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Samsung PNE8000 review:

Samsung PNE8000

I complained that Samsung's interface was too crowded and overwhelming this year, and that's still the case. You can only customize the bottom half, and even then many of the icons can't be deleted. While response time was generally speedy, I did encounter a few hitches and some balkiness even despite the dual-core processor (and I bet the single-core Smart TVs run noticeably slower). I prefer the simpler look and customization of Panasonic's interface, for example, but there's no denying that Samsung's is more advanced.

Numerous picture settings are onboard.

Picture settings: As in previous years Samsung provides one of the best picture adjustment suites for both 2D and 3D sources, delivering extras like a 10-point grayscale and superb color management that many TVs lack. There's also a CinemaSmooth setting in the Film Mode menu that engages a 96Hz refresh rate to properly handle 1080p/24 sources (this year it doesn't hurt black-level performance; see below). Full adjustments are also available in Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu and HBO Go.

Bye-bye, breakout cables, hello, actual jack!

Connectivity The back panel includes three HDMI ports, which is one fewer than last year and may necessitate employment of an external HDMI switch or AV receiver in more elaborate home theaters. There's a single component/composite-video input and, unlike last year, it doesn't require use of a breakout cable. There's no VGA-style PC input, however.

Picture quality
The Samsung PNE8000 is the best-performing Samsung TV I've ever tested, outdoing the D7000/D8000 from last year with its darker black levels and earning a 9 in this category. It also showed superb color accuracy, although not quite as good as those sets. That said, I still prefer the picture of the Panasonic ST50 by a nose, due to the E8000's slightly less impressive shadow detail and slightly worse bright-room performance. With 3D sources the E8000 is clearly superior to the Panasonic, however.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Comparison models (details)
Panasonic TC-P50ST30 50-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P55VT30 55-inch plasma
Samsung PN59D7000 59-inch plasma
Pioneer PRO-111FD 50-inch plasma
Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD series (reference) 60-inch LED-based LCD

Black level: The PNE8000 tied the superb ST50 for darkest shade of black in the room aside from the two Elite TVs (Sharp and Pioneer), clearly outblacking last year's Samsung plasma and, to a lesser extent, the VT30. It's worth noting that the latter two were aged and so showed different black levels from their initial readings, but even comparing initial measurements, the two 2012 plasmas are darker. The PN60E8000 has the best 0 percent measurement of any plasma TV I've tested aside from the Kuro, although without an instrument it's difficult to see -- even post-calibration in a dark room side-by-side -- that it's darker than the ST50.

Nonetheless the E8000 often gave the impression of a higher-contrast picture than the ST50. That's because near-black areas were darker on the E8000. One example in "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" came at 5:56, where the silhouetted pants and jacket of Oskar's grandmother, as well as the shadowed trees in the background, were all markedly darker compared with the rest of the TVs.

I actually preferred the way the ST50 and the other TVs handle dark scenes, however, because those darker near-blacks obscured shadow detail. At the 5:22 mark, for example, a shot of Central Park at night revealed even less of the trees than on the Samsung D7000, whose shadow detail I complained about last year, and compared with the others it looked downright murky. Oskar's jacket at 6:04 was also robbed of some detail. The issue persisted in brighter scenes too, for example, in Thomas' leather jacket on the swing set (25:05), although it was less obvious.

I was also a bit annoyed to see that in fades to black, the screen of the E8000 turned off completely, a behavior typically associated with LCDs and not plasmas. It does so more quickly than the PN59D7000 -- fast enough that the black screen flashed off and on distractingly during the black fades at the beginning of "Watchmen," for example. Neither the Sharp Elite nor the other plasmas turned off when fed black screens.

It's also worth noting that the 60-inch E8000 couldn't get as bright as the 55-inch ST50, maxing out at 30 FL in Movie mode and making it unable to achieve our target of 40. Larger plasmas are generally dimmer, but even so I expected the E8000 to get brighter. Last year's 59-inch Samsungs had no trouble getting to 40 in Movie mode.

Two issues from last year -- brightness pops and a black-level rise in 1080p/24 material -- didn't arise in my testing. I checked "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" for pops as seen on the 2011 D8000 and D7000 plasmas and in neither case did the PNE8000 pop at the picture settings I used for the review (due to what I saw in 3D testing, below, I have a hunch that Samsung may have intentionally limited light output to cure the "pops"). Black levels remained nearly identical regardless of whether 1080p/24 (CinemaSmooth) mode was engaged.

Color accuracy: Although it couldn't deliver the reference-level charts seen on the 2011 Samsung plasmas, the color of the E8000 looks great in person, too. In our lineup it did look a hair cooler or bluer in skin tones, like the faces of Oskar and Stan in the lobby (10:00) and Oskar doing research (19:53), and saturation in areas like Oskar's bright orange sweater seemed just a bit more muted than on our reference D7000, the ST50, and the Sharp Elite. These differences wouldn't be noticeable outside a side-by-side comparison, but they're enough to prevent the E8000 from earning a place as our new color reference.

