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Preliminary Review of Samsung New PN60F8500 Plasma Print E-mail
Written by Kevin Miller   
Monday, 25 March 2013

tn_1200_dbc2c3baacce73e2e5e9c68a58e4015f.png.pngPros: Vastly improved black level and light output capability combine to deliver a dramatic increase in Contrast Ratio. The panel is processing RGB correctly going well below video black (16) and well above white (235), further improving contrast ratio. Video processing correctly handles 24p Blu-ray content at 96Hz, and also offers a Judder Corrector feature.

 

Cons: The 2pt and 10pt white balance and Custom Color Space CMS (Color Management System) calibration features seem to interact quite a bit making professional calibration time consuming. Vertical viewing angle is poor at close range, due to the ambient light rejecting filter on the panel, but is not a problem at normal viewing distances.

 

To Buy or Not to Buy: As of this writing, the Samsung PN60F8500 series plasma is clearly one of the best flat panels money can buy from a picture quality and video performance perspective. Highly Recommended!

Samsung was kind enough to supply Robert Zohn at Value Electronics with an advanced production sample of the PN60F8500 PDP, and I was fortunate to be able to spend a day evaluating the panel.

The Samsung 51 and 64-inch models just hit the market last week, and the 60 will be in stores this coming week. What follows is a “Preliminary Review” of the 60-inch model. By next weekend, I will have updates to this review as I am scheduled to spend some more time evaluating this panel, as well as the 51 and 64-inch models.

The PN60F8500 replaces the 2012 company’s flagship 60-inch plasma model PN60E8000. From a design perspective, it is an elegant, sleek, and attractive panel, with a dark anodized aluminum bezel that seems to melt into the screen, and almost disappear.

x30560p8500-o_remote.jpgIn my blog on this year’s CES show , I had previously mentioned Samsung’s commitment to the plasma display category as the company repeatedly made clear they had spent significant resources on this year’s flagship plasma line. Well, it seems they have made good on that promise. There are a couple of major improvements in the F8500 series over all of the company’s previous efforts that impact one of the most important performance parameters; Contrast Ratio.

Contrast Ratio: Samsung has managed to dramatically increase the panel’s light output capability from last year. Black level on the panel is also significantly lower than anything Samsung has ever made in the plasma category. These two advances combine to increase the overall contrast ratio significantly.

Black level measured a very impressive .001 fL with the new Black Optimizer feature set to the Dark Room setting. It measured significantly higher at .004 fL with that feature turned off. Samsung describes the Black Optimizer as a feature that changes the reset timing to improve black level. By way of comparison, the Panasonic TC-P65VT50 measured .002 fL at last year’s flat panel shootout, which was the best black level of any plasma panel in 2012. The black level on the Samsung is still not as low as the vaunted Pioneer Kuros, the last of which measured .0005 fL. I saw no difference in the actual black level (either raised or crushed) at the different settings for the Black Optimizer while viewing test patterns from my Video Forge HDTV signal generator, and PLUGE patterns from both the HD Basics and Spears & Munsil Blu-ray test discs.

I set white level to a peak light output of 40 fL for the calibration of the Movie Mode for dark room viewing. I also implemented the Cal-Night and Cal-Day picture modes in the service menu of the 60F8500 and performed separate calibrations for those modes as well. It should be noted that the calibration of the Movie mode produced better results than I was able to achieve with the Cal-Night mode. Specifically, grayscale tracking was closer to the Rec 709 standard in the Movie mode vs. the Cal-Night mode post calibration. The peak light output for the Cal-Day mode was an impressive 66 fL, which is significantly brighter than any 60-inch or larger plasma I have ever measured. I suspect the panel is capable of more light output in the Dynamic (Read: Best Buy Torch Mode) mode, but I did not make that measurement as it has no pertinence to a calibrated picture.

samsung-pn60f8500-stand-300x168.jpgI measured what I refer to as ‘’On Screen” ANSI contrast ratio using a 4 x 4 ANSI Checkerboard pattern from the Video Forge with the Klein K-10A colorimeter right up on the screen. The average of the black squares was significantly higher at .003fL than the black measured on a full field video black, which was .001fL. The average of the white squares was 24fL significantly lower than the peak white measured with a 100 IRE window in the center of the screen, which of course is caused by the voltage regulation circuitry that all PDPs have to utilize. The resulting Contrast Ratio measurement was 8000:1, which is an impressive number, but could’ve been significantly higher if the black squares measured closer to the video black measurement of .001 fL, which means there is some leakage from the white into the black squares.

