If you're looking for a big-screen TV but don't have gigantic amounts of money to spend, then going the plasma route is often the sensible option. Samsung's PS60F5500 is an example of this, as despite its huge 60-inch screen size you can buy it online for the relatively modest price of £1,000.
That's still a whole lot of wonga, but it's at least £500 cheaper than you'd pay for a 60-inch LED model. It includes Samsung's excellent smart TV software as well as 3D support, but it lacks the anti-glare filter found on the company's pricier F8500 models.
The F5500 doesn't have the integrated camera that you find on Samsung's high-end models, so it lacks motion-control features. I've never found this particularly useful on those sets, so I don't think many people will be bothered that they're not included here. This model does support voice control, however, but as there's no mic integrated into the TV's chassis you have to speak commands into the set's touchpad remote.
The voice recognition software does understand natural speech, so you can ask it questions such as "what movies are on later?", as well as just issuing channel or volume up and down instructions. The recognition engine is still hit and miss though, so it's frustrating to use. I found that it would often detect the words that you had spoken correctly (it displays them on the screen), but then can’t figure out what you're actually trying to get the TV to do. You also need the remote in your hand to use it, so you're often better off relying on that rather than the voice controls.
User interface and TV guide
The F5550 has pretty much the same menu system found on the rest of Samsung's 2013 TVs. It may have changed little from last year, but it's still one of the best in the business. It also looks attractive thanks to its use of colourful graphics and cute icons. As the structure is easy to follow it's fairly easy to find the key settings that you need to tweak.
The TV doesn't have a full colour-management system, but it does have gamma controls and two-point white balance settings so you can still tweak the picture quite heavily if you need to. Unlike many Samsung's sets, the picture presets on this model were reasonably good.
This TV's menu system and smart TV system runs on a dual-core processor so they're a tiny bit slower than those on the quad-core, high-end models in Samsung's range. As the high-end models are lightning fast to use, however, I still wouldn’t describe the F5500's menus as sluggish. If you haven't used the likes of the F8500, you're lightly to find them speedier than most other TVs around at the moment.
The set's guide is also excellent. It's neatly laid out, which makes it quick to jump around between programmes or channels. There's a video window in the top left hand corner too, and the guide integrates with Samsung's smart TV platform so it can show suggestions for shows or movies you might want to watch later.
Design and connections
The F5500's styling is almost identical to the design that Samsung was using on some of last year's TVs, such as the PS51E8000. The bezel around the screen is a little bit on the chunky side, but I do like the way it overhangs the boundary of the screen to create a smoky, transparent edge that runs all the way around the outside of the TV. I'm less keen on the four pronged stand that looks like a crow's foot, especially as it has a very plasticky looking, dusty grey finish that isn’t a patch on the chrome finish found on last year's models.
This TV is also more limited on the connectivity front than Samsung's pricier sets. It has three HDMI ports rather than the four found on the likes of the F8500. Also, none of these ports support MHL, so it doesn’t charge MHL-equipped smart phones when they're connected to the TV via a micro-USB to HDMI cable. It does support Miracast though, so you can wireless mirror-compatible Android smart phones to the set.
Around the back there's a full-sized Scart socket, a set of component inputs (with a shared composite input) and an optical audio output. There's only a single tuner onboard for Freeview HD, so it lacks the F8500's Freesat HD feature. You can record TV shows to USB drives plugged into either of its two USB ports, but as there's only one tuner, you can't record one channel while watching another.
Smart TV system
Undoubtedly one of the best things about the F5500 is its smart TV system. It uses the same system found on Samsung's high-end TVs. The only real difference is that it runs on a dual-core rather than quad-core processor, so the transitions between the different menu screens aren’t as smooth. They're still faster and smoother than many competitors' smart TV systems, however.
Samsung has split its smart TV system into different themed screens. The first is 'On TV' which offers up suggestions on shows you might