"Beautiful TV!"5.0 starson by Jesse-Manhart
Pros: Sound from the internal speakers is actually quite good
Picture Brightness is much better than my old LCD
Lots of online content
Cable channels display quickly
Cons: Volume is a very slow to change
There are no analog audio outputs from this TV
Summary: I come from the land of LCD, and I have had this TV for about a month. This replaced a several year old Sharp Aquos 37" LCD. As is typical with electronics, this 51" brand new 2011 plasma costs significantly less than my 37" 2 year old (at the time) refurbished model.*NOTE, before you're will buy the Samsung PN51D8000, I suggest you have to check for best deal at: before-buy.info/Samsung-PN51D8000
I have limited space, and my choices to fill it included the LG 47" LED TV's, Samsung 46"LED TV's, and the Samsung 51" Plasmas. (Just for the record, an LED TV is just an LCD with LED lights behind it instead of flourescent bulbs. I use the term LED TV only because it's easier to type and read than LED-backlit LCD TV.) While I would have preferred an LED TV for my situation (which is a very bright room), The LG's were not impressive. Though the Samsung LED's were (to my eyes) the best looking TV's on display at my local BB, 51" is a lot larger than 46 and the seating is about 17' away from the TV. The new 2011 "Plus 1" models add an inch of screen, but are actually smaller overall. In other words, last year's 50" would not fit but the 51" would (barely!). Panasonic 50" would not fit either due to a larger bezel.
After you turn it on, you go through a step-by-step setup process. The first question is whether you are a consumer or a big box store. It then adjusts the picture settings for home viewing as opposed to trying to look like the brightest one in the store. Nice! I went through the network setup (wireless works fine), and it learned my channels with no problem. It actually picked up many digital (cable) channels that I wasn't getting before through the old TV, so that is great. Haven't tried OTA channels at this point.
-Screen burn in/break in: Since I am new to plasma, I am a bit paranoid about screen burn in and image retention (IR). During the initial setup, ghost images of some of the menu screens remained for a few minutes. I burned a break-in DVD that cycles through full-screen solid color for 24 hours and ran it whenever I wasn't watching TV for the first 3-4 days. I won't make any comments on burn in yet, but I have played some Xbox/Wii and haven't had any issues yet. There is a feature in one of the menus that will display scrolling vertical bars that transition from white to black. No evidence yet of any permanent burn in or IR yet.
-Heat: Plasmas have come a long way since I was shopping for my old LCD. Used to be they would dim the lights and heat the whole house when you turned them on, but new models are much more efficient. This one gets pretty warm in the cabinet but not hot enough to be a concern.
-The sound from the internal speakers is actually quite good, surprisingly. I wouldn't want to do any serious movie watching without 5.1 surround, but for TV shows it is adequate.
-The picture: Brightness is much better than my old LCD, but significantly less than today's LED TV's. That being said, I have a wall of south facing windows behind the couch which is opposite the TV. The picture is bright enough during the day to watch, but still looks much better at night when the room lighting is dimmed.
-Picture settings: I put in my old Avia HT setup dvd and went to the picture settings. The TV seemed to match pretty well right out of the box. There are boatloads of picture options though, more than enough to baffle the average user (myself included). This thing is ready to be professionally calibrated, if that's your thing.
-I hear lots of complaints about TV's not displaying standard definition material well. Okay, you have to understand what you're watching. If you crank up your old VCR, it is still going to look like an old VHS tape. This TV does an excellent job of upscaling poor quality content on the large screen.
-I have done some gaming, and have not noticed any lag.
-3D. I have done some research but have not tried out any 3D content yet. The glasses have gone as low as thirty-six dollars lately! The glasses for 2011 samsungs are bluetooth instead of IR. The TV has 2D>3D conversion capability with a dedicated button on the remote. I've got 2 pairs of glasses on order, and will update after I get to check out the 3D features.
-Lots of online content. Checked out the YouTube app last night, pretty slick. It's not the equivalent of having a full browser interface, but I was able to find what I want and watch several relevant clips. Hulu demo clips looked excellent, but frequently buffered on my wireless connection.
-Cable channels display quickly, and you can quickly switch through channels without waiting for them to display. You can delete channels you don't want, though they make this a bit of a tedious process. You can mark favorites, so a star will show up up by the channel number when you are surfing. One thing I haven't figured out is how to quickly surf just your favorites--but you can get to them deep in the channel menu.
The Bad: (mostly minor gripes except the first 2)
-There are no analog audio outputs from this TV! Unless I'm missing something, you can't pipe analog sound from this TV to your receiver. It does have an optical port for outputting digital sound, but I never found a channel that I could listen to on the home theater. If someone knows otherwise, please let me know with a comment--Thanks!
-The glossy finish: The glass front does reflect a good bit of light from the windows behind the couch. I got the 7000 model for the "Real Black Filter" (listed above as "Rel black filter"), which is a polarized screen filter. I would definitely prefer the matte finish of my old Sharp Aquos, but nearly every current model has a glossy finish.
-Hulu "plus" - Just for the record, this is hulu, "plus" a bill for $8/month. I'll stick to plugging in my laptop and watching it for free, thanks.
-To search in youtube, you type in text using the 1-9 keys like a phone. This would be easier if they found a way to put the letters onto the remote's 1-9 keys. It is displayed on the screen but not on the remote. This is a minor gripe though, since it does a good job of figuring out what you are typing and giving suggestions.
-Volume is a very slow to change. If you switch from a quiet channel (or youtube video) with the volume on 50 to a loud one, it can take several seconds to get the volume down to a 20-25 using the remote. Volume levels vary widely on youtube, not so bad on cable.
The bottom line:
If you go to a big box store to compare, the Samsung TV's definitely stand out amongst the competition, the LED's in particular. I am very happy with my plasma, but if I had unlimited space I would have loved a 55" LED. If you have a very bright room, go for either a LED TV or the 7000 series Plasma with the real black filter.
Updated on Feb 19, 2012
Hope this helps.