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Home Theater & A/V

Best Plasma TV

When it comes to picture quality, the best plasma TVs offer deeper black levels, superior screen uniformity, and much better off-angle viewing than comparable LCDs, making them the preferred choice of many videophiles. Though they are still much less efficient than LCD TVs, the newer plasmas consume much less power than previous generations. Plasma TVs are best suited for home theater applications due to their excellent performance and ability to handle a variety of sources.

Samsung PN64F8500 64-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV

We've reviewed the Samsung PNF8500 series in the 60-inch size and other than the larger screen size, the 64-inch model performs identically. Although plasma TVs have traditionally held an advantage when it comes to viewing angles, LED LCD TVs offered better bright room performance. The Samsung PN64F8500 erases this performance gap, making it suitable for use in broad daylight. The PN64F8500 is the largest screen size offered for Samsung's flagship plasma TV and while it's expensive, it also packs top-of-the-line performance and features.

Samsung PN64F5500 64-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV

Samsung has simplified its plasma TV lineup for 2013, separating its flagship model from the rest of its offerings. However, considering Samsung remains one of the two top plasma TV competitors in the market, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Whereas the top-of-the-line PNF8500 appeals to nitpicky videophiles, the PN64F5500 is a solid midrange offering a unique mix of screen size, picture quality, and useful features.

The PN64F5500 shares the same basic look Samsung has applied to its TVs for several years at this point, with slim bezels, thin cabinet, and the "spider stand" which is instantly recognizable as a Samsung feature. The PN64F5500 stands out from the crowd in this price range, with looks that belie its true cost. Performance-wise, the PN64F5500 doesn’t disappoint as you'd expect from a newer Samsung plasma TV, this model generates deep black levels and features the ability to render accurate colors.

However, there is one telltale sign this isn’t Samsung's top end product. Whereas the PNF8500 can offer eye-searing levels of brightness (especially for a plasma TV), the PNF5500 suffers from a traditional weakness of plasma TV technology: lackluster bright room performance. Ambient light tends to wash out the picture, so we definitely recommend taking steps to control the lighting in your viewing area.

Compared to the stepped down PNF5300, this model offers niceties such as 3D capability, dual-core processor, and a full Smart TV suite. 3D on this set performs admirably, with little crosstalk or artifacts detracting from the experience. Samsung also includes two pairs of active 3D glasses; extra pairs are priced affordably at $20 each. These glasses also comply with the Real3D "universal standard", which means they will work with all other 3D-compatible sets that boast the same.

SmartTV adds extra utility to the PN64F5500 and can replace a set-top streaming box in most instances. It offers a comprehensive list of sources to stream from including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu, HBO Go, CinemaNow, YouTube, and even sports-oriented channels such as MLB.TV and NHL GameCenter. The dual-core processor enables snappy navigation, especially when using the built-in social media interfaces (Facebook, Twitter, and Picasa) or the web browser.

Wired connectivity is adequate with inputs including three HDMI ports, two USB ports, and a hybrid component/composite video input. None of the HDMI inputs are MHL-compatible but an Ethernet port is available for wired network connectivity.

The PN64F5500 makes a case for itself by presenting superb picture quality that stacks up favorably against the competition. The 3D compatibility and the versatile SmartTV suite are essential features and the bargain price for the screen size makes this TV a steal.

Samsung PN64F5300 64-Inch 1080p 600Hz Plasma HDTV

The Samsung PN64F5300 is another carry over model from 2013. We've already reviewed the 51-inch version, the PN51F5300, and the performance and features between the two are identical.

The PN64F5300 excels at offering superb basic performance, while keeping the cost low by leaving out Smart TV capability, 3D, and other features. Picture quality is top-notch when in a controlled lighting environment, with deep blacks and accurate colors. At around $1,400 for a 64-inch screen, this plasma TV offers great overall value for those who don't need the extra frills.

Samsung PN64H5000 64-Inch 1080p 600Hz Plasma HDTV

The PN64H5000 is Samsung's only new plasma model for 2014, since news emerged that they were dropping the highly-anticipated PNH7000 in favor of carrying over the PNF8500 from last year. This TV is not part of a series, with the 64-inch model being the only model available.

