Samsung (opens in new tab)’s never been afraid to embrace the more eccentric screen sizes, so we’re pleased to see the company’s 2012 model line-up includes this 51-inch plasma model, the Samsung PS51E8000 (opens in new tab).
We don’t know exactly how many of you have toyed with the idea of buying Panasonic's TX-P50GT50 (for instance) just to think “if only the screen was an inch bigger, it’d be perfect”, but we hope for Samsung’s sake it’s more than one or two.
A peculiar screen size isn’t the only thing the Samsung has going for it, mind you – this TV is bursting with exciting specification highlights.
Aside from support for active-shutter 3D, plus the sort of extensive Smart TV functionality that telly buyers are lately demanding as their right, the PS51E8000 has the same suite of control interfaces as the company’s well-received ES8000 range.
Samsung PS51E8000: Voice and gesture control
So as well as a brace of remote controls (one a bog-standard full-function stick, the other a much showier touch-pad job, above), it’s possible to control the E8000 by speaking to it (there’s a mic in the screen bezel and another in the top of the touch-pad remote).
And if you don’t want to interact with your TV vocally, you can also operate it using gestures – there’s a camera built into the bezel alongside the mic.
You also get integrated wi-fi, no less than three USB sockets, one of which will record as well as send info in the opposite direction.
And an 'IR blaster" (included) will allow any device connected to the TV via HDMI to be controlled with voice or gesture recognition too.
What's more, there's even an 'Evolution kit' section (below) which allows the set to be upgraded to 2013 specification via a plug-in board – now that's what we call future-proofing.
Samsung PS51E8000: Simple set-up
But let's get back to the present. Set-up, as is usual with Samsung TVs, is a straightforward and brisk affair.
Once it’s functioning to your satisfaction, interacting with the Samsung is basically a matter of taste.
We find the gesture-recognition facility the least agreeable – it demands your room be unromantically brightly lit, and the E8000 isn’t entirely consistent at recognising the gestures you’re making.
Ultimately, we ended up making universally recognised gestures of dismissal... Voice control is a much more consistent, and therefore less aggravating, way of navigating the screen’s many facilities.
Once you’re over the initial weirdness of prompting the TV with your voice, it’s a painless way of getting around – combine voice-commands with the computer mouse-like touch-pad remote control and it’s possible to zoom around the on-screen menus with casual efficiency.
Samsung PS51E8000: Picture quality
The Samsung is authentically impressive where picture quality is concerned – most of the time. Even the best TVs can struggle when it comes to filling their screens with standard-definition television broadcasts, and the Samsung is no exception.
We watch a lot of daytime telly here at What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision towers, and the likes of Cash In The Attic or Homes Under The Hammer are upscaled by the Samsung to only marginal effect.
Pictures noise settles in early, and it’s joined by shimmery edges and detail levels best described as ‘modest’. High-definition transmissions fare much better, unsurprisingly.
If push came to shove we’d watch the Freesat tuner over Freeview HD – there’s a touch more rigour to its edge definition – but in any event the HD likes of Top Gear are bright, detailed and eminently watchable fare.
Stable with all but the most testing motion, and with the same neutral colour balance that does such convincing work with skin-tones, the PS51E8000 is a poised, capable television.
And when finally granted some native 1920 x 1080 Blu-ray content to display, the Samsung looks a treat.
A Blu-ray copy of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy plays perfectly into the E8000’s hands – the screen gets to show off its mastery of colour, shade and tone throughout, as well as its grasp of fine detail and control over complex patterns.
In all respects bar its stubborn lack of outright punch to contrasts, the Samsung produces images that stack up strongly against those of its most capable rivals.
Samsung PS51E8000: 3D performance
Checking out its 3D performance with The Adventures of Tintin, there’s no arguing with the brightness or punchiness of the images it produces.
Stability is fine, detail levels remain high and cross-talk is minimal. Gaming is dealt with well whether you’re playing in 2D or 3D. The ‘game’ mode defeats pretty much all the clever processing algorithms brought to bear on films and TV, and the result is a TV that responds to your console fast.
There’s a reduction in the screen’s ability to deal confidently with motion, but the compromise isn’t huge.
As far as Smart TV functionality goes, the E8000 is pretty successful. You couldn’t describe the homepage/dashboard as crystal clear, but it houses a lot of catch-up TV, video-on-demand and social networking functionality as well as a lot of bespoke Samsung apps.
When it comes to sharing photos or videos between networked equipment, or offering on-line ways to get fit or educate the kids, Samsung sets a high standard.
The demerits are remarkably few. Apart from the rather tentative contrasts we’ve mentioned, the E8000 is no great shakes in the sound stakes (even by flatscreen standards it’s a boneless, feeble and sibilant listen).
And the design is slightly less up-to-the-minute than we’ve come to expect from Samsung. Balanced against everything it does well, though, it’s very much worth a place on your audition list.