Samsung PME450 review: Samsung PME450

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MSRP: $649.99

The Good The inexpensive Samsung E450 series plasma TV is a well-rounded performer with deep black levels for the money and decent shadow detail. Color saturation is one of the TV's high points. The E450 uses less power than most plasmas its size.

The Bad The image washes out quite a bit in normal room lighting. The picture processing suffers from poor compatibility with 24p and 1080i material, and this could be symptomatic of the TV's low 720p resolution. Color accuracy is fairly poor.

The Bottom Line The Samsung E450 series plasma may not be perfect, but you won't find another TV that performs this well for this low a price.

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7.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 5
  • Performance 7
  • Value 9

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.

The Samsung E450 is the best entry-level plasma you can buy. At around the $500 mark for 50-51 inches, and $400 for 42-43, it competes against the Panasonic X5 series and LG PA4500--and wins.

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.

The TV features a piano-black bezel. Sarah Tew/CNET

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 small but well-formed. Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Models in series (details)
Samsung PN43E450 43 inches
Samsung PN51E450 (reviewed) 51 inches
Key TV features
Display technology Plasma LED backlight N/A
Screen finish Glossy Remote Standard
Smart TV No Internet connection No
3D technology N/A 3D glasses included No
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA-compliant No USB Mucis/Photo/Video

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.

Grayscale adjustment is unusual at this price. Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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