Samsung PNC590 review: Samsung PNC590

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The Good Decent black-level performance and shadow detail; very good color saturation; effective antireflective screen; understated, handsome styling.

The Bad Less accurate color with bluer grayscale; lacks streaming and Internet apps of competing models; uses more power than LCDs and Panasonic's 2010 plasmas.

The Bottom Line Samsung's mainstream PNC590 series offers solid performance but won't wow sticklers looking for plasma nirvana.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

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.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch Samsung PN50C50, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Editors' note, September 29, 2010: This review has been updated to reflect testing of a firmware update that enables correct 1080p/24 processing.

Models in series (details)
Samsung PN50C590 (reviewed) 50 inches
Samsung PN58C590 58 inches
Samsung PN63C590 63 inches


Minimal styling cues keep the C590 classy.

Design highlights
Panel depth 2.8 inches Bezel width 2 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes
Other: Transparent edge and stand stalk

The Samsung PNC590 series is formally dressed in glossy black with just a couple of classy, subtle styling cues--namely the transparent plastic edging of the frame and composing the stand stalk--to set it apart from the pack. The black-backed glass of the stand base matches perfectly, and we didn't mind one bit that the panel is thicker than the ones found on step-up Samsung plasmas. This is one handsome TV that should blend well into any room.

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

Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 8.4 x 2 inches Remote screen N/A
Total keys 49 Backlit keys 44
Other IR devices controlled No RF control of TV No
Shortcut menu Yes On-screen explanations Yes

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, has one huge advantage. Instead of catering to slick looks with impossible-to-use, flush semikeys, 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.

Samsung didn't change its basic TV control menus from last year, and that's a good thing. The transparent, blue-highlighted graphics are easy to read and navigate, and response is snappier than last year. Text explanations are present for just about every function.

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


Key TV features
Display technology plasma LED backlight N/A
3D compatible No 3D glasses included N/A
Screen finish Glass Refresh rate(s) 60Hz, 96Hz
Dejudder (smooth) processing No 1080p/24 compatible Yes
Internet connection No Wireless HDMI/AV connection No
Other: DLNA and USB streaming of photos, video and music

The midrange C590 series lacks the Samsung Apps and streaming media options found on step-up models. It does have an Ethernet port on the back, however, and when connected to your home network it can stream photos, music and video from a networked PC and download firmware updates. The USB ports also allow such streaming. Check out the user manual, page 34 for details.

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

Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 3 Independent memories per input Yes
Dejudder presets 0 Fine dejudder control N/A
Aspect ratio modes -- HD 4 Aspect ratio modes -- SD 4
Color temperature presets 4 Fine color temperature control 2 points
Gamma presets 7 Color management system No

The picture-affecting control selection is on par with the C590's non-LG competitors. 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.

The standard two-point white balance menu should be familiar.

Other features
Power saver mode Yes Ambient light sensor Yes
Picture-in-picture Yes Onscreen user manual No
Other: Basic on-screen HD connection guide; on-screen troubleshooting; sound-only option; three modes to prevent/remove burn-in

Not much goes missing here. If you're worried about burn-in (we aren't), Samsung includes a pixel orbiter that slowly moved the image around the screen, as well as a scrolling bar to erase signs of image retention should it occur. Unfortunately the screen saver, labeled "auto protection," didn't seem to work at all when we left an image paused for extended periods, so you shouldn't depend on it.

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