Samsung PN60F8500 60" 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV
For the past 7 years, both Samsung and Panasonic have been engaged in one-upmanship when it comes to plasma TV performance, coming closer than ever before to creating that elusive "perfect" TV. Samsung's latest effort is the PNF8500 series, which brings premium styling, outstanding performance, and a borderline excessive amount of featuresfor one very high price.
Samsung is known for daring styling when it comes to TVs, and the PNF8500 is instantly recognizable, even at a distance. The unique stand spans the width of the TV, providing a stable base while maintaining a minimal profile but this design doesn’t allow any sort of pivoting. The bezel is amazingly thin for a plasma TV, with the screen stretching to the far corners of the set. Given all of this, design is hardly a primary consideration for purchasing an expensive plasma TV.
The number one reason for buying a higher-end plasma TV is picture quality, and the Samsung PNF8500 doesn’t disappoint. As with many of Samsung's recent plasma TV models, color accuracy is the PNF8500's main strong point. After a professional calibration, the PNF8500 delivers a picture truly deserving of the "life-like quality" clich, something rarely seen in lesser TVs of any type. Black level performance is also beyond reproach. Alongside the high-end Panasonic plasmas and the one-off Elite LED LCD TV, this is likely to be the closest any mass-production TV gets to the vaunted black levels of the nearly half decade-old Pioneer Kuro.
Bright room performance has always been the traditional weakness of plasma TVs, but Samsung has gone to great lengths to ensure that their flagship model can compete with the best that LED LCD TVs have to offer. This is an added benefit when watching 3D material, since the tinted glasses can reduce the perceived brightness of content. The PNF8500 excels in displaying cinema-style 24p content, with the characteristic "projector" image seen in movie theaters. However, the PNF8500 recalls previous Samsung plasma TVs in that it sacrifices black levels to achieve proper 24p cadence. This however is a minor nitpick likely to go largely unnoticed.
Connectivity options include four HDMI inputs, three USB 2.0 ports, and the aforementioned Ethernet.
A single shared breakout cable accommodates component video and composite video. Aside from an RF jack, this rounds out the analog connectivity options for the PNF8500.
As you would expect with a top-of-the-line Samsung product, the PNF8500 carries the requisite internet access, which can be set up through the built-in Wi-Fi or by using the provided Ethernet port. This opens up access to Samsung's Smart TV, which essentially turns your TV into a massive smartphone. The Smart Touch Remote adds to the effect, allowing you to navigate menus and find content by swiping the touch pad or by speaking to the remote itself.
Smart TV is Samsung's effort to make the set-top box redundant, and succeeds for the most part. Users have access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Amazon Instant, Youtube, and a long list of other sources from which to stream online content. The various pages are customizable, allowing users to add or delete apps or channels as preferred.
It's up to you to decide where the line between necessary and frivolous lies, but there's no question that this is one of the most well-equipped TVs ever produced. Aside from content streaming, the PNF8500 offers several extras that blur the line between TV, smartphone, and tablet. The built-in web browser is one of the best applications of such on a TV, making it possible to actually surf the web without reaching for another device. The "Evolution Kit" houses the TV's quad-core processor which can be exchanged for more powerful processors if you need the latest and greatest. The pop-up camera is perfect for social media, and is key to the Smart Interaction feature, allowing users to control the TV without a remote.
The only drawback to the whole package is this is Samsung's only videophile-grade plasma TV for 2013, unlike previous years where the company offered the same performance in a model with less features. This presents a very expensive problem to those with an eye for picture quality, but the PNF8500 does carry some unique qualities and advantages justifying the price. Overall, this is one of the best 2013 TVs available.