As the least expensive plasma TV for 2010 to feature 3D compatibility, the Samsung PNC7000 series will strike a chord of interest with those who care both about the picture-quality advantages of plasma over LCD--such as improved uniformity and off-angle viewing--and about that much-hyped third dimension. And judging from the four 3D models we've reviewed, plasma provides a significant advantage over LCD for 3D picture quality too. That said, the excellent overall 2D image on the Samsung PNC7000 series is what matters most to us, despite a few niggles that keep it from the very top of the class. A comprehensive feature set and slick, slim styling sweeten the deal even further, making the PNC7000 one of the most impressive plasmas we've seen so far.
Editors' note, August 12, 2010: This review has been updated to reflect testing of Hulu Plus. Also, earlier PNC7000 series TVs apparently showed, aka "soap opera effect," that was not present in the sample we reviewed. Samsung has issued a firmware update to correct the problem. For a link to the update and a full explanation of the dejudder issue, which was also cited in some CNET user opinions, .
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch Samsung PN50C7000, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|Models in series (details)|
|Samsung PN50C7000 (reviewed)||50 inches|
|Samsung PN58C7000||58 inches|
|Samsung PN63C7000||63 inches|
|Panel depth||1.4 inches||Bezel width||2 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
|Other: Textured matte bezel; transparent edge and stand stalk; brushed metal stand top|
The clean, classic look of the PNC7000 series is one of our favorites among plasma TVs this year. We especially like the matte finish of the dark gray bezel, with its subtle metal-like texture to match the actual brushed metal of the stand. Samsung's signature transparent stalk and frame edge heighten the appeal, and if you care, the panel is thin enough at 1.4 inches to cause guests to mistake it for an LED-based LCD.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||8.4 x 2 inches||Remote screen||N/A|
|Total keys||49||Backlit keys||44|
|Other IR devices controlled||No||RF control of TV||No|
|Shortcut menu||Yes||Onscreen explanations||Yes|
The remote included with the PNC7000, while similar in size, shape and button count to the one offered on step-up sets like the UNC8000, has one huge advantage. Instead of catering to slick looks with impossible-to-use, flush semi-keys, the C7000's clicker has standard, raised buttons. We don't like the new grid layout as much as the better-differentiated cursor keys on last year's remotes, but at least that fingerprint-magnet finish is gone.
Samsung didn't change its basic TV control menus from last year, and that's a good thing. The transparent, blue-highlighted graphics are easy to read and navigate, and response is snappier than last year. Text explanations are present for just about every function.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||plasma||LED backlight||N/A|
|3D compatible||Yes||3D glasses included||No|
|Screen finish||Glass||Refresh rate(s)||60Hz|
|Dejudder (smooth) processing||No||1080p/24 compatible||No|
|Internet connection||Yes||Wireless HDMI/AV connection||No|
|Other: Built-in 2D-to-3D conversion system; Optional 3D Starter kit (SSG-P2100T, $350); 3D glasses (SG-2100AB; $150/pair); Wi-fi USB adapter (WIS09ABGN, $80)|
The Samsung PN50C7000 lacks the 3D glasses included on the Panasonic TC-PVT20/25 series, but on the other hand offers a system that converts 2D content to 3D (Panasonic does not). At press time Samsung's starter kit, with two sets of specs and a 3D Blu-ray of "Monsters vs. Aliens," is free if you buy a Samsung 3D Blu-ray player along with your TV. The PNC7000 lacks the Cinema Smooth option found on the PNC590 and the step-up PNC8000 series, so it doesn't properly reproduce 1080p/24 cadence. We'd like to see built-in Wi-Fi, but other plasmas require a dongle for wireless Internet access, too.
|Amazon Video on Demand||Yes||Rhapsody||No|
|Other: Hulu Plus, Dailymotion|
The selection here is the best available on any TV today. With the addition of Hulu Plus Samsung has leapt ahead of the competition for now, although we expect other TV makers to add Hulu's subscription service soon enough. Dailymotion, CinemaNow and Blockbuster are not found on other TVs. No major video services go missing, although we'd like to see more audio support beyond Pandora (like Slacker radio or Last.fm). With the exception of Amazon VOD, which takes the form of a Yahoo widget, all of the streaming services are integrated into Samsung's main Apps platform (see below).
In brief testing we had no problems with Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, or YouTube. Video quality was par for the course, and we appreciated that picture settings, including custom dejudder, were available for streaming video--although 2D-to-3D conversion was not. We did not test streaming of music, photos, or video via USB or DLNA.
However, we did check out Hulu Plus and came away with mostly positive impressions. Its video quality was very good to excellent overall, depending on the source. Its navigation was snappy, and we liked the built-in search (aside from the tedium of entering terms using the TV's remote) and the app's general interface.
The one big problem we had with Hulu Plus was its lack of picture control. On Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu, we were able to adjust basic picture parameters and choose from among picture modes. With Hulu Plus, no picture adjustment options were available and the image appeared stuck in the default Dynamic mode--otherwise known as Torch Mode, with overly bright highlights and oversaturated, inaccurate colors. The non-defeatable dejudder processing afflicting earlier PNC7000 models (see Editors' note) would likely also be present, but it our updated review sample it was thankfully absent. We assume Samsung will update the app to include some picture controls in the future, but as it stands we prefer to get Hulu Plus from an external source (like the Blu-ray player), where picture controls remain an option.
Check out our hands-on impressions of Hulu Plus on the Samsung CD-C6900 Blu-ray player for more information.