Samsung PN60E6500EF Plasma TV Review
Samsung's not-quite-flagship plasma still delivers flagship-quality performance.
Samsung is the Toyota of the TV industry: recognizable and a top-seller. When we get a high-end Samsung TV to review, we have high expectations. And when that TV happens to be a plasma—something only Samsung and rival Panasonic do well—then we expect nothing short of excellence. After all, our top TV of 2012 was none other than Samsung's flagship plasma, the E8000.
The PN60E6500 is two models lower than the top-tier E8000, which still makes the former a high-end display. Based on looks alone, these plasmas appear identical. What's different? The E6500 is slightly thicker, and lacks the dual core processor, the built-in camera, and the Smart Touch Remote that come with the E8000. This translates into a slower web-browsing experience—a moot point since all TV browsers are currently awful—and the absence of Samsung's gesture controls.
What consumers need to know about the E6500 is that it keeps up with its more expensive, award-winning brother in most categories. Yes, it's that impressive.
Samsung continues its modern, yet refreshing take on the television stand.
There are two types of TV stands in this world: boring slabs of plastic and modern, borderline-experimental contraptions. Samsung's four-pronged stand falls in the latter category, and we love it for that reason. Using the stand, as opposed to wall-mounting the E6500, turns this display into a living room centerpiece. What is that stand, anyway? An extra-terrestrial foot? I wonder how Ancient Aliens looks on this...
We mentioned that the E6500 looks an awful lot like the E8000—aside from slightly thicker bezels and a wider profile, these two could be twins. Connections are located on the right, if viewed from the back. As with the E8000, there are three HDMI ports, a component input, and various other staples of television connectivity. On-set controls are available in the form of Samsung's Jog Stick, which is a joystick-like knub on the bottom-left of the display. Pressing it in powers the TV on, while moving it in different directions accesses options like the menu, volume control, and channel control.
One major difference to point out—and this will be important later in 2013—is the lack of a spot for Samsung's fabled Evolution Kit. This device, which comes out in 2013, will upgrade the smart platform to Samsung's newest version, as well as boost processing performance. Based on what we saw at CES, you want this.
The reigning champion of smart platforms still needs improvement.
There's not much we haven't said about Samsung's internet platform, called the Smart Hub. We awarded it Best Smart Platform of the Year for a reason: It is easier to use and includes more apps than any of its competitors. With that said, no current TV smart platform is actually "useful." Yes, Samsung gives you the option to watch Netflix and Hulu Plus on your TV, but so does an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3. And while we love the Smart Hub's relative ease of use—compared to other smart platforms, that is—no smart TV offers an experience that is more intuitive than your smartphone... which is usually right next to you while you watch TV.
This is definitely not a knock against Samsung's Smart Hub—we enjoyed some of its quirky gimmicks, like playing Angry Birds using motion controls on its flagship LED and plasma TVs. We are knocking smart platforms as a whole, though. The fact that almost every smart TV comes with an internet browser is maddening—there isn't a single decent one, including Samsung's. Smart TV browsers struggle with text input and are incredibly slow. In fact, that is one gripe we have with the E6500: It does not include a dual-core processor that higher-end Samsung smart TVs have. This leads to slower performance while using anything on the Smart Hub, especially the browser—something that is slow enough even with the upgraded processor.
Here's hoping that Samsung delivers on the promises it made at CES regarding its 2013 smart platform.
A smart platform doesn't make a TV great—stunning picture quality like this does.
The Samsung E6500 doesn't just deliver on the picture quality front—it exceeds our expectations. This is a plasma television that displays all the technology's benefits: deep black levels, fantastic motion performance, and an incredibly wide viewing angle.
The picture quality goodness doesn't stop with plasma-specific attributes. Like LeBron James, the E6500 excels at every part of its game. Color accuracy is the real star: It's incredibly accurate—*almost* perfect. Even better is how there is almost no warming or cooling errors, meaning that the picture on the screen won't have an orange or blue tint.
Even 3D—that gimmick of gimmicks—looks good on the E6500. After putting on Samsung's goofy-yet-comfortable glasses, we were treated to the added depth that 3D brings. Some foreground images appear to "pop out" of the screen, giving you that movie theater 3D effect. Thankfully, the E6500 doesn't commit the cardinal sin of crosstalk—when you see a "ghost" image—which means you can sit through a whole movie if you choose.
Just how superb is the Samsung PN60E6500? In case the LeBron comparison wasn't enough: This TV is a display all-star. It has quirky good looks like Zooey Deschanel, deep and satisfying black levels like 2001: A Space Odyssey, and extra features like a Happy Meal. When the E6500 does something, it does it well.
So with a TV this stellar, is there any reason at all to buy Samsung's flagship plasma, the E8000? Let's talk about price: The E6500 retails for $1,699.99, while the E8000 goes for $2,039.99. That extra $340 gets you gesture controls, a fancy remote, a speedier smart platform, and a slightly thinner profile. If these luxury features mean nothing to you, then do yourself a favor and check out Samsung's E6500. It's a beast.
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