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CNET First Look
Power-packed plasma shines brighterSamsung's best-performing TV ever, the PNF8500 series pushes the plasma picture quality envelope, especially in bright rooms.
I'm David Katzmaier with CNET. And sitting next to me is Samsung's best TV ever. This is the PNF 8500 Series. It's Samsung's top of the line plasma for 2013. Superb picture quality on this TV, as well as, oodles features but the thing you'll notice first and foremost is the unique stand. Along the bottom here, you can see it's got a curve design-- also extends the entire width of the television. So, we actually had to bring in a wider table for it for this video. All told, most people will probably gonna take off the stand who can afford this television and hang it on the wall. But if you decided to keep it with one of the cooler-looking stand you've ever seen. Of course, there's no swivel on designed like this but that's the price for high style. In addition to stand, I also appreciate the TV's very narrow bezel. It's got a nice metallic grayish finish here, looked out from the side. It appears a little bit like an LED TV, not a plasma. All told, one of the nice good looking plasma TV as we ever seen. I mentioned, features at the top, one of the other external things you'll notice here is it's got a little pop up camera. You can press this camera and it'll just pop right off the top of the screen. Of course, that allows you to use Skype which is built in to this television as well as Samsung's gesture control features. I didn't test on this TV yet, but last year the gesture control wasn't all that useful unless you really loss the remote and we're kind of [unk]. Speaking of remote control that's another extra feature on this TV, it's a touchpad remote that's got very few buttons but I really like how it felt. Very quick responsiveness and the touch pad of course was great for navigating the browser built in to this television. The downside, of course, is that you don't get that many buttons. You have to actually go into a separate menu to select channels directly as well as access additional features that are usually dedicated to buttons on standard remotes. Of course, this set also comes with the latest software that Samsung's recommendation engine on a new on-tv suite that allows you to control your cable box as well as suggest different TV shows. So, it kinda aims to replace your cable boxes' interface. You can press the menu key and it takes you right to suggestions for upcoming TV shows and things that-- things you might like. On the downside, it really doesn't integrate your DVR very well. So, if you're the kind of person that watches a lot of stuff from your DVR, the system won't be all that useful. Of course, Samsung packs in plenty of apps-- this is the only brand that includes HBO Go, as well as pretty much every other streaming video service known to man. There's also a bunch of games, much audio services including Spotify. So, all told, the app selection is second to none. Actually, I did like the design of the Smart TV interface as well. It's a little bit like a smartphone. You can flip from page to page here and access different things like those apps, the On-TV section including a cross platform browse for on-streaming services. There's also, of course, access to the Cloud and local media. So, again, one of the more comprehensive Smart TV features out there. On the back panel, there's plenty to be found; 4 HDMI, 3 USBs, as well as single analog input-- doubles for composite and component video. You'll also notice a big app for Samsung's evolution kit. This TV can be upgraded, basically, replacing the entire brain of the television with the 4th coming kit that should be available at the beginning of next year, that will this TV to get any of those new features the Samsung designs to build in. Samsung rounds up the feature package-- the four pairs of active 3D glasses in the box. I'm not a big fan of the glasses, they didn't fit all that well and they feel a little flimsy, but since this is the universal active 3D TV, you can buy third party glasses if you want. In addition to gesture control, you'll also get voice control on the set. You press a little button on the remote control and talk to it to perform keyword searches for TV shows and movies. But more than its cutting-edge features and design, the thing that impressed me most about this high-end TV was its picture quality. As I mentioned, it's the best picture that I have ever seen from Samsung and it's right up there with the very best Panasonic and local dimming LED TV's out there. The F8500 exhibits the extremely deep black holes in a very accurate color. But the thing that sets it apart from those other plasma TV is its light output. This thing can get extremely bright-- almost as brighter as some LED TVs. And of course that really helps the picture quality in rooms where you can't control the ambient lighting. Of course, these are among the most plasma TVs are plenty bright for most rooms but if you have one of those extremely bright rooms. You're avoiding plasmas for that reason. You might wanna look into this set. Of course, that brings up one final downside, this flagship TV is extremely expensive but again, you really get plenty of picture quality features and design for the price. That's a quick tour of Samsung PNF 8500 Plasma TV. I'm David Katzmaier for CNET.