A 51-inch plasma TV taken from the top tier of Samsung’s current TV range. This means it’s equipped with Samsung’s latest, remarkably sophisticated smart TV platform and interface, supports 3D playback and is built around Samsung’s latest – much improved – premium plasma panel design.
Sizes Available: 51-inch (reviewed) and 64-inch (£3,000)
It also has quite a startling design, courtesy of its deep grey metallic finish and a unique open-frame elliptical table stand the TV slots right down onto, leaving no neck between the screen and its stand. Also catching your eye is a pop up camera that curves out and forward so that it seems to be sitting on top of the TV’s upper edge.
The PS51F8500’s rather chunky design is hardly in keeping with Samsung’s recent ultra-slim, ultra-shiny top-end LCD TVs. But then the majority of people considering buying a plasma TV over an LCD one are likely to be more interested in picture quality than size zero ‘catwalk’ designs.
The Samsung PS51F8500 has four HDMIs - a welcome return after Samsung’s ill-judged dalliance with three on its 2012 TVs. They’re joined by three USBs, plus built-in Wi-Fi and LAN network options. Also worth noting is the provision of inputs for both Freeview and Freesat HD tuners.
The USB ports support playback of a wide array of video, photo and music file formats from USB ‘sticks’, or else you can record from the TV’s tuners to USB HDDs.
When it comes to networking the set, you can stream files from networked PCs, or else you can unleash the huge realm of content stored on Samsung’s latest Smart TV online media platform. This content includes LoveFilm, Netflix, Blinkbox, and all the key UK TV channel catch up services – something no other smart TV platform can currently claim.
The interface for accessing the massive array of content supported by the Samsung PS51F8500 is a big change from anything Samsung has delivered before. The biggest development is the shift to five separate ‘hub’ screens - each with a different type of content as its focus - that you can scroll easily between.
Also important and impressive, though, is Samsung’s introduction of a ‘learning’ mechanism, where the TV can track your viewing habits and make recommendations based on your viewing history.
The Samsung PS51F8500 also continues Samsung’s love affair with voice and gesture control. We still feel there are big issues here with persuading people to overcome what’s often an innate resistance to waving at and talking to their TV.
However, if you do actually take the time to give the systems a chance and learn the way they work, the voice recognition system in particular does have its uses in providing shortcuts for getting to content.
Even the once-ridiculed gesture control system has been improved via recent Samsung software updates, reacting much more accurately to your hand movements, detecting your hands more readily, and requiring much smaller arm movements, so that the system is much less tiring.
There’s still a way to go before we start to consider using hand gestures ahead of a good remote. But as an optional control system for when you can’t readily find your remote, Samsung’s gesture system is no longer something you need to studiously avoid!
Samsung’s attempts to streamline content access arguably go too far at times, making the new interface a bit inscrutable in places. But overall Samsung’s latest Smart TV system nonetheless feels like a startling glimpse of the future of TV.
For a more in-depth look at everything Samsung’s Smart TV interface and service has to offer, read our 2013 Samsung Smart TV review. To see how the PS51F8500 pictures hold up, however, head to the next page.