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Samsung PNC590 series (photos)

Samsung's mainstream PNC590 series has solid performance, but it won't wow sticklers looking for plasma TV Nirvana.

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David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

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1 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung PNC590 series overview

In 2009, Samsung made significant improvements to the picture quality of its higher-end plasma TVs, bringing videophile cred to bear against category king Panasonic. This year Samsung has announced an even larger lineup of plasmas, and one of the most intriguing from a potential bang-for-the-buck proposition is the PNC590 series. It lacks the features--namely Internet connectivity and services--of its like-priced competition from Panasonic and LG, but makes up for it with promising specs. All told, however, C590 can't quite match either the 2010 Panasonic G series or the 2009 Samsungs we reviewed, despite delivering decent picture quality overall. Videophiles seeking a 2010 Samsung plasma might be better served higher in the company's lineup, but less discerning fans of the brand will have few complaints with the C590 series.
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Corner detail

Minimal styling cues keep the C590 classy.
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Stand detail

Samsung kept the slick transparent stand stalk from its 2009 models.
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Side view

We didn't mind one bit that the panel is thicker, at 2.8 inches, than the ones found on step-up Samsung plasmas
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Back panel inputs

Back panel connectivity is ample; that Ethernet jack is for firmware and local file streaming only.
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Side panel inputs

A fourth HDMI is located on the side, along with a second USB input.
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Remote control

The remote included with the PNC590, while similar in size, shape and button count to the one offered on step-up sets like the UNC8000 series, has one huge advantage. Instead of catering to slick looks with impossible-to-use, flush semi-keys, the C590's clicker has standard, raised buttons. We don't like the new grid layout as much as the better-differentiated cursor keys on last year's remotes, but at least that fingerprint-magnet finish is gone.
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Main picture settings menu

We're still fans of Samsung's transparent, explanation-equipped menu system.
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Tools menu

The Tools menu offers shortcuts to a few oft-used items.
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Allshare menu

The PNC590 lacks direct access to Inernet services like Netflix, but it can stream videos, music and photos from networked PCs (or USB sources).
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Eco Solution menu

Numerous power saving options are on-hand, but the C590 is less-efficient overall than Panasonic's 2010 G series.
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Screen burn protection menu

The C590 covers anti-burn-in well, but the screen saver didn't activate in our test.
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Picture Options menu

Samsung's Cinema Smooth mode is designed for 1080p/24 sources, but it didn't work well in our tests.
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White balance menu

Samsung omits a few of the user-menu options found on step-up models, including the color management and 10-point white balance systems, but there's still plenty for tweakers to adjust.
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Picture quality

Although its picture quality surpassed that of the like-priced LG PK750, the Samsung C590 series fell short of the Panasonic G20/25 series, as well as the Samsung plasmas we reviewed last year, in a couple of areas. Its black levels were only average, its color tended slightly but visibly toward blue, and its video processing failed the 1080p/24 test. Like all plasmas it trounces the uniformity and off-angle performance of just about every LCD, and while its screen reduces in-room reflections better than other Samsung plasmas we've tested, it doesn't maintain contrast as well under bright lights.

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