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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.
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.Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 51-inch Samsung PN51E450, but this review also applies to the 43-inch size in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|Samsung PN43E450||43 inches|
|Samsung PN51E450 (reviewed)||51 inches|
This particular Samsung is quite a plain Shane -- it doesn't have a funky, cephalopodic stand or any brushed metal in its design. The bezel features a piano-black finish and it's a standard inch or so thick. The stand is also a rectangular slab of the same material, and at this low price I won't complain about the lack of swivel.
The remote control is a stubby version of the company's standard remote, and its backlight button is quite useful for darkened rooms -- where this TV is at its best.
|Display technology||Plasma||LED backlight||N/A|
|Smart TV||No||Internet connection||No|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||No|
|Refresh rate(s)||60Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||No|
If you're paying about $500 for a television, you can't expect much in the way of features, and in some ways this is a blessing; too many midlevel and high-end TVs suffer from "feature bloat." It's actually easier to talk about what the Samsung doesn't do than what it does. For instance, it doesn't have any connected features like Smart TV or apps, but it does offer movie, photo, and music playback via the USB port.
The E450 has only 720p resolution, which actually breaks down to 1,024x768 pixels. This pixel count is common for entry-level plasmas, and naturally the TV has an onboard scaler that processes any input up to 1080p to the screen's native resolution. The TV, like most plasmas these days, features a 600Hz subframe processor, which is the rate at which the TV sends the picture to the screen, and not actually related to 120Hz-type engines found on LCD TVs.
Picture settings: The TV comes with three presets: Vivid, Standard (Energy Star), and Movie. Beyond the standard Brightness and Color adjustments, the TV offers quite a bit of customization with a two-point grayscale control. Many entry-level sets do away with this kind of picture tweak.
Connectivity: The E450 has a minimal connection of inputs, but they should suffice for smaller setups. The TV has two HDMI ports, a USB, a combined composite/component input, and a digital optical output.
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.
|Samsung PN51E550||51-inch plasma|
|Panasonic TC-P50U50||50-inch plasma|
|Sony KDL-46EX640||46-inch, plasma|
|Panasonic TC-P50X5||50-inch plasma|
|LG 50PA6500||50-inch plasma|
|LG 42PA4500||42-inch plasma|
Black level: For this price, the Samsung E450 offers the best black levels you'll see. While we're not talking levels of darkness akin to a funhouse Ghost Train, the Samsung is able to serve up a solid-looking picture with excellent depth. In dark scenes like those with the "spiky pinecone" alien ship in "Star Trek" or the tricky brickwork in the jail cell scene at the start of "Batman Begins," the Samsung was able to dig up details that most of its competition at the price wasn't able to deliver. There is a small amount of crushing in the very, very dark stuff, but this isn't particularly noticeable if you aren't watching it side-by-side with another TV.
That said, the somewhat more expensive U50 was the superior TV here, with amazing shadow detail and almost pure blacks. The Samsung is good at producing deep blacks, but it just so happens that the Panasonic is great. Compared with the others, the E550 was largely similar (although the E450 did get slightly deeper in some scenes), while both LGs and the X5 lacked the E450's depth.
Color accuracy: This year's Samsung TVs have been generally excellent in terms of both color vibrancy and accuracy. While the E450 can't aspire to the lofty performance of its high-buck brothers, it does a very good job of creating saturated images with deep, effervescent color. When waved in the direction of Terence Malick's difficult "The Tree of Life," with its mix of abstract color and natural greens, the TV was able to hold its head above the two TVs from LG and the entry-level Panasonic X5. Skin tones were the only troubling thing, with a little too much rosiness in the cheeks, but I'd take this over the X5's gaunt, "little green men" approach to skin color any time.
Video processing: In light of excellent performance elsewhere it's disppointing to see this TV fall down in terms of picture processing. But what does this mean in the real world? If you watch a lot of Blu-ray movies the TVs inability to provide 1080p/24 cadence means that film buffs might notice judder, especially on pans, but on most material, there won't be much of an effect. Meanwhile, failing the 1080i deinterlacing test means that details featuring parallel lines (grilles, buildings, etc.) may become lost in moire effects or jaggies. Neither issue is liable to trip up casual viewers.
Bright lighting: The E450 has a glossy, grayish screen finish similar to that of the E550 and the Panasonics, which washes out quite a bit in a well-lit room. Blacks on the E450 look brown when viewed in a lit room, and if you have the misfortune to sit underneath a window, then you'll see that reflected quite clearly in the Samsung. The otherwise-inferior LG PA6500 is actually a better performer in the light, but if you're looking for an extraordinary lit-room performance in a plasma, you're unfortunately going to have to pay a lot more and get a TV like the Panasonic ST50 or Samsung PNE6500.
Power consumption: Plasmas traditionally can be relied upon to do two things: 1) use a lot of electricity and 2) heat up your living area. One of the most surprising things about the Samsung E450's performance was how little power the TV actually used.
While the more expensive, 1080p resolution E550 uses about 220W in calibrated mode -- standard for a plasma TV -- the E450 uses a bit more than that at about 120W, and all without sacrificing brightness. At such small power output, the TV puts out no more heat than a standard light bulb. It's still not nearly as effecient as an LED TV, but it's better than any of the 50-inch 1080p plasmas we've tested.
|Samsung PN51E450||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||99.224|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.09|
|Cost per year||$21.91|
|Score (considering size)||Average|
|GEEK BOX: Test||Result||Score|
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0111||Average|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.2862/0.298||Average|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3127/0.328||Good|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3122/0.3284||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||6219||Poor|
|After avg. color temp.||6558||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||4.4932||Poor|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||15.2233||Poor|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||1.3687||Good|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2081/0.3294||Average|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3311/0.1505||Average|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4235/0.5137||Average|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Fail||Poor|
|1080i De-interlacing (film)||Fail||Poor|
|Motion resolution (max)||700||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||700||Average|