Samsung's 2013 flagship TVs go head-to-head in a clash of sibling titans.
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Zeus and Hades. Mark and Donny. Venus and Serena. The Olsen Twins. Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here today is a battle between siblings—Samsung’s flagship plasma, the F8500, and its flagship LED, the F8000. It’s a rare occasion for us to review two flagship TVs one after the other—and even more rare to review two flagship products from the same company.
As Seinfeld would say, “What’s the deal with these new Samsung flagships?” More importantly, what’s the difference between two high-end TVs of this caliber? Quite a bit, actually. The only constant between these two displays is Samsung’s new smart platform, which happens to be awesome. When it comes to design, performance, and value, though, these two couldn’t be more different.
Samsung is really flexing its design muscles this year. The F8500 and the F8000 are two incredible-looking televisions, but for different reasons. The plasma F8500 is relatively thin for a plasma, but has noticeably thick bezels. We can live with this: The “Metal Flow Stand” (Samsung’s words, not ours) is bold, refreshing, and downright handsome. If the F8500 were in your living room, it would be the centerpiece.
The F8500’s LED counterpart, the F8000, takes an altogether different approach: It goes for the slim, sleek look, and nails it. This is a TV with bezels measuring just 0.2 inches—they’re barely visible. The 55-inch model also weighs next to nothing (for a TV): about 40 pounds with the stand attached. And the stand—that stand! The “Arc Stand” (again, Samsung’s words) makes the F8000 look like it’s floating.
So how do you choose between two showstoppers like these? You don’t, or at least we can’t. Opinions are split in the office over which TV is more attractive. This is a genuine stalemate.
We mentioned that both of these TVs pack Samsung’s latest smart platform, but that means nothing if they can’t produce a good picture. Fear not—both are more than adequate in that department. And with the inherent differences between plasma and LED TVs in mind, we can get down to business.
As far as color performance is concerned, the F8500 and F8000 produce incredibly accurate results. Samsung’s two bundles of joy start to deviate when contrast and viewing angle come into play, though. LED TVs usually don’t get black levels that are as good as plasmas; this is the case with the F8000. After calibrating it for maximum contrast and color, we recorded a black level of 0.12 cd/m2 —decent, but not mind-blowing. The F8500, on the other hand, has a black level of 0.02 cd/m2 . Coupled with its peak brightness of 214.74 cd/m2, the F8500 produces a contrast ratio of over 10,000. Impressed? We are.
Viewing angle is another area where the F8500 emerges as the favorite. With a total viewing angle of 158°, Samsung’s new plasma provides an ideal picture almost anywhere you sit. The LED F8000 didn’t fare as well: This slim television produced an equally slim total viewing angle of 31°. To be fair, most LEDs have narrow viewing angles like this. When these tests are considered, though, the F8500 starts looking more like Michael Jackson to the F8000’s Jermaine.
Flagship products are, by their nature, expensive. The F8500 and F8000 are no exceptions to this rule: The 60-inch F8500 plasma retails for $3,149.99, while the 60-inch F8000 LED will only set you back $2,999.99. This begs the question: If you’re in desperate need of a 60-inch TV, should you spring for the F8000 in order to save $150? Both offer the new-and-improved Smart Hub, plus the redesigned Smart Touch Remote. These may be expensive TVs, but you get plenty of features.
If you need a brighter LED display to contend with ambient light in your living room, go for the F8000. If you want more performance (see above), the F8500 is the clear choice. And since $150 more is just 5% of the F8000’s cost, the extra money is almost negligible.
Performance-wise, the F8500 is the new TV to beat—it’s currently our top-ranked television. Asking us to choose a favorite between high-performing TVs is like asking a parent to choose his or her favorite child: It’s simply unbearable. Our test results don’t lie, though. Samsung’s F8500 plasma TV is a pound-for-pound better display than the F8000, which still manages to produce a great picture.
Sibling Rivalry Winner: F8500