One of the most popular stories on CNET Australia was originally written way back in 2005 — Plasma vs LCD: which is right for you? — and while the article's seen changes and updates along the way, it's a subject people still want to know about. In the meantime, LCD has somehow morphed into something called LED, while to many people plasma technology seems much the same as it was back then.
But this hasn't stopped companies such as Panasonic, Samsung, and (up until 18 months ago) Pioneer innovating in plasma technology. While Panasonic currently rules the roost with its VT20 and V20 televisions, Samsung shows it has the chops to mix it with the Japanese with the C7000 series.
While it's had its imitators, Samsung has produced some striking televisions over the last few years, and in our opinion the C7000 is one of the best. While it lacks the stainless steel bling of the Samsung 9000 it has an attractive finish all of its own. The bezel is a brushed metallic plastic surrounded by a clear border, which is much swankier-looking than it sounds.
The TV attaches to the stand via a clear plastic column — in vogue at the moment — and the stand itself is one of the most reassuringly chunky we've seen in a long time. Our only problem here is that there is quite a bit of flex between the stand and the panel itself. It's highly unlikely to ever overbalance and topple over, but it's not very reassuring.
The remote itself is the brushed aluminum model we saw with the C7000 LCD. It's got backlit, laser-etched keys and is easy to use. We can only grumble that there's not enough distinction between the arrow keys and the Exit button, which can cause you to quit menus unexpectedly.
As this is a flagship plasma TV there is very little it can't actually do. Let us take a big breath as we attempt to describe the many cool things it can perform. Firstly, yes, it's a 3D TV, and thanks for asking. It can do 2D-to-3D conversion as well, but in our experience this is pretty horrible. Unless there's a bundling deal on at the time you read this you will need to buy glasses seperately.
Secondly, it does IPTV, and for us this is more compelling than 3D. You can currently stream YouTube, and in future you should be able to stream catch-up TV. While Samsung has said it's working with partners such as Bigpond and Nine, nothing has yet to appear.
After a quick flirtation with "Widgets", Samsung has now renamed its TV plug-ins the more universally accepted "Apps". Current apps include Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and Samsung has put out the call asking for developers to provide more. Whether they will given the allure of the upcoming Google TV is another thing.
As far as "other stuff", it does things such as 1080 FHD Motion, Motion Judder Canceller, PVR function with the addition of an USB disk and DLNA streaming.
To connect the internet you have a choice of either wired or wireless capability; to connect to the rest of your equipment you have four HDMI ports, two USB ports, a single component, an AV input and a VGA connector. Unfortunately, the ports are set in quite deeply, and so if you're wall-mounting you'll need to lift the TV up on its hinge to plug anything in.
After a quick calibration with our Monster disk and turning off all the unnecessary processing such as Noise Reduction and Judder Reduction we were ready to sit down and spend some time with the C7000.
We started with the onboard tuner and found it capable of crisp images without any blockiness, and while there were some jaggies present on boundary lines when watching sport on One HD, they were far less noticeable than through a TV such as the Panasonic VT20.
We threw some DVDs at the screen next, fed via component from a Toshiba BDX2000 Blu-ray player, and we were quite impressed with the results. Whether it was the TV's as-yet-unrivalled performance in the new HQV 2.0 synthetic benchmarks or simply DVD movies, the Samsung performed admirably. Jaggies and noise were effectively banished and the picture quality was up there with the best we've seen this year.
The TV was equally as talented with Blu-rays: images are impressive with good saturation and depth. Noise and other artefacts are also nothing to worry about with MI3 looking "grainy" instead of "noisy" — just as it should. Switching to Batman Begins, though, we found that the dark, moody picture wasn't as crisp as it can be with the best TVs, while at the same time demonstrating that the usual plasma failing — blotchy, buzzy colours — wasn't a problem here.
The main contributor to the screen's success is Samsung's new panel, which features a "glass-less" front similar to the new Panasonics, which not only means deep blacks but amazing off-axis viewing. While this year's V20 and VT20 still lord it over the Sammy for pure contrast, it's at least at the level of last year's Panasonic G series. The only significant negative here is that of burn-in, which is higher than on the Panasonic models.
As any professional calibrator will tell you, black reproduction is the most important quality a TV should have, and if this is also significant to you, we'd say skim over the Samsung and head for the AU$500 cheaper V20. Of course, you'd be missing out on the embarrassment of features the C7000 offers.
While in years to come 3D won't be seen as much of a novelty, at the moment there are only a handful of TVs that can do it and the Plasma C7000 is one. Images were relatively clear when donning the 3D glasses, though a movie such as Monsters vs Aliens still displayed some cross-talk issues. We've seen worse from the same manufacturer, so if you want to get a Samsung TV for 3D, this is the one to buy.
2D-to-3D conversion has been tamed down from the original version and now adds the perception of depth rather than make everything onscreen look like cardboard cutouts. It remains a gimmick, however, with complex scenes and images that are supposed to be flat — ie newspaper clippings, T-shirt designs — still looking unnatural.
Sony is currently the king of IPTV, followed by Panasonic and LG and then Samsung. Being able to browse YouTube is nifty, but grazing is all you can do. It's up to the other brands to provide in depth content at this point. Where we think the TV is less successful is in the Samsung Apps implementation. While it offers a single, one-stop sign in process you need to jump through through some complicated hoops to register and sign in. Even then applications such as Facebook don't work. In our opinion applications belong on single-user devices such as your PC and your smart phone, as televisions just aren't ready yet.
Sound quality isn't one of the Samsung's major selling points, with voices sounding overly boomy and an inability for the onboard speaker system to go very loud. Like any TV though, we'd only use the onboard speakers in an emergency and recommend investing in a home theatre system instead.