Samsung PS60E6500 £1399
26th Jul 2012 | 13:49
Great value 60-inch plasma that brings down both the price and the house with its all-round performance
Some are suspicious of a plasma, we suspect as a result of LED-backlighting TVs' dominance in advertising, but plasma is the tech to head to if you're after a good value all-rounder like the enormous PS60E6500.
Capable of supplying some of the best 3D pictures we've ever seen, alongside thoroughly watchable digital TV programmes – no mean feat on a 60-inch panel – Samsung has packed this beast with most of its latest smart features.
Arriving not only with a Freeview HD tuner but also a Freesat HD version, the PS60E6500 boasts active shutter 3D readiness and a couple of in-box glasses, the full suite of Samsung's Smart Hub apps, and a price tag that may make a lot of you wince.
However, when compared to the competition the PS60E6500 looks a good deal – it's cheaper, for instance, than both Samsung's flagship 55-inch 55ES5800 and step-down 55-inch 55ES6500 Edge LED TVs.
Though it's not to be confused with the Samsung HT-E6500, a 5.1 system with 3D Blu-ray and streaming galore, the PS60E6500 would make the perfect complement.
We've seen friendlier-looking TVs than the PS60E6500; its combination of a 24mm titanium-looking plastic frame rimmed by a 7mm transparent lip gives it a slightly industrial finish, though it's not unpleasant.
The desktop stand, which does swivel slightly, is huge and heavy, with a transparent column. At 56mm in depth the PS60E6500 isn't the slimmest, though that's not something we're overly bothered by.
If 60-inch is too big, this Series 8 also includes the 51-inch PS51E6500 (£1,299), while step-down plasma options – in terms of quality and features – are myriad.
Elsewhere in Samsung's range is the Series 5 models, which comprise the 51-inch PS51E550D (£999) and 60-inch PS60E550D (£1599).
These have a different design, with a lesser black level response than the PS60E6500.
Samsung's Series 4 screens, all of which are HD-ready only and don't include the Smart Hub, comprise the 43-inch PS43E490 (£799) and 51-inch PS51E490 (£599), and the 43-inch PS43E450 (£679) and 51-inch PS51E450 (£479).
If the PS60E6500 we're reviewing here just isn't big enough, Samsung's flagship plasma, the PS64E8000 (£2,999) might be for you. Accompanied by the 51-inch PS51E8000 (£1,699), both include an extra USB input and Samsung's impressive 'smart interaction' features such as voice and gesture control.
With so many startling innovations coming out of Samsung's labs in 2012, it's probably best to start with what the PS60E6500 doesn't possess.
Stripped of all of those voice, gesture and touchpad controls that occupy Samsung's high-end plasmas and LCD/LED TVs, the PS60E6500 nevertheless has Wi-Fi-powered Smart Hub apps, active shutter-flavoured 3D compatibility – with two pairs of 3D shades in the box – both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners, and some nifty media streaming.
The slightly unusual rear panel of ins and outs is to the left of the screen as you look at it, and contains two HDMI, a USB slot and a Common Interface slot on its near side.
On the back of the connections panel – so protruding outwards – are connections for both the Freeview and Freesat tuners, component video and associated phonos (though the green component input can instead be used for composite video, thanks to an adaptor in the box), a digital optical audio output, Ethernet LAN and the third HDMI input.
That grand total of three HDMIs is a tad stingy for a TV costing this much, as is the two USB slots – one more of each are found on most mid-to-high-end TVs these days, including most of Samsung's range.
At least there's enough picture settings for everyone, with everything from white balance and gamma levels to colour space and even the level of cell-light emissions tweakable.
The PS60E6500's key core panel tech is Real Black Pro, which explains Samsung's ever-improving black response, though whether it matches up to Panasonic's high standards in this department remains to be seen.
Smart Hub, accessed straight from a shortcut on the remote, contains a thumbnail of live TV and some shortcuts to its headline apps – BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport, Netflix, YouTube and Explore 3D.
There's also a link to Samsung Apps, which contains links to a host of other apps and games including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Acetrax Movies, Absolute Radio, Teletext Holidays, Aol HD, Dailymotion, Bollywood Movies, Vimeo, Muzu.tv and PictureBox.
