First impressions of the Samsung PS64F8500 in action are little short of dazzling. Literally. The huge screen defies not only every plasma TV we've seen before but even our expectations of what plasma is capable of by serving up extreme levels of brightness that actually manage to rival those that have proved so useful in making LCD the most popular TV option.
Even more amazingly, these unprecedented plasma brightness levels remain seemingly completely intact if you turn all the lights in your room up to max, because Samsung's new on-screen filter design stops plasma cells being 'infiltrated' by ambient light.
This ability to retain all of its image punch and vibrancy even with all sorts of light in your room instantly and spectacularly - especially given the set's prodigious screen size - makes the Samsung PS64F8500 the most genuinely living room-friendly plasma TV we've seen. So long as your living room is big enough to cope with a ruddy big 64-inch TV, of course.
Those of you familiar with the way flat panel TVs usually work might be thinking at this point that such intense brightness on the Samsung PS64F8500 must come at the expense of black level response.
Not so. In fact, the Samsung PS64F8500's black levels enjoy an improvement over previous Samsung plasmas that's nearly as extreme as the boost in brightness, putting them up there with the most recent Panasonic plasma TVs we've tested.
Not surprisingly, plasma's ability to render really deep and rich blacks in the same frame as the Samsung PS64F8500's dazzling whites and colours ensures that pictures enjoy a degree of dynamism that's unprecedented - especially during predominantly dark scenes - in the plasma world.
This sense of brightness and dynamism is particularly welcome when watching 3D, because it helps Samsung's TV combat the dimming effect of its active shutter glasses, enabling you to enjoy 3D pictures that are, for the first time with plasma, pretty much as vibrant and bright as those you might find from a high-spec LCD TV.
The Samsung PS64F8500's 3D images are further aided by some impressively natural motion handling that suffers much less than might have been expected with plasma's traditional issues with judder and fizzing skin tones.
Also hugely impressive while watching 3D on the Samsung PS64F8500 is just how sharp and detailed its images look - a pertinent reminder of the active 3D format's advantages when you're talking about a really large screen environment.
Active vs passive 3D
This sense of sharpness is also evident during 2D HD viewing, of course - so much so, in fact, that we had to rein in the set's sharpness a bit from its default settings.
Going back to 3D, the sheer scale of the Samsung PS64F8500's screen together with the extreme but accurate sense of depth its huge contrast performance helps produce make 3D an extremely immersive experience too.
The only thing breaking this sense of immersion is the occasional appearance of a little crosstalk ghosting interference over distant objects, especially if they appear in stark contrast to the colour behind them.
Now we've mentioned a negative, we might as well bring up a trio more. The potentially most troublesome issue is the appearance of green dithering noise over some shadow details during dark scenes.
Undoubtedly a product of the extreme brightness Samsung has sought to achieve from the PS64F8500, this noise is sporadic in nature and diminishes in its obviousness with every foot further back from the screen you sit. But we still became gently aware of it during our tests while using what felt like a very natural viewing distance.
A rarer and more subtle issue is some gentle fluctuations in the image's overall brightness level while showing dark scenes - a result of the TV gently manipulating (without you being able to do anything about it) its sub-field driving system to try to get the very best contrast performance with a particular scene.
Best Smart TV platforms
Finally, another side effect of the aggressive way Samsung drives the PS64F8500's panel is a degree of image retention, whereby particularly bright, static and colour-rich image elements can leave an outline of themselves behind for a few frames.
We don't get the sense that this issue could necessarily lead to permanent retention, though, and we'd also expect its impact to diminish as the panel ages.
Despite finishing on this little run of flaws, though, don't be put off. Overall we remain hugely impressed with the Samsung PS64F8500's picture performance, especially when it comes to the screen's groundbreaking brightness.