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Samsung PNxxE8000

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Product Description

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This week I had the privilege of spending some time with Samsung’s new PN-60E8000 at Cleveland Plasma. The E8000 is a thin, stylish Smart TV, with built in WiFi and 3D. I was happy to see a redesigned remote, which aided operation by feel and lessened the frequency of incorrect button presses compared to last year’s. In addition, the E8000’s screen filter is well designed, keeping the screen relatively dark in normal ambient light and minimizing reflections. Compared to a Panasonic GT50 sitting beside it, the E8000’s screen reflections were a bit more noticeable, but they were less distracting than on most top of the line televisions.
After the initial setup, the E8000 connected to the wireless network and downloaded the latest firmware, 001016.

Before calibration:

I spent some time looking at the picture before making any calibration adjustments. The room was dark, and source material came from my familiar Blu Rays at 1080P/24.
The E8000 comes out of the gate in Standard mode, which is too dark and unnatural to be of any enjoyment. New owners should remember to change the picture mode right away to get an enjoyable picture from the E8000.

After sampling the Dynamic and Relax modes and finding them garish and unnatural, switching to Movie mode brought a sigh of relief. The overall image was very good, although there were indications that a little refinement would go a long way.
Colors seemed a little too hot, though skin tones looked very good. The picture lacked a bit of richness and seemed somewhat uninvolving. Though the image was generally smooth and grain free, when I paused the Blu Ray player I noticed excessive graininess. The black level was very good but not quite as dark as on the latest Panasonics. With bright letterboxed content, the blacks were dark enough to blend in with the bezel, though darker content lessened that illusion. I noticed the screen dimmed when no signal was present, becoming perfectly dark with fades to black but lighting back up when any content was present. Pans were a bit choppy, and shadow detail was slightly crushed. Fine detail appeared to be a little etched. Despite all these criticisms, The Dark Knight still brought out a beauty in the E8000’s image, with most scenes giving a compelling sense of depth and pop.

Calibration:


I put up a grayscale ramp test pattern and saw some color banding before making any adjustments to Movie mode.
As I adjusted the advanced user controls with the aid of CalMAN and my spectroradiometer, I found that less correction was needed at interval 1 of the 10 point adjustment than on last year’s PN-D series. On the downside, corrections were still coarse in the lower intervals, making fine tuning of the darkest levels problematic. Grayscale tracking and gamma were very slightly different with 1080P/24 content and Cinema Smooth turned on than with other HD content, though the difference was not nearly as distressing as what I’ve seen on some LG plasmas. The difference amounted to a change of up to 3 dE UV. Cinema Smooth operates at 96 Hz, as confirmed by my meter’s sync reading, while other content was displayed at 60 Hz as expected. This different scan rate can cause slight changes in performance, though in this case it was not all bad. Minimum Luminance Level, or black level, measured .0089 fL; but with 1080P/24 and Cinema Smooth engaged, it improved to .0073. This is a welcome change from previous years, when engaging CS degraded the black levels and contrast. The modified ANSI contrast ratio without CS measured 3284:1 (.0079 black, 25.94 white), and with CS it was 3989:1 (.0062 black, 24.73 white). I touched up the white balance and 10 point controls for Cinema Smooth after seeing the improvement it brought to the blacks, though unless separate HDMI inputs are used for 1080P/24 and normal HD content, a slight compromise will have to be reached.
I was disappointed to still see slight banding on a gray ramp even after careful calibration, indicating some ABL induced grayscale tracking issues that will vary with picture content.
The maximum light output with a 100% white field, with CS on, was 12 fL; and the white balance shifted slightly cool relative to a small white window (-5% R, +5% B).
I experimented to see the difference in performance between small 10% sized windows and large 25% windows, and the larger windows raised the green in the white balance by about 4 to 5 percent throughout most of the brightness range. Surprisingly, light output went up a tiny bit with the larger windows.
The E8000 showed significantly more pumping with the dynamic brightness torture test on the AVS 709 disc than the Panasonic GT50 sitting beside it, though I have not performed this test on enough plasmas to comment on how good or bad this is in absolute terms.
Color gamut saturation and level sweeps were performed with ChromaPure, and the results were generally good. However, some saturation variances might be enough to influence the look of skin tones.