Color Accuracy: Overall color accuracy is excellent on the PN60F8500. Samsung has had a slight color saturation issue with their LED based LCD and plasma panels for years now, the cause for which has been difficult to assess. I have found in years past that using their Blue Only feature under RGB Only that skin tones were slightly too pink. Last year, the correct setting was 48. Samsung seemed to have corrected this issue as the color preset of 50 now yields perfect saturation and skin tone rendition. Looking at the same scenes from “I am Legend” and “SkyFall” on the PN60F8500, side by side with a fully calibrated TC-P65VT50, color and skin tones looked identical on the two panels.

Grayscale tracking pre-calibration on the PN60F8500 was excellent in the Movie Mode and Warm 2 color temperature setting. Oddly enough, with only a minor tweak to the 2pt white balance controls, I found the rest of the grayscale shifted significantly, necessitating a full 10pt white balance adjustment. There was also some significant interaction between the 2pt and 10pt controls, which made it necessary to go back and forth between the two features a number of times to get the best results.

The gamma curve was a nearly perfect 2.38 at the factory preset of 0 in the Movie Mode for dark room applications. Strangely, in the Cal-Night setting, I had to bring the gamma down to -2 due to a big dip at 90% luminance, which produced a slightly too high 2.5 gamma curve. This and some very strange levels in the 2pt grayscale, and a -15 setting for the Flesh Tone feature, which is usually set to 0 from the factory, leads me to believe there is a firmware or software bug in the Cal-Night and Cal-Day modes at least for this model. I have forwarded my findings to my contacts at Samsung, and am confident this issue will be remedied fairly quickly.

Color space required some minor tweaking in the Custom mode to get it nearly exactly to spec as per Rec 709 in the Movie mode. In the Cal-Night and Cal-Day modes, the Auto setting for Color Space was so good it did not require any manipulation of the Custom mode to correct it. See the PDFs for the data.

skype.jpgVideo Processing: The PN60F8500 handles 1080i signals perfectly when Film Mode is set to Auto 1, which engages 2:3 pull-down circuitry in the set. The panel clearly passes the Video Resolution Loss test on the Silicon Image HQV Blu-ray test disc when the output resolution of the Blu-ray player is set to 1080i. It also passes the Film Resolution Loss test on the same disc when the output resolution of the player is set to 1080p.

Also on tap in the F8500 is 96Hz processing for handling 24fps material from Blu-ray movie discs, and it works very well. In fact, this is an area where the Samsung  F8500 series handily outperforms the Panasonic VT50 series as it appears the Panasonic first takes the signal to 60Hz inserting 2:3 pull-down before then converting the signal to 96Hz. This produces an unacceptable amount of jitter in the picture and is best left at the 60Hz setting in the Panasonic. The Samsung renders left to right pans with 24p material like the helicopter fly over scene of the aircraft carrier in Chapter 7 of “I am Legend” very smoothly. I looked at this scene repeatedly, and found the best results with Film Mode set to Off, and the Judder Canceller set to Standard. The Race Car clip in 24p from the Spears & Munsil Blu-ray test disc was also reproduced very smoothly and cleanly.Samsung has clarified that the Cinema Smooth feature is 96Hz with no 2:3 pull-down, and that the Dejudder Corrector is frame interpolation played back at 60Hz. The 24 fps judder produced by the Cinema Smooth feature was so severe that it prompted me to shut it off. 

Conclusion: As of this writing, the Samsung F8500 series PDPs actually surpasses the recognized leader in performance in the category, the Panasonic VT50 series in some key performance parameters. While the Samsung is slightly lower in its black level, and may even get lower with more break-in time, the luminance of the white squares of an ANSI checkerboard pattern do not measure as bright as they did on last year’s Panasonic TC-P65VT50, which brings the contrast ratio down on the Samsung. This is odd considering I set the peak light output at the beginning of the calibration on the Samsung to 40 fL, and the Panasonic only achieved 33 fL in the Night mode calibration. I will be re-measuring a VT50 to confirm the contrast ratio results on that panel. In any case, this issue is relatively minor when looking at reference grade video material from Blu-ray. The video processing on the F8500 is clearly superior to the Panasonic especially when it comes to 24fps material from Blu-ray. The panel is also capable of being fully 50% brighter than the Panasonic VT50 series making it capable of a really compelling Day mode setting for viewing in high ambient light conditions.

