Samsung PN60F5300 Plasma TV Review
Big screen, not-so-big price—what's not to love?
If you're in need of a large screen with solid performance—and for cheap!—look no further: Samsung's 60-inch F5300 (MSRP $1599.99, online for around $950) is a plasma-TV bargain.
According to Samsung's own website, this 1080p beast really does sell for under a grand. And according to our tests, it's a bonafide winner. Sure, you get less HDMI ports and no internet features, but if that flies with you, the F5300 is a delicious treat for hungry TV enthusiasts. Aside from some color issues, there isn't much to dislike about this plasma.
Even with an interesting stand, this plasma is a Plain Jane.
Samsung isn't reinventing the wheel—or redesigning the TV—with the F5300. A rectangle with medium-sized bezels sits atop the company's unique cross-shaped stand, which is the only interesting feature of this tele's design. Since it's a lower-tier plasma, it doesn't have a super-thin profile either.
On the connectivity side, things look just as blasé: only two HDMI inputs, a USB port for media, a digital audio output, and a component input. How am I supposed to keep my stash of video game consoles hooked up with two measly HDMI ports and a lone component input? I'll have to go buy an HDMI splitter—at least they're cheap!
The no-frills parade continues with the bundled remote, which is standard Samsung fare. You won't be getting the company's fancy Smart Touch Remote, but since the F5300 doesn't offer internet features, you don't need it. And if you happen to misplace your remote—a perfectly logical excuse to have a panic attack—then you can always reach behind the F5300 to use the fabled jogstick. This thingamajiggy, which resembles a joystick that a mouse would use, allows you to access the TV's menu, volume, channel controls, and power.
Simplicity is the name of the F5300's game, but keep in mind that this lower-end model retails for way less than Samsung's design heavy-hitters like the beautiful F8000 and ruggedly-handsome F8500. You get what you pay for, and for most of us, that's quite alright.
No smart features, but same great interface
It's no exaggeration to say that I love the menu interface on the F5300. Samsung uses the same layout featured on its high-end models, which is simply elegant. Or elegantly simple. Maybe both.
All of the typical picture adjustment options are here, including Contrast, Brightness, Color, and Cell Light—the plasma equivalent of Backlight. For the hardcore TV enthusiasts, Samsung delivers an impressive amount of advanced options, too, like numerous white balance adjustment settings and the ability to fine-tune red, green, and blue.
Other picture options include the Digital Clean View and MPEG Noise Filter settings, which don't appear to do much. Samsung's Black Optimizer is worth utilizing, though, for a slightly richer black level.
Audio options are above-average, including multiple sound modes, an equalizer, a surround-mimicking feature, and a dialog-enhancing mode. Putting the TV on Movie mode gives it a fuller sound, and doesn't require additional tweaking. Then again, if audio is your thing, it's always wise to invest in external speakers and skip a TV's sound menu altogether.
Color issues mar an otherwise terrific picture.
For $949.99, you can do a lot worse than the F5300's picture quality. If you want flawless image quality on a screen this big, you'll need to pay exponentially more.
For contrast junkies, Samsung's lower-end plasma offers some excitement. It has above-average black levels, which give content a more realistic appearance, but that's not what astounds me. The F5300 is capable of surprisingly bright white levels—something plasma televisions struggle with. Typically, you wouldn't want a plasma display in a sunny living room. With the F5300, though, feel free to let a little sunshine in—this TV is bright enough to handle it.
Color is where Samsung's plasma runs into a bit of trouble. HDTVs are supposed to produce a certain range of colors, and the F5300 does this wonderfully. But what it doesn't do wonderfully is transition from one hue to the next. For example, your local weatherman's light red sweater won't look quite right.
Another color defect potential buyers may notice is flawed color temperature. Whites and grays have a somewhat orange tint, meaning the overall picture looks warmer than normal. This is nothing too deal-breaking, but it's far from picture perfection.
At least the F5300 makes up for this color mistake with excellent motion performance and a wide viewing angle—two staples of plasma technology. Extreme camera panning does not produce any noticeable image distortion, and off-angle viewing affords the same contrast-rich picture as head-on gazing.
Even with color imperfections, this plasma is still a bargain.
The Samsung PN60F5300 will never compete with picture perfection like Panasonic's ZT60, but it doesn't have to. With a bafflingly low MSRP of $949.99, this plasma offers a respectable picture that won't leave you feeling swindled.
This Samsung does have direct competition with some other plasmas on the market, namely the Panasonic Viera TC-P60S60. Both currently retail for around the same price, and have comparable test results. The main reason to purchase one over the other? Samsung's F5300 gets much brighter, while Panasonic's S60 gets darker and offers some internet features. If you have a sun-filled living room and need a big-screen TV, Samsung's plasma is the clear winner.
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