Samsung's HP-P4261 is one of the least-expensive full-featured, high-resolution plasma panels on the market. Sure it costs more than so-called EDTV models of the same size, but it also delivers more detail with high-def and computer material. But while the HP-P4261 is beautifully designed and will look dashing on your wall, its performance leaves something to be desired compared to other plasma displays available today. That said, its relatively low price and high style could increase its appeal for less critical viewers.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.
Measuring 47 by 41 by 17 inches (WHD) when set atop the included stand, this 3.25-inch-deep panel can also hang on the wall with an optional bracket (model WMN4240, $199 list). Unlike many plasmas, the HP-P4261 has a jack pack that faces straight back instead of down, so wall mounting may be more of a hassle than usual.
The remote has a rather basic design with no backlighting. Its simple button layout lets you control other pieces of A/V gear. The internal menu system is very similar to those on all late-model Samsung digital TVs; we found it intuitive to navigate.With a native resolution of 1,024x768, the Samsung HP-P4261 outdoes step-down EDTV models in the amount of detail it can deliver with high-def sources (more info). Its resolution matches that of most other 42-inch plasmas currently on the market, with the exception of 1,024x1,024 ALIS panels such as the . The Samsung can display TV, DVD, HDTV, and computer sources. Unlike a few high-def plasmas, it lacks a built-in digital tuner and a CableCard slot. That's not a huge deal unless you really don't want to connect an external tuner box.
All in all, the feature package on this panel is decent. Dual-tuner PIP (picture-in-picture) with split screen is onboard here, although the second window can't display component, DVI, or VGA sources. There are three picture presets plus an input-independent custom mode to modify the image. Selectable color temperatures include Cool 1, Cool 2, Normal, Warm 1, and Warm 2. The Warm 2 setting on our review sample measured the closest to the standard. The versatile aspect-ratio control allows three choices with high-def and 480p sources (four with 480i), including a zoom option with adjustable picture position and vertical stretch.
A new feature from Samsung called MCC (My Control Color) gives you the ability to change skin tones, blues, and greens using an internally generated animated picture. This turned out to be a pure gimmick that does not improve picture performance.
On the audio side, there are five sonic presets: Standard, Music, Movie, Speech, and Custom. Custom allows you to equalize the audio to some extent. The Auto Volume control tames aural peaks and valleys so that you don't get blown off the couch during commercial breaks.