February 14, 2012
- Thin, attractive profile
- Lots of Internet applications
- Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
- Excellent 2D & 3D image quality
- Cluttered application interface
- Limited analog inputs
- No included 3D glasses
The Samsung PN51D8000 is a 51-inch plasma HDTV that has overall outstanding image quality, especially in the color and black-level measurements. It also has built-in Wi-Fi with tons of streaming media applications as well as 3D capabilities if you're into that. One of our only gripes about this TV is the interface, which could use some work.
The Samsung PN51D8000 sports a new design that features a very compact design, including an extremely narrow bezel that is just about an inch wide. The frame has a brushed metal black design and the spider-like stand has a chrome finish. We prefer the typical rectangular stands better than this design, but it's up to the user. The TV measures 47.1 x 1.5 x 28.3-inches (wdh) and weighs about 50-pounds, so it's definitely on the thin side when it comes to plasmas.
The remote control is really unique and is one of the selling points to this TV. On the front side, it has the usual buttons laid out in a well-designed layout. The backside has a QWERTY keyboard for use with the app-side of the TV's functions. This side of the remote uses Bluetooth connectivity, so line of sight isn't required when using the keyboard. We really liked using the Samsung PN51D8000's remote control, including the fact that there is a small display on the keyboard side to see what you're typing.
Samsung's interface for the Internet applications could use a little work and that's quite evident right from the start. First there are two interfaces, one for the apps and one for the widgets. The Samsung Smart Hub lets you access the usual streaming media applications. Some of the ones included are Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, Blockbuster, Vimeo and lots of others. The only one missing that is worth mentioning is Amazon Instant, so Amazon Prime users should take notice at this omission.
What we didn't like about the Smart Hub interface was the way it looks and is organized. At the home screen, there's four panels and three of them are loaded with icons. Everything feels very crowded and overwhelming, especially if you're not used to it. We will say, however, that Samsung offers one of the best selections of applications among today's HDTVs.
As we mentioned in the introduction, the Samsung PN51D8000 is active 3D-enabled, but you don't get any free pairs of glasses in the box. This is rather disappointing as you'll need to spend some extra money to buy Bluetooth-enabled glasses. We do like the use of Bluetooth for better performance over the infrared alternative.
The port selection available on this TV is decent but light on analog connections. You do get four HDMI inputs, one composite, one component, VGA-in, three USB ports and an Ethernet port. There is also built-in Wi-Fi which is great because you don't have to spend extra money for a USB dongle.
In our use, we found the performance of the Samsung PN51D8000 to be outstanding in almost every aspect. Because it is a plasma, you get really deep black-levels and very vibrant colors. We did notice that if the CinemaSmooth setting was disabled, some visible ghosting on fast-moving images was present.
The 3D performance was also great, but we didn't base our image quality ratings on 3D nearly as much as 2D. Using the Bluetooth active 3D glasses (again, not provided), we saw almost no crosstalk and only a few cases of color oversaturation.