Test Report: Samsung PN59D8000 3D Plasma HDTV

There are few things I loathe more than triteness. Every time I hear a slogan, headline, or witticism that I’ve already heard countless times before, I die a little inside. Change the words around at least and make it your own. How often have you read “trickle-down technology,” “game changer,” or other such things in a product review?

I, like other reviewers, succumb to this disease from time to time. But now I have to be doubly annoyed with myself, because not only did I write a trite intro on triteness, I’ve resolved to use the hyperbolic, roll-your-eyes term “film-like.” There it is: film-like. There really isn’t a better way to describe Samsung’s PN59D8000. Well, I guess “plasma” would be more accurate. Or “TV,” if we’re gonna be like that. But as I was sitting back, watching TV and movies on this big Samsung, “film-like” was what kept coming to mind.

Setup

The PN59D8000 is a sizable piece of kit, its nearly 60-inch screen size a noticeable step up from the more common “little” 50-inchers. It measures in at 1.5 inches thick, so spiffy thin LED LCDs don’t have much on it, depth-wise. Perhaps the Samsung’s only oddity is its lack of a traditional component input. Instead, you’re given a dongle to attach your legacy analog video components. I mean component, as the composite- and component-video inputs share the same wire.

The trapezoidal remote is hefty (sorry, full-figured), but I liked it. On one of its sides, you’ll find a normal TV remote. The buttons are all nearly flush, making navigation in the dark difficult. (There’s no backlighting.) Flip the remote over, and you’ve got a QWERTY keyboard and a directional pad. Do I foresee a Web browser app in my future? Indeed I do.

The 59D8000’s menus are colorful, easy to navigate, and quite extensive. In the October issue I lauded LG for the fine-tuning capabilities of its plasma, but Samsung goes one step further by adding full color management settings and onscreen menus that don’t interfere with your picture adjustments (or at least not as much).

The Smart Hub interface for media streaming is about as good as such interfaces get: It’s not exactly easy to navigate, but not difficult either. You get the usual suite of options, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Vudu, but no Amazon Instant Video, sadly.

As I had deduced with my Holmesian powers of deduction, the TV has a Web browser. It loads pages pretty fast — faster than some other TV-based browsers I’ve used. A tiny movement-sensing pad on the remote functions as a somewhat computer-like mouse. It’s not as useless as similar technology found on Sony’s Google TV or LG’s Smart TV Upgrader remotes, but its action isn’t exactly fluid. You do get picture-in-picture with whatever show you’re watching, which is very cool.

DNLA allows you to stream music/pictures/movies from your computer, but like all DNLA interfaces, it’s little more than a file navigator, with no real search or sorting functions. If you want to stream music from your computer, you’re still better off getting an Apple TV (see my review here).

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