Samsung PN58C6400 Plasma HDTV

Audio|Video|Misc
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POWER CONSUMPTION

The previously reviewed Samsung LCD and LED TVs had great power management and energy efficiency. As expected, the PN58C6400 is nowhere near as good; all plasma TVs require a lot more power than LCD TVs.

Power measurements shown in the table below are typical numbers at the AC plug with many different types of source material on the screen. The actual readings varied somewhat with the mix of dark and light on the screen at any given time. The brightest sequences caused the great power consumption. When turned off, the AC power dropped too low for it to register on the meter.

Samsung TV Measured Power
Mode
AC Power in Watts
PN58C6400
LN55C650
UN55B7100
Power Off
0
0
0
Standby (w/ no active inputs)
No standby mode; Screen turns off w/o signal after 10, 20, or 30 mins
No standby mode; TV turns off w/o signal after 15, 30, 45 or 60 mins
32
Screen Off
118
n/a
n/a
Power Save Off
movie: 170~190
TV: 300~330
110~135
110~132
Power Save Low
movie: 165~185
TV: 240~290
84~90
90~94
Power Save Med
movie: 160~175
TV: 230~250
66~82
78~84
Power Save High
movie: 160~170
TV: 200~215
56-62
65~68
Power Save Auto
n/a
96~120
62~132

First, the good news: This TV draws no measurable current from the wall when it is turned off. The quiescent current for the remote/standby circuit to stay active has to be below 1W for it not to register at all.

The bad news is that when you watch TV news, talk, cooking and game shows with typical settings, the PN58C6400 will pull 300W or more from the wall. It's not quite the 440W rating on the back of the TV, but it is 2.5~3 times more energy than Samsung's LCD TV of nearly the same size (55" instead of 58"). It appears that the TV draws less power when movies are played because they have more dark scenes than TV shows like news, cooking, talk or game shows, which are all usually very bright. The drop to <200W in movies is very dramatic. No such dramatic changes were seen between TV and movie programming in the LCD TVs reviewed before.

The slight reduction in brightness in Low Power Save mode is perfectly acceptable. The power saving here on TV shows can be upwards of a whopping 90W. This will add up quickly. The Med and High settings are too dim to consider seriously.

When used as a monitor with the HTPC, power consumption was about the same as with TV programming. Even a Windows 7 desktop with a black background caused AC power to exceed 320W (w/o power saving). At the very least, Power Save Low is a must.

OTHER FUNCTIONS

TV Monitor for HTPC — The PN58C6400 works well in this mode. Even a modest, cheap PC is far more flexible in its digital file management than any TV we know of, and issues such as video or audio codecs are solved easily with quickly downloaded updates. Virtually any movie file can be made playable. The 1080p movies via the reference HTPC provided stunning video and audio indistinguishable from the original Blu-ray disc, sometimes with minor adjustments in the TV picture settings to complement the video output of the PC. The video and audio connection via HDMI worked perfectly.

No Buzzing — This plasma TV has the least buzzing noise of any we've either reviewed or examined casually. It has hardly any audible buzzing or humming even from directly above the back of the TV. Given the apparent difficulty of suppressing all audible electronic noise, this is excellent.

CONCLUSIONS

The Samsung PN58C6400 is obviously a very capable 1080p HD large screen TV. This TV excels in many ways:

  • Convincing blacks as expected from a plasma screen
  • No change in colors, including blacks, at well over 30° off axis
  • Excellent picture quality
  • Decent sound
  • Good Internet/LAN access
  • No audible buzzing noise

The judder issue encountered originally was resolved by carefully picking the right settings in the HTPC video drivers, and in the TV adjustments. Later, it was completely resolved by upgrading the HTPC to a more powerful system with more advanced integrated graphics.

In a darkened with a good sound system — or even with the built in speakers — and the picture suitably toned down in brightness and contrast for the darker conditions, the viewing experience with a good movie is truly immersive, making you wonder why you'd ever bother with the hassles of going out to a movie theater if the Samsung PN58C6400 is available as a alternative in the comfort of your own home.

The single glaring black mark on the Samsung PN58C6400 is the horrific power consumption, over 300W in typical use, nearly three times that of the last 55" LCD Samsung TV reviewed, in any comparable mode. Our experience with plasma TVs is limited to just this model, and we know they generally take a lot more energy to run than their LCD counterparts. Whether this model's power consumption is exceptionally high in comparison to other similar size plasmas is not possible for us to say, but in this day and age, 240W~330W just to watch TV seems absurdly high. It is really difficult to give any unfettered endorsement of a TV with such high power demand.

The much reduced power draw in movie mode suggests to us that the role of the PN58C6400 should be limited to just that: Viewing movies in a dimmed room. Then, with judicious settings, the power draw does not often exceed 200W, and the magic of its video performance shines.

Videophiles claim that the performance strengths of plasma still make it the best HD TV option, that "at a given price point it is better in almost every metric (black levels, contrast, color accuracy and pixel response) compared to LCD". This could well be true, but it is very difficult to ignore the increased electricity consumption, epecially if the PN58C6400 will be often used to view TV programming, especially during brighter periods of the day, when most users will turn up the screen brightness/contrast, thus increasing power consumption even further.

Perhaps there are no plasmas with better energy efficiency; we cannot confirm until we test for ourselves. A search through Energy Star's TV listings shows that by their measure, 180~200W is typical for a plasma TV of this size, and the PN58C6400 falls right in line at 186W. ES rates similar size LCD TVs, in contrast, at an average of 100~110W. (Thanks to Doug Hanson for point this out.) Note that during our power monitoring of the PN58C6400, the only time <200W was seen was with Power Save Low, displaying movies. Most TV programs pushed the power up to 240~290W. That is a huge amount of power when you consider that the average PC and monitor rarely draws more than 100W during a peak these days, and turning on all the CFL lights in our 3-room 900 SF lab for photo-ready brightness barely takes 200W.

We suggest that a good performance, high efficiency LCD TV like the Samsung LN55C650 we reviewed in November is a better option if you seek a general purpose big-screen TV that will sometimes be used for movies. Your eyes will not notice any difference, your energy consumption will not jump, and you can rest assured that your entertainment hours are not making any serious contribution to energy wars. If on the other hand, you seek a big screen TV just for watching movies, the PN58C6400's high energy consumption may be justifiable given its excellent video performance.

SPCR forum readers suggest that our point of view is too harsh, of not only plasma but also the videophile, that there are ways to ameliorate the increased power consumption if a plasma TV calls to you. These and many other counterpoints can be found in the lively discussion about the review at the link below.

Our thanks to Samsung Canada for the review sample TV.

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Related Articles in SPCR
Samsung UN55B7100 55" LED HDTV
Samsung LN55C650 55" LCD 1080p TV

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Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.



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