Samsung E450 series: A great entry-level plasma (pictures)
The Samsung E450 series is the best entry-level plasma you can buy, but it's still worth paying a little bit more.
When you think of a Samsung TV, you first think of an LED TV, right? The Korean company invented the somewhat misleading term, and has built its reputation on LED televisions over the last few years. But what may come as surprise is that the company's plasma TVs are actually its strongest products, and have been for several years.
The Samsung E450 is the best entry-level plasma you can buy. At around the $500 mark for 50-51 inches, and $400 for 42-43, it competes against the Panasonic X5 series and LG PA4500--and wins.
No entry-level telly has any features to speak of, but that also means you're not paying for fripperies you don't need like 3D or (arguably) Smart TV. Concerned with plasma's reputation as an energy hog? The E450 is actually quite efficient for a plasma -- a direct result of its lower resolution.
As much as I liked the E450's bargain proposition, if you can bring yourself to spend a couple hundred dollars more, the Panasonic TC-P50U50 is a much better TV. But if you can't stretch beyond this price range, or you want something in a 42-43-inch size, then the Samsung E450 makes an excellent choice.
While its competitors seemed to struggle with reproducing black and accurate color with any sense of fidelity, Samsung's E450 performs like a TV hundreds of dollars more expensive. The Samsung had the deepest black of all the plasma TVs at its price, and shadow detail was very good as well. The two-point system meant I could tweak the TV's black-and-gray response from the greenish tinge of the Panasonic X5 to something more natural. Colors were vibrant even if they weren't the most natural-looking. A lack of a color management system meant I couldn't tweak colors to get them to reference standard. The competition also showed some problems with solarization and false contouring but the Samsung was able to mostly avoid these artifacts. Of course, it is only 720p (1,024x768 pixels), so you may see some vertical interlacing on an all-white screen, but this wasn't an issue for most program material. There were some problems with 24p and 1080i sources, however.