Samsung PN63A650

The Samsung PN63A650 is a whopper of display – in every sense.

At 63-inches diagonal it’s by far the biggest Samsung TV we’ve reviewed this year, and is every bit as weighty as it looks.

There’s nothing understated about this “in your face” flat panel HDTV. It took two persons and colossal effort to lug this prodigious display from the delivery truck to the appropriate spot in my living room.

The TV features Samsung’s proprietary “touch of colour” technology, which blends a hint of red into the bezel.

The PN63A650 includes a broad range of connectivity options and an impressive list of features as befits a hybrid – entertainment cum productivity – device.

The gargantuan TV is controlled with the standard remote Samsung provides with its higher-end devices, the signature feature of which is the i-podesque scroll wheel and selection button you use to navigate the on-screen menu options and sub-options.

In addition a host of “single press” buttons allow you to access and change key features quickly. These buttons include:

E.MODE – to select preset display and sound modes for sports, movies and games
P.SIZE – that enables you to change the picture size
FAV.CH – to select your favourite channels.

Also accessible via a “single touch” button are the TV’s Wiselink function that enables you to play picture and music files from an external device and InfoLink that offers you news, stock market and weather forecast services over the network.

For the most part the remote enables quick and easy access to most features. But I did find the scroll wheel a tad difficult to control at times – you need to turn it very slowly or it jumps to options beyond the one you want to select.

The full onscreen menu overlay –that features characters in a big, legible font size – is a very convenient tool to navigate through the various features of this behemoth plasma.

It allows you to quickly move through the various main categories – Picture, Sound, Channel, Setup, Input and Application – and then drill down to your preferred option.

Connectivity

Knowledge workers looking for a very high-end entertainment cum productivity appliance – and able and willing to make the substantial investment – (the PN63A650 retails for $5,999.99) may want to check out this 63-inch flat panel plasma from Samsung.

With its laundry list of connectivity options, you can easily hook up a range of devices simultaneously to the PN63A650 and seamlessly shift from one to another, as required.

For the tests I connected a DVD player, a Blu-RayPlayer, a Sling Box, a karaoke system, and a Yamaha home theatre system simultaneously using the various connection ports available on the TV’s rear and side panels.

Information professionals or production artists could use the PC IN port to hook up a laptop to the PN63A650 and use its ample real estate to work on tasks – such as picture or video editing – that might require multiple windows open simultaneously.

The rear panel features most of the ports – three HDMI inputs, a component input, which doubles up as the AV IN 1 jack, the PC In port, as well as Audio Out ports, which you can use to transmit audio to external devices.

There’s also an Ethernet port on the rear panel that enables the TV to access the Internet and pull up and display weather, news and stock quotes.

Right now, however, only weather information on U.S. towns and cities is available by entering a Zip Code in the “Set Location” field. Similar information on Canadian locations isn’t available.

Likewise, the newsfeed provided via the InfoLink function is from USA Today only. News from other countries isn’t provided. Typically the first line of the top news items are displayed, but you also have the option of reading the entire story – and many of the top stories are accompanied by pictures as well.

The side panel includes a fourth HDMI jack, a second AV input and an S-Video jack. It also has a Wiselink port to which you can connect a supported USB device – and play the mp3 files or view jpeg images stored on the device. 

The key words here are “supported” device. When I connected my HP external hard drive to the Wiselink port using a USB cord, it wasn’t recognized.

You can install software upgrades via the USB port, but can’t download updates directly from the Internet via the Ethernet connection – something you can do with other Samsung devices, such as its line of Blu-Ray players.

Picture and sound

Several variables determine the quality of the picture on this plasma display – the most important ones being the video source, the connection jack used, and the settings.

I got the best results when playing Blu-Ray discs at 1080p, hooking up a second-gen (BD-P1200) Blu-Ray player to one of the HDMI inputs on the TV.

One movie I watched this way was The Forbidden Kingdom starring Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Michael Angarono. The film was reportedly shot primarily with a Panavision Genesis camera that’s been described as “a film camera that shoots digital”, with some of the high-speed action sequences shot in Super 35mm celluloid film.

The PN63A650 beautifully displayed the vivid and varied colours and hues at these locations – including the subtle tints of the Plum Blossom Garden at Fangyan where Crystal Liu (the Golden Sparrow) meets Michael A. Angarano, who portrays Jason Tripitikas.

The movie was shot at several spectacular locations in China – the Gobi desert in Dunhuang, the Nine Bends River, the waterfall at Xianju, the greens of Wuyi Mountains and the Bamboo Camp at Anji– and all these awesome spots came to life on the PN63A650.

According to Samsung, the capabilities that produce these brilliant colours on the PN63A650 include:

  1. A 1000000:1 contrast ratio
  2.  Ultra FilterBright technology – that in addition to eliminating “noise” and glare works to enhance colour and contrast, and,
  3.  The DNIe (Digital Natural Image engine) Pro.

You have a couple of broad options for picture settings. You either go with the three picture presets – dubbed Entertainment Modes. These cannot be adjusted and are accessible via a separate (red) button on the menu.

But in addition there are three adjustable modes. This can be rather confusing, especially as you cannot access any of the adjustable modes if you’ve already selected a pre-set mode (you need to disable the latter first).

In addition you can adjust the picture tones (you can choose from two Cool, two Warm and a Normal setting) and use other advanced options, such as adjusting the flesh tones in the picture, and activating the white balance, selecting the black level to adjust the screen depth, and activating dynamic contrast.

The audio quality the PN63A650 was good, though not exceptional. This TV does include TruSurround XT – an SRS technology that according to Samsung “solves the problem of playing 5.1 multichannel content over two speakers.”

I didn’t notice any perceptible difference in sound quality though when using TruSurround XT apart from a slight volume boost. All told, it makes more sense to connect to a separate audio system, especially if you’re keen to get audio that matches up with the video quality offered by this display.

The PN63A650 retails for $5,999.00 at Bestbuy.ca

Bottom line

This PN63A650 has nearly every feature you would expect of high-end HDTV – and then some.

It does have certain limitations – such as interactive services that only provide U.S.-based content, a slightly mixed bag colour accuracy, and inability to do software upgrades through the LAN port

But information workers looking for a feature-rich, high-end hybrid (entertainment and productivity) display will find the PN63A650 an attractive option.

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