LCD may be the bread and butter of Samsung's TV business, but the company has come on strong in the plasma realm in recent years. Early this year, Displaybank reported that Samsung solidified its standing as the number one shipper of plasmas, surpassing Panasonic as the king of PDP. But hey, sales are one thing; performance is another. How does Samsung's 2012 plasma line compete in performance? I wanted to find out, so I requested a review sample of the PN60E7000.
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The PNE7000 Series is one of the higher-end lines in Samsung's 2012 plasma group, sitting just below the top-shelf PNE8000. The two series have identical performance specs, but the PNE7000 saves you some money by omitting features found in the PNE8000 - including the integrated camera, voice/motion control, and Smart Touch Bluetooth remote control. Both series use Samsung's Real Black Pro panel, Wide Color Enhancer Plus, and 600Hz Subfield Motion technology. They offer built-in wifi, the Smart Hub Web platform, a full Web browser, DLNA media streaming, and the new trio of Signature Services: Family Story, Fitness, and Kids. The PN60E7000 is an active 3DTV, and Samsung includes two pairs of active-shutter glasses in the package.
The PNE7000 Series comes in screen sizes of 51, 60, and 64 inches. The 60-inch PN60E7000 carries an MSRP of $2,420 and an average street price under $2,000.
Setup and Features
The PN60E7000 isn't quite as thin and stylish as some of the LED-based LCDs we've seen, but it's still a very nice-looking TV. The screen has about one inch of bezel around the top and sides, with a glossy brushed-charcoal finish and a clear acrylic border all the way around the frame. The TV itself looks quite similar to the Panasonic TC-P55ST50 I previously reviewed, but the Samsung model carries a more stylish, X-shaped silver stand that swivels (the Panasonic stand has a more traditional square shape). The PN60E7000 weighs about 62 pounds without the stand and measures 1.9 inches deep - not quite as thin as the Panasonic, especially near the bottom, where the Samsung's down-firing speakers add more depth than does Panasonic's 8-Train speaker design.
The PN60E7000 comes with Samsung's traditional IR remote, which offers amber backlighting and has a clean, logical layout. The higher-end PNE8000 also comes with the Bluetooth-based Smart Touch remote, a more minimalist design that uses fewer buttons and adds a touchpad (you can get my impressions of the Smart Touch remote in my review of the Samsung UN55ES8000 LCD). Samsung does include on the PN60E7000 a helpful onscreen universal-remote setup wizard that allows you to easily program the IR remote to control a cable/satellite box. Samsung also offers the free "Samsung Remote" app for Android and iOS devices, which features a touchpad, a game-control layout, and a virtual keyboard for easier text input. (The PN60E7000 also supports the addition of a Bluetooth keyboard for easier Web navigation.) Samsung's remote app worked reliably for me in both its iOS and Android forms, and its virtual keyboard is generally intuitive to use, although, like others I've tested, it does not work within many desirable apps like Netflix, YouTube, and Vudu. The current app does not include the ability to flick Web/media content to the TV, as you can do with the latest Panasonic/Sony apps I've tested. However, this Samsung TV supports the free third-party SwipeIt Remote app to flick personal content from your mobile device to the TV.
The PN60E7000's input panel includes three HDMI ports (all side-facing), one shared component/composite set, and an RF input to access the internal ATSC and ClearQAM tuners. Many competing higher-end panels now offer four HDMI inputs and a PC input. An Ethernet port is available for a wired network connection, and two USB ports are included for media playback and the addition of USB peripherals. This TV model is compatible with Samsung's Smart Evolution Kit, which gives you the option to upgrade the PN60E7000's features via an expansion slot on the back panel. Samsung says that the Smart Evolution Kit will accommodate hardware-based upgrades for the next four years. Finally, a mini-plug IR jack (called EX-Link) supports RS-232 for integration into an advanced control system.
