LAS VEGAS--Although Samsung continues to focus most of its marketing efforts on LED TVs, we think its plasmas offer better picture quality and much better value.
The PNE8000, the company's highest-end plasma series for 2012, could be another big winner for the company. We really liked the picture quality of its predecessor, the PND8000, and now Samsung says it has improved black-level performance--a key ingredient to a good picture--by another 10 percent for 2012. The PNE8000 will share this better black level with the step-down PNE7000- and PNE6500-series 2012 plasmas. Considering that the 2011 models also had the best color accuracy I'd tested on any TV, the PNE8000 is already a strong contender for best picture quality of 2012.
A company rep here at CES also told us that the "brightness pops," an issue we noted with some types of content when watching the 2011 models, had been addressed by a new firmware update for the 2011 PND8000 (we'll test that when we get a chance). He said that the 2012 models would also include the "fix," so the pops wouldn't be a problem. He wasn't sure yet if the TVs still suffered from worse black levels while in 1080p/24-compatible Cinema Smooth mode, however.
The PNE8000 will also have the "local contrast enhancer" that was included on the 2011 PND8000, but in our experience with the TV last year that extra had no effect, positive or negative, on image quality in the TV's best picture settings.
The PNE7000 will lack that extra, but otherwise we're not sure about the picture-quality differences between the 7000 and 8000 plasmas yet. Last year we awarded the Editors' Choice to the PND7000 mainly because its picture quality was basically identical to that of the PND8000 but it cost less. We're definitely interested to see if Samsung has done the same thing this year.
In addition to improved picture quality, the PNE8000 will include more features than any plasma we've heard about for 2012, beginning with Samsung's Smart Interaction voice/gesture control system. It has the same remote that comes with Samsung's UNES8000 LED flagship, which features a laptop-style touch pad but no QWERTY keyboard--which shouldn't be a big loss if voice control is integrated correctly so as to enable searches and other text-heavy input.
Samsung also changed the design of the set to offer an all-black bezel, a touch sure to please videophiles who complained about the lighter bezels on the 2011 models. No other major design changes were mentioned to CNET.
Like all of the company's 2012 3D-compatible TVs, the PNE8000 will come with two pairs of active-3D glasses.
Pricing and availability were not announced, although I expect these and other Samsung plasmas to arrive as early as March.
Samsung PNE8000 series features:
- Plasma TV
- Local Contrast Enhancer
- Touch-pad remote
- Smart Interaction with voice/gesture control
- Built-in speakerphone and camera
- Two pairs of 3D glasses
- Smart Hub connected TV suite
Samsung PNE8000 series models:
- Samsung PN51E8000: 51-inch, date available TBD, $TBD
- Samsung PN59E8000: 59-inch, date available TBD, $TBD
- Samsung PN64E8000: 64-inch, date available TBD, $TBD