After calibration:

With CS engaged, my familiar Blu Ray demo material looked great. Bright colors were vibrant and rich, and skin tones looked natural. The picture was easygoing and yet engaging, and shadow detail appeared to be spot on. I enjoyed the sense of depth and dimension, which was among the best I have seen on a plasma. The image was smooth and clean, while still conveying a sense of perfect detail and resolution. Brightness transitions were handled well, and there were no signs of banding, though occasionally I saw very small and brief picture fluctuations which are normal for most plasmas.
Movie motion was excellent, though if you’re used to the super smooth type of fluidity most modern sets boast then you will find it to be a bit jerky. Contrast and black levels were excellent, though with dark content in a dark room it will not be mistaken for a 9G Kuro.
I might expect skin tones to be somewhat undersaturated from the results of the saturation sweeps; but with my familiar material they looked absolutely amazing, though a bit on the inoffensive side if I had to choose.
I truly enjoyed the E8000’s image. I saw no significant flaws, the E8000 handling everything competently if not superbly, and it offers glimpses of those magical qualities home theater enthusiasts crave.


Face off: GT50 vs. E8000


Contrast was reduced in the GT50’s THX Cinema mode to match the light output of the E8000 in Movie mode. Sources included 1080P/24 Blu Ray and 1080i DirecTV. Cinema Smooth was turned on in the E8000.

Lights on, TV off:

GT50 is slightly better at reducing reflections. Both stay quite dark, but the GT50 is slightly better in that regard.

Lights off, Blu Ray:
Black levels are more similar than different, though the GT50 is darker by a hair. Certain times the black difference is more easily seen that other times.
E8000’s overall presentation is a bit more earthy-toned, giving it a slightly more cinematic feel as opposed to the GT50’s video feel.
Though the measurements would suggest a large difference in shadow detail, with real content the difference is extremely slim, with the GT50 just barely coming out of black faster. I have to look for the difference, but there’s a little more texture visible in dark clothes and objects on the GT50. The E8000 is actually more accurate in that regard, but many people like a bit of extra shadow detail.
Sometimes skin tones are just a tiny bit less red on the E8000. Usually the difference is slight. However, in the Digital Video Essentials Restaurant scene, the difference is more pronounced. I feel the E8000’s skin tones look more true to life in this clip.
The E8000 handles texture and layering in brightly lit faces and other very bright objects more naturally at times.
The GT50 has a tiny bit more pop in bright scenes, with whites looking a bit brighter. Whites can take on a slightly bluish and/or violet hue on the GT50, in comparison to the E8000’s slightly duller, greener toned whites.
Both have excellent depth.
I can see just a bit more fluctuation in the E8000’s image.
Overall presentation is just a bit more lifelike on the E8000 as opposed to more enhanced looking on the GT50.

Lights off, 1080i DirecTV:
Fades to black a are little better on the GT50. Hockey rink looks far more realistic on GT50, with brighter, purer whites. Neither shows much Dirty Screen Effect on hockey with movement and pans, but the GT50 shows more ice texture. A few fleeting times I thought I saw slight DSE, but I might have been looking too hard for it. Neither set fluctuates too much, both are seemingly stable.
The E8000’s skin tones can be a bit greenish, or the GT50’s skin tones can be a bit reddish, depending on the programming.

Conclusion: The E8000 is my preference by a nose for Blu Ray movies played in light controlled environments, with a slightly more cinematic, relaxed, and lifelike image. However, in other instances the GT50 is a very clear winner: viewing in typical living room lighting is much better on the GT50, as is hockey.



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