CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. How we test TVs

Samsung HP-T64 review: Samsung HP-T64

Samsung HP-T64

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
10 min read

Editors' Note 04/17/2008: The rating on this review has been modified from 8.0 to 7.6 due to changes in the competitive marketplace.


Samsung HP-T64

The Good

Produces deep blacks with excellent shadow detail; accurate primary colors; numerous picture controls; great range of burn-in protection modes; extensive connectivity featuring three HDMI and one PC input

The Bad

Glare-reducing screen could be more effective; color decoding desaturates green; some false contouring.

The Bottom Line

The picture quality of the Samsung HP-T5064 places it among the top tier of 50-inch plasma HDTVs.

While Samsung seems to devote more marketing dollars and advertising hype to its line of flat-panel LCD TVs, the company also produces flat-panel plasmas. They might not look as appealing when turned off or when reduced to a spec sheet, but the HP-T64 series of Samsung plasmas, the company's second-highest-end line, definitely holds its own where it counts. The 50-inch HP-T5064 is a great example, and in many ways its picture quality outclasses that of the Panasonic TH-50PX77U, its direct competition. It has similar black level performance and superior color accuracy compared to the Panasonic, but its glare-reducing screen isn't nearly as effective. Taken as a whole, however, the Samsung HP-T5064 is finally a worthy competitor against the Alpha-caliber Panasonics and Pioneers of the plasma dog pile.

The HP-T5064 doesn't have the same kind of sculpted, aggressively high-tech look as Samsung's LN-T65F series of LCDs. Instead the squared-off corners and flat planes of its glossy black frame create a more traditional, albeit perfectly handsome, appearance. The swath of frame below the screen opens up into a long horizontal slit at its bottom edge, from which the sound of the otherwise hidden speakers emerges. Samsung does include the same kind of swivel stand found on its LCDs, which allows the panel to move up to 20 degrees in either direction. Including stand, the HP-T5064 measures 48.5 inches wide by 33.3 inches tall by 13 inches deep and weighs 97 pounds; without the stand, the panel comes in at about 48.5 inches tall by 31 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep and 91.4 pounds.

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 secondary controls clustered at the clicker's base, which kind of blend together. We'd like to see dedicated buttons for each input, although since 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.

Like most 50-inch plasmas, the Samsung HP-T5064 has a native resolution of 1,366x768, which is plenty to resolve every line of a 720p source. All sources, whether HDTV, DVD, standard-def TV or computers, are scaled to fit the pixels.

As we mentioned at the top, Samsung is touting the glare-reducing properties of its plasma screens this year. The main difference between the HP-T64 line and less-expensive HP-T54 line is that the 64 models, like this one, have better glare-reducing screens. For more on how the HP-T5064's screen stacks up against the competition, see the Performance section.

The HP-T5064 has nearly all of the numerous picture-adjusting features of the company's LCDs. It starts with three picture modes that are each 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.

We appreciated the solid collection of aspect ratio controls, which include four choices for HD sources. Just Scan is our favorite because it introduces minimal overscan. 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 we've seen yet in a plasma TV. The "white" option simply fills the screen with a white field while the "scrolling" option created a black-to-white ramp that scrolls 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 Samsung HP-T5064 offers ample rear-panel connectivity.

Like more and more 2007 HDTVs, the Samsung HP-T5064 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 with a pair of component-video inputs, an AV input with S-video, two RF inputs for cable and antenna, and a VGA-style RGB input for computers (maximum resolution 1,366x768). That recessed bay offers an additional AV input with S-video as well as a USB port that can interface with thumbdrives to display photos (JPEG only) and play music (MP3 only).

The side-panel includes the third HDMI input and a USB port.

All things considered, the Samsung HP-T5064 delivers excellent picture quality for a flat-panel plasma. We were particularly impressed by its primary color accuracy and shadow detail, although we would have liked to see a bit more accurate color decoding and a better glare-fighting screen.

We began as usual by adjusting the Samsung HP-T5064's many picture controls for ideal performance in our darkened home theater, and found that the Movie preset actually came pretty close. We pegged the plasma's light output at about 40 footlambert--plenty bright, but not bright enough to cause eyestrain--and chose the gamma -2 setting, which resulted in a shallow, realistic rise from black to brighter areas without obscuring shadow detail. We also tweaked the white balance controls to improve upon the already fairly accurate Warm 2 color temperature preset. To see our complete settings, you can click here or see the Tips and Tricks section above.

After adjustment we were able to compare the Samsung HP-T5064 side-by-side against a few others: the Panasonic TH-50PX77U, the Vizio VP50HDTV, and the Pioneer PRO-FHD1--all 50-inch plasmas--as well as Samsung's own LN-T4665F flat-panel LCD. We watched the HD DVD of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, played through a Toshiba HD-XA2 at 1080i resolution.

First up was a look at how the Samsung plasma handled dark scenes, and overall we had few complaints. Compared to the Panasonic right next to it, the HP-T5064 displayed a very slightly lighter shade of black, although the difference was so minor that we'd bet it would be impossible to discern outside of direct comparison. In nighttime scenes, such as when Wonka's minions hang the Golden Ticket notices, the sky above the town and factory and the shadows around Charlie's sleepy head all appeared relatively inky. The HP-T5064's black levels were noticeably deeper than either the Pioneer or the Vizio, although not quite as deep as those of the Samsung LCD, which delivered the darkest shade of black in the room.

