In the event's most closely fought battle in years, the Samsung PNF8500 series plasma TV emerged as the winner of the annual Value Electronics Flat Panel Shootout. It narrowly defeated the Panasonic VT60 and ZT60 series plasmas in the final voting by the public in attendance.
The lineup also included a 50-inch Pioneer Kuro KRP-500M, which was used primarily to test Panasonic's claim that its ZT60 plasma delivered "beyond the reference" picture quality. However, based on the calibrators' comments on the night -- and CNET reviewers' own feelings -- the contest between the Kuro and the Panasonic was fairly evenly matched.
Value Electronics' Robert Zohn said previous years had a clear winner, but this year's event was almost too close to call.
"The ZT60 won the popular vote in important categories, black and overall picture quality, but the F8500 had the highest scores overall and also won in important categories, like contrast ratio and day modes," Zohn said.
While the ZT60/VT60 received identical overall scores and narrowly won the calibrators' thumbs-up, it was the public vote that resulted in a Samsung win.
"They saw the F8500 as even sharper, which I would assume is also because of the brighter image in low and high ambient light conditions. Many participants told me the F8500 whites looked cleaner, brighter, and in their opinion, whiter," Zohn said.
CNET's David Katzmaier and I were in attendance on the shootout's first of two days and can attest that white screens of the Samsung looked brighter than both the ZT60 and VT60. Our review of the F8500 found similar results, but we still preferred the overall picture quality of the VT60 (our ZT60 review is coming soon). From what we saw at the shootout, all three plasmas also outperformed all three LEDs overall, and the relative rankings of both experts and the public generally jibe with our own impressions.
All six of the participating TVs were calibrated by well-regarded HDTV experts, namely David Mackenzie of HDTV Test, Dewayne Davis (known on Internet forums as D-Nice), and Kevin Miller, former TV reviewer for CNET and founder of TweakTV.
While representatives from Sharp and LG attended the event, neither company's 2013 televisions participated in the shootout.