The PS51E490 is a very tempting option, for as well as offering a massive 51-inch screen size, you can buy it online for as little as £430. That seems insanely cheap for a big screen telly from a big name brand. The TV even supports 3D and Samsung includes two pairs of active specs in the box.
As you'd expect though, there are some compromises. This telly only has two HDMI inputs, and perhaps more importantly, it only has a resolution of 1,024x768 pixels rather than the 1,920x1,080 pixels you get on Full HD screens. Still, it may be a good budget option for those who mainly watch standard-definition broadcasts or DVDs.
User interface and EPG
This model uses a much simpler menu system than the one found on Samsung's current mid- and high-end TVs. The main difference is that it lacks the centralised homescreen that takes centre stage on those models. Instead all the picture and sound controls are tucked away in a more straightforward menu that's closer to what was found on the company's TVs from a couple of years ago.
Nevertheless, the menus still look quite attractive, as Samsung has kept the same icons and graphics used on its more expensive models. It's arguably easier to use too, as there are fewer options to sift through when you're trying to get to the picture and audio controls.
Thankfully, the EPG is pretty much identical to what we've seen on other models in the current range. It uses a fairly standard bricks in the wall type layout, with large and easy to read text. There's also a handy video thumbnail window in the top left hand corner of the screen, so you can browse through the guide without losing track of the current show you're tuned into. The only slight bugbear is that when you hit the info button, it doesn’t show the full summary information for a show. Instead you have to hit info and then the red button to view the summary in its entirety.
Design and connections
While no one if going to describe the E490's styling as exciting, it's far from ugly either. The bezel around the screen may be thicker than what you see on many of today's LED models, but it's not overly chubby by plasma standards. It's made from glossy black plastic, so it's rather dull looking, but on the whole the chassis feels quite solid thanks to the metal cover used on the rear of the display.
The whole TV sits on a rectangular pedestal stand with a transparent stem that looks a bit classier than the rest of the model.
This TV's lineup of connections is quite limited though. The main problem is that there are only two HDMI ports, whereas most of today's mid-range models now come with four of these ports. There is a component input as well, but increasingly HD kit doesn’t include component outputs. As the green component phono plug doubles up as the composite input, the only other real video input is the full sized Scart socket.
The E490 only has a single USB port too and although there's an Ethernet socket for use with the TV's digital media streaming feature, there's no Wi-Fi on board. To be fair, though, we wouldn't really expect the latter on a TV in this price bracket. You do get a Freeview HD tuner, though, which is a plus on a budget model like this.
Sadly this set doesn't have any online features, despite there being a SmartHub button on the remote. Instead pressing this button calls up a menu that lets you access the TV's AllShare feature. This is essentially a digital media player that lets you play back digital movies, photos and music either from USB drives and keys plugged into the set's USB port, or by streaming them across a network from DLNA devices like PCs and network hard drives.
The TV will play back a pretty broad range of files, including HD MKV video files, from USB drives, but it doesn't support MKV files when it's streaming content from a network. This is an issue that seems to affect all of the models in Samsung's current lineup of TVs, so it's unlikely to be fixed in the future.
One neat feature of the AllShare system is that you don’t always have to dive into the menu to access it. Instead you can connect to individual media sources, such as USB keys or DLNA servers, by choosing them according to name from the input selection list.