Samsung FP-T84 review: Samsung FP-T84

In short, the Samsung FP-T5084 is an excellent performer, although not up to the image quality of the best plasma we tested this year, Pioneer's PDP-5080HD. The Samsung's black level performance is on-par with that of Panasonic, and while its primary colors are better, its grayscale is a bit less linear. It still deserves a place among the best plasmas we've seen this year, however.

During setup we adjusted the Samsung for an ideal picture in our completely dark home theater, which first required turning down light output to a comfortable 40 ftl and adjusting the gamma and brightness controls accordingly. We also took advantage of the set's user-menu fine-color-temperature controls to calibrate the grayscale. The Warm 2 color temperature setting was quite accurate out of the box, if a bit blue in the darkest and lightest areas. After adjustment it was more accurate overall, although again the midtones were a tad red while very dark areas remained slightly bluish (much less so than before, however). Both inaccuracies were because of imperfect linearity from dark to bright scenes, although again, the FP-T5084 was no worse than many plasmas in this regard, if not quite as linear as the Panasonic models, for example. To see our full user-menu adjustments, click here or check out the Tips & Tricks section above. For formal evaluations, we set the FP-T5084 next to a couple of competing HDTVs, including the Pioneer PDP-5080HD and PRO-FHD1, both 50-inch plasmas that serve as our references for black level and color, respectively. We also brought out the 46-inch Sony KDL-46XBR4, our newest reference for LCD. We chose to watch Kingdom of Heaven at 1080i resolution, courtesy of the Samsung BD-P1200 Blu-ray player.

The very dim opening sequence of the film did a fine job exhibiting the Samsung FP-T5084's ability to display a deep shade of black, from the letterbox bars to the dark robes of the gravediggers to the shadowy recesses of the thatched-roof cottages. Shadow detail was solid, as well, although we detected a bit more detail in shadow areas on the Sony and the PDP-5080HD: in the tunic of a soldier sitting at the table during the fire-lit feast, for example. According to our measurements, the FP-T5084's black level was about as dark as that of the 42- and 58-inch versions of Panasonic's TH-PZ700U series, so we assume it's on-par with that of the TH-50PZ700U, as well. It's worth mentioning again that the Pioneer PDP-5080HD's deeper blacks and better shadow detail were readily apparent and made these scenes look better than any other TV in the room.

Color accuracy on the Samsung, as we've seen from most of the company's flat-panel HDTVs this year, was quite good. Primary colors measured relatively well and, aside from the dip we mentioned above, its grayscale did too. During Kingdom these characteristics led to realistic-looking skin tones in both bright and dark scenes, such as the scene where Orlando Bloom and Kevin McKidd converse in the sunlight before the ship voyage, and later during Bloom's bedroom encounter with Eva Green. We did notice that her skin in that dark scene looked a bit bluer than we'd like to see, where the Panasonic models didn't dip into blue in the darkest areas; but that's a minor complaint. We comparing the sets we had in-house, we found the Samsung's accurate green primary was obvious in the palm tree where Bloom waters his horse and in the green vegetables in the market, which looked more realistic than on the Pioneer--although the difference wouldn't be obvious outside of side-by-side comparison.

(Update 10-23-07) We originally wrote that the FP-T5064 was free of false contouring that we could see, but subsequent viewing of other material aside from Kingdom revealed visible contouring. For example, the jetfire from the spaceship in Fantastic 4 showed visible gradations in the transition from brightness into the void of space, and in test patterns for contouring we saw the same effect, whereas the Pioneers, for example, were virtually contour-free. This issue isn't severe enough to reduce the overall rating of the set, but it is worth noting in The Bad above.

Shadows also on the Samsung appeared clean from our seating distance of about 7.5 feet from the screen, although if we moved inside the 6-foot mark--very close for a 50-inch plasma--we began to notice the telltale moving motes (dither) in letterbox bars and other black areas. The Pioneer didn't show these motes from the same distance, although most other plasmas do.

According to our test patterns, the Samsung FPT5084 resolved every line of a stationary 1080i and 1080p source, our Sencore VP403 signal generator, and via PC (see below), and the set was capable of accepting a 1080p/24 signal from the BD-P1200. According to the HQV disc on Blu-ray, the set properly de-interlaced video-based 1080i sources but, as did most HDTVs we tested, failed to de-interlace 1080i film-based sources properly. We didn't notice this failure during Kingdom, which looked quite sharp and stable despite a lot of pans and camera movement. But when we checked out the one real-world de-interlacing failure at the end of Chapter 6 of Ghost Rider, which we've relied on so far, we saw artifacts and moire in the RV grille.

Since we're on the subject of resolution, it's again worth mentioning that the 1080p resolution FP-T5084 didn't look any more detailed than the 1366x768 resolution PDP-5080HD from our seating distance. Even in the highest detailed areas, such as the fur next to Liam Neeson's head during a close-up, or the tiny stubble on his face, the Pioneer looked just as sharp. The benefits of 1080p resolution on this set, like on every HDTV around this screen size, are quite difficult to discern.

As with the HP-T5064, the FP-T5084 includes Samsung's best antireflective screen. It didn't perform as well as that of the Pioneer PDP-5080HD at removing in-room reflections, which were most-obvious during dark scenes with the room lights on. That said, the FP-T5084's screen did reflect a bit less light than that of the PRO-FHD1, a plasma without any kind of antireflective coating whatsoever.

We also checked out standard-def sources, using the HQV DVD at 480i resolution via component-video, and the Samsung performed a bit below-average. It resolved every detail on the DVD, although the details in the stone bridge and grass from the Detail test appeared relatively soft no matter what we did with the sharpness control. The set also did a poor job of smoothing out moving diagonal lines, however, and we noticed lots of jagged edges and other artifacts in the stripes of the waving American flag. The various levels of noise reduction worked well to clean up the moving motes in the sky and sunset shots, although choosing the Auto wasn't as effective as High or Medium in the noisiest shots with a lot of motion, such as the roller coaster. The Samsung, when set in Film mode, engaged 2:3 pulldown quickly and effectively.

As a PC monitor, the FP-T5084 performed very well. Via both its VGA and HDMI inputs, the set accepted and displayed every detail of a 1920x1080 source, and text looked as sharp as we'd expect. We did notice some faint ghostly trails to the right of text on both VGA and HDMI sources, but they weren't too distracting.

Before color temp (20/80) 6705/7018 Good
After color temp 6550/6490 Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 325 Good
After grayscale variation +/- 171 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.657/0.33 Average
Color of green 0.294/0.631 Average
Color of blue 0.148/0.063 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Y Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

Samsung FP-T5084 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 412.85 266.66 369.57
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.39 0.25 0.35
Standby (watts) 0.96 0.96 0.96
Cost per year $125.96 $81.56 $112.81
Score (considering size) Poor
Score (overall) Poor

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