With a top-shelf picture and excellent features, the Samsung E6500 is a good alternative for those looking for a videophile-grade set that suits a smaller budget. The E6500 series includes the 51-inch PN51E6500 (*Est. $1,250 to $1,600) and the 60-inch PN60E6500 (*Est. $1,600).
High-grade performance for less, at least when the lights are low. Critics say the Samsung E6500 provides an excellent image in most regards. Black levels aren't quite as deep as the Panasonic Viera VT50, but are on par with the well-regarded and directly competitive ST50. More impressive, the E6500's ability to display details in shadowy images might be the best of any TV including Samsung's flagship E8000, CNET reports. Ty Pendlebury says he's unsure if that's due to a difference in calibration in the site's review samples or because of a feature called Local Contrast Enhancer that might obscure some shadow details. Other reviewers confirm CNET's observations; DigitalTrends.com writes, "The E6500's black level performance is nearly overshadowed (zing!) by its shadow detail performance."
Color accuracy is also superb. CNET says some primary colors could be more saturated, but everything looks great on the screen. PlasmaTVBuyingGuide.com adds, "We've always felt that realistic color was a strong point with Samsung's plasma televisions and the E6500 is no exception."
If there's a hole in the E6500's game, it's limited light output. That means the best picture quality will be reserved for rooms where lighting is well controlled. DigitialTrends.com says, "Once the TV is exposed to bright ambient light, the TV can be adjusted to produce a brighter picture, but some of its excellent black level performance takes a hit." That limited brightness spills over to degrade 3D performance as well, with reviewers calling 3D images rather dim.
One positive aspect of bright room performance is the E6500 screen's glare-fighting properties. CNET's David Katzmaier says the Panasonic ST50's is the best he has seen, but Pendlebury calls the Samsung E6500 even better in that regard. Other reviewers say the contest is a draw. Either way, the glare from the odd lamp in your viewing room is less likely to be an issue than with many other plasmas or even LCD TVs with non-matte screen treatments.
Like most plasma sets, screen uniformity and off-angle viewing are outstanding. 3D performance also beats that of competing TVs, and ghosting -- while not completely eliminated -- isn't a big problem. Sound quality gets better feedback than is typically seen for flat panel TVs. Power consumption is high, and only the 51-inch PN51E6500 is Energy Star qualified.
One grumble that crops up in user reviews is the E6500's tendency to emit a buzzing sound under certain image conditions. The severity seems to vary from set to set, and many don't do it at all. How much it bothers owners also seems to vary greatly.
Well equipped and performs well. The E6500 omits many of the headline-making extras of the E8000, including Smart Interaction that lets you use voice commands and hand gestures in place of a remote control, and Smart Evolution that accepts modules to add or improve features to keep pace with newer models. Compared to just about any other plasma TV out there, however, the E6500 is still packed with features.
That includes active-shutter 3D, which is preferred over passive 3D by videophiles but not necessarily families for its ability to pass the full 1080p resolution of the set. One drawback is ghosting. Most reviewers say it's well controlled here, especially compared to Panasonic's efforts, although CNET complains that it's worse than on the flagship Samsung E8000. Two pairs of glasses come in the box, and extras are relatively inexpensive at $20 each.
Internet streaming is fairly robust and the lineup of content providers is nearly complete, missing only Amazon Instant among the big names. You'll also find an app store and a somewhat usable web browser. The interface is a little cluttered, CNET says, but is "quick and easy to use." The E6500 includes DLNA streaming to fetch your own content from a PC or another DLNA device on the same network, and Wi-Fi is built in.
All wrapped up in a decent but not ground-breaking package. The E6500 has a nice enough look with its brushed black plastic bezel, but it's not cutting edge. It's more svelte than older plasma TVs, but is nowhere near as trim as many LED designs. No one seems to like the four-limbed "spider" pedestal stand; DigitalTrends.com calls its use in the E6500 series "disappointing." While the backlit remote draws mixed reactions, most say it's fine. Connectivity is a bit limited, although the three HDMI inputs should be adequate for most setups.
Samsung's excellent picture without the expensive extras. If you like Samsung's solid picture quality and robust 3D and Internet streaming, you'll like the E6500. The big difference between it and the E8000, including the 60-inch model -- aside from price -- is the lack of some of Samsung's most cutting-edge features. However, since experts report that Smart Interaction is still a work in progress, and the value of Smart Evolution is still a pretty big unknown, many say you're better off keeping the E8000's price premium in your pocket and taking a good look at the E6500 instead. This TV is subject to Samsung's unilateral pricing policy, which sets a minimum price at which it can be sold by authorized dealers and limits the availability of bargains.
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Review credibility: Excellent
Despite giving its Editors' Choice award to the competing Panasonic Viera ST50, CNET struggles to find much separation between that TV and the Samsung PN60E6500. Picture quality is equally excellent and features are comparable, although the Panasonic's higher contrast ratio gives images a bit more pop. While other reviewers, including CNET's David Katzmaier, sing the praises of the ST50's performance under bright light, Pendlebury gives the nod to the E6500 in that regard, adding that it outperformed Samsung's flagship E8000 in maintaining black levels.
Review: Samsung PN60E6500 Review, Ty Pendlebury, June 8, 2012
Review credibility: Excellent
ConsumerReports.org includes the Samsung PN51E6500 among the plasma TVs it has recently tested. Ratings and rankings are provided, and discussion, while brief, is expanded over what we've seen previously. Results are available only to subscribers.
Review: Samsung PN51E6500, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
3. PlasmaTV Buying Guide.com
Review credibility: Very Good
This review isn't the most polished, but it is testing based, and provides ratings and rankings -- although the latter aren't completely updated. The 8.8 out of 10 overall score is less impressive than what some competing sets earn, with low brightness being the E6500's most significant negative. Still, Wiley seems pleased with its performance and value.
Review: Samsung PN60E6500 Review, Robert Wiley, Not dated
4. Mac Format
Review credibility: Very Good
Denison compares the Samsung PN60E6500 to the Panasonic Viera ST50 in this hands-on review. Like others, he doesn't find much to separate the sets. Trade-offs between the two are minor, and both get identical scores of 8.5 out of 10 -- good enough to earn an automatic Editors' Choice award.
Review: Samsung PN60E6500 Review, Caleb Denison, June 22, 2012
Review credibility: Good
There are still too few reviews here to give much weight to owners' feedback on the Samsung E6500. That said, nearly as many users give the TV 1- and 2-star ratings as give it 4 or 5 stars. Most negative comments complain of buzzing from the set. Ratings for both the 60-inch and 51-inch models are grouped together and can be accessed from this page.
Review: Samsung PN60E6500 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Slim Plasma HDTV, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of October 2012