There's also a selection of games apps (MiniGolf, Minesweeper, Suduku Plus) and sports apps (Your Yoga, Your Squat, Fitness VOD).
Samsung has also seen fit to provide a second-rung of apps and links that are dominated by some of its own less than essential app-based ideas.
Family Story (online photo and video albums), Fitness (tracks your progress through a fitness regime that can be linked to Wi-Fi scales) and Kids (on-demand children's programmes, but limited to Canimals and some Korean animation) all have a whiff of passing novelty about them, and anyone with either no interest in this type of thing, or with a Flickr account and a Wii Fit, won't want them.
Unfortunately, these three services dominate the middle of the Smart Hub home screen, and can't be removed.
The PS60E6500 also indulges in AllShare Play streaming to such an extent that a networked PC or Mac nearby appears as one of the sources besides AV2, HDMI1, TV, and so on.
Though bright enough for most rooms, the PS60E6500 is noticeably less bright than Panaosnic's 2012 plasmas.
Personally we don't mind this, being of the mind that most LCD TVs' backlights need to be lessened hugely before becoming watchable.
Hugo in 2D impresses, with a subdued, though natural colour palette piling on the realism. That's aided by some convincing black levels, though the fact that shadow detailing is sometimes crushed is a shame since that is one of plasma tech's biggest advantage over LED-backlit LCD TVs.
We also noticed that plasma tech's other strength – silky smooth motion – doesn't always ring true on the PS60E6500.
The opening long shot in Hugo that sweeps into the Paris train station is eye-poppingly good in some regards though the sequence ends on the black and white lines of the clock, which the PS60E6500 struggles to resolve without a slight flicker.
Later on a sequence of Hugo running through the train station way from a dog suffers from some judder as the camera pans from the top to the bottom of the platform.
Switch to 3D and the PS60E6500 does some of its best work.
Shots of Hugo peering through a gap in the clock face feature some excellent depth of field, as do close-ups of Papa Georges, though we did notice the occasional motion judder and some minor crosstalk during that same chase sequence through the station.
Although the overall picture is heavy enough on contrast, it benefits in some ways from using the Dynamic mode, though the disadvantage of having some extra brightness is an increased incidence of crosstalk.
Still, we're only talking about a slight problem and overall the PS60E6500's 3D images are immensely detailed, crystal clear and with impressive depth.
That opening sequence in Hugo is as good as on any 3DTV, though there are plenty of other high points, with close-ups in particular wowing us.
Besides, we did manage to cure some of the judder by employing the 'Cinema Smooth' setting of Film Mode, though that does make the picture a little more unforgiving, alongside a tiny amount of flicker visible in a picture that's not as comfortable to watch.
So though it's a mighty good TV, the PS60E6500 isn't perfect. Not quite.
The 2D-to-3D conversion feature doesn't work – it barely ever does on any 3DTV – and we also noticed the occasional rainbow effect when scanning around the huge panel during a showing of a nicely upscaled DVD of Casablanca. That sometimes happens during black and white fare on a plasma.
The Hairy Bikers' Food Tour of Britain on BBC Two naturally appears soft on such a big screen, but given its size the small amount of picture noise alongside artefacts on moving objects is pretty impressive. We've seen 32-inch LCD TVs handle Freeview channels a lot worse than that.
Usability, sound and value
Initial set-up is simple, though we were irritated by the need to completely repeat the whole process when trying to re-tune digital channels in a new location.
A four-minute software update download was necessary before this review.
Freeview HD is well handled, with schedules for six channels over two hours on a page below a thumbnail of live TV and a short description of each programme.
Graphics are hi-res, nicely nuanced and use impactful colours.
The remote control itself is excellent as a piece of hardware.
Large number buttons are up top, with a clearly labeled 'HDMI' button for accessing whatever is attached to the HDMI1 input – probably a Blu-ray player.
We do like the Smart Hub logo as a shortcut to apps, as well as the matching titanium-like plastic finish and how it feels in the hand, though it's not as responsive as it could be.
