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Samsung PNE6500 review: Samsung PNE6500

Connectivity: The PNE6500's three HDMI inputs are ample, if one fewer than some competitors offer. If you're wall-mounting the set, it's worth noting that the TV has rear-facing ports rather than downward ones (found on the thinner 8 and 7 series), which could restrict the analog and one HDMI port from being used.

The TV also offers two USB ports and a combined composite/component port, which is RCA and not the proprietary kind; no more lost adapters! Wireless and Ethernet connectivity are also included.

Picture quality (How we test TVs)
Just when you think plasmas can't get any better, that they've hit the point of diminishing returns, they surprise us with better picture quality each and every year. The E6500's picture is among the best of this or any other year, and better than anything ever offered for the same amount of money previously.

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.

Black levels are top-notch, with excellent shadow detail, and none of the dimming of the picture in dark scenes that you'll see with the Sony HX850. The one caveat to this is that the Samsung is limited by the amount of light it can put out in the only good picture mode, Movie, so contrast and pop aren't quite as good as on the Panasonic plasmas we've tested. Color fidelity and saturation are excellent, and from children's animation to nature documentaries, images are lively and -- in the right cases -- lifelike. Skin tones are natural and there are none of the color-stepping gradients that plasma used to suffer from in years past.

Comparison models (details)
Sony KDL-55HX850 55-inch full-array LED
Panasonic TC-P55ST50 55-inch plasma
Samsung PN60E8000 60-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 65-inch plasma
Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasma

Black level: For the price, the Samsung offers excellent levels of black and is every bit the equal of the excellent ST50 in this regard, albeit worse than the VT50. Compared with the Sony HX850, the Samsung's blacks are more consistent than that locally dimming TV can muster. Shadow detail is not forgotten with low-level details, giving depth to human figures and architecture.

Side by side with the E8000 it was apparent that the two TVs were almost identical aside from the E6500's superior shadow detail. The E6500's edge in shadow detail could be explained by differences in calibration -- when we experimented by using the +1 gamma setting on the E8000, its shadow detail improved. That said, the E8000 also supposedly offers a "Local Contrast Enhancer" that might be affecting its shadow detail adversely.

In previous years, so-called brightness pops -- a sudden brightening of blacks -- were a problem with some Samsung plasmas, but only on a very limited number of movies, and it wasn't a very big issue as far as I was concerned. If you're worried about it, don't be; based on my tests with similar content on the pop-prone PND7000, the E6500 doesn't suffer from this issue.

Color accuracy: Whether playing the grim, murky "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" or the effervescent children's movie "Rio," the Samsung exhibited excellent color reproduction. Some TVs can show an unnatural preponderance of blue or cyan but the Samsung stayed neutral. Compared with the Panasonic ST50 and VT50, the Samsung did seem a little desaturated on primary colors, but this was only slight. Skin tones from the movie "Star Trek" were quite natural, with neither undue "blushing" effects nor overt pastiness of any of the actors.

Video processing: The TV was very good at replaying 24p content with Cinema Smooth mode enabled, with no jerkiness and none of the loss of black-level fidelity exhibited by some previous Samsung plasmas. Similarly, the TV was able to handle 1080i film-based material without any moire or other judder effects.

But elsewhere with lower-quality material, the processing wasn't up to the level of the E8000. At 26:50 in "I Am Legend," the protagonist walks into a vampire burrow, and the Samsung displayed quite a bit more noise than any other of the TVs in the lineup. Turning on Noise Reduction wasn't able to get rid of the problem -- it just created some intense blurring.

Using a low-quality cable source the difference between the E8000 and the E6500 is clear, with higher levels of compression noise evident on the budget model. If you watch a lot of SD cable or DVDs then the E8000 might be the best choice between the two.

Bright lighting: In the past, I have always recommended that people with bright, sunny rooms buy an LCD, but TVs such as the Samsung E6500 have made me rethink this. Thanks to innovations such as Panasonic's louver filter and Samsung's Real Black Pro, the bright-room performance of many 2012 plasmas rivals that of LCDs. LCDs can still get brighter, especially in larger screen sizes, but modern plasma screens handle ambient light better than ever, and aside from the VT50, I haven't seen any TV do it better than the PNE6500.

With the curtains open and the summer sun streaming through the windows, the Samsung performed very well with contrast rivaling the Sony HX850. Surprisingly, the PNE6500 also outperformed the E8000 at maintaining a deeper level of black -- a mystery to us since the two TVs supposedly have the same screen filter.

The ST50 showed slightly gray blacks compared with the E6500 under full sunlight, with the screens facing an open window during daytime. If you had a toss-up between the two plasma TVs and daytime usage in a very bright room was one of the main considerations, this difference would tip us in favor of the Samsung. In more common, moderate bright-room situations, however, the two were almost impossible to tell apart and did an equally good job of handling reflections and preserving black levels.

3D: One other area where the 6500 falls down in comparison to the 8000 is 3D quality. There was significant cross-talk on the 6500 during our grueling "Hugo" test scene, which resulted in ghosting and "doubling up" of stereo images. If you watch a lot of 3D material, this TV isn't the one I'd go for.

Power consumption: (Note that this test and all of the chart numbers below only apply to the 60-inch PN60E6500, not the other size.) As expected from a large plasma screen, Standard mode was incredibly dim. When calibrated, the TV was still a little dimmer than usual, but the picture was much more usable.

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. The PN51E6500 is still Energy Star-compliant, however.

Juice box
Samsung PN60E6500 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power save
Picture on (watts) 102.75 245.68 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.07 0.16 N/A
Standby (watts) 0.09 0.09 N/A
Cost per year $22.60 $53.93 N/A
Score (considering size) Average
Score (overall) Average

Annual power consumption cost after calibration
Samsung PN60E6500 (60-inch plasma)

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 and OLED models.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0044 Good
Avg. gamma 2.1984 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.2849/0.307 Average
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.313/0.332 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.314/0.3298 Good
Before avg. color temp. 6937.2593 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6531.7668 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 0.7906 Good
Green lum. error (de94_L) 0.3321 Good
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 0.1466 Good
Cyan hue x/y 0.2249/0.3402 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3187/0.1554 Good
Yellow hue x/y 0.418/0.5068 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 800 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 800 Average
PC input resolution (VGA) 1,920x1,080 Good

Samsung PN60E6500

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