Samsung PN50C550 Review

Model: Samsung PN50C550
Description: Full HD 1080p 50" Plasma TV
Reviewer: Jack Burden
Date: Summer 2010

Samsung PN50C550 Review

Samsung is remaining consistent with it's plasma offerings and bringing back the 550 offering which was a big seller last year. We liked it last year and were looking forward to reviewing it again. Some of the features and qualitative measurements were different this year, but we still enjoyed the TV a lot. These lower end Samsung plasma offerings always represent such good value. The HD picture quality was slightly soft but excellent while were weren't all that impressed with standard def programming. There are a few newly added feature sets that we tested as well.

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. There is a blue push from the Standard setting. Changing picture mode to the Movie setting gets the TV well under way to D6500K, though there were a significant number of white balance control adjustments. Follow the picture settings below 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

Samsung PN50C550 Review
This shot of Jim Carrey from the 480i DVD of The Truman Show shows a softer, slightly grainy, picture presentation with standard definition images.

Up conversion from 480i standard definition programming: Edges were fuzzy with grain from a standard definition source signal. Samsung may not be using the best internal processing chip sets for lower end signals in this plasma. This was also evident in HQV 480i processor testing. Edges are very soft, slightly blurred with standard definition programming. Black levels remained good, but dark shadow detail wasn't pronounced. With some darker content we felt it necessary to turn the cell light all the way to maximum setting of 20 rather than the calibrated 15 just to get a little more light introduction. Contrast was tuned to 90. That said, color rendition is realistic and pleasing. This TV can suffer from side to side panning judder effects, which we also verified during testing.

Samsung PN50C550 Review
This shot details good picture depth from the HD Blu Ray version of Wyatt Erp.

1080p HD Picture Quality: HD picture quality was markedly better on the PN50C550 plasma. Colors were more vibrant and the biggest improvement was in the picture detail and much crisper edges. We still agreed though, that fuzzy edges and jaggies were still present in some HD scenes and are the weakest trait of this plasma. Picture depth was very good with HD content from the Ultra Clear panel.

Black Level/Contrast: Black levels appeared very saturated with an HD signal input and moderate with a standard definition signal input. They didnt seem as inky as we remember them from last years model, though they were plenty sufficient.

Samsung PN50C550 Review
Shot from HD Blu Ray version of Wyatt Erp. Notice the items on the back shelves showing good dark shadow detail.

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 (pink) side as does all color information. There seemed to be a red push with some content after calibration.

Samsung PN50C550 Review
This shot from the same movie shows a bright colorful and detailed image from HD sources.

Viewing Angle/Off Axis Viewing: Viewing angles were perfect with no degradation of contrast at even 35 degrees. The plasma panel adds a lot of depth to HD images. However, there is glare from the Ultra Clear Panel technology.

Motion Lag: While there is no motion lag, we did note judder during side to side panning.

Inputs:4 HDMI, 2 Component, 1 PC input, LAN, 2 USB

The LAN connection may be used for networking to various devices, however the C550 lacks the Internet options feature on many other Samsung models such as Netflix, YouTube, and Yahoo! Widgets.

The Anynet+ feature is included. This feature allows connection and communication to other Samsung devices that support this feature. It's a yada yada older feature to try to purchase your allegiance to Samsung. It may be useful in a home theater situation or for a DVD recorder.

Aesthetic Considerations: We were happy to see a nice design update in the 2010 C550 plasma. The framing bezel is black and attractive at about 2 inches in width. There is a plexiglass overlay which goes beyond the frame on all sides to add a very classy touch. This model does not have Touch of Color or any contouring. It's a big rectangle but looks good, with a clear glass neck. The included table stand is very heavy and also has the clear glass overlay on top of the glass base. The unit is 3.2" in depth.

Samsung PN50C550 Review

Samsung PN50C550 Review

Remote Control/Menu Funtionality: The remote control is logically laid out and easy to use with a matte black finish. It's also conveniently backlit. The menu is the same as with all Samsung 2010 models. It's also well laid out. However, we do find it cumbersome to use at times.

Samsung PN50C550 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: There is plenty of volume with most sources, however we weren't impressed by quality especially voice/dialog. There is a feature option in the audio section to enhance surround sound and/or dialog. While this feature did seem to help some, voice was overwhelmed by background in much of the content viewed. Sound mode options include Standard, Music, Movie, Clear Voice, and Amplify. The Clear Voice option does help voice/dialog reception from the 10W X 10W speakers.

The 50C550 costs around $999 at many reputable online dealers. This is obviously a value play, omitting many of the newest features. It offers a good picture quality with HD content though a bit soft and grainy with standard definition programming. Competition comes from the Panasonic TC-P50S2, the Panasonic TC-P50U2, and the LG 50PK550.

Rating scale from 70 (denoting poorest quality) to 100 (signifying the very best quality). 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 (480i), Digital Broadcast Television, Sencore Color Pro 5000, Sencore Auto Cal Pro TWC6500, Sencore signal generator.

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