As noted in earlier Samsung reviews, the sheer wealth of content on the PS51D8000‘s Smart TV platform makes it hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. Also, unusually for Samsung, our PS51D8000 suffered a few issues with certain apps not loading properly. For instance, we couldn’t access the Social apps (Facebook, Twitter) a few times, supposedly because of ‘interference on the network’. The issues were always temporary, but were invariably annoying.
Turning to the screen’s key specifications, it’s a full HD affair and is equipped with Samsung’s Real Black Filter for boosting black level response. It also provides a pretty extensive set of picture adjustments, including decent colour and white balance management, and an unusual feature whereby you can adjust the Cell Light output of the screen, effectively raising the image’s brightness (and power consumption) without reducing black level depth.
A little time spent with some of these tools is recommended, actually, as not for the first time we found some of Samsung’s presets a little ‘gaudy’ or at the very least not to our tastes. But we’re not talking anything particularly severe level here; just 20 minutes with the tortuously organised but ultimately useful HD Video Essentials Blu-ray should be enough unless you want to pay a professional to do the calibration for you (though the PS51D8000 is not endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation).
We were generally very impressed a few months ago by the picture quality of the PS51D8000’s supersized sibling, the 64in PS64D8000. So it’s no surprise to find the PS51D8000 delivering the goods too.
In 2D mode it really is quite outstanding. Right away we were struck by how richly saturated its colours are for a plasma TV, even after the set had been calibrated to deliver the most natural colour tones and most satisfying black level response.
Helping deliver this colour vibrancy is a really strong brightness performance. As usual we’re not talking here about levels of brightness that might rival a top LCD TV, but the PS51D8000’s brightness is certainly good by plasma standards – so much so that you won’t have to keep your TV in perpetual semi-darkness to really enjoy it like you do with many plasma TVs.
What’s even better about the PS51D8000’s vibrancy and brightness is that it’s achieved without nearly as much compromise to black level depth as expected. For while its black level response during dark scenes isn’t quite as profound as that of Panasonic’s class-leading plasma TVs, blacks certainly look more natural, less grey, more replete with shadow detail and best of all more even than those of any LCD/LED TV.
Furthermore, we didn’t see any of the slight brightness flickering witnessed on occasion with Panasonic’s plasmas, with our only complaint in blackness terms given the PS51D8000’s remarkably affordable price being that some inputs seem to have a slightly shallower black level response than others.