Before I talk picture quality, let’s get voice and gesture control out of the way. Neither worked as well as I had hoped. Gesture control was for the most part a nonstarter: Much of the time, when I waved my hands at the screen, the TV simply ignored my flailing. Voice control did work (a firmware upgrade that Samsung made available during my review process improved things quite a bit) but I found myself having to repeat or shout commands. Samsung’s IR blaster did sometimes respond to commands to change channels on my cable box, but I frequently had to bark in an unseemly manner — “channel 719! channel 719!” — only to see channel 19 or channel 7 or channel 129 pop up. I regularly use voice and gesture control on my Xbox/Kinect system with no problem, so I know this stuff can work. With Samsung’s TV, however, I found myself more than happy to shut my mouth and grab the remote.
Though I found myself impressed with the Samsung’s performance after simply selecting Movie mode, its post-calibration picture looked nothing short of stunning. Watching We Need to Talk About Kevin, a poorly cast parental horror flick, the bright colors that appear in almost every scene — reds in particular — looked vibrant but not too lurid. The set’s accurate color also allowed both the ghost-like porcelain skin of Tilda Swinton’s character and the sallow skin tone of her inexplicably Asian-looking bad-seed son to come through clearly.
The Samsung’s contrast and black depth were more than satisfying for movie viewing in a dim room. I measured black at 0.004 footlamberts (ftL) — the same level as on the also-impressive Panasonic TC-P50ST50 plasma I recently tested. With post-calibration maximum brightness clocking in at 33.1 ftL, the set yielded a contrast ratio of 8,275:1. Real-world result? Truly inky blacks on the Blu-ray movies I watched. Viewed in 2D, scenes from Hugo where the title character tinkers in his gloomy clock-tower dwelling were marked by deep shadows and fully fleshed-out gradations from black to darker colors in the objects scattered around the space.
When I switched Hugo to 3D viewing, crosstalk was minimal enough to not be distracting, and the picture wasn’t so dim that I felt it was a strain to continue watching. (Both those comments constitute praise when it comes to 3D TV!) Samsung’s battery-driven 3D glasses were a bit flimsy, especially compared with the extra-fancy $150 eyewear they loaned me for my last TV test, but hey, you get two free pairs with E8000 plasmas — a sweet deal.
Settling back for more 3D goodness, I watched a BD of the IMAX nature doc Born to Be Wild 3D. This disc, which is full of well-crafted 3D images, popped on the Samsung. In a shot of a caretaker playing with a baby orangutan as it hangs from a tree, for example, there was a sense of roundness to the figures in the foreground, which extended slightly out from the screen, while layers of slender trees behind the pair extended deep into space. That same sense of layering could be seen in a shot of an elephant herd wandering across the Kenyan savannah, with wiry shrubs and grasses in the foreground giving the scene a palpable sense of depth.
The PN60E8000 passed virtually all of our standard- and high-def film and video deinterlacing tests when its Auto 1 Film Mode option was selected. The one exception was the mixed 3:2 pull-down with video titles test from the HQV disc, which the Samsung did pass when its Auto 2 mode was enabled.
Samsung’s 60-inch E8000 model puts out a drop-dead gorgeous picture. Black depth is about as good as it gets with current plasma TV tech, and its color, while mostly accurate out of the box, can be dialed in near-perfect via the controls provided in Samsung’s Color Space menu. The E8000’s passably bright, reasonably crosstalk-free 3D image also earns it a thumbs-up in that category. Samsung’s Smart TV features, specifically voice and gesture recognition, are still a work in progress, though, so if you don’t much care about that stuff, you may want to also investigate one of the company’s less feature-packed — and consequently less costly — plasma lines.
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