While the PNF8500 carries over to fill the high-end portion of Samsung's plasma TV lineup, the PN64H5000 is a more budget-friendly option. It can be found for well under $1,500, which is an excellent price for a plasma TV this large. Samsung has accomplished this by using their Pentile display, as well as leaving out extra features or Smart TV capability. Although some may be concerned about the Pentile display, most will find little to complain about unless they watch TV with their nose pressed up against the screen.

The PN64H5000 offers a basic design with a simple swiveling stand, no 3D, no Smart TV, and only two HDMI inputs and a single USB port. However, picture quality is excellent for the price, with accurate color and a bright, balanced picture. Black levels are good, but the screen can appear a bit dim and prone to glare in a bright room. Especially now that Panasonic has exited the plasma TV market, the picture quality of the Samsung plasmas is easily some of the best available.

The PN64H5000 is a great choice for the buyer who doesn't care about bells and whistles, choosing instead to focus on picture quality and value overall.

LG Electronics 60PB6900 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Plasma TV

Although LG's plasmas haven't generally been as good as those from Panasonic and Samsung, the dwindling selection of new plasma models to choose from brings them back into consideration. That being said, LG has made some improvements over older models and tend to offer decent performance at a reasonable price.

The 60PB6900 is the highest plasma model for LG in 2014, as well as being the only choice this year if you're looking for a brand new plasma TV with active 3D. However, the TV is only "3D ready", meaning 3D viewing glasses must purchased separately. As is typical with plasmas, the 60PB6900 has excellent side viewing angles, and picture quality overall is solid. Although not as bright or rich as Samsung plasmas, the 60PB6900 will look very good in a dark room.

LG's Smart TV interface has also been streamlined, making it simpler to use. Connectivity is decent, with three HDMI inputs and three USB ports included. Gaming performance is solid and while there is evidence of some input lag, it’s not substantially worse than average.

While the LG 60PB6900 might not particularly stand out to those used to the performance put out by Panasonic plasmas, it is one of the better choices available in terms of new models for 2014.

Samsung PN51F5500 51-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV

Samsung's midrange PN51F5500 competes directly with both the Panasonic Viera TC-P50ST60 and the Viera TC-P50S60. We've reviewed the larger 64-inch PN64F5500, and found that the 51-inch variant shares identical performance and specifications. This particular model offers excellent picture quality thanks to its deep black levels and accurate color reproduction. The sleek design and affordable price is just icing on the cake.

Samsung PN51F5300 51" 1080p 600Hz Plasma HDTV

Samsung's simplified 2013 plasma TV lineup makes it easy for consumers to choose a perfect fit, ranging from the most affordable 720p "dumb monitors" to fully-loaded, videophile-grade displays. The PN51F5300 slots in neatly between both, providing excellent picture quality while leaving out most of the features that inflate the price. This 2D-only plasma TV provides the same performance you'd get out of the higher-end PNF5500, but costs several hundreds of dollars less. For well under $700, the PN51F5300 delivers deeper black levels than most of Samsung's own LED LCD TVs, and offers up accurate color to boot.

The biggest differences between the PN51F5300 and PN51F5500 are found in the feature list. As we’ve mentioned already, the PN51F5300 is a 2D-only HDTV and does not come with built-in Smart TV capabilities. The latter also means the PN51F5300 dispenses with any network connectivity, and omits the Smart Touch remote. Other notable differences include a stand that does not swivel and the available HDMI port count drops to two, but everything else remains similar.

If you're looking for picture quality without all of the frills of modern smart televisions, the Samsung PN51F5300 is one of the best options available.

LG Electronics 60PB6900 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Plasma TV

Although LG's plasmas haven't generally been as good as those from Panasonic and Samsung, the dwindling selection of new plasma models to choose from brings them back into consideration. That being said, LG has made some improvements over older models and tend to offer decent performance at a reasonable price.

The 60PB6900 is the highest plasma model for LG in 2014, as well as being the only choice this year if you're looking for a brand new plasma TV with active 3D. However, the TV is only "3D ready", meaning 3D viewing glasses must purchased separately. As is typical with plasmas, the 60PB6900 has excellent side viewing angles, and picture quality overall is solid. Although not as bright or rich as Samsung plasmas, the 60PB6900 will look very good in a dark room.

