It's no joke: CNET calls the Samsung E8000 "easily the most full-featured plasma TV on the market; no other can touch its sheer doodad-ification." If it's a plasma TV feature you want, it's in there, and you'll find a lot more that aren't available on any other plasma set. The headliner is Smart Interaction, which allows users to control many functions via voice and gesture control. Some experts love it, others love it for what it could become, and still others see it as no more than a gimmick that few will actually use. The jury is also still out on Smart Evolution, which allows the E8000 to accept modules of newly developed or improved features down the line. However, the first Smart Evolution models have yet to be produced, so no one knows if it can live up to its admittedly exciting promise or how much it will cost.
All that doesn't even scratch the surface of what's packed into this TV. There's a touchpad remote for those who want to more easily scroll through menus and for web browsing, and Internet streaming is robust. Wi-Fi is built-in, of course, and the set can also be used as a Wi-Fi access point for other gear. Samsung is the only plasma TV maker that includes two pairs of 3D glasses in the box, and additional ones are a relatively inexpensive $20 each.
As far as the E8000's picture quality goes, it's as good or better than any other plasma TV out there save for the Panasonic Viera VT50. Blacks are satisfyingly rich and colors are accurate. While the screen does a great job of combating glare, the image doesn't get very bright, so best picture quality will be seen only in rooms where lighting is relatively dim. However, if good "basic" features such as 3D and Internet streaming are all you need, the Panasonic Viera ST50 delivers a comparable picture at a lower price. Available models of the Samsung E8000 include the 51-inch PN51E8000 (*Est. $1,700 to $3,000), 60-inch PN60E8000 (*Est. $2,300) and 64-inch PN64E8000 (*Est. $3,000).
Another option for those who want some gee-wizardry to go with a great -- or at least good -- picture is the LG PM9700. It falls short on black levels compared to other top plasma sets, but it still smokes most comparable LED sets in that regard. Welcome extras include a motion-sensing controller that makes short work of scrolling through menus and web pages, and a web browser that's more usable than most. The set is also one of the few to have Intel WiDi built in, which makes it easier to display videos and other content directly from your laptop or PC -- assuming it, too, is WiDi equipped or sports a WiDi adapter.