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3D TV Review Shootout: Samsung vs. Panasonic

Samsung PN50C8000 3D plasma vs. Panasonic TC-P50VT25 3D Plasma

by: Robert Wiley and Jack Burden
Summer/Fall 2010

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
Samsung PN50C8000 and Panasonic TC-P50VT25.

I've been reviewing flat screen TVs and specifically plasma TVs since year 2000 when they first entered the market. In fact we performed the first ever plasma display review of a Sony plasma (then one of the first made). Back then 95% were used in the commercial display market for board rooms and computer display needs, some were for stores, others for government use.

A lot has changed. LCD TVs much through propaganda campaigns from Sharp and other LCD TV manufacturers managed to keep fear feeding through the market place about some plasma TV inherent weaknesses – namely burn in, and longevity problems, and the occasional pixel failure problem. These problems were of course, remedied. But the stigma remained and LCD TVs kept taking market share – even with then inherently better picture quality from plasma.

3D TV represents a new possibility for plasma TV technology since the technology displays true 1080p HD to both eyes when displaying 3D TV content. Could 3D TV be a breath of life for old plasma TV? Maybe and only if plasma TV manufacturers decide to make a point of it...

Picture Quality

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on the Panasonic TC-P50VT25.

3D TV Viewing: It was difficult to discern between the Samsung and Panasonic when viewing 3D Content. Whether this is because we haven't reviewed much 3D TV material or whether it is due to a very close picture between the two we are unsure. We noticed the flash from the glasses from both TVs when surrounding room light was present. I felt that I noticed more natural color information on the Samsung just as with other non-3D TV viewed content. I also believed that I noticed more out of focus picture elements near the left and right edges of the screen on the Panasonic. Whether any of that is actual or perceived, it's hard to say. I'm rather used to picking out defects in non-3D TV content after 12 years of doing so. I have my test discs to back up my thoughts as well. It's more difficult with brand new content and a new format with no test material. I will say that I felt both TVs showed a very satisfactory, detailed and 3 dimensional image. Who gets the nod? This goes to the Samsung PN50C8000 only because of the perceived out of focus edges recurrent on the Panasonic. The competition was close. Both sets of glasses worked equally as well. Both TVs pulled me further into the 3D content.

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
Same movie on the Samsung PN50C8000. Keep in mind that we are having to take the picture through one lense of the glasses. These picture do not accurately reflect the quality of the viewing image.

Notes on the Viewing Experience: Good ole' Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – one of the only testable 3D content sources available at present.It took us about 20 minutes to get used to wearing the 3D glasses. For one reviewer that wears prescription glasses it took longer and was never really comfortable. In the negative category, we experienced flashing from the glasses when there was room or ambient light present with both the Samsung and Panasonic. This was apparently caused by the ambient light interfering with the infrared receiver on the glasses. Turning your head away from the TV can also cuase the glasses to shut off and turn back on again when you look back to the TV. Without other light sources in the room we didn't experience the issue. I also found that keeping my head still during viewing helped the viewing experience. Overall, after I got used to it, I enjoyed the experience and the movie (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs). The big question: Did the 3D movie, TV, and glasses enhance the experience? For me the answer is yes, it did, I felt that it enveloped me in the movie more. 3D TV is all about making the viewer feel more involved in the content and I would agree that it succeeded in that. On a critical note about the Panasonic VT25 I felt the edges were distractingly out of focus at times, in comparison to the Samsung which we were also reviewing.

Processor Testing: Testing with both 480i and 1080p signals resulted in very satisfactory scores for the Samsung plasma. The TV displayed very smooth transitions in the car racing stadium seating tests while eliminating the moire' patterns quickly. There was also little to no annoying background motion artifacts with either signal. The judder reduction feature on the C8000 works well and reduced side to side panning judder effectively.

We were very disappointed with the Panasonic VT25 chipset. There was significant background motion artifacts and noise as well as significant judder jerky effects with objects moving side to side.

Advantage: Samsung PN50C8000

Calibration: The Samsung C8000 trumped the Panasonic VT25 in color accuracy during calibration – zeroing in on D6500K nearly perfectly. The Samsung also allows calibration adjustment of all six colors including Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow while the Panasonic allows only primary red, green, blue. Due to the Panasonic's intense brightness and color saturation issues, it was much more difficult to calibrate and balance color.

Advantage: Samsung PN50C8000

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
A shot from the Blu Ray version of Alexander shows vivid accurate colors on the Samsung PN50C8000

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
The same shot on the Panasonic TC-P50VT25 shows over saturation of color information

HD and Standard Definition Picture Quality: With both HD sources and standard definition content the Panasonic VT25 produced a very vibrant, colorful, vivid image even after being toned down during our calibration. The picture frequently tends toward over saturation of color information. Processing testing and content revealed motion artifacts and background noise as well as some flicker.

