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It’s no secret that plasma TVs have been on the decline sales-wise, something Samsung readily admitted to during our meeting with them at CES. Why is the company recommitting to plasma then? And more importantly, why should consumers care about a flagship television with older technology?

Samsung was very clear about its intent for the F8500: This will be a reference TV, a display that will set the standard for HD picture quality. That’s quite a bold statement, but seeing as the F8500 is the sequel to our 2012 TV of the Year, we wouldn’t expect anything less.

A slim profile and a modern stand are powerful agents

The stand was love-at-first-sight.

The F8500 is an odd creature. It doesn’t have the slim bezels that Panasonic has on its ZT60 plasma, but it is delightfully slim for a plasma. The stand was love-at-first-sight, though. This single piece of curved metal rests stylishly underneath the display. I hate to overuse the Batman theme (just kidding, I don't!), but the TV coupled with the stand looks reminiscent of the Dark Knight himself… if he were a television and not Christian Bale.

We couldn't get a good look at the backside of the F8500, but we did notice the return of the Jog Stick, which is a tiny joystick that allows menu access, and also controls the TV's power, volume, and channels.

Consumers, take control—take control of your cable!

The smart platform on the F8500 wasn’t specifically shown off, but it will be the same as all of the other 2013 smart TVs from Samsung. That means access to the upgraded Smart Hub, complete with its redesigned interface and integrated social media features.

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Our favorite new feature on the 2013 Smart Hub is definitely the “On TV” screen, which is a new interface for viewing cable content. TV shows and movies are represented as pictures on the top two-thirds of the screen, while the bottom shows upcoming programs. Make no mistake: This will be the future of how you view cable TV. If this interface works as well as it looks, no one will ever want to use a cable set-top box menu ever again. Good riddance!

The "Movies & TV Shows" screen is also a treat. Samsung is keen on its S-Recommendation feature that will suggest content based on your viewing history. I can't wait to see a screen that only shows Pawn Stars and Hardcore Pawn for my recommendations.

So far, the only challenger to Samsung's smart TV throne is LG, which updated its 2013 interface and will also be offering content recommendation. As long as someone is trying to innovate in this area, we won't complain.

The F8500 is a shining performer.

The biggest improvement the F8500 has over the E8000 is contrast, or how dark and how bright a TV can get. Samsung threw a couple numbers out there for us: twice as dark, four times as bright. This is important because plasma displays are known for getting super dark, but not very bright.

Twice as dark, four times as bright.

Samsung pulled a Panasonic and had a picture quality brawl between last year’s flagship E8000 and its successor. The results: our beloved E8000 was outmatched, beaten convincingly. Both TVs were set to the Movie picture mode… and then Samsung turned the lights on.

Typically, you want to watch a plasma TV in a dark room. Since they do not get very bright, watching one in a bright room would make the picture hard to see. Whether or not the “four times as bright” statement by Samsung was true is irrelevant—the representatives from the company purposefully turned the lights on in the room to show how well this new plasma performs. The E8000 looked washed out in the now-bright room, while the F8500 looked as vibrant as an LED, with superior black levels.

This great technology... it will endure.

A Samsung rep discussed one of the main reasons why plasma TVs have declined in sales. When you go to the TV section of your favorite big-box retailer, TVs are usually lining a wall like paintings in an art gallery. Since these stores are extremely bright and plasma TVs do not have bright screens, they look dull and less colorful compared to LED models. Why the hell would you want the TV with the lifeless picture? With the F8500, Samsung hopes to change that.

The F8500 was noticeably brighter and darker than its predecessor and our Best TV of 2012, the E8000. This is an impressive feat in and of itself. Another impressive feat? That fact that Panasonic and now Samsung are refusing to let plasma technology die, even in the face of declining sales. Seeing as this technology is cheaper and in some ways better than LED backlit TVs, consumers are the ones who will benefit.

Meet the tester

Josh Fields

Josh Fields

Staff Writer

@reviewedtech

An enthusiast of all things tech, Josh is one of Reviewed.com's resident television experts. When he's not looking at bright TV screens in a dark room, he's probably reviewing a laptop or finding a new snack at 7-11.

See all of Josh Fields's reviews

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