With the gamma set at -2, the HP-T5064's detail in shadows also appeared quite natural-looking. We noted the Panasonic's tendency to make dark parts of shadows appear a bit too bright, but the Samsung didn't have this issue. Areas like the recesses under Charlie's grandparents' bed and the lowlights in Helena Bonham Carter's hair looked slightly more natural on the Samsung, while still preserving ample detail.

Color accuracy on the Samsung HP-T5064 was also superior to the Panasonic, although not equal to the performance of the Pioneer plasma. We were very impressed to measure almost perfect primary colors (see the Geek Box below), and after calibration its grayscale was relatively linear and came quite close to the 6500K standard. This combination delivered realistic skin tones in all lighting conditions, for example, from the pan over the faces of the Golden Ticket winners and the crowd of onlookers to the ruddy complexions of the grandparents in their dim hovel. The accuracy of the HP-T5064's green primary, a rarity among plasmas, made the grass appear altogether more natural than the yellower turf on the screen of the Panasonic.

The one area where we'd like to see improvement was color decoding, specifically in the HP-T5064's desaturation of green compared to the other colors. As a result, the cartoonish grass in Wonka's main room and the foliage of the jungle during his adventure story, for example, didn't have quite the same punch on the Samsung as on the Pioneer--although thanks to the set's black level performance, the majority of colors were still vibrant.

Although its image was not quite as clean as that of the Samsung LCD or the Pioneer, the HP-T5064 evinced about the same level of noise as the Panasonic and looked cleaner than the Vizio. We noticed the telltale motes of low-level noise in some of the darkest scenes, like the shadows in the recesses behind the struggling Augustus Gloop in his choco-tube and the dark brown of the chocolate lake, but they weren't too egregious, especially from our modest 8-foot seating distance. Sitting closer would make the noise more apparent, as always.

The HP-T5064 evinced about the same amount of false contouring as the Panasonic, a big improvement over last year's Samsung models, although again the Pioneer and Samsung LCD were better in this regard. The light cast by the spinning light during the opening chocolate-press scene or by the Bucket family fireplace, for instance, betrayed a few distinct bands as opposed to smooth gradations from light to shadow.

We mentioned that Samsung touts the antireflective properties of the HP-T5064's screen, so we were anxious to compare it to the Panasonic's own glare-fighting screen. For this comparison, the Panasonic won hands-down. In a bright room with our blackout shades raised and the midafternoon sun streaming in, the reflections off the Samsung's screen appeared clearer and brighter than those off the Panasonic's, distracting from the image more noticeably, especially when the screen displayed a dark scene. The Samsung's screen did attenuate reflections slightly more than the non-glare-reducing screens of the Vizio and the Pioneer, however.

Looking at resolution patterns from the Sencore VP403 signal generator, we were surprised that the Samsung didn't resolve as much detail as the Panasonic or the Vizio in either 1080i or 720p modes. Between the two, 720p seemed to have a bit more detail according to the pattern, but the difference wasn't enough for us to strongly recommend one more than the other if you have a choice of which to feed the HP-T5064. For what it's worth, we couldn't discern any difference in between the three 1,366x768 plasmas in highly detailed scenes, such as the extreme closeup of the furry squirrel or Veruca Salt's fur coat.

We also checked out the Samsung's ability to handle standard-def content, using the HQV disc set via component-video at 480i resolution, and for the most part it performed well. It resolved every line of the DVD according to the color bar test, and did a fine job smoothing out moving diagonal lines in areas like the waving American flag. Details in areas such as the stone bridge and the grass appeared a bit softer than on the Vizio but a tiny bit sharper than the Panasonic. The HP-T5064 is equipped with four noise-reduction modes and choosing the most powerful really helped clean up the worst scenes from the HQV disc without sacrificing too much detail. We don't recommend depending on the Auto mode, however, because it didn't seem to combat noise as effectively as the manual modes. Finally, the Samsung quickly engaged 2:3 pulldown detection, removing the concentric lines of moiré from the bleachers behind the speeding car.

Connected to a PC source via the VGA input, the HP-T5064 performed relatively well. It handled the maximum resolution of 1,360x768, resolving every horizontal and vertical line according to DisplayMate. We did see some pixel structure, however, especially in text smaller than 12-point font, that made text and some other fine details appear less clear than on the Vizio P50HDTV, for example. We used the Samsung's auto-adjustment feature and even engaged its Home Theater PC mode, but the Vizio still looked better with PC sources via VGA. For casual use as a big-screen monitor, however, the HP-T5064 should be perfectly adequate.

Before color temp (20/80) 6650/6690K Good
After color temp 6544/6493K Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 280K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 91K Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.640/0.335 Good
Color of green 0.302/0.594 Good
Color of blue 0.151/0.059 Good
Overscan 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 HP-T5064 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 321.62 233.3 288.46
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.3 0.22 0.27
Standby (watts) 1.28 1.28 1.28
Cost per year $98.45 $71.63 $88.38
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Poor


Samsung HP-T64

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7