The first thing that springs to mind as we start testing Samsung’s PS51D8000 is Spinal Tap. Not because the TV has long hair or a thing for bum cakes, but because just as Spinal Tap’s amps ‘go to 11’ instead of 10, where most mid-sized TVs only go to 50in, the PS51D8000 goes to 51in.
In reality, though, we can’t really say that we felt the extra size during our tests, leaving us feeling that the extra inch of picture is ultimately more of a clever marketing ploy than a revolution in plasma TV. But before too much cynicism sets in, it’s fair to say that the PS51D8000 has plenty of other stuff to crow about. Starting with its design.
The bezel round the screen is made from a gorgeously glinting burnished silver metal, offset beautifully by a few mm of slightly recessed transparent outer trim. As well as continuing the style theme established by Samsung’s D8000 LCD TVs, this lovely metallic finish really helps Samsung’s set stand out from the predominantly black crowds.
The bezel is much wider than the almost non-existent bezel of Samsung’s D8000 LCD TVs, and its rear sticks out quite a bit further than those of its edge-LED siblings, too. But when the bodywork’s this pretty, who cares if there’s a bit more of it?!
As you’d expect of Samsung’s flagship plasma TV range, the PS51D8000 is bristling with connections. Four HDMIs are on hand for receiving digital HD and 3D sources, while other highlights include a pair of USB ports, a LAN port, and best of all, built-in Wi-Fi.
The USBs can be used for playing back the usual video, music and photo file suspects, or you can use them for recording (losslessly) from the integrated Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners to USB storage. You can even add a webcam via USB for use with the PS51D8000’s built-in Skype service.
The LAN/Wi-Fi connection options are there, of course, for accessing either files stored on a networked DLNA PC, or for connecting to Samsung’s Smart TV service.
This service continues to set the bar in terms of both its interface and the amount of content it carries (though LG is now pushing Samsung hard with its own Smart TV service). Sony still leads the way, just, when it comes to providing our favourite online TV content or video. But Sony’s Bravia Internet Video interface is currently miles behind Samsung’s ‘Smart Hub’.
We’ve been over Samsung’s online features numerous times before this year, so this time we thought we’d just list the main features, and do a head count of the rest (bearing in mind that since we’re talking about a cloud service, its content can change at pretty much any time).
Anyway, here goes. The likely most used services as we see them are: LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer, Skype, Acetrax, Facebook, Twitter, Google Chat, the Explore 3D video channel containing quite a variety of free 3D content, Muzu.tv, the Cartoon Network, Box Office 365, Vimeo, Viaway Internet Media, Yupptv, YouTube, Picture Box, Blinkbox, teletext holidays, BBC News, ent bay TV, The Broadway Channel, Daily Motion, exercise TV, Yoga Helper, Sports Scoreboard, Check Body, Commonsense Soccer, a Workout Time Recorder, a Dance fitness tool, Betfair football access, an Abs Exerciser, and the Picasa photo site.
Beyond these, there are nearly 60 lifestyle apps covering everything from how to tie a tie to religion, recipes and knitting; more than 50 ‘information’ apps taking in such diverse stuff as This Day in History, The History of Rome, advice on childbirth, plus tips on origami, giving up smoking, and avoiding food poisoning; 78 small and mostly forgettable games, including stuff like Sudoku, Minesweeper and Black jack; and finally 34 educational apps mostly aimed at young children learning to read, reason or count. Though we were pleased to also find in this section a couple of more ‘manly’ apps: one about the planets and one about - yes! - the periodic table. Now this is what our TVs have really been waiting for...