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The End of an Era For Plasma TV as Samsung Ceases Production This Year

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Samsung F8500

For those of us who love the rich blacks, sumptuous contrasts, smooth frame rates, and excellent viewing angles of plasma TVs, 2013 was something of a golden age. Panasonic’s ZT60 series and Samsung’s F8500 were released to the oohs and ahhs of pretty much every tech journalist who saw them. Most of us described them as the two best TVs that reasonable money could buy (ignoring incredibly expensive OLED displays, which were just arriving to market). And the buying public responded by pretty much ignoring them. So at the height of plasma’s superiority in terms of performance, Panasonic announced its exit from the plasma market in March of this year.

And now, Geoffrey Morrison of Forbes is reporting that Samsung is following suit, with plans to cease plasma TV production on November 30. The reason is simple: demand for plasma displays simply isn’t high enough to make production worth it anymore. There are other considerations, of course. 4K Ultra HD is undoubtedly the future of display technology, and making a UHD plasma is technically impractical (if not impossible) at any sort of reasonable size and in any sort of attractive form factor, much less at a reasonable price.

For now, LG is the only major manufacturer of plasma TVs that hasn’t announced its exit from that market, and all signs point to their giving up at some point, too.

So if you have a light-controlled media room, don’t sit close enough to enjoy the extra resolution of Ultra HD, and want the best looking TV you can buy for now, it may be time to find your local Samsung dealer and snatch up an F8500 before they’re all gone. True, it’s last year’s model, but it will go to its grave later this year still carrying the distinction of being “the last great plasma TV,” in the words of CNET.

It’s also compatible with this year’s Samsung SEK-2000 Evolution Kit, which will upgrade it to 2014 specs in terms of Smart TV features and processing power. For more information about the Evolution Kit, what it is, what it does, and how it works, you can read my review of last year’s version, the SEK-1000.

Where does that leave us going forward, though? Well, for one thing, LED TVs are getting better every year. I’m currently reviewing Samsung’s HU8550 Ultra HD display, and should have my thoughts collected and written down in the next week or so. Spoiler alert: it’s probably the first LED TV that I could happily live with here in my cave-dark media room, and unlike last year’s flagship UHD TV, it rocks with video games. But off-axis viewing still suffers a bit, and screen uniformity—while awesome for an LED TV—isn’t nearly as good as a plasma. Maybe a curved display would fix some of those issues? We’ll see. My thoughts on the curve have definitely evolved after seeing them in action, and I’ll probably get to play around with Samsung’s flagship HU9000 here at home sometime in the near future.

Perhaps new OLED displays will come out next year with a lower price point? That would certainly ameliorate the pain I’m feeling right now over the death of plasma, but I’m not holding my breath (and neither is Geoff). But hey, we still have one great plasma on the market, at least for the next five months. So instead of dreading the bad to come, let’s enjoy the good while it lasts.