Go big or go home, as our American cousins say. Or, if you want to go big at home then grab a hold of Samsung's massive PS60E6500. This is a TV likely to grab plenty of people's attention, as despite its humungous 60-inch screen, it's still relatively affordable at £1,590.
It's not as though Samsung has dropped all frills in an effort to lower the price either -- this TV still offers smart TV features and 3D support. Is the PS60E6500 really the big-screened bargain it seems?
User interface and EPG
The PS60E6500 is essentially a more affordable version of Samsung's high-end ES7000 and ES8000 plasmas. It lacks the built-in camera and microphone found on those sets, so it doesn't support voice or motion control. Considering that I found those features to be quite gimmicky when I had the ES7000 in for review, I don't think most people will miss them particularly.
The TV also lacks the dual-core processor found in those models, although again I don't think most people will miss this, as it's not as though the E6500's menus are sluggish to navigate.
The good news is that this model has pretty much the same menu system as Samsung's high-end tellies. It's built around a homescreen, from which you can quickly jump to all of the TV's main features. It's rather like the homescreen on a smart phone in this regard, with different functions represented by various colourful icons.
From the homescreen you can access the TV's programming guide, smart TV apps and even select which AV input you want to use. It looks very inviting and is reasonably intuitive to use. If you haven't used a Samsung TV before it may take you a little while to get your head around it, as it essentially just presents all the set's features to you across two screens of icons.
This model's programming guide is very impressive too. It's got pretty much everything you'd want from a guide, including a video window at the top so you can carry on watching a programme while checking the EPG to see what's on later in the evening. The programming information is simply laid out across a landscape grid and the text is crisp and easy to read from a distance.
The only slight annoyance is that when using the Now and Next mini guide, you have to press Info and then the red button to see the whole of the summary for the show you're currently tuned to. On most other sets you can view this information with a single press of a button.
Design and connections
If you're used to peering at slimline LED TVs with barely-there bezels, the E6500 is going to look dated. The bezel is rather thick, measuring around an inch wide, and the chassis is deep too. All plasmas tend to have thicker bezels than today's high-end LEDs screens however, and given the sheer size of the TV, the deeper chassis isn't that much of a surprise.
The set is far from an ugly -- the greyish/silver colour scheme and the transparent edge that runs around the edge of the bezel giving it a touch a class.
Frustratingly, like all the mid- and high-end models in Samsung's current range, the PS60E6500 only has three HDMI ports. In contrast, most other manufacturers now put four ports on their large-screen TVs. It stinks of penny-pinching on Samsung's part.
Two of the HDMI ports are side-mounted on the left-hand edge, while the third sticks out the back. The TV has both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners on board, so you'll find both aerial and satellite inputs on the rear panel too. It's also home to a set of component connectors, a full-sized Scart socket and a digital optical output for feeding audio from the built-in tuners to an external source, such as a surround-sound amp.
Naturally, there's Ethernet on board for hooking the TV up to your home network, but as there's Wi-Fi built in you don't have to use a cabled connection unless you want to. Samsung has also added two USB ports to the side panel for digital media playback.
Samsung's smart TV system is arguably the best of all those offered by telly manufacturers at the moment. Not only is it easy to use, but it supports the broadest range of catch-up TV and movie on-demand services.
Along with BBC iPlayer there are also apps for ITV Player and Demand 5. It lacks support for 4oD, but this isn't offered on any other manufacturer's smart TV platform at the moment either.
You do get apps for both Netflix and Lovefilm, and there's good support for movie on-demand services, with Blinkbox, Knowhow Movies and Curzon On Demand apps. Plenty of other services are lurking in the Samsung app store, such as the useful BBC News and BBC Sport apps.
You can access the TV's AllShare digital media player either via the homescreen or by selecting a DLNA server from the list of AV inputs. AllShare works with a pretty wide range of formats, including JPEG picture files and DviX, Xvid and MKV files.
Annoyingly, as with Samsung's other recent TVs, it will play MKV files on USB drives, but won't stream them across a network. Other video formats like Xvid and MP4 work fine when streamed, so it only seems to be MKV files it has a problem with.
Playback quality is very good for video files and the controls are reasonably responsive -- something that you can't say about all of the media players on today's TVs. Navigating through folders is quite slow, however, and it can't display poster art for TV shows and movies in the same way the best media streamers can.
The PS60E6500's heft and bulk certainly seem to help when it comes to its audio, as the sound from this TV is as good as I've heard from any flat-screen TV. It creates a wider than usual sound stage, probably just because the speakers are positioned further away from each other than on smaller models, but it's also got real punch in the treble and mid-range departments.
There isn't a massive amount of bass on tap, but there's more than you'd usually eke out of most flat-screen tellies. It helps to add some extra oomph and depth to the sound, which you'll appreciate when watching movies or listening to music channels.
2D Picture quality
The PS60E6500 may be one of the cheaper 60-inch screens around, but it's certainly no slouch when it comes to picture quality. Its black levels aren't quite as deep as those of Panasonic's current range of plasmas, but they're still very impressive. It's also able to pull plenty of shadow detail out of dingy backgrounds in more noirish scenes, which helps to give movies on Blu-ray a really rich, nuanced look.
It's much better in this regard than many of the more expensive LED screens I've seen, mainly because you don't get the backlighting blotchiness that LED screens suffer from to some degree.
Its colours are warm and rich too, and what they lack in the searing intensity, they make up for in their more natural appearance, especially when it comes to trickier tasks such as reproducing skin tones.
Usually with larger displays, you lose some of the sharpness associated with smaller screens, but that's not really the case here as 1080p sources look beautifully crisp with cleanly defined edges. What's more, the PS60E6500 also does a fine job of upscaling standard-definition sources to fill its massive screen size. Weirdly its upscaling just seems cleaner and more sympathetic than the upscaling Samsung uses in most of its LCD and LED screens.
This model also does a good job of handling motion, retaining plenty of sharpness during camera pans and the like. Some judder does creep in here and there when watching movies, but it's not excessive and certainly doesn't spoil the overall viewing experience.
3D Picture quality
When it comes to 3D, bigger is usually better, and that proves to be the case with the PS60E6500. It comes with two pairs of Samsung's active 3D specs. They're a little on the flimsy side, but at least they're pretty light and relatively comfortable to wear.
Its 3D pictures look impressively sharp and the sheer size of them really helps you engage with the 3D effect, adding to the overall sense of depth. 3D pictures aren't quite as free from crosstalk as those of Panasonic's ST50 and GT50 models, but only rarely does it become at all obvious, especially if you avoid the very high brightness settings such as the Dynamic mode.
You do notice a little judder every now and again in 3D, but again, it doesn't spoil the 3D effect and overall this screen provides a hugely enjoyable 3D experience.
This is a very strong TV from Samsung, especially when you consider that you're getting top-notch smart TV features, strong 2D and 3D performance and a humongous screen for a relatively affordable price.
Its closest competitor is probably Panasonic's TX-P65ST50B (I reviewed the more expensive VT50B here), but that set costs around £500 more, which shows just what good value for money this model represents.