I did a direct comparison between a fully calibrated TC-P65VT50 and the PN60F8500, and subjectively the two panels looked identical. Color and skin tone rendition looked exceptional on both, and bright and dark material all looked exactly the same. Scenes from the HD Basics Demonstration section revealed very accurate looking skin tones and richly saturated colors on the F8500. The overly pink skin tones I normally associate with Samsung sets from years past when color was set correctly is no longer an issue. The new PN60F8500 delivers rich saturation with skin tones rendered correctly, which is further evidenced by the fact that the correct setting for color is now the factory pre-set of 50 whereas for several years prior it had been 47 or 48 depending on the year. Fast motion scenes from the opening of “SkyFall” with the motorcycle chase on the rooftops was rendered smoothly and cleanly with no visible motion anomalies or artifacts.

As the title states this is a “Preliminary” review so you can expect additions/changes and possibly addendums in the coming couple of weeks. I will also be evaluating the larger 64-inch model carefully to determine if there are any material differences between the two panels.

All in all, the Samsung PN60F8500 is a very impressive plasma panel. I highly recommend this panel to anyone looking for a reference grade flat panel display. Plasma Still Rules!

*All measurements were made with a Klein K-10A colorimeter, Video Forge HD signal generator, and HD Basics and Spears & Munsil Blu-ray test discs.

TweakTV Exclusive CalMan Pro Calibration data points:

Calibration Settings - Day

Calibration Settings - Night

Calibration Settings - Movie

Calibration Settings - Movie 3D

Kim Komando, America's Digital Goddess
Comments
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Eric Genname - Ambient light rejection   | 76.104.156.107 | 2013-03-26 02:28:12
Very useful evaluation, thanks! Do you have any way to measure ambient light rejection on this set, particularly from windows to the side or rear? Both Samsung and Panasonic are touting improvements in this area for 2013, and it would be useful to know if they are meaningful.

Oh, btw, this Website appears to need a new security certificate or something. No big deal.
kevinmiller   | Super Administrator | 2013-03-26 11:21:44
Hi,

Thanks for posting a comment. I don't have a way of objectively measuring the ambient light rejection, but I will take a closer look at it in a couple of days when I am scheduled to spend some more time with the panel.
M3Rocket - VT50 96Hz mode   | 12.33.4.129 | 2013-03-26 13:50:04
Thanx for a very informative review.

I was taken aback by this: "...the Panasonic VT50 series as the Panasonic first takes the signal to 60Hz inserting 2:3 pull-down before then converting the signal to 96Hz. This produces an unacceptable amount of jitter in the picture and is best left at the 60Hz setting in the Panasonic."

Did you acquire this information from Panasonic about their 96Hz mode? Because it really sounds like an odd and egregious way to convert from 24Hz? Because it doesn't seem that it's possible to get from 24Hz to 60Hz to 96Hz WITHOUT introducing jitter?
kevinmiller   | Super Administrator | 2013-03-26 17:47:37
Hi

I was hoping to get confirmation of this from Panasonic, but my contact could not confirm. I am going to now edit out that comment. The reason I surmised this is because of the unacceptable amount of jitter that is present when 96Hz is engaged. For now I will take it out until we can get a definitive answer on it from Panny.
M3Rocket   | 12.33.4.129 | 2013-03-26 18:09:04
Thanx Kevin! It'll be interesting to hear Panasonic's explanation (if any) and whether this is improved on the VT60/ZT60.

Regardless, I do think that Panasonic's VT50 2:3 pulldown is done quite well--24Hz Blu-rays at 60Hz looks really great with almost imperceptible pulldown judder to my eyes.
kevinmiller   | Super Administrator | 2013-03-26 18:02:47
Hi,

Here is my edit:

In fact, this is an area where the Samsung F8500 series handily outperforms the Panasonic VT50 series as it appears the Panasonic first takes the signal to 60Hz inserting 2:3 pull-down before then converting the signal to 96Hz. This produces an unacceptable amount of jitter in the picture and is best left at the 60Hz setting in the Panasonic.
dvrw2 - ANSI APL test....   | 186.213.133.114 | 2013-03-26 17:06:48
First, Thank you for your effort in this test.

