Samsung PN50B550 Plasma TV Review


Model: Samsung PN50B550
Description: Full HD 1080p 50" Plasma TV
Date: Fall 2009

Samsung PN50B550 Review
A rare shot from The Fifth Element showing off excellent contrast from the incoming light and yet with great color and flesh tones in the foreground.

Test and Optimum Viewing Distance: 13 feet

Calibration Notes: The Samsung PN50B550 has very complete calibration options for this price range with white balance controls. The TV calibrated well with a low error rate after adjusting white balance. Tint required unusual adjustments to dial the set in perfectly to D6500. Follow the following picture settings to calibrate:

White Balance Settings
Red-Offset 22 Red-Gain 33
Green-Offset 25 Green-Gain 25
Blue-Offset 12 Blue-Gain 33
Picture Settings
Picture Mode Movie Black Tone: Off
Color Temp Warm 2 Dynamic Contrast: Off
Brightness 56 Gamma: 0
Contrast 90 Color Space: Auto
Color 53 Flesh Tone: Off
Tint G35/R65 Edge Enhancement: Off
Sharpness 10 Digital NR: Auto
Cell Light 8 HDMI Black Level: Low
    Film Mode: Auto

Up conversion from 480i: This signal test will let you know how the TV will perform with your digital cable or satellite signal as well as regular ole non blue ray DVDs. Up conversion processing was slightly fuzzy with a slight grain apparent from a 480i source signal. The Samsung PN50B550 has a tendency to make up for any deficiency in definition with accentuated color information. That said, color rendition is still pleasing and realistic. One slight drawback would be watching dark content in a brightly lit room. The Samsung B550 presents a very true, well calibrated but darker image and this combination darker content and brighter room light may cause some eyestrain. Solve the problem temporarily by turning the contrast up to 100%.

Samsung PN50B550 Review
Above a nice detailed 480i resolution shot from Wedding Crashers showing good contrast from a 480i signal.

1080p Picture Quality: In a darker, controlled light room environment this TV will absolutely stun you with its quality image. It calibrates incredibly well, colors are healthily saturated and black levels/contrast make it shine with HD content. It was awesome with all HD content tested. And of course there is no motion lag and perfect viewing angles with plasma TVs so no issues there to even mention.

Samsung PN50B550 Review
Through the excellent blacks and dark shadow detail in this scene from The Road Warrior, note the detailed texture in the leather of the car seat and Mel Gibson's jacket while continuing to bring forth an accurate flesh tone.

Black Level/Contrast: Black registered a very impressive .06 average luminance in our contrast ratio test. It's impressive and inky and you notice it with almost all content. The Pioneer KURO blacks were world renowned, but this is close. Post calibration ANSI checkerboard contrast measured one of the best recent results at a heroic 1383:1.

Samsung PN50B550 Review
Even with a 480i input signal black levels were very intense as in this shot from Wedding Crashers.

Dark Shadow Detail: Though blacks are intense, dark shadow detail was not impaired by oversaturation – an excellent result with all content.

Color Rendition/Color Accuracy: Flesh tones are natural and err on the saturated side as does all color information. Colors are vibrant and lively.

Samsung PN50B550 Review
How's this for intense blacks accentuating rich color? – a scene from Blu Ray version of The Fifth Element.

Viewing Angle/Off Axis Viewing: Perfect result here.

Motion Lag: No motion lag in plasma.

False Contouring/ Mapping: Through viewing many dark gray scenes there was no mapping or false contouring present – an impressive result for an occasional plasma problem.

Video Aspect Ratio Sizing: The P. Size button on the remote controls aspect ratio options. The B550 did a fine job of algorithmically managing the picture size through options, 16:9, Wide Fit, 4:3, Screen fit.

Inputs: 4 HDMI, 2 Component, 1 PC input.

Aesthetic Considerations: A slight drawback to the B550 might be its somewhat 2008 looks. The bezel is too wide for my taste at 2.5 inches on the sides and bottom and oddly out of balance 2.25" on the top. Other drawbacks are a good bit of glare from both the wide frame and the overlay screen. This screen though is part of the reason for those excellent blacks so give it a pass. A couple of positives are the slight 3" depth of the TV which makes it great for wall mounting. And if you choose to place it on a table instead, you'll be pleased with the side to side swivel table top stand.

Samsung PN50B550 Review

Remote Control/Menu Funtionality: The remote is very nice, back lit with easy to use large buttons. The B550 series remote thankfully does not have the cumbersome scroll wheel as some other Samsung models.

Samsung PN50B550 Review
The menu system presents itself as an overlay with a convenient tutorial feature appearing in the bottom of the screen. The menu is thorough enough if not a bit tedious to maneuver around.

Audio Output: Audio output was impressive from the 10W X 10W speakers. There was plenty of volume to fill a large room at the 50% level. Use the Clear Voice feature as much as possible for added voice definition. We're big fans of this while the SRS TruSurround doesnt seem to accomplish much.

Features: P. Mode button controls preset picture modes movie, standard, vivid. We calibrated the TV from the movie setting. Clear Voice is a favorite feature of the B550 series as is the swivel table top stand. Each input has discrete picture settings which is always a plus, but remember to use our calibration settings for each input you intend to use.

Energy: The TV received the energy star rating. The power consumption rating is 440 watts.

Price Considerations: At around $1200 this is a hot TV for the price. Compare it with almost anything and the picture quality vs. price is almost unbeatable. The LG 50PS60 might play in the same quality camp at a similar price but I don't think there is a Panasonic that can get close. While not a fan of the aesthetics, the picture and features are fantastic. White balance controls are also an attractive feature for a TV of this price category.

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Rating scale from 70 (denoting poorest quality) to 100 (signifying the very best quality). A rating in the 60s for any particular category of a product review indicates a serious defect which causes the product not to operate properly. Picture quality is double-weighted in the Overall Rating Score calculation.


Review Equipment Used: Sony Blu Ray BDP-S1 High Definition DVD player, Sony DVP-S50 DVD player, Comcast Digital Cable, Sencore Color Pro 5000, Sencore Auto Cal Pro, Sencore signal generator.

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