LG's Smart TV interface has also been streamlined, making it simpler to use. Connectivity is decent, with three HDMI inputs and three USB ports included. Gaming performance is solid and while there is evidence of some input lag, it’s not substantially worse than average.

While the LG 60PB6900 might not particularly stand out to those used to the performance put out by Panasonic plasmas, it is one of the better choices available in terms of new models for 2014.

Samsung PN64H5000 64-Inch 1080p 600Hz Plasma HDTV

The PN64H5000 is Samsung's only new plasma model for 2014, since news emerged that they were dropping the highly-anticipated PNH7000 in favor of carrying over the PNF8500 from last year. This TV is not part of a series, with the 64-inch model being the only model available.

While the PNF8500 carries over to fill the high-end portion of Samsung's plasma TV lineup, the PN64H5000 is a more budget-friendly option. It can be found for well under $1,500, which is an excellent price for a plasma TV this large. Samsung has accomplished this by using their Pentile display, as well as leaving out extra features or Smart TV capability. Although some may be concerned about the Pentile display, most will find little to complain about unless they watch TV with their nose pressed up against the screen.

The PN64H5000 offers a basic design with a simple swiveling stand, no 3D, no Smart TV, and only two HDMI inputs and a single USB port. However, picture quality is excellent for the price, with accurate color and a bright, balanced picture. Black levels are good, but the screen can appear a bit dim and prone to glare in a bright room. Especially now that Panasonic has exited the plasma TV market, the picture quality of the Samsung plasmas is easily some of the best available.

The PN64H5000 is a great choice for the buyer who doesn't care about bells and whistles, choosing instead to focus on picture quality and value overall.

LG 50PB6600 1080P Plasma Smart HDTV

LG 50PB6600 1080P Plasma Smart HDTV

The exit of Panasonic from the market has essentially confirmed the demise of plasma TVs, but LG and Samsung are still playing ball. While LG's plasmas have never been quite up to par with those from Panasonic and Samsung, they have made significant improvements in 2014.

The midrange 50PB6600 is available for well under $1,000, while delivering basic Smart TV capability and solid picture quality. You'll need to upgrade to the PB6900 is you want 3D, but the 50PB6600 offers good picture depth, good color, and lots of picture settings options for calibration. Side viewing angles are excellent, as is typical for a plasma TV. Also typical is the relatively weak bright room performance, but the overall viewing experience is a good one.

Some input lag might be an issue for gaming, but the 600Hz refresh rate and included game mode do help. Smart TV features are only very basic, but makes the 50PB6600 a great choice for those who want minimal Smart TV functionality while three HDMI inputs and three USB ports offer decent connectivity choices. While the 50PB6600 might not be particularly outstanding in any one way or another, it offers a good overall package for the price.

Samsung PN60F8500 60" 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV

For the past 7 years, both Samsung and Panasonic have been engaged in one-upmanship when it comes to plasma TV performance, coming closer than ever before to creating that elusive "perfect" TV. Samsung's latest effort is the PNF8500 series, which brings premium styling, outstanding performance, and a borderline excessive amount of features…for one very high price.

Samsung is known for daring styling when it comes to TVs, and the PNF8500 is instantly recognizable, even at a distance. The unique stand spans the width of the TV, providing a stable base while maintaining a minimal profile but this design doesn’t allow any sort of pivoting. The bezel is amazingly thin for a plasma TV, with the screen stretching to the far corners of the set. Given all of this, design is hardly a primary consideration for purchasing an expensive plasma TV.

The number one reason for buying a higher-end plasma TV is picture quality, and the Samsung PNF8500 doesn’t disappoint. As with many of Samsung's recent plasma TV models, color accuracy is the PNF8500's main strong point. After a professional calibration, the PNF8500 delivers a picture truly deserving of the "life-like quality" cliché, something rarely seen in lesser TVs of any type. Black level performance is also beyond reproach. Alongside the high-end Panasonic plasmas and the one-off Elite LED LCD TV, this is likely to be the closest any mass-production TV gets to the vaunted black levels of the nearly half decade-old Pioneer Kuro.