Video processing: I have no complaints in this area. As I noted above, the biggest improvement from last year is the fact that engaging CinemaSmooth, which worked well to impart correct film cadence with 1080p/24 sources in our tests, didn't cause any appreciable loss in black-level performance.

As with previous Samsungs, the default Auto2 Film Mode setting for 1080i sources didn't result in proper deinterlacing; I had to switch to Auto 1 to get the PNE7000 to pass that test.

Bright lighting: Although it was very good, the screen of the Samsung plasma didn't perform quite as well overall as that of the ST50 in brighter rooms. Reflections, although better-controlled than on the Elite, looked a bit brighter on the PNE8000 than on the ST50 and D7000. The difference would be difficult to discern outside of a side-by-side comparison. More noticeable was the fact that it didn't preserve black levels as well in overhead lighting as did the ST50 or the Sharp Elite.

3D: The PN60E8000 is a very good 3D performer, handily beating the ST50 in this area. I compared it using "Hugo" in the same lineup as above, minus the 2D Kuro and including the UN55D8000, our current reference 3D TV, and the passive 3D-equipped LG 55LM9600. As usual I used the TVs' default Cinema, Movie, or THX modes; I don't currently calibrate for 3D.

The Samsung's biggest advantage over both Panasonics was in the area of crosstalk reduction. Crosstalk-prone areas, like Hugo's hand as it reaches for the toy mouse (5:01), the tuning pegs on the guitar (7:49), and the face of the dog as it watches the inspector slide by (9:24), looked cleaner and with a much less noticeable double image on the PNE8000 than on the VT30 and the ST50. The Samsung wasn't appreciably better than the D7000 in these scenes, however, and its crosstalk was still slightly worse than that of the UND8000 and the LG.

The E8000's color in those default settings was also punchier and more accurate -- with less of a blue tinge in dark areas especially -- than that of the ST50. Of course any of these differences could change with a calibration in 3D. I did not test 2D-to-3D conversion.

I did notice one unwelcome artifact, however, which seemed like the brightness pops of last year but only in 3D mode. At 4:10 (a shot of Hugo through a white clock face) and immediately after at 4:12 (Méliès at rest) the image got quickly brighter and then darker again. On a hunch, knowing that the 3D images are markedly brighter than 2D, I reduced the Cell Light control from the Mobie default of 20 to 13 and, yes, those particular pops disappeared. I tried 15 and the 4:12 pop disappeared, but the 4:10 one remained. The moral, as far as I can tell, is that brightness pops are directly related to light output. Perhaps that's why Samsung limited the light output of this set in 2D mode (see above) compared with last year's model.

The glasses were comfortable enough as long as I left my regular glasses off. They didn't fit well over my medium-sized prescription lenses, however, ending up perched far out on the end of my nose. If I were to do much 3D watching on this TV, I'd wear my contact lenses or (more likely) have to invest in another set of 3D glasses.

Power consumption: [Note that this test and all of the chart numbers below only apply to the 60-inch PN60E8000, not any of the other sizes.] As usual for a plasma, the PNE8000 series uses quite a bit of energy, but the numbers below don't tell the whole story. The results for "calibrated" are skewed lower because the TV can only achieve 30 Fl maximum light output after calibration. If it could match the 40 FL light output of the other sets on the comparison chart, I'm guessing it would move closer to last year's PN59D7000 on the comparison chart. One other note: the default Standard mode doesn't employ the ambient light sensor by default.

This year, due to the hard cap of 108 watts for any size TV imposed by Energy Star's 5.3 specification, nearly all 60-inch and larger Samsung plasmas fail to earn the blue sticker, as do the 51-inch members of the E8000 and E7000 series.

Editors' note: CNET has dropped TV power consumption testing for 60-inch or smaller LCD- and LED-based TVs because their power use, in terms of yearly cost, is negligible. We will continue to test the power use of larger LCD or LED models, as well as all plasma OLED models.

Juice box
Samsung PN60E8000 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power save
Picture on (watts) 133.58 264.46 133.75
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.09 0.17 0.09
Standby (watts) 0.09 0.09 0.09
Cost per year $29.35 $58.05 29.39
Score (considering size) Average
Score (overall) Poor

Annual power consumption cost after calibration

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0045 Good
Avg. gamma 2.19 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.3106/0.3199 Good
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.31/0.329 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3126/0.3288 Good
Before avg. color temp. 6556 Good
After avg. color temp. 6577 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 0.1677 Good
Green lum. error (de94_L) 1.1068 Good
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 0.6268 Good
Cyan hue x/y 0.2245/0.3318 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3185/0.1546 Good
Yellow hue x/y 0.4193/0.5112 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1000 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1000 Good

PN60E8000 Report

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