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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 is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He's a veteran reviewer of A/V equipment, specializing in monitors.