Some backlighting would be handy, too – this is a serious plasma TV that is likely to be used by those with home cinema ambitions.
Thus it will almost certainly find itself being used in a blackout.
The PS60E6500 is also media-savvy, though arguably this side of its character isn't as slick as on LG's current crop of TVs.
USB recording is a nice option, as is the option to pause live TV if a USB stick is inserted (a 2GB stick ought to give you around 50 minutes of pausing), but digital file handling is a little cumbersome.
It's great being able to stream AVC HD, AVI, MKV, MOV, MPEG4, WMV and WMV HD video, MP3, M4A, lossless FLAC and OGG music, and JPEG photos, but it's all a bit too manual.
At least USB-housed material is instantly located and displayed as thumbnails.
It's also possible to access media files stored on the remote cloud storage service SugarSync.
That's good news for owners of Samsung's Galaxy S3 smartphone, which also has AllShare Play feature, though personally we'd like to have seen Dropbox integration.
Audio is rarely a flat TV's strongpoint, though the extra girth of the PS60E6500 ensures a better-than-average performance.
It's still not got anything on a soundbar, let alone a home cinema set-up, but there's noticeably more low end; dialogue sounds full and rounded, with even movie soundtracks coped with reasonably well.
Feature-packed as it is, the PS60E6500's list price of £1,899 is relatively good value for such a monster-sized screen.
Even though we found it online for a shade over £1,600, you'll struggle to find many plasmas to match the PS60E6500 in either size or price.
Best TV 2012
Panasonic does make its TX-P65VT50B, but that's five inches bigger (that might not sound much, but it's measured diagonally, so means roughly a 17% increase in screen area) and thus goes for a much higher price – £3,499 was the lowest we found.
The PS60E6500 is also bigger, and better value – in terms of price – than its Edge LED equal, the 55-inch UE55ES6800 (£1,900).
It's also worth bearing in mind that the PS60E6500 comes with two pairs of Samsung's slinky, lightweight SSG-4100GB 3D glasses, which is more than can be said for all but the flagship VT50 Series of Panasonic's plasmas. What's more, they cost a mere £15 each.
Although judged purely on picture quality the PS60E6500 isn't in quite the same league as Panasonic's high-end plasmas, it's a closer run thing than we'd imagined.
As smart as any TV out there, the PS60E6500 excels with 3D. We're talking smooth, depth-filled images that are comfortable to watch, though 2D action is none too shabby either.
It's great to see both Freesat HD and Freevew HD tuners inside, too, with HD channels playing a star role against standard definition channels that somehow look watchable on a 60-inch screen.
The PS60E6500 does have some minor issues with motion, brightness and black response, though our main criticisms are rather minor; a backlit, more responsive remote control would be nice, as would a fourth HDMI input and a third USB slot.
The ability to customise the Smart Hub home screen – which is cluttered with apps that appeal to everyone individually, though to no-one en masse – would also make for a more streamlined look and feel.
A very good, but not a great plasma, this 60-incher still steals a march on similarly-sized LCD/LED TVs on versatility, picture quality and value.
Some minor issues with motion and brightness aside, this app-packed, media-savvy giant is a fine all-rounder that excels with 3D.
If you're set on achieving a 60-inch screen and you want a 3D telly, the best option is a plasma. Kinder to low quality sources than LED-backlit LCD TVs, plasmas of this size are sold by Samsung, LG and – most notably – by Panasonic.
The latter goes either side of this size, with the 55-inch TX-P55ST50B (£2,000) and 65-inch TX-P65ST50B (£2,500) worth considering for ultimate picture quality and smart TV features galore.
If money's no problem, consider the range-topping Panasonic TX-P65VT50B (£3,499).
Meanwhile, LG's flagship 3D plasma is the 60-inch 60PM970T (£1,500), though if you forgo both 3D and smart TV apps, its low-priced 60PA650T (£999) plasma could be worth investigating.
For 60-inch options in the Edge LED world of similar low price, Sharp's LC60LE636E (£999) could be an option, though this Freeview HD-endowed set doesn't have 3D compatibility.