Test Report: Samsung PN58C7000 3D Plasma HDTV

Despite the rising popularity of LED-backlit LCD TVs, plasma has remained a favored display technology for many critical viewers who think it delivers the more natural, film-like picture. What it hasn't delivered, at least in the past, is the svelte profile and sleek styling that you get with LED-backlit LCD sets.

That seems to have changed with Samsung's latest models. The 58-inch PN58C7000 plasma reviewed here measures a slinky 1.4 inches deep, about half the depth of a typical plasma. The black bezel has a beautiful brushed-metal look and is surrounded on all sides by a clear Lucite edge. Capacitive touch controls for power, volume, channel, and menu functions are set into the Lucite at the lower right. The silver swivel base floats the TV on a Lucite pillar. I fell in love with the look the minute I laid eyes on it. But would I fall in love with the picture?

Chief among this TV's features is a 3D display when connected to a compatible Blu-ray player (or cable/sat- ellite box) and viewed with active-shutter 3D glasses. (No glasses are supplied with the PN58C7000, but Sam- sung?s 3D starter kits, which include two pairs of glass- es and one Blu-ray 3D movie, cost $349.) There's a mode to convert 2D pictures for 3D display, along with options for over/under and side-by-side 3D formats.

This is an Internet-connected set, too, with access to a broad mix of online content through Samsung Apps. Along with Netflix, Amazon, Blockbuster, CinemaNow, Vudu, YouTube, and Pandora, it has Hulu Plus and DailyMotion, a YouTube look-alike populated with entertainment content. You also get Yahoo! Widgets, via Yahoo!?s latest interface. And the TV is DLNA-compliant for streaming content from a network-connected PC. (Sam- sung provides PC Share manager software for download on its Web site.)

Connections on the back include four left-side-facing HDMI jacks. There are also two USB ports for plugging in flash drives loaded with photo, movie, and music files, or Samsung's optional LinkStick Wi-Fi adapter ($79) if needed. Samsung provides just one analog compo- nent-video input that can also be used as a composite- video input.

The uninspired, boxy remote control lacks hand-friendly contours, and too many important buttons (such as those that access 3D viewing options, Internet apps, Yahoo! Widgets, and aspect-ratio settings) are tiny and hard to distinguish from the keys around them. Ditto the Enter key for the 4-way navigation pad; it's virtually impossible to discern by touch from the surround- ing arrow keys, slowing down menu navigation.

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