The Good The Samsung E5500 plasma TV offers a very attractive mix of features, performance, and design for the right price; black levels are very good for the money; Smart TV and a usable Web browser are unexpected bonuses; 51-inch version is relatively energy efficient.
The Bad Picture quality deteriorates quickly as room lighting brightens; relatively inaccurate color of red; poor sound quality.
The Bottom Line The Samsung F5500 plasma offers great features and very good picture quality, but its performance suffers significantly under the lights.
Like a gremlin, this TV hates bright lights
Plasma technology has been around for long enough that it's able to deliver a high-quality display for very little money, and there are two companies at the forefront: Samsung and Panasonic. This year, Panasonic's ST60 received our first five-star television review, while the less-expensive S60 earned our highest praise for value. The Samsung F5500, priced roughly in between those two, is the Korean giant's closest thing to a response.
The F5500 is cheaper than the ST60, but its picture isn't anywhere near as good. From color response to black levels to shadow detail, the Panasonic ST60 is superior in every way. That's not to say the Samsung F5500 is a poor television -- it's not, and it will tan the hide of most LED LCDs in its price range. If it wasn't for the strong competition from Panasonic, we'd be praising the F5500's deep blacks and relatively good color.
Where the Samsung F5500 disappoints is in bright room playback. I don't know of anyone who dutifully turns off all the lights and closes the curtains every time they watch TV, and the Samsung is worse than any TV we've recently tested with the lights on -- and that includes the also-heliophobic S60.
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