Other picture controls include five color temperature presets along with the capability to fine-tune color using the white balance menu; three varieties of noise reduction, including an automatic setting; a film mode to engage 2:3 pull-down; a seven-position gamma control that affects the TV's progression from dark to light; a dynamic contrast control that adjusts the picture on the fly; a "black adjust" control that affects shadow detail; and a new color space control that lets you tweak the Samsung's color gamut.
You can choose from four aspect-ratio modes for HD sources, two of which let you move the whole image across the screen horizontally and vertically. As we'd expect from a 1080p TV, one of those modes, called Just Scan, lets the PN63A760 scale 1080i and 1080p sources directly to the panel's pixels with no overscan--the best option unless you see interference along the edge of the screen, as can be the case with some channels or programs. There are also four modes available with standard-definition sources.
Other features: We appreciated the three power-saver modes, as well as the question during initial setup that asks whether you're at Home or in the Store; selecting Home engages the Standard picture mode, which saves power over the Dynamic mode. That said, this 63-inch plasma still guzzles power like few other HDTVs you can buy; check out the Juice Box for details on the set's energy use. As far as other conveniences, Samsung throws in picture-in-picture.
The connectivity of the PN63A760 is excellent. There are three HDMI inputs available around back, while a fourth can be found in a recessed bay along the panel's left side. There's also a pair of component-video inputs; a single RF input for cable and antenna; and a VGA-style RGB input for computers (1,920x1,080-pixel maximum resolution). That recessed bay offers an additional AV input with S-Video and composite video, a headphone jack, and the USB port.
Overall, the Samsung PN63A760 is a good performer, but not up to the level of other high-end big-screen plasmas we tested from Panasonic and LG. It produced a lighter shade of black than those displays, and its color accuracy also suffered somewhat.
Our calibration of the Samsung PN63A760 was less successful than on previous Samsung HDTVs this year. The biggest issue was its relatively uneven grayscale tracking, as evinced by the mediocre "After" average variation score in the Geek Box. In midtones, the set would veer as much as 1000K up and down, and in dark areas (20 percent and lower) it got very minus-green, which caused a bluish/reddish tinge in shadows and black areas. We were unable to fix these issues using the available user-menu controls; unlike the extensive grayscale adjustment system used by LG, for example, the one on Samsung TVs is a bit limited. The set's primary and secondary color points in the best default color space setting, Auto, were also slightly less accurate than on previous Samsungs, although they were still very good. We tried using the color management system to improve them further, but despite our best efforts with test patterns, switching back to program material we still thought Auto looked more accurate. For our full picture settings, check out the bottom of this blog post.
We were able to compare the Samsung directly with a pair of other huge-screen plasmas, the 58-inch Panasonic TH-58PZ800U (which looked somewhat puny next to the PN63A760) and the 60-inch LG 60PG60--both are THX-certified displays. For reference, we also fired up the Lilliputian 50-inch Pioneer PRO-111FD plasma and the 55-inch Sony KDL-55XBR8 LED-based LCD. Our image quality tests commenced with a showing of We Were Soldiers on Blu-ray, delivered as always by our trusty Sony PlayStation 3.
Black level: Compared with the other displays in the room, the Samsung couldn't display as deep a shade of black. The next-lightest model, the LG, still appeared visibly darker than the PN63A760 in dark scenes, and the others looked better still. When Lt. Moore, for example, kissed his wife goodbye in Chapter 6 and meets his fellow troops at the bus depot, the shadows, night sky, and the letterbox bars above and below the picture all looked noticeably lighter on the Samsung. Shadow detail was also less natural. In one example from the same scene, Moore looks down and a shadow covers his face. The shadow looks too light and seems to float above the black background on the Samsung, while on the other displays it appeared much more natural.
Color accuracy: The Samsung again had a hard time keeping up with the other displays in this department. As we mentioned, its uneven grayscale was an Achilles heel, especially in near-dark scenes. The shadow over Moore's face in the aforementioned example was also tinged bluish and slightly reddish, along with the night sky and other near-black areas, to a much greater extent than the other displays. Delicate skin tones also looked a bit less even on the Samsung. The face of Moore's daughter in Chapter 5, for example, tended toward reddish in some areas and again toward bluish in shadowy ones compared with our reference display.