The Samsung PN50C8000 displays wonderfully balanced color information and uniformity. Images are presented in a clean and clear manner devoid of artifacts, with colors properly saturated. Colors may seem a little washed out and weak at first but further viewing reveals them to be accurate and realistic. This was the case with both up converted standard definition material and HD content.

Advantage: Samsung PN50C8000

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
Panasonic TC-P50VT25: This dark scene shot from the Blu Ray of Wyatt Earp reveals oversaturated blue tones in the Panasonic. Notice also the black bars top and bottom of the picture. The bars should be saturated black as they are on the Samsung below.

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
The same scene on the Samsung PN5C8000.

Contrast Ratio Measurement: The Panasonic TC-P50VT25 measured 2239:1 post calibration contrast ratio when the panel light was on high. The Samsung plasma registered 1716:1.

Advantage: Panasonic TC-P50VT25

Features Options and Performance

Audio Quality: The two TVs had similar quality in audio with volume levels about the same despite the 3 X 10W speakers in the Panasonic compared to the 2 X 10W speakers in the Samsung. We felt the Samsung's overall sound quality was more balanced and voice/dialog performed better due to the Clear Voice feature. The VT25 did not have a voice enhancement feature. We felt music sounded better on the Panasonic no doubt due to the extra speaker.

Advantage: Even

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
Samsung 3D Glasses (Left)     Panasonic 3D Glasses (Right)
The VT25 comes with one pair of 3D glasses included while the C8000 does not. Both sets of glasses worked well and will fit over normal glasses (though maybe unconfortably).

3D TV Glasses: The Samsung 3D shutter glasses look more like a normal pair of sunglasses which I like. They are also rechargeable through a USB port on the TV or computer. The Panasonic 3D glasses performed just as well but are not rechargeable and also cost more. Both pairs emit flashing when surrounding light is present and certain obscure conditions collide. The Samsung glasses cost $50 less.

Advantage: Samsung PN50C8000

Internet Options: The Samsung PN50C8000 Internet suite is more complete with Netflix, Blockbuster, twitter, facebook, USA Today, Napster, Yahoo and more. Panasonic's options were just a little too limited at present though they are adding twitter and Fox Sports soon. The VT25 currently does not offer Netflix, facebook, or several other options. One highlight over the Samsung is Skype compatibility.

Advantage: Samsung PN50C8000

Design and Appearance: Panasonic decided not to play ball in the aesthetics category presenting yesteryear's black gloss wide 2.25" bezel framing, 3.5 inch depth and a not so attractive dark teal green screen that contrasts poorly with the black frame. At least the stand is a new oval shape and swivels side to side 17 degrees. The Samsung PN50C8000 by contrast is a beautiful TV with less than a 2" frame and with many design elements including a clear neck on the chrome swiveling table top stand, a matte dark charcoal metallic finish on the bezel frame, sleek 1.4" depth, and a dark black/purple screen.

Advantage: Samsung PN50C8000

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
Pansonic VT25 (Left) - Samsung C8000 (Right)

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
Pansonic VT25 (Left) - Samsung C8000 (Right)

Remote Control and Menu Functionality: The Samsung was again the clear winner with a superior menu system with more options, and a far nicer remote control

Samsung vs Panasonic 3DTV Shootout
The Samsung PN50C8000 Remote control is super while the Panasonic remote feels cheap)

Advantage: Samsung PN50C8000

Value/Price Considerations

Both TVs sell for around $2500. I would definitely try to get the 3D glasses and 3D Blu Ray included in a package as this will make a big difference. The Panasonic TC-P50VT25 did come with a pair of glasses in the box while the Samsung did not.

Advantage: Even

Overall Scoring
(Picture Quality counts 3 points)*

Samsung PN50C8000 9 points *

Panasonic TC-P50VT25 1 point *

2 ties

* The lopsided scoring on this challenge review does not mean that we think the Panasonic VT25 series is a poor performer. In fact, many people with brighter room environments may prefer the exceptionally bright colors from the Panasonic. The TC-P50VT25 scored a cumulative overall rating of 90.6 in our review of the model. Click here to see the full Panasonic TC-P50VT25 review. And click here to see our very highly rated Samsung PN50C8000 review.

2011 3D TV Shootout: Panasonic vs. Samsung
Following on from last year's popular 3D TV Shootout we put together a rematch of high tier plasma models from the two most popular manufacturers. Read More...





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