Samsung PNxxD8000

Price: $9999.00
Availability: In Stock
Shipping: $0.00 1


Product Description

Samsung's D8000 plasma is a beautifully designed, super thin 3D display that has the forums on fire. Considering it's predecessor's great picture, that comes as no surprise. As I sit here at Cleveland Plasma, I'm thoroughly enjoying taking in it's beautiful picture. I also took some time to compare it to a couple other brand new models sharing the floor with it, an LG 60PZ550 plasma and Samsung's UN46D8000 LED LCD.

Since many owners do not have the luxury of total light control in their living rooms and some prefer watching with a small lamp on at night, the screen's ability to stay dark and mute reflections can be very important. Manufacturers have made significant advancements in the last couple of years in filter design, and the PN51D8000 shows that off quite well. Though not as black in bright environments as the LED LCD beside it, the PN51D8000's screen resists washout more than most plasmas I've seen. Reflections, though muted quite effectively, could still be a distraction depending on your room layout. Fortunately, with a little planning, it will display a picture with rich contrast in most moderately lit living rooms. The clean, modern design also helps the PN51D8000 look good in your home, whether it's in use or not.

I began my evaluation by checking out the various picture mode presets, and quickly found that Movie mode looked the most natural and true to life. Without making any other changes to the picture besides choosing Movie mode, I put in some familiar Blu Ray demo material. I also chose the best modes for the neighboring UN46D8000 and LG 60PZ550, and fed them all 1080i and 1080P/24 via a high quality HDMI distribution amp. The room was dark except for the light output of the three TVs on display.

Before calibration:

The PN51D8000's picture had very good pop, but I felt it looked a bit too contrasty (with bright objects highlighted and dark objects too dark). I was impressed with the fine detail in the picture. The PN51D8000 appeared to have the best and most consistent contrast of the bunch. Black bars were slightly brighter than the bezel, but not distractingly so. The image was smooth, but at times I saw hints of blurring from noise reduction. Flesh tones looked very good; much better than I normally see with non calibrated factory settings. Shadow detail was slightly subdued, however, meaning dark objects sunk down into the black background a little too much. Overall, it had the best, most exciting image of the three displays.


Like other recent top of the line offerings from Samsung, the PN51D8000's picture menu is extremely thorough and, for the most part, well designed. Samsung made some improvements in the menu's cosmetics and operation over the C8000. Tweakers and calibrators will love the full CMS (color management system), white balance adjustments, gamma selection, and 10 step gamma/grayscale adjustment once they become familiar with their operation and the inevitable quirks. Most of these adjustments should be done with a high quality meter interfaced with a laptop rather than by eye. I used the i1Pro meter with CalMAN 4.2 software for most of the calibration. Colors dialed in perfectly, and grayscale and gamma were both improved with the 10 point fine tuning. The 10 point adjustment can be frustrating, however, as it's alignment can get displaced if the contrast is set too low; and it's adjustment steps are coarse with darker images. With patience it can give a welcome improvement.

On a disappointing note, I could find no hint of the rumored LCE (Local Contrast Enhancer), either in the menu or in the set's performance. It may be that Samsung came up with a new thing to call the same old Black Tone, Dynamic Contrast, and/or Motion Lighting selections, all of which I tried and found either to make no improvement or to actually be very detrimental to the picture. I tried looking at black level and contrast performance in the different picture modes, thinking maybe LCE was tied in with only certain modes, with no success. Furthermore, Chris and I pulled out a Panasonic ST30 plasma and compared the minimum luminance level of it and the PN51D8000, and the ST30 was noticeably darker. So, if the LCE is real and not just hype, unfortunately it was not making itself known.

On Samsung's C8000 and C7000 models, I found that the black level measured and looked very significantly better (darker) on the 58 and 63" panel sizes than the 50" panel I initially reviewed. I have a feeling that may be the case with the D8000 as well. Using a Chroma5 colorimeter that is rated to read accurately down to at least .014 fL and measuring in a dark room, I measured a black level of .0165 fL without Cinema Smooth engaged. With a 1080P/24 input and Cinema Smooth turned on, as most videophiles would greatly prefer to watch their Blu Rays, the black level deteriorated to .0225 fL. The modified ANSI contrast ratio measured a good 1564:1. The PN51D8000 can make a nice and bright image; I could get 54-55 fL of light output with no compromise in performance. That, along with the dark screen filter, combine to help the PN51D8000 look much punchier and dynamic than the average plasma in a typical room.

After calibration:

(dark room, 1080P/24, Cinema Smooth engaged)
The first thing that struck me was the beautiful color; it was saturated and rich but still natural. There was lots of pop in bright scenes, but blacks had a slight glow in dark scenes. Whites were pure and vibrant. Shadow detail was excellent- well balanced and neutral. I saw very detailed resolution. The image was very slightly grainy when sitting close to the screen with NR off, but it looked smooth from a more typical viewing distance. The picture was stable, with no pumping or floating blacks. Flesh tones were natural. Pans and motion were good. I experimented with turning Cinema Smooth off and on; it was hard to see the black level penalty when engaging CS because of the large, bright menu screen, but it did seem to be slightly perceptible.

In every regard except MLL and dark scene contrast, I absolutely loved the image I saw on the PN51D8000. I have not seen any other display that exceeds it's picture quality in many respects. Is the black level performance enough to tame your enthusiasm for the PN51D8000? If you're hard core like my buddy, who liked his CRT front projector's blacks so dark that seeing his hand held up between his eyes and the screen could be a challenge, then yes. If your tastes are more moderate and you watch with a little light in the room, then sit back and enjoy that beautiful picture!

Product Images