The black Optimizer appears to act as a dynamic iris of some projectors, adjusting the black according to the APL scene. Therefore, it would not be the ideal test ANSI contrast in brightness levels other than the traditional 4x4 4x4 checkerboard(50% APL)? APL of 20% (movies) and 40% (games, sports) are more indicative of the content that we see normally.
kevinmiller   | Super Administrator | 2013-03-26 17:51:17
Hi,
Samsung describes it as "Changing the Reset Timing to improve black level. I tested all modes except the Brightroom mode and found that it does not change black level on a test pattern, but Off produces a significantly higher absolute black of .004 over the .001 that I measured with it set to Dark room. I did use a 4 x 4 checkerboard pattern so I am not clear on what you mean. It didn't look like an Auto Iris circuit to me, but I will be spending some more time with it in a couple of days.
dvrw2   | 186.213.131.181 | 2013-03-26 21:09:22
English is not my first language, so I must not have been clear.

In scenes with a high Average Picture Level (APL) - that is, scenes which have a high proportion of bright elements - the ABL will reduce the overall brightness output of the plasma panel to stabilize power consumption; conversely in scenes which have a lower proportion of brighter elements (low APL), the overall brightness of the scene is allowed to be higher.

I think the Black Optimizer works with the same logic, analyzes the APL frame by frame and adjusts Reset Time to reduce the black level. Traditionally most plasmas worsens the black level of the ANSI test, but in 2012 models the black level was stable.

My doubt is whether the black level changes because of the APL analysis by Black Optimizer, or simply because it worsens with white on screen. If it is because of Black Optimizer, scenes with another value of APL may have a better black values
dvrw2   | 186.213.131.181 | 2013-03-26 21:11:03
more relevant to the content that we see in everyday (sports APL has average 40%, 20% movies). In the 4x4 ANSI test, the APL is 50% (8x 0% IRE squares and 8x 100% IRE)

See this graph
[img]http://img543.imageshack.us/img543/7245/82092474.gif[/img]

It would be great if you could test the ANSI with 20% and 40% APL. An example for an 20% APL: (4x4 checkeboard, 8 squares of 0% IRE and 8 with 40% IRE.
kevinmiller   | Super Administrator | 2013-03-27 08:17:49
Hi,

Thank you for the clarification. I understand completely what you are saying. I have another day with the 60-inch and the 64-inch tomorrow and will be conducting more tests. I am more concerned with the performance for movies frankly, but i will see what I can do for the higher APL measurements.

I am going to measure video black and ANSI Contrast again to see if additional breakin has improved the level of black and contrast ratio.
dvrw2   | 200.175.83.209 | 2013-03-27 12:29:47
As you said, your main interest is movies (i too), so is the reason for my suggestion/request. Movies, on average, have much lower APL than 50%. If you could the ANSI tests with this APL values
dvrw2   | 200.175.83.209 | 2013-03-27 12:30:57
As you said, your main interest is movies (i too), so is the reason for my suggestion/request. Movies, on average, have much lower APL than 50%. If you could the ANSI tests with this APL values
dvrw2   | 186.213.131.181 | 2013-03-26 21:10:11
conti...

tvhero   | 71.239.31.16 | 2013-03-27 19:14:41
Great information. If the f8500 isnt as black as the kuro and basicly is a better tv than vt50 by a hair, if it even is that, I know I will be getting the zt60.
dh1972   | 72.31.26.132 | 2013-03-27 22:05:28
Hi Kevin,

Great review. Very much looking forward to your follow up of the F8500 the next couple of days.

Question: did you find the F8500 to be slightly crisper or sharper than the VT50? I've seen reports of this with recent Samsung plasmas in general.

Thanks!

- D
kevinmiller   | Super Administrator | 2013-03-28 07:57:26
Hi D,

Yes I did find it to be quite sharp looking even after taking the Sharpness to 0 to remove all edge enhnancement.
dvrw2   | 186.215.58.153 | 2013-03-28 09:22:13
Kevin,

and about dither noise and color transitions? Samsung has a good reputation on it. This was improved? Panasonic has a lot of dither noise.
janos666 - re:   | 88.132.119.172 | 2013-03-28 22:19:17
dvrw2 wrote:
and about dither noise and color transitions? Samsung has a good reputation on it. This was improved? Panasonic has a lot of dither noise.


That's not just simple dither noise. Panasonic PDPs often shows distorted dither noise due to randomly accouring sub-pixel misfire.
They start with a more noticable noise pattern becoming visible around moving hard contrast edges. And it becomes even more disturbing as some of the pixels show up with incorrect color as some of the sub-pixels (PDP cells) remains black (forgets to fire during the addressing period).