Bright room performance has always been the traditional weakness of plasma TVs, but Samsung has gone to great lengths to ensure that their flagship model can compete with the best that LED LCD TVs have to offer. This is an added benefit when watching 3D material, since the tinted glasses can reduce the perceived brightness of content. The PNF8500 excels in displaying cinema-style 24p content, with the characteristic "projector" image seen in movie theaters. However, the PNF8500 recalls previous Samsung plasma TVs in that it sacrifices black levels to achieve proper 24p cadence. This however is a minor nitpick likely to go largely unnoticed.

Connectivity options include four HDMI inputs, three USB 2.0 ports, and the aforementioned Ethernet.
A single shared breakout cable accommodates component video and composite video. Aside from an RF jack, this rounds out the analog connectivity options for the PNF8500.

As you would expect with a top-of-the-line Samsung product, the PNF8500 carries the requisite internet access, which can be set up through the built-in Wi-Fi or by using the provided Ethernet port. This opens up access to Samsung's Smart TV, which essentially turns your TV into a massive smartphone. The Smart Touch Remote adds to the effect, allowing you to navigate menus and find content by swiping the touch pad or by speaking to the remote itself.

Smart TV is Samsung's effort to make the set-top box redundant, and succeeds for the most part. Users have access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Amazon Instant, Youtube, and a long list of other sources from which to stream online content. The various pages are customizable, allowing users to add or delete apps or channels as preferred.

It's up to you to decide where the line between necessary and frivolous lies, but there's no question that this is one of the most well-equipped TVs ever produced. Aside from content streaming, the PNF8500 offers several extras that blur the line between TV, smartphone, and tablet. The built-in web browser is one of the best applications of such on a TV, making it possible to actually surf the web without reaching for another device. The "Evolution Kit" houses the TV's quad-core processor which can be exchanged for more powerful processors if you need the latest and greatest. The pop-up camera is perfect for social media, and is key to the Smart Interaction feature, allowing users to control the TV without a remote.

The only drawback to the whole package is this is Samsung's only videophile-grade plasma TV for 2013, unlike previous years where the company offered the same performance in a model with less features. This presents a very expensive problem to those with an eye for picture quality, but the PNF8500 does carry some unique qualities and advantages justifying the price. Overall, this is one of the best 2013 TVs available.

LG Electronics 60PB6900 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Plasma TV

Although LG's plasmas haven't generally been as good as those from Panasonic and Samsung, the dwindling selection of new plasma models to choose from brings them back into consideration. That being said, LG has made some improvements over older models and tend to offer decent performance at a reasonable price.

The 60PB6900 is the highest plasma model for LG in 2014, as well as being the only choice this year if you're looking for a brand new plasma TV with active 3D. However, the TV is only "3D ready", meaning 3D viewing glasses must purchased separately. As is typical with plasmas, the 60PB6900 has excellent side viewing angles, and picture quality overall is solid. Although not as bright or rich as Samsung plasmas, the 60PB6900 will look very good in a dark room.

LG's Smart TV interface has also been streamlined, making it simpler to use. Connectivity is decent, with three HDMI inputs and three USB ports included. Gaming performance is solid and while there is evidence of some input lag, it’s not substantially worse than average.

While the LG 60PB6900 might not particularly stand out to those used to the performance put out by Panasonic plasmas, it is one of the better choices available in terms of new models for 2014.

Samsung PN64F5500 64-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV

Samsung has simplified its plasma TV lineup for 2013, separating its flagship model from the rest of its offerings. However, considering Samsung remains one of the two top plasma TV competitors in the market, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Whereas the top-of-the-line PNF8500 appeals to nitpicky videophiles, the PN64F5500 is a solid midrange offering a unique mix of screen size, picture quality, and useful features.

The PN64F5500 shares the same basic look Samsung has applied to its TVs for several years at this point, with slim bezels, thin cabinet, and the "spider stand" which is instantly recognizable as a Samsung feature. The PN64F5500 stands out from the crowd in this price range, with looks that belie its true cost. Performance-wise, the PN64F5500 doesn’t disappoint as you'd expect from a newer Samsung plasma TV, this model generates deep black levels and features the ability to render accurate colors.

