The Samsung LND550's mix of features, style, and picture quality stands tall among the tough entry-level LCD TV crowd.
To judge from the LND630 we checked out earlier and the LND550 reviewed here, Samsung's low-end LCDs are pretty dang good. These non-LED-based models managed deeper black levels than like-priced competitors, and largely avoid the uniformity problems associated with those razor-thin LED-based sets--while costing hundreds less. The LND550 falls short of the color accuracy of its step-up brother, and we still prefer the entry-level Sony BX420's picture by a nose, but the LND550's superior styling, media file support, and input bay make it a compelling alternative in the budget TV space.
Samsung lets its signature design touch, a transparent edge around the glossy black bezel, trickle down from more expensive models to the LND550. That, along with touch-sensitive controls, a swivel stand, and a bezel that's the same width on all four sides, helps propel this TV to the front ranks of entry-level LCD design.
...while the back adds a fourth HDMI, an Ethernet jack for DLNA media file streaming, and analog video inputs. The composite and component ports share jacks, however, so you'll have to choose one or the other.
Unlike the step-up D630, the D550 has Samsung's older remote that feels dated in comparison. It's missing illumination and feels too long and cluttered, but we did appreciate the well-differentiated buttons.
Samsung's menu system is somewhat schizophrenic on this TV--the main menu page uses the old transparent design from the last two years, while the submenus that appear afterward use the 2011 opaque, rounded-edge design. We like both designs better than the alternatives from Sony, LG and Vizio, for what it's worth.
Unlike other entry-level TVs the LND550 does support streaming of media files from a home networked computer or other device via DLNA, as well as USB. Its Ethernet port can also download firmware updates if necessary.
The picture quality of the LND550 wasn't up to the high standards of Samsung's LND630 series, but it was still quite good for an entry-level TV. Black levels, shadow detail, and uniformity are strengths, while color accuracy and video processing are weak points compared with the field. All told we still like the Sony BX420 better by a nose, but they both received the same score of 6 in this category.