Samsung PN64H5000 Review: The Last Plasma
Samsung 64H5000 – Screen image by Geoffrey Morrison
This is the last plasma. The last new plasma you’ll ever read about. Last. The technology that ushered in the era of the flat panel TV. Became, in many minds, actually synonymous with “flat TV.”
The last plasma I’ll ever review.
Panasonic left the plasma business a year ago, Samsung and LG left this year. All that’s left is LCD, and a pittance of OLED.
Being a budget model, it’s no swan song (that’s the ZT60, or arguably the F8500). It only comes in one size (64-inches), but by the nature of what it represents, it’s worth a review. And here it is.
That H5000 isn’t lacking for picture quality adjustments, however. In addition to the normal “picture enhancers” we always turn off (and are mostly off in Movie mode), there’s 2- and 10-step grayscale adjustments and a color management system that generally works (more on this later). Even so, for the most part the H5000 is pretty accurate out of the box. So calibration isn’t strictly necessary.
The remote is a basic affair, lacking the motion/sound/mindreading nonsense of most high-end TV remotes in 2014. It’s backlit and has decent-sized buttons. A good, simple remote.
Inputs are all on the back, and mostly face the left side (as viewed from the front). There are two HDMI inputs, one USB, and a component/composite shared input.
There’s no Audio Return Channel (ARC) but there is an optical audio output.
The EPA says the H5000 will cost roughly $22 a year to run, which is lower than other 64-inch TVs.
The main reason the H5000 is so inexpensive (for its size), is it uses a “pentile” pixel arrangement. Put simply, this means it has fewer red and blue sub-pixels than a “regular” 1080p TV. Here’s a closeup image of the pixel structure:
Note the RGBG arrangement of the subpixels, instead of the traditional RGB.
Sitting about 8 feet away, the only time I noticed any hint of this was certain thin solid colors on a black background. They had a bit more… let’s call it “crennelation” than I’d expect with a non-pentile display. I noticed a similar artifact with one of the Sharp Quattron TVs I reviewed.
Is PenTile a big deal? Nope. The overall image (as we’ll discuss) is so good, I think this is a non-issue. Is it likely the F8500, with it’s traditional sub-pixel layout (and full chroma resolution) seem a little more detailed? Maybe, but it’s going to be pretty slight.
If you sit abnormally close to your TV, maybe you might notice it more. But if that’s case, you might want to consider a 4K TV instead. Check out Chris Heinonen’s 4K calculator to see if 4K’s worth it for your room.
Overall, the picture quality of the H5000 is excellent. A rich, contrasty, accurate, detailed image. Why did this technology disappear again? It’s not quite as excellent as the much more expensive F8500, but why would it be, since it’s a fraction of the price.
On the contrast ratio side, with Cell Light at 20, the H5000 puts out 13.04 footlamberts with a full-screen 100% white image. It’s typical for plasmas (and OLEDs) to limit the brightness of a full white screen. Unless you watch a lot of skiing or hockey, you’ll rarely see a image with that much white in it. On a white window filling 10% of the screen, the H5000 puts out 53.16 fL.
With a full-screen 0% black image, the H5000 produces an impressively low 0.002 fL. This isn’t quite as dark as the ZT60 Panasonic, but then, the H5000 is a lot cheaper (and also, you know, actually available).
So this means the contrast ratio is somewhere between 6520 and 26,580:1. Even at the minimum, that’s better than the native contrast on pretty much any LCD (not counting good local dimming backlights). It’s not quite as good as the ZT60 or any OLED. Like most of the things about this TV, it’s “very good” and “excellent for the price.”
Reducing the Cell Light acts merely as a limiter. At 0, the H5000 puts out 5.77 fL with a full-screen white, and 5.85 fL with a 10% window. The black level stays the same.
Color is quite accurate out of the box as well. The color management system isn’t quite as simple to use as some, but it does a reasonable job of letting a calibrator dial in the colors a bit more. Once I got the levels under the visible threshold, I stopped tweaking. There’s a fair amount of interaction in the controls, so adjusting luminance also moves hue and/or color. If you want to spend a few hours dialing them in by increments, you might be able to get them a little closer.
Input lag is a low 37.6ms, making this TV an excellent choice for gamers. This is lower than most TVs, There is a Game mode, but ironically this actually increases input lag slightly, to 37.7ms. Renaming the input to PC (a trick oft mentioned with Samsung displays), does nothing.
To test what the H5000 looks like with real-world material, I hatewatched Newsroom, enjoyed some Brooklyn Nine-Nine, relaxed to my yearly re-viewing of Ghost in the Shell (the 2.0 Blu-ray), and more. Across the board the H5000 created an accurate, punchy image. Bright objects popped. Detail, even when the image was in motion (or the object was in motion) was very good. Skin tones were natural looking. Occasionally the brightness would dip (the Apple TV album tile screen saver, notably), when a huge percentage of the image was supposed to be bright, but since I was looking for this, I’m not sure how many people would really notice (or care). Hmmm, ok you will now that I’ve mentioned it… With lesser video material, there was a bit more noise and artifacts, but compared to most lower-priced video displays I’ve reviewed, it was quite good. In other words, it doesn’t do quite as good of a job cleaning up shoddy content, but give it a decent signal and it looks fantastic. This is pretty typical, the higher-end TVs getting the better video processing.
Given the price, size, and overall performance, I can’t think of anything that would prevent me from recommending it. Is it perfect? No, but what is?
The $1,300 64H5000 is a great TV, the last of its breed. It puts out a fantastic image, and is a great price too. We here at HDGuru are sad to see plasma go, but at least it leaves with its head held high, a classy exit of low price and high performance, its strengths for years.
Get one while you still can, they’ll be gone in weeks, not months.
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