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Samsung FP-T84 review: Samsung FP-T84

Samsung FP-T84

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David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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10 min read

Samsung's FP-T5084 represents the company's opening foray into the jungle of 1080p-resolution plasma, and it's a solid first effort. Compared with the company's earlier, less expensive HP-T5064, a lower-resolution 50-inch plasma, the FP-T5084 looks cooler and performs a bit better, although not cooler and better enough to earn a higher overall rating. You might expect the 1080p resolution to mean a sharper picture, but as with all 50-inch HDTVs we've tested, its benefits on the FP-T5084 are difficult to discern. That doesn't prevent this plasma from competing well against the heavy-hitters in the category, including Panasonic and, to a lesser extent, Pioneer.

8.0

Samsung FP-T84

The Good

Reproduces a deep level of black; offers clean image with little noise or false contouring; provides plenty of picture controls, including user-adjustable grayscale; has a sleek, extra-wide look.

The Bad

Somewhat nonlinear grayscale; some false contouring; ho-hum standard-def processing; less-effective glare-reducing screen.

The Bottom Line

With accurate color and deep black levels, the Samsung FP-T5084 50-inch plasma's picture stands up well against some tough competition.

Design
Compared with the HP-T5064 we reviewed earlier, the 84 model looks just a bit sleeker. Samsung mounted this model's hidden speakers to the sides of the screen, as opposed to the bottom, which makes the panel a bit shorter and wider--a more pleasing aesthetic to our eyes. In addition, the sides of the frame consist of vertical strips of chrome, which curve outward and conceal the speakers nicely, peeking out a bit from when the TV is seen from the front. The top and bottom of the frame is relatively thin for a 50-inch plasma, and the bottom bears the Samsung logo and blue light, which can thankfully can be disabled.

Samsung includes the same kind of swivel stand found on the 5064, which allows the panel to move up to 20 degrees in either direction. Including stand, the FP-T5084 measures 50.8 inches wide by 31.6 inches tall by 12.6 inches deep and weighs 107 pounds; without the stand, the panel comes in at about 50.8 inches wide by 28.8 inches wide by 4.5 inches deep.

Samsung's remote is almost the same as last year, and we generally found the slender wand easy to operate. Only the keys for volume, channel, and device control (the universal clicker can command four other pieces of gear) are illuminated, but that's better than most TV remotes, which skip backlighting altogether. All of the buttons are nicely separated and differentiated, with the exception of the secondary controls clustered at the clicker's base, which kind of blend together. We'd like to see dedicated buttons for each input, although because the set automatically senses and skips inactive inputs, cycling between sources is less arduous than usual. The menu system is easy to navigate, and we appreciated the text explanations that accompanied the selections.

Features
A native resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, aka 1080p, separates the Samsung FP-T5084 from the majority of 50-inch plasmas on the market. Those extra pixels allow the TV to display every detail of 1080i and 1080p resolution sources. All other sources, whether from 720p HDTV, DVD, standard-def TV or computers, are scaled to fit the available pixels.


The main picture menu is just the beginning.

The FP-T5084 has plenty of picture-adjusting features. It starts with three picture modes that are independent for each input, allowing you to customize each source with three different groups of picture settings. Only Movie mode allows full adjustment, however, so we recommend using it for the most demanding viewing conditions.

In addition to the five presets for color temperature, there's a full set of detailed color temperature controls. Labeled "white balance," they offer both gain and offset adjustments for red, green, and blue, which allows more advanced users to really zero in the set's grayscale. The My Color control, on the other hand, doesn't seem to do much of anything, so we left it in the default positions. The selection of secondary picture controls includes items labeled "black level," which affects shadow detail; dynamic contrast, which adjusts black level on the fly; gamma, which affects the rate of progression from dark to light; and a selection for color gamut, which controls the range of colors the display can reproduce.


Samsung includes complete controls for color temperature.

We appreciated the solid collection of aspect ratio controls, which include four choices for HD sources. Just Scan is our favorite because it introduces no overscan and does not scale 1080i or 1080p sources, preserving the dot-by-dot match to the TV's native pixels. Standard-def sources allow four choices as well, including two zoom modes you can adjust vertically to see subtitles or obscure tickers, for example. The Samsung also has a picture-in-picture function that allows it to display two programs at once.

The setup menu also contains a section candidly labeled "Screen Burn Protection" that provides more options to remedy burn-in than just about any other plasma TV. The "white" option filled the screen with a white field while the "scrolling" option created a black-to-white ramp that scrolled slowly across the screen; both are designed to remove burned-in sections of the screen if they appear. There's also an adjustable "pixel shift" function that slowly moves the entire image across the screen to help prevent stationary screen elements, such as letterbox bars and tickers, from burning in to begin with. Finally, there are two settings, dark and light, for the side bars around 4:3 programs. As much as we consider burn-in a greatly exaggerated issue with plasma, we still like the fact that Samsung includes all of these reassuring options.


The FP-T5084's back panel includes two HDMI inputs.

Like more and more 2007 HDTVs, the Samsung FP-T5084 offers three HDMI inputs, as opposed to just two. Two are on the back, while a third can be found in a recessed bay along the panel's left side. The Samsung's commendable connectivity continues by including a pair of component-video inputs; an AV input with S-Video and composite video; two RF inputs for cable and antenna; and a VGA-style RGB input for computers. That recessed bay offers an additional AV input with S-Video and composite video, a headphone jack, and a USB port that can interface with thumb drives to display photos (JPEG only) and play music (MP3 only).


The side of the TV offers another HDMI input as well as USB.

Performance
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.

TEST RESULT SCORE
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

8.0

Samsung FP-T84

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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