However, there is one telltale sign this isn’t Samsung's top end product. Whereas the PNF8500 can offer eye-searing levels of brightness (especially for a plasma TV), the PNF5500 suffers from a traditional weakness of plasma TV technology: lackluster bright room performance. Ambient light tends to wash out the picture, so we definitely recommend taking steps to control the lighting in your viewing area.

Compared to the stepped down PNF5300, this model offers niceties such as 3D capability, dual-core processor, and a full Smart TV suite. 3D on this set performs admirably, with little crosstalk or artifacts detracting from the experience. Samsung also includes two pairs of active 3D glasses; extra pairs are priced affordably at $20 each. These glasses also comply with the Real3D "universal standard", which means they will work with all other 3D-compatible sets that boast the same.

SmartTV adds extra utility to the PN64F5500 and can replace a set-top streaming box in most instances. It offers a comprehensive list of sources to stream from including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu, HBO Go, CinemaNow, YouTube, and even sports-oriented channels such as MLB.TV and NHL GameCenter. The dual-core processor enables snappy navigation, especially when using the built-in social media interfaces (Facebook, Twitter, and Picasa) or the web browser.

Wired connectivity is adequate with inputs including three HDMI ports, two USB ports, and a hybrid component/composite video input. None of the HDMI inputs are MHL-compatible but an Ethernet port is available for wired network connectivity.

The PN64F5500 makes a case for itself by presenting superb picture quality that stacks up favorably against the competition. The 3D compatibility and the versatile SmartTV suite are essential features and the bargain price for the screen size makes this TV a steal.

Samsung PN64H5000 64-Inch 1080p 600Hz Plasma HDTV

The PN64H5000 is Samsung's only new plasma model for 2014, since news emerged that they were dropping the highly-anticipated PNH7000 in favor of carrying over the PNF8500 from last year. This TV is not part of a series, with the 64-inch model being the only model available.

While the PNF8500 carries over to fill the high-end portion of Samsung's plasma TV lineup, the PN64H5000 is a more budget-friendly option. It can be found for well under $1,500, which is an excellent price for a plasma TV this large. Samsung has accomplished this by using their Pentile display, as well as leaving out extra features or Smart TV capability. Although some may be concerned about the Pentile display, most will find little to complain about unless they watch TV with their nose pressed up against the screen.

The PN64H5000 offers a basic design with a simple swiveling stand, no 3D, no Smart TV, and only two HDMI inputs and a single USB port. However, picture quality is excellent for the price, with accurate color and a bright, balanced picture. Black levels are good, but the screen can appear a bit dim and prone to glare in a bright room. Especially now that Panasonic has exited the plasma TV market, the picture quality of the Samsung plasmas is easily some of the best available.

The PN64H5000 is a great choice for the buyer who doesn't care about bells and whistles, choosing instead to focus on picture quality and value overall.

Samsung PN51F5300 51" 1080p 600Hz Plasma HDTV

Samsung's simplified 2013 plasma TV lineup makes it easy for consumers to choose a perfect fit, ranging from the most affordable 720p "dumb monitors" to fully-loaded, videophile-grade displays. The PN51F5300 slots in neatly between both, providing excellent picture quality while leaving out most of the features that inflate the price. This 2D-only plasma TV provides the same performance you'd get out of the higher-end PNF5500, but costs several hundreds of dollars less. For well under $700, the PN51F5300 delivers deeper black levels than most of Samsung's own LED LCD TVs, and offers up accurate color to boot.

The biggest differences between the PN51F5300 and PN51F5500 are found in the feature list. As we’ve mentioned already, the PN51F5300 is a 2D-only HDTV and does not come with built-in Smart TV capabilities. The latter also means the PN51F5300 dispenses with any network connectivity, and omits the Smart Touch remote. Other notable differences include a stand that does not swivel and the available HDMI port count drops to two, but everything else remains similar.

If you're looking for picture quality without all of the frills of modern smart televisions, the Samsung PN51F5300 is one of the best options available.

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