Panasonic made a very notable improvement in this area between 2011 and 2012. Their displays seems to be a lot more stable.
I guess this will remain unless they push the black levels to the edge of their plasma panel technology again to show some improvement after in every model year.


I found it very instructive to disassemble a Samsung PDP and tune the initialization curve with the potmeters.
Guess what... As I tuned the potmeters and black became darker, the built in scrollig bar test (the Panasonic "IR wash" type moving white rectangle from the Samsung service menu) started to show the exact same mild random pixel misfire and distorted dither pattern behavior what I could see on factory default Panasonic PDPs from 2011.

Panasonic wants to be know about their industry leading black levels, no matter what. They will push everything else to the limit to keep a notable distance from the competition in this area.

Samsung on the other hand knows, that no matter how hard they try, they can't win in the contrast game, so they optimize their panels to have an averagely good black level while keeping keep the plasma cells perfectly stable in every possible scenarios.


But I must add that even though I know both of them well, I have a Panasonic PDP from 2011 myself because black level is very important, so I chose to make other sacrifices to keep that at a minimum.
But I guess I will upgrade my TV this year. And I wish to get rid of the 2011 Panasonic dither if it's possible without sacrificing anything else.
May be this new Samsung panel is the answer. Or the new GT60. (The GT50 has serious firmware bugs in the EU, so I had to ship that.)
dvrw2   | 177.97.88.146 | 2013-03-29 00:38:42
In the review of David in 2011 Panasonic i saw him commenting this noise in fast-moving scenes.

I've had plasmas from Samsung and Panasonic, Samsung seemed to have less dithering and color transitions smoother, now I understand one of the reasons. Thanks for commenting your experience.

I saw the AVS threads to improve the black level of LG and Samsung using potentiometers. In 2011 I saw many comments about this adjustment, line 2012 (E7000, E8000, etc) have this option? If the F8500 has this hack will be amazing.
janos666   | 88.132.119.172 | 2013-03-28 22:37:37
(Sorry, I didn't write long texts in English a long time ago and I forgot to read it back before posting. And it's not possible to edit the posts.)
kevinmiller   | Super Administrator | 2013-03-29 09:23:46
Hi Jano666 and Dvrw2,

Thanks for the awesome commentary here.

I looked carefully at this yesterday while calibrating a 64 and 51-inch F8500. Dithering noise is definitely at a minimum, and black level on the 64-inch measured .002 fT, which is the equivalent of the Panasonic VT50s.

I will however be writing a revised final version this weekend. the Video processing for 24p (Cinema Smooth) introduces serious judder and is unusable. What I was looking at originally was actually 60Hz with Cinema Smooth Off and it is cleaner and much smoother than the Panasonic, but it is not 24p done correctly. More this weekend!
dh1972   | 72.31.26.132 | 2013-03-29 14:22:56
Kevin,

Thanks for the update.

If at all possible, I would like more of your thoughts on how well the F8500 holds its blacks in brighter scenes as it appears the VT50 and possibly ST60 do a better job here.
Vism   | 146.90.40.251 | 2013-03-30 11:05:15
Hi Kevin,

Bit puzzled by something.
With the ansi checkerboard you say that peak white drops to 24fL, that's much less than the VT50 you tested last year (33fL). Are you saying that in the real World, the Samsung is less bright?

Also, could you do some tests to see what is the max brightness you can have while maintaining the 0.001 black level?

Thanx.
michaelk83 - Pn60f8500 VS p60GT50   | 98.189.45.93 | 2013-04-02 15:02:19
if you will buy a new tv for a living room with light most of day would you buy pn60f8500 or p60gt50 putting in mind that there is at least $1000 difference. Is the light output from the Samsung makes you pay extra $1000 or not.

Thank you.
nick2001deuce   | 76.176.165.146 | 2013-04-05 15:19:38
Kevin - Did you post your settings for the 64 F8500 or do they mirror the settings for the 60"?

Thanks for your very educational sharing.

Nick
Club 71 - F8500 vs F8000 wrt brightness   | 64.231.179.232 | 2013-04-06 15:43:53
Samsung says that Brightness is increased in the F8500 Plasma by 250%. How does the F8500 Plasma now compare in Brightness with the F8000 LED?

Also, given the different screen coatings, how does the F8500 Plasma compare to the F8000 LED with respect to reflection in an average lighted living room?
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Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 June 2013 )
 
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