Now that we’ve had a chance to look at both the Panasonic VT30 and the Samsung Series 8 D8000 — the two best plasma televisions that you can buy today — we’ve put together a quick comparison for anyone trying to choose between them. Don’t take this as gospel, though; both televisions are very good and we recommend you compare them in-store whenever possible before choosing one to buy.
Picture quality is arguably the most important thing to consider when you’re buying a TV. No matter the quality of design, amount of connections or built-in features, you’ll still be staring at the TV screen whenever you’re using it.
Sharpness detail goes slightly to Samsung’s favour in default settings, with the Panasonic slightly undersharpened and soft. Our calibration and testing — mucking around with all the settings to find the best possible picture — revealed that the difference between the two is very minor, and that both are more than able to display enough detail to flatter Full HD video from a Blu-ray movie.
Overall contrast is the Samsung’s calling card due to its glossier panel, which makes colours pop and dark areas look darker. The Panasonic is able to display more detail in gradiated areas, though, giving it the edge in outright contrast detail. It’s also less glossy which lessens annoying reflections. Basically, the Panasonic shows more contrast detail on-screen but the Samsung looks more impressive.
Motion looks good on both screens when looking at a wide panning shot, although the Panasonic’s default settings produce a better image than Samsung’s. If Samsung’s motion and judder compensation settings are disabled then it’s a closer race — otherwise the Samsung Series 8 looks too smooth and video-like.
Black level performance is won by the Panasonic, which is able to lower its plasma cells’ brightness to near-perfect levels when no video is being shown. We didn’t notice any ‘rising black’ issues on the Panasonic VT30 (where blacks pulse brightness as other areas of the screen brighten) or the Samsung, which is also able to display good black levels that are nevertheless ever so slightly brighter than the Panasonic.
3D picture quality
Cross-talk is handled well by both Panasonic and Samsung. Since both use active-shutter 3D glasses there’s a very minor amount of cross-talk on fast-moving sections of video, although the Panasonic does a better job of controlling and minimising it. We’d like to see what both companies could do with passive 3D technology, which doesn’t have the same cross-talk problems.
3D modes are again a close race. Both TVs can convert standard video footage to faux-3D, although our testing with a regular Blu-ray movie showed the Samsung to do a more effective job. Neither TV makes digital TV look particularly 3D in the 2D-to-3D mode.Samsung’s TVs have had the feature since 2010, while Panasonic only implemented it this year, and the extra time has helped Samsung.
Glasses are better on the Samsung — they’re a bit lighter and there’s a larger range available. Panasonic’s still work perfectly though, and are very slightly more comfortable for someone wearing regular-size reading glasses. Pricing is similar and both televisions come with a single set of rechargeable active shutter 3D glasses.