It used to be fairly simple when you were going out to buy a TV. If you wanted thin, large screen TVs, you bought an LCD. Plasma always had better black levels and so could offer better image quality but things like refresh rates and how thick they were made them seem a little inferior to LCD. This new generation of Plasma panels has closed the gap significantly and the differences between each technology are making the choice between panels much harder.
The series 8 Plasma from Samsung is a remarkable panel. It isn’t perfect but it is about as perfect as Plasma has gotten thus far. The Pioneer KURO, widely considered the best Plasma panel ever made, is quickly looking outdated by this new generation of panels. The Series 8 is ultra thin, feature packed and has incredible image quality. It’s only real detractor is what is known as Phosphor Lag, a phenomenon common to most plasmas and one that affects only a very small portion of viewers.
Before singing the praises of the panel, I thought I’d give a quick paragraph or so about its only real issue. Phosphor Lag happens when the different plasma cells are not quite synchronised properly. You see, the image on a plasma TV comes from millions of cells filled with plasma which light up white when electricity is passed through them. It is then filtered through a red, green or blue layer which gives the light its colour. Phosphor Lag happens when all those millions of calculations are happening with a slight lag – so minute that it isn’t noticed by most people. However, there are some people that notice it and see, what looks like, flashes of rainbow colours on-screen.
It happens extremely quickly, but it happens often enough that it can be distracting. All plasma panels suffer from this issue, it’s just that some do it more than others. It’s not a problem at all for most people but since all viewers eyes are different – some can detect it and others can’t. The only way to make sure a plasma is right for you is to watch it in-store for a few minutes. If you don’t notice it, then it’s not a problem. The Series 8 may not be a problem for you but before deciding to buy it, I suggest you check it out.
Now, on to the good stuff. The first thing you notice about the Series 8 is that it is ultra thin making it perfect for mounting on a wall. It has a black and silver design, a slight departure from the all-black Samsung LCD range but it adds an air of modern styling to it and sets itself out from the crowd. The ports at the rear are all easy to access, although you will need to use the provided breakout is you are connecting composite or component equipment.
This unit has a native resolution of 1920×1080 making it capable of all resolutions from 1080p down to 576i. We tested the image quality in 1080p first and were mightily impressed. Running the PS3 and Xbox 360 over HDMI we played various games, watched Blu-Ray films and tested up-scaled DVDs. The result was exceptional. You will need to adjust the panel from its default settings as the sharpness is set too high but dropping it down and slightly increasing the contrast brings out the best the panel has to offer. You could go one step further and adjust the colour balance as well to make it absolutely perfect but unless you know what you are doing, it’s best to make only those few simple adjustments. The colour, by default, doesn’t need much adjusting at all anyway, as there are no overblown elements.
The panel has a contrast ratio of 30,000:1 which is evident in scenes with inky blacks and bright whites. The gradiant between the two shows no signs of stepping at all or smudging. It really is quite exquisite.
As environmental concerns have become more important to manufacturers and consumers, this unit is one of the most energy efficient panels Samsung has made as well. It uses almost 50% less power than previous models and therefore generates far less heat as well. The days of using the plasma TV as a surrogate heater for the lounge room are well and truly over.
As with most Samsung panels at the moment, the Series 8 is able to stream movies, music and images over your home network and has USB ports to plug in portable hard drives if you don’t have a network to use. It also comes preloaded with all of the usual Samsung content like games, art galleries and various other content. In addition, it can be hooked up to the Internet to take advantage of its online widgets like news, weather and RSS feeds for example.
The panel also has a refresh rate of 600Hz meaning that the pixels can change 600 times per second to deliver smooth motion. We were happy with how well it handles fast moving images and didn’t detect and judder or tearing. It also didn’t look fake or unnatural like some panels with motion control technology can.
Lastly, the speakers, while nowhere near as good as a good home theatre system, are actually rather good as well. They can pump out high volume without any distortion and sound nice and clear.
The price tag for this panel is reasonable considering the image quality, size and technology behind it. If you are looking at getting plasma, it’s a great choice. The two leading manufacturers are Samsung and Panasonic and both their high end models are just as good as each other at the moment.