None more black? Samsung’s F8500 plasma is stunning

Samsung F8500 PlasmaCheck out our full review of the Samsung PN60F8500 plasma television.

Today in New York City, Samsung officially unveiled its new line of plasma televisions. Among the new models is the top-of-the-line F8500 series, which we first saw in a private meeting with Samsung at CES 2013. At the time, some of the details surrounding the set were strictly hush-hush. It’s been a hard secret to keep, too, because, as one of Samsung’s reps commented that day, “We think we might have the plasma that could finally knock the Kuro off its perch.” Strong words, indeed. But were they justified? 

For those not familiar, “Kuro” refers to Pioneer Electronics’ Kuro Elite TV – long hailed as the TV with the best picture quality ever produced since the invention of television. The best of the best was the Elite PRO-111FD, which debuted in 2008. You read that right – TV nerds are still buzzing about a five-year-old TV. 

Since then, journalists and videophiles alike have speculated the arrival of a “Kuro killer” – a TV that would best the best of the best. In 2009, some thought the Panasonic VX100U might be it. In 2010 it was Panasonic’s VT20. And in 2011, we thought Sharp’s partnership with Pioneer on the Elite Pro series might have had the right stuff, but none of those TVs managed to steal the Kuro’s glory. Since then, others have been named as potential contenders, but none has managed to kick King Kuro from his throne. So what makes Samsung think it finally has “the one?” 

For one thing, Samsung claims it has achieved its best black levels yet, and we’re inclined to agree. This year, Samsung has incorporated what it calls “Real Black Pro” into its top plasmas. This is essentially a filter comprised of particles that keep ambient light that enters the panel from being reflected back out. This makes the TV look blacker than most plasmas do when turned off, and it clearly aids the TVs picture quality while it is turned on as well. Deep, dark black levels are instrumental in creating an engaging picture with eye-popping color, depth of field, shadow details and contrast. The more a TV’s blacks tend toward grey, the less impressive the picture will appear, and the less effective bright images will be.

The other feather in Samsung’s plasma cap this year is the F8500’s brightness. We’d be willing to bet that the F8500 series is the brightest plasma made to date. Granted, our evaluation is purely subjective, but we’ve simply never seen a plasma quite that bright before, and certainly not paired with black levels so low.

The Kuro was not a particularly bright TV, so you’d usually find them in darkened rooms and basements where ambient light wouldn’t be an issue. That’s fine for dedicated home theater spaces, but what about the rest of us who want to put our TVs in, you know, the living room, with windows around and stuff? Also, because the Kuro wasn’t particularly bright, its contrast wasn’t all that spectacular, so the F8500 may have the Kuro there, too. Add all that up, throw in much more approachable price points than the Kuro offered (The F8500 series runs $2,200 for the 51-inch, $3,200 for the 60-inch and $3,700 for the 64-inch) and we feel pretty safe in saying that the F8500 does a good job of putting the Kuro’s legacy to rest.

We know others will disagree with us on that point. Until it can be proven with objective measurements that the F8500 (or Panasonics ZT60 plasma, for that matter) is capable of zero black-level in the same way the Kuro was, the old, crusty, beast of a box will somehow continue to be revered as the best TV of all time, never mind all the convenience issues, inferior contrast, lack of Smart TV capability, lack of 3D ability, and so on.

Aside from potentially killing the Kuro, we must consider whether Samsung may also be driving the final nail into Panasonic’s coffin as well. Earlier this week, we reported that Panasonic may have to quit the TV business entirely. Though Panasonic has consistently produced some of the best-rated plasma TVs for the last several years, the company is struggling financially – big time. Panasonic will reportedly sell off its healthcare division to shore up its sinking finances – ostensibly to help rescue its TV division – but many doubt the tactic will work. Now that Samsung is coming to the table with the kind of plasma TV that will likely win the hearts of those who see it, it is difficult not to foresee Panasonic’s ultimate fall, with Samsung swooping in to snatch up the plasma fans left in the wake.

We can’t speculate as to whether the timing of the F8500’s arrival was strategic, but Samsung couldn’t have planned it any better.

Check out our video below where we talk about Samsung’s advances in plasma with Steve Panosian, Director of Marketing at Samsung. 

Photography

Family feud: Huawei P30 Pro vs. P20 Pro vs. Mate 20 Pro camera shootout

The Huawei P30 Pro's camera has an amazing zoom mode and low light capabilities. But take these away, and how does it compare when facing its sibling phones, the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro, taking regular photos?
Home Theater

The best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Movies & TV

Marvel releases more footage from Avengers: Endgame in latest TV ad

The events of Avengers: Infinity War changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe in some big ways and left fans wondering how its heroes can possibly recover. Here's everything we know about Avengers: Endgame, the sequel to Infinity War.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Puro’s kids headphones don’t just sound great, they help prevent hearing damage

Puro Sound Labs' PuroQuiet headphones are a pair of noise-canceling over-ears that are designed for young listeners, allowing them to jam out to their favorite tunes, but limiting volume to avoid long-term hearing damage.
Product Review

Now that every speaker has Alexa, don't you want the best? Get the Sonos One

To compete in smart speaker space, Sonos could have just made a better-sounding Alexa speaker, but the company has a reputation to uphold, and went much further. Our Sonos One Review reveals how Sonos does Alexa better than Amazon.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our favorites, with all the features you want.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Home Theater

Amazon’s free Spotify competitor is here. Just ask Alexa

Just ask Alexa to play your favorite song. Amazon has launched a free, ad-based music streaming service to compete with Spotify's free tier on its popular Echo devices, aiming to bolster subscriptions to Amazon Music Unlimited.
Deals

Walmart deal drops the price of the 55-inch TCL 4K Roku smart TV to just $338

Was last weekend's Game of Thrones streaming experience lacking? Look no further than this 55-inch TCL TV, which features built-in Roku functionality, and can be had at Walmart for just $338.
Music

YouTube Red is now YouTube Premium. What's changed, and should you subscribe?

Thanks to Google, YouTube Red is now YouTube Premium. We explain what exactly a YouTube Premium subscription gets you, how much it costs, and break down if it's a good choice for you.
Product Review

It sounds like a Sonos, but the Beam pulls one trick none of its siblings can

Sonos makes really good surround sound speakers for home theaters, but they’re expensive. A cheaper model with great sound would be a win. The Sonos Beam is that speaker, but were too many corners cut to make a more affordable product?
Deals

Take a gander at the best deals on 4K TVs for April 2019

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.