted. There are four HDMI connections, one of which is MHL-compatible, and three USB ports. Also, the RF, component, and analog audio inputs point towards the floor. You get a digital optical output as well, feeding your sound system from the antenna feed. If you have an A/V receiver with HDMI/ARC (Audio Return Channel), you can feed the sound that way too.

Samsung includes four pairs of active 3D glasses. They're so light in use that I was barely aware of them. If you enjoy 3D movies, there's a good chance you'll be able to wear them for hours without fatigue. And they fit over my eyeglasses just fine. Power comes from an included button battery that is not rechargeable. Synchronization happens through RF rather than IR, so pairing is quick and you stay locked on as long as you're within about 20 feet of the F8500.

Samsung departs from the typical wand covered with buttons in favor of a more minimalist handset. Its face is brushed metal, and the whole thing feels very expensive. The center is dominated by a touchpad that responds to swiping gestures as you navigate the menus or SmartHub interface. It’s very responsive and I mastered it quickly. There’s even a backlight activated by a button in the lower-left.

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.

  • 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?).