Samsung PS64D8000 £3000
24th Jun 2011 | 14:37
Excellent, great value 3D plasma with Smart TV internet connectivity
Samsung PS64D8000: Overview
The Samsung PS64D8000 plasma is arguably the most eagerly awaited 3D TV so far this year. Its immense 64-inch screen fits nicely into the generally accepted 'bigger is better' mantra, while gas technology has consistently proved superior to LCD or LED at suppressing the dreaded crosstalk noise.
The PS64D8000's exceedingly lovely design features a brushed silver metallic bezel and transparent outer trim and is impressively slender by plasma standards. While it's impossible not to draw negative aesthetic comparisons with the stunning near bezel-free designs of Samsung's D7000 series, the PS64D8000 puts to bed any notion that plasma equals ugly.
As well as the aforementioned 3D compatibility, the flagship PS64D8000 carries full Smart TV capability, which means all manner of multimedia playback support and plenty of picture processing power.
Also available in the D8000 plasma series is the 51-inch PS51D8000, while a step down in Samsung's 3D plasma range are the D6900 and D6910 models, which lack the contrast-boosting Real Black Filter found in the D8000s, as well as a few of the flagship model's Smart TV features and Freesat tuner.
The black filter in the P64D8000 is of particular interest, as the hope is that it might lift Samsung a bit nearer to the class-leading black levels of Panasonic's current GT30 and VT30 plasma models than the Korean brand got with its (nonetheless awesome value) P51D6900.
Samsung PS64D8000: Features
The PS64D8000 ships with just a single pair of Samsung's comfortable active shutter 3D glasses. This seems miserly for a high-end TV, but then the PS64D8000 is a grand or so cheaper than Panasonic's line-leading TX-P65VT30B, a saving that could buy you 10 extra pairs of specs.
The PS64D8000 carries Freesat HD and Freeview HD tuners, Real Black Filter technology to boost black levels and the very latest version of Smart TV, which includes a web browser and Skype.
Connections are comprehensive and include four v1.4 (3D-ready) HDMIs, two USBs, an Ethernet port, built-in Wi-Fi and a D-Sub PC port. The USBs can be used to record to removable hard-disk drives from the digital tuners, or for playing video, photo or music files from storage devices.
The Ethernet/Wi-Fi options give you access to Smart TV, the open web browser and also enable you to access (via Samsung's Allshare system) content on DLNA-capable PCs, with the number of file formats covered being enough to satisfy the vast majority of users.
Smart TV is impressively wide-ranging. A Recommended section provides instant access to key stuff like LoveFilm, the BBC iPlayer, Skype, the AceTrax movie rental/purchase streaming service, 'Social TV' (Facebook and Twitter predominantly) and Samsung's recently released Explore 3D channel. This contains a selection of (currently free) 3D content for streaming into your TV, and its content level has grown substantially even in the past few weeks.
Much of the content – which chiefly comprises film trailers, kids shows, music videos and documentaries – is obscure, but some of the documentaries are often worth watching for their 3D visuals, if you can tolerate their often eccentric presentation.
It was notable during this review that the 3D images seemed to stream much more stably than they did on, say, the PS51D6900, suggesting that Samsung has recently improved the infrastructure of its online delivery systems.
There's also a separate Video section that seems to be a social networking tool focused on films, but the bulk of the Smart TV content (in terms of volume, at least) is the Samsung Apps section. This had around 60 applications, many of which are likely to be of limited interest to most people, but there are a few gems such as YouTube, Picasa and the vTuner Internet Radio system.
The comprehensive picture calibration options include colour space adjustment, the ability to change the offset and gain of the red, green and blue colour components and 10-point white balance adjustment.
There are also picture processing tools on offer for those not afraid or philosophically opposed to experimenting with them, including digital and MPEG noise filters, and Samsung's take on the now near-universal '600Hz Sub-field Drive' technology that pulses each plasma cell repeatedly for each frame of image data to boost brightness, stability and motion fluidity.
It's surprising that Samsung hasn't pursued THX or ISF certification for this flagship set, but it's reasonable to suppose that support would have been granted had it done so.
Samsung PS64D8000: Picture
Pictures manage to impress and mildly disappoint simultaneously.
The sheer scale of the image underlines how 3D works better when it occupies a bigger chunk of your field of vision, with the full HD nature of the active 3D format proving abundantly obvious. Aside from a touch of motion blur, 3D Blu-ray images are every bit as detailed and crisp as 2D Blu-rays, providing a reminder of the advantages of the active method over passive and unlike, say, the LG's 55LW650T's, there's no trace of horizontal lines across the screen.
The PS64D8000's pictures are also impressively bright and richly coloured for a 3D plasma TV.
Samsung's Bluetooth-based glasses don't knock as much brightness out of pictures as those of some rival brands and the screen itself has enough dynamism in its images to avoid the murky colours and detail-free dark areas that were associated with some 3D plasmas last year.
In fact, its 3D pictures seem slightly brighter than those of Panasonic's 2011 3D plasmas.
At first, it also looked like the PS64D8000 was going to do the business where crosstalk was concerned. Notoriously problematic material, such as the Golden Gate Bridge sequence in Monsters Vs Aliens, are very clean, with scarcely a trace of the tell-tale double ghosting noise.
