Test Report: Samsung PN59D8000 3D Plasma HDTV Page 2

Performance

Thanks to Samsung’s ability to dial in color temperature and colors perfectly, everything I watched had an exceptionally natural, film-like (sorry) appearance. Because you can finely calibrate the PN59D8000, it’s not just the reds, greens, and blues that look perfect but all the in-between colors, too. Subtle variations in skin tones were visible, as were variations in lip and hair colors.

A good example of this variation is Sigourney Weaver’s hair near the beginning of Avatar when she’s talking to Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). In this scene, Weaver’s hair retained its light auburn hue, as opposed to the more reddish tinge I’ve seen on many other TVs. I’d point out other things from this scene that looked realistic, but I’m not sure that anything else here was actually real, including Ribisi.

Sticking with Avatar, I fl ipped over to 3D mode. Samsung was nice enough to supply a pair of its SSG-3700CR active 3D glasses, otherwise a $129 accessory. These weigh less than an ounce and are by far the most comfortable active 3D glasses I’ve ever worn. Let me be clear: This is like saying, “That’s the best kick in the nuts I’ve ever gotten.” They may be exceedingly lightweight, well balanced, and as close to not wearing glasses as you’re likely to get, but you’re still wearing glasses (on top of glasses, in my case).

The Samsung’s 3D performance was above average, with reasonable depth and little crosstalk. One negative, though, was its light output. With 3D pictures (and, to a lesser extent, 2D ones), the PN59D8000 wasn’t particularly bright. This isn’t the typical “it’s not 100 footlamberts!” complaint that you’ll hear from the LCD crowd. (Most LCDs are too bright.) But the Samsung was just a bit dimmer than I’d prefer with 3D when you take into account light lost though the glasses. I never found myself wanting for brightness with 2D, though a little more would have been nice.

On the other hand, the Samsung’s contrast was fantastic. With a roughly 4,900:1 contrast ratio, it even bested LG’s excellent 50PZ950 plasma. A high contrast ratio, along with accurate colors, makes for an image that’s relaxing and pleasing to watch. And there was that film-like (sorry) depth to the image that most other displays just can’t match. It’s a rare television that lets me forget I’m watching a television.

Processing was generally good, with solid video upconversion and minimal jaggies on synthetic tests (like the rotating bar on the HQV Benchmark Blu-ray) and real-world DVD movies. The TV was able to pick up the 3:2 sequence with both 480i- and 1080i format programs. High-def deinterlacing performance wasn’t quite as good, with some small jaggies visible on the rotating bar test from the Spears & Munsil test Blu-ray, as well as on the rigging during that disc’s Ship test. I’d give it an A- for SD processing performance, and maybe a B for HD.

In terms of streaming content, the TV’s Netflix interface is the new version, with cover art browsing and a search function. Interestingly, the cover art was low-resolution, which created an odd, blocky look. But that didn’t carry over to actual content, which looked detailed and fairly noise-free with SD and HD programs.

Hulu Plus is an odd duck in the streaming universe, being a bastard hybrid of monthly payment and commercials. I kind of like it, though, as it offers a pretty good deal on recent shows. I even found the BBC show Misfits, which is a lot like Heroes, except darker and not written by 12 year-olds. Like many new BBC shows, it has interesting camerawork, in this case with an incredibly narrow depth of field and a unique, film-like (not sure if I have to apologize for that one) quality. This HD stream looked quite good on the PN59D8000, with no noise and a perfect rendering of the show’s often limited (on purpose) color palette.

I was sitting at a reasonable distance from the PN59D8000 — about 8 feet. Some would say this is “too close.” If you get really close — say, under 6 feet — you’ll see some dithering noise that’s mostly noticeable on solid colors. But, like I said, at normal viewing distances the picture is as clean as can be.

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