Hands on: Samsung 51F8500 plasma TV review

The LED-lover makes an ambitious though arty attempt at plasma perfection

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Claiming to be as bright as an LED TV and with 40-60% improvement in black level, Samsung's latest F8500 Series is full of surprises.

It's top of the range, it's smart, it's 3D and it's Full HD – and it's downright impossible not to notice among the hundreds of TVs displayed on Samsung's aircraft hangar-like 'booth' at CES 2013.

With the kind of design that its designers simply couldn't get away with on a run-of-the-mill living room TV, this totally gunmetal-gleaned 51-inch telly has a D-shaped curve emanating from the front of the TV that acts as a desktop stand. Blimey - now that's a brave move.

Samsung F8500 Series

It all leaves us a bit nonplussed, not only because it's verging on industrial sculpture, but because the realisation dawns that the 51F8500 isn't designed to be hung on a wall. Samsung is probably banking on most home cinemas using AV furniture to support a TV, though an idea does cross our mind; why not stick the 51F8500 in the bedroom and hang your towels on it?

Samsung F8500 Series

It might or might not have the 360 degree that ensures a completely clean, cable-free view from the back (as featured on Samsung's brand new F8000 Series of LED TVs), but the base is the same concept throughout, and curves outward from the back, too. Meanwhile, on the top is a pop-up camera to power two-handed gestures to zoom-in and swipe your way through the GUI.

Samsung F8500 Series

If nothing else the 51F8500's ambitious design marks a re-statement of Samsung's confidence in the oft-ignored plasma tech, which is a tad surprising given its runaway success marketing LED-flavoured sets over the past few years. However, it does lens some validity to Samsung's insistence that active shutter 3D - which is included here - is thee only way to go.

Samsung F8500 Series

With a new Real Black Pro panel promising eight times the black levels seem previously, Samsung is hugely bullish about the 51F8500's chances. "We're hoping that this will set the standard for plasma in the TV industry," said a booth attendant, though what's immediately noticeable is just how searingly bright the white areas of the image are.

Samsung F8500 Series

"With this plasma we've worked on improving the picture quality of the plasma's cells," said Dilen Thakrar, TV Product Manager at Samsung UK, citing the 51F8500's use of a new Super Contrast Panel that improves black levels 40% in a darkened room and 60% in a light room.

Samsung F8500 Series

"We've improved the luminous on this plasma by 250 per cent so now it's at the point where it's equal to LCD. We know that there are real plasma lovers out there that love the technology, love the picture quality and deep black levels, and for us it was about making the best plasma we can - and that's what this is."

Samsung F8500 Series

Samsung UK confirmed to us that it's going to have two sizes of the F8500 Series in Europe - the 51-inch and 64-inch models - though we spotted a 60-incher alongside those two on the show floor. For now it's intended only for the US market.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.

Tech Specs

Product TypePlasma TV
Scan Format1080p
Standard Refresh Rate50 Hz
Digital TunerDVB-C (MPEG4), DVB-T (MPEG4), DVB-S2
Video Signal StandardHDTV 1080p
Number of HDMI Ports4
Number of SCART Interfaces1
Product Family8500
3D Type3D
EU Energy LabelC
Brand NameSamsung
Screen Size129.5 cm (51")
Aspect Ratio16:9
Green CompliantYes
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityCEC
Wireless LANYes
Ethernet TechnologyEthernet
Weight with Stand (Approximate)23.40 kg
Operating Power Consumption170 W
Standby Power Consumption400 mW
RMS Output Power20 W
Electronic Program GuideYes
HDMI VersionHDMI 1.4a
Digital Audio OutputYes
Height with Stand743.50 mm
Width with Stand1190.50 mm
Depth with Stand270 mm
Number of Common Interface1
Composite VideoYes
Component VideoYes
Network (RJ-45)Yes
Number of USB Ports3
3D TechnologyShutter
Energy Consumption per Year248 kWh
3D Glasses RequiredYes
Enhanced Refresh Rate600 Hz
Height708.2 mm
Width1190.5 mm
Depth55.4 mm
ColourTitan Black
Sound SystemDolby Digital Plus, Dolby Pulse, Surround Sound, DTS
Product Series8500
Maximum Resolution1920 x 1080
FeaturesPC Streaming, Media Player, Web Browser, Teletext, Auto Program, Auto-off, Sound Leveler, Picture in Picture, Sleep Timer
Product ModelPS51F8500ST
Product Name51" F8500 Series 8 Smart 3D Full HD Plasma TV
Manufacturer Part NumberPS51F8500STXXU
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Marketing Information

The Samsung Plasma TV Series 8 uses features like Real Black Pro to produce the richest, deepest blacks, while the Super Contrast Panel enhances brightness, so you can enjoy the sharpest contrast and most vivid images possible. It's also a stunning addition to your home, with a stunning metal finish and elegant design that unifies the body and stand. With Smart Hub and S Recommendation, your Series 8 Plasma TV even lets you access online content and services, as well as suggestions based on your taste.

Package Contents
  • 51" F8500 Series 8 Smart 3D Full HD Plasma TV
  • 2 x 3D Glasses
  • IR Extender Cable
  • Remote Control
  • Slim Gender Cable
  • Power Cable
  • User Manual
  • E-Manual
  • Batteries
Limited Warranty1 Year
Weight (Approximate)20.90 kg