The PS51F8500ST is high-spec plasma TV for video enthusiasts who really don’t get along with LED LCDs. Wading brazenly into territory traditionally patrolled by Panasonic, Samsung has seemingly pulled out all the stops for this Series 8 offering: it boasts an uncompromising feature set, looks downright beautiful and (for the most part) performs like a thoroughbred. With a list price of nearly two grand, it’s also fittingly expensive. Of course, if you want to spend more you can always opt for its 64-inch sibling, the PS64F8500ST. See all digital home reviews.
The set is reassuringly well built. As LED models seemingly get ever more ethereal, this plasma maintains a good balance between fashionable and fulsome. The bezel and sculptured Metal Flow stand are a funky industrial grey, while the set has a stylish chrome trim. It’s a classy, sophisticated look. On top of the screen is a pop up face recognition camera with integrated microphone. There are no visible speakers, the screen’s audio system is downward firing. You’ll almost certainly want to budget for an external sound system at a later date. See also Group test: what's the best TV? The 5 best HDTV's of 2013.
The feature set is a mirror of the brand’s high-end LED models, and features twin terrestrial and satellite tuners, opening the door to some nice second screen applications.
Samsung’s Smart Hub remains one of the best equipped online portals available, with copious on-demand and streaming services. The brand remains the only TV maker to offer a complete set of mainstream catch up (BBC iPlayer, ITV player, iPlayer, 4OD and Demand 5), along with assorted VoD.
Two remote controls are provided, a touch-pad with integrated mic and a standard IR zapper. The set is 3D compatible, with a pair of Active Shuttle 3D bins included in the box.
Connections comprise four HDMIs, a mini-jack for component and composite video (there’s an adaptor supplied), Ethernet, three USBs and an optical digital audio output for use with an external sound system. The set also has provision for Samsung’s Smart evolution upgrade kit, which theoretically enables the processor to be upgraded in line with future models.
Samsung may not be an obvious advocate for plasma, but this flatscreen delivers a great looking picture. The Real Black Pro panel utilises a fairly standard 600Hz subfield motion drive but it delivers bold, cinematic images.
Plasma displays tend to come into their own in low ambient light; blacks deepen and shadows lengthen. Unlike edge-lit LED screens, there’s no issue with pooling illumination in the corners either. Images appear massively dynamic, with searing peaks and good shadow detail. Colour fidelity is cracking too, with rich reds and convincing skin tones.
Lurking in the menus is a Motion Judder Canceller. Turned off, motion resolution is a full 1080 lines but there’s a occasional stutter to horizontal pans, particularly with 24p content. You can iron these out with the Judder Canceller set to Standard. Avoid the more aggressive Smooth setting though, as it encourages artifacts around certain objects.
The set’s 3D performance can be classed as entertaining. While there’s some crosstalk, the picture’s largely free of double images, looking bright and clean through the spex. The set can also depth convert 2D TV sources to 3D, but as we all know that’s an entirely shallow talent.
When it comes to voice and gesture control, there’s still a pervading sense of ‘meh’. Samsung is making strides, but neither is compelling enough to persevere with. However, multimedia support is best-in-class. Whether you want to stream from a stick or access content on a PC or NAS, the set’s Allshare decoder does a solid job. We successfully played back MP4, AVI, MKV, MOV, AAC, WAV, M4a, FLAC, MP3, Ogg Vorbis and WMA content.