In brighter areas color improved significantly, however, and the accurate primaries showed up a shot of the wives in the living room, with red, blue, and yellow dresses that looked quite close to our color reference. On the other hand, saturation still fell a good deal short of the other displays, an issue visible in the lush jungle scenes, for example. We blame that less saturated look on the Samsung's lighter blacks.
Video processing: In our resolution tests, on the positive side of the ledger, the PN63A760 passed every line of 1080i and 1080p still resolution sources, properly deinterlaced video-based sources, and scored between 900 and 1,000 lines on our motion resolution test. On the negative side--as much as we're reluctant to say so because it probably means another annoying firmware update from the company--it failed to properly deinterlace film-based material. As always, spotting evidence of these resolution characteristics in normal program material, as opposed to test patterns, was extremely difficult.
For some reason, we noticed more noise on the PN63A760 than on other displays, so we engaged the Low noise reduction setting on Soldiers. With all of the displays' noise reduction turned Off, the PN63A760 looked the noisiest, even accounting for its larger screen size. In its favor, noise reduction worked well to clean up some of the noisier scenes, and the Low setting didn't seem to affect detail at all.
We also checked out the Smooth mode on the PN63A760. For some reason it doesn't work with 1080p sources, so we switched our PS3 to 1080i output and compared it with the dejudder modes, also titled Smooth, on the Sony and the Pioneer. In general, the Samsung worked as expected, eliminating much of the judder associated with film-based material. It also introduced its share of artifacts, including some separation in fast-moving objects and the "halo" effect, which appeared primarily during fast movement onscreen or camera movement. One example occurred in the beginning of Chapter 15, when Moore's helmet seemed to break apart as he quickly glanced down, and a bit later when a halo formed behind a quick moving soldier. The dejudder effect also seemed to kick in and out rather abruptly, such as during a quick pan around Moore's wife's house that went from smooth back to judder in a relatively jarring way.
Since many viewers who can afford this TV will likely feed it 1080p sources, however, Smooth is much less relevant than it would be on other displays. We also checked out its effects when watching non-film-based (native 60Hz) material, including a hockey game, and we couldn't see any evidence of smoothing, nor any difference between the Samsung and the other displays. The PN63A760 lacked any trace of the "triple puck effect" seen on the dejudder modes of some of the company's 120Hz LCDs.
Bright lighting: The screen on the PN63A760 did a better job than those of the Panasonic and LG plasmas at reducing in-room reflections and maintaining depth of black in a bright room. We compared the displays with daylight from a window shining on the screens, along with overhead lighting turned on, and the Samsung's picture held up second-best of all the plasmas in our lineup--the antireflective screen of the Pioneer still looked best. Of course, under these adverse circumstances, the matte-screened Sony LCD trounced all of the plasmas.
Standard-definition: The Samsung PN63A760 is a solid standard-definition performer, according to our tests. It delivered every line of the DVD format, although details in the grass and stone bridge were a bit softer than the LG, for example. However, the Samsung did eliminate jaggies from diagonal lines the stripes of the waving American flag. With low-quality shots of sunsets and skies, the set's noise reduction worked very well to clean up the worst parts, although the Auto function didn't seem as effective as choosing any of the three manual settings. The Samsung also successfully implemented 2:3 pull-down detection, although its processing didn't kick in as quickly as did some of the other displays.
PC: As we expect from every 1080p flat-panel display, the PN63A760 delivered excellent performance via both VGA and HDMI inputs, exhibiting full 1,920x1,080 resolution with no overscan and crisp text.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6631/6656||Good|
|After color temp||6699/6554||Average|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 250||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 212||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.635/0.336||Good|
|Color of green||0.303/0.573||Average|
|Color of blue||0.15/0.063||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|
|Samsung PN63A760||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||509.24||416.53||365.68|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.3||0.25||0.22|
|Cost per year||$157.62||$128.92||$113.19|
|Score (considering size)||Good|