Samsung's setup menu boasts all of the advanced picture controls you would need to calibrate the image, including RGB gain/offset, 10-point white balance, flesh-tone adjustment, advanced color management, seven gamma presets, and digital/MPEG noise reduction. Of the four picture modes offered, I consider the Movie mode to be the only viable choice. The Dynamic mode is unbearably exaggerated, the Standard mode is way too dim, and the Relax mode has color issues. (This TV lacks the THX and ISF picture modes you'll find in some plasma models from Panasonic and LG, but a professional calibrator can configure Cal-Day and Cal-Night modes if you desire.) The PN60E7000's Cell Light control allows you to adjust the phosphor brightness in 20 steps, kind of like the backlight adjustment you get on the LCD side. Samsung includes a Cinema Smooth option to display 24p film sources at 96Hz (or 4:4 pulldown), showing each frame four times to produce slightly smoother motion than the traditional 3:2 process; this TV does not offer any type of "smooth" mode that uses frame interpolation to produce the overly smooth "soap opera" effect that can occur with film sources.
The PN60E7000 is an active 3DTV. Samsung is competing more aggressively with the passive-3D manufacturers than some of the other active-3D supporters, choosing to include two pairs of active 3D glasses in the package and offering additional glasses for as little as $20. My review sample came with the SSG-4100GB glasses, which are light and comfortable, but not particularly stylish. The TV is set by default to automatically detect a 3D signal and will switch to a new set of 3D-specific picture modes. Within these modes, you can access most of the picture adjustments I described above, and the dedicated 3D setup menu offers the ability to adjust 3D perspective and L/R swap, and to enable 2D-to-3D conversion with depth adjustment.
In other setup news, the PN60E7000's Sound menu includes five preset sound modes, plus Virtual Surround, Dialog Clarity, a five-band Equalizer, and the ability to adjust the format and set delays for SPDIF output. Samsung's Eco menu includes an Energy Saving tool that lets you cut brightness in several steps to reduce power consumption, or you can turn on the Eco Sensor to automatically tailor light output to the room's brightness. Samsung is one of the few manufacturers that still offer picture-in-picture options, and the setup menu includes Screen Burn Protection tools to help prevent/counteract image retention.
Finally, we get to Smart Hub. Samsung's Web platform includes access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, CinemaNow, Pandora, Facebook, Skype, and many other services that you can download through the Samsung Apps store (some are free, others are not). The big VOD omission is Amazon Instant Video. [Update: Samsung has now added Amazon Instant Video to its 2012 Smart TV line.] Samsung's AllShare tool is on board, so you can stream media content from a tablet, computer, or DLNA server. The AllShare function worked reliably with both my Samsung tablet and the Plex software on my MacBook Pro. WiFi Direct allows you to wirelessly connect compatible devices directly to the Samsung without going through your home network, and the inclusion of Intel WiDi lets you wirelessly display your WiDi-enabled computer screen on the TV. The PN60E7000 also includes a Soft AP mode to turn the TV into a WiFi access point. The Smart Hub Web browser supports Flash and loads pages very quickly, thanks to the inclusion of a dual-core processor that also allows for multitasking. Samsung's new trio of Signature Services includes a Kids section, which offers interactive children's stories, the Family Story platform, which serves as a private social network where you can share photos and notes with invited guests, and the Fitness platform, which allows you to cue up exercise videos, track your fitness goals, and even attach a USB scale. Since the PN60E7000 does not include the integrated camera found in the top-shelf PNE8000, you will need to add a camera via USB to take advantage of Skype video conferencing and the Virtual Mirror tool within the Fitness service. To get more details and observations about Samsung's 2012 Smart Hub platform, check out my separate review.
Throughout the course of my review, I compared the PN60E7000 with my reference 2012 plasma, the Panasonic TC-P55ST50. The PN60E7000's MSRP is a few hundred dollars higher than the 60-inch ST50, although the street prices are closer.
Read more about the performance of the Samsung PN60E7000 on Page 2.