A few weeks back, we reported that Panasonic appears to be poised to pull back on its production of plasma TVs. Take a deep breath. Plasma isn't dead yet. It's still the ruling technology when it comes to overall picture quality of consumer televisions. And 2013 may turn out to be a banner year for the technology.
Samsung is one of three major TV manufacturers still making plasma TVs (Panasonic and LG are the other two). The Korean company is sticking with the tech for 2013, with plans to release a total of 11 plasma TVs in sizes ranging from 43 to 64 inches.
Similar to the LED models, there are several noteworthy additions to this year's crop. First, is Samsung's newly redesigned Smart Hub web platform. The highlight of the upgrade is definitely the addition of five "dynamic menu panels," which are designed to help viewers manage, navigate or even search through all of the content that's currently available through one of these web-enabled TVs. Available on select 2013 TVs, those panels include an "On TV" section to navigate through for live programming, "Movies & TV Shows," "Music, Photos & Clips," "Social" for social media content, and "Smart TV Apps."
The F8500 Series is Samsung's flagship plasma for 2013, promising eight times the black levels of a standard LED.
Other features include personalized recommendations via S-Recommendation, Smart View for moving content from the TV to connected devices and back, and Smart Interaction enhanced voice and gesture control.
If you're sitting there seething about the new features and staring at a 2012 Samsung TV, calm down. Samsung's Smart Evolution Kit will allow some of you the option to upgrade, without actually having to buy a whole new HDTV. Designed for use with the Samsung Series 7000 and 8000 plasma and LED TVs, the kit includes a quad-core processor, GPU and memory for faster processing and multitasking, as well as the latest version of the Smart Hub and picture display software. It even includes a new enhanced remote with built-in microphone and swipe pad so you'll be able to navigate the new menus more simply. Samsung will start selling the Smart Evolution Kit this May, with an MSRP of $299.99.
If you're more in the market for a brand-new plasma TV, you're in luck. Samsung recently held a press event in Manhattan, to show off its 2013 TV line -- including 11 new plasma screens. Let's take a peek at what to expect this year.
That beauty that you see pictured above is Samsung's flagship plasma for the year. And in this case, beauty is much more than skin deep. The F8500 promises to be Samsung's best looking plasma set ever where it counts: in picture quality. That's mostly due to the enhanced Super Contrast Panel, which delivers deeper blacks and brighter colors than ever before. In fact, the company says that the F8500 has eight times the black levels of a standard LED TV, all thanks to proprietary Deep Black Algorithm and the Real Black Pro II filter. It's also important to note that each of the models in this series also has native support for HEVC-encoded content.
You can read more about the tech behind these improvements in our editor Chris Boylan's spotlight on the F8500 series plasma TV.
Besides everything listed above, these sets feature active 3D capability, a full 1080p image, a 600Hz refresh rate, built-in WiFi, Smart TV, and a pop-up camera with gesture controls. It comes packing four pairs of 3D glasses and the Smart Touch Remote Control, as well as three USB ports and four HDMI inputs for adding other AV components into the mix. Each of the three sets is also as pretty on the outside, with Samsung's One Body Form design.
The three sets in this line drop the Super Contrast Panel, but have most of the other perks listed above. The F5500 models have a full 1080p HD image in both 2D and 3D, as well as Smart TV with a dual-core processor and a web browser. Each set also comes with built-in WiFi, 600Hz Subfield Motion, S-Recommendation, two USB ports and three HDMI inputs. Users looking for new ways to control the TV should know that this series does offer voice control, but you're going to need to add a Skype camera if you want access to limited gesture controls. All three models also come with the Smart Touch Remote Control and two pairs of active 3D glasses.
The three models in Samsung's F5300 Series have a full 1080p HD image, but no 3D or web streaming features.
Samsung isn't putting any 3D or web streaming features into this line. However, all three F5300 models do have a full 1080p HD image, 600Hz Subfield Motion, and the Clear Image Panel for deep blacks and brighter whites. For additional content, the ConnectShare Movie option allows viewers to watch videos, play music or view photos from an external USB drive. Each of the sets also has a USB port and two HDMI inputs for adding in other AV components.
The last entry in Samsung's 2013 plasma TV lineup is the F4500 Series. Each of the two models in this series have a 720p HD image and the 600Hz refresh rate. It's definitely more no-frills than the lines mentioned above, but this is a nice way to put a big HD image into some of those other spaces around the house. Available in 43- and 51-inch screen sizes, these TVs also have the Clear Image Panel, ConnectShare Movie features, one USB port and two HDMI inputs.
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