It fares worse, however, with a scene in Tangled where hundreds of bright lanterns floating against a dark sky appear with obvious double echoes of themselves to either side.
Any light elements in predominantly dark 3D sequences also suffer from ghosting, especially if they are in the middle to far distance.
This dark-scene crosstalk is done no favours by the gargantuan panel, which makes flaws difficult to ignore.
The PS64D8000 is more consistently successful with 2D. Its upscaling engine transposes standard-definition sources, including low-quality Freeview/Freesat channels and streamed material from the internet, to the 1080p screen remarkably well. Even the softest sources look detailed and sharp and, impressively for a 65-inch screen, this is achieved with a negligible amount of noise.
While standard-def playback is superb, the PS64D8000's HD pictures are among the best on the market.
The new contrast filter enables black parts of pictures to look several degrees deeper, and more convincing than on the PS51D6900 and at no expense to shadow detail. What's more, this being plasma rather than LCD or LED , the inky blacks can effortlessly share a frame with punchy, dynamic bright content.
Detail levels with quality HD sources are immense, too, giving pictures the level of nuance that distinguishes the very best TVs and projectors.
The PS64D8000's motion handling, meanwhile, be it with 1080p/24 Blu-ray or normal standard-def fodder, is the most natural (in terms of not suffering judder or resolution loss) that Samsung has delivered for a very long time.
Colours are explosive, even using the relatively restrained Movie picture preset. Furthermore, it doesn't take much work in the colour adjustment menus – even though these don't include secondary adjustments – to get hues looking as credible as they are vibrant, while even the subtlest shifts or blends are handled without banding or blocking.
Add to all this plasma's advantage when it comes to viewing angles, and it's hard to fault the PS64D8000's 2D HD performance, especially given its price compared to its main rivals. Some skin tones and deep reds can look a touch orangey, especially during standard-def viewing and brightness levels jump around slightly with the Dynamic preset, but these flaws are not sufficiently regular or aggressive to raise a red flag.
One smaller concern is that the image looks rather 'fizzy' (as most plasmas do to some extent) if you get close to the screen, but this noise vanishes at a sensible viewing distance.
Finally, in the negative column, the PS64D8000's input lag is a bit disappointing. The provided Game preset records an average of 60ms, which is enough to compromise your performance.
Samsung PS64D8000: Sound, value and ease of use
There's enough power and dynamic range in the speakers to produce a soundstage that's just about big enough to match the prodigious size of the 64-inch screen.
The mid-range doesn't sound cramped and overloaded, and trebles are presented with spirit, but without sounding harsh and tinkly. Bass is a bit processed and poppy rather than natural and deep, but improves significantly on previous Samsung TVs.
While it's probably a stretch to describe any TV that costs three grand as a bargain, the PS64D8000 is around £1,000 cheaper than the equivalent Panasonic, a fact that, along with its superior internet service, could be enough to persuade many people to swallow its less spectacular contrast performance and slight 3D crosstalk issues.
Ease of use
The PS64D8000 is very easy to use for such a sophisticated set. Its remote control is simple and to the point (if a little flimsy and plasticky feeling for such a sumptuous TV) with one-button access to a surprising number of key features without feeling cluttered or fiddly.
The onscreen menus are attractive and well organised, with an excellent trick up their sleeve in the form of an interactive onscreen instructions manual. Whenever you move the cursor over an option, you get a brief, but usually perfectly intelligible, explanation on the right hand side of the screen of what the selected feature does.
The only things letting the side down in ease of use terms are a weird and seemingly pointless split of settings between two separate Advanced and Picture Option menus, and the even more bizarre 'hiding away' of the useful Game preset within a submenu of the set's System menu.
Samsung PS64D8000: Verdict
The PS64D8000 is beautifully styled and has features coming out of its shiny ears, including the full Smart TV package, reams of picture adjustments, and, of course, active 3D playback.
Its performance is mostly impressive, too, with 2D in particular delivering a superbly natural, contrast-rich, punchy and sharp picture.
The set's 3D pictures are also excellent for much of the time, although, crosstalk does appear when images contain bright elements against dark backgrounds.
Overall, the PS64D8000 is great value. It's not as good as Panasonic's VT30 series, but its compromises are more than tolerable when set against the saving it offers on its rival.
The PS64D8000 looks a million dollars and doesn't skimp on features or connections. Its Smart TV services are a high point, especially now there are a number of good-quality video streaming services available.
It's also a very accomplished performer, producing consistently great 2D pictures and often superb 3D ones, with minimal crosstalk during bright scenes. Plus, of course, it's much cheaper than the only other 64/65-inch screen around right now.
Crosstalk is noticeable when viewing dark 3D scenes and some light scenes show momentary 'jumping' brightness levels. Black level response and colour saturations aren't up there with Panasonic's latest efforts, though they're still good by general standards. Finally, input lag is a bit high for gaming.
The addition of the extra Real Black Filter to the PS64D8000's screen makes it a markedly stronger performer than the great PS51D6900 and its prodigious size emphasises the quality of its 2D performance, with both HD and standard-def material.
The set looks gorgeous too, and you can't get any other similarly sized screen right now for the same sort of money.
The PS64D8000 is packed with quality multimedia tricks and it's an accomplished 3D performer, with only some occasionally obvious crosstalk during dark 3D scenes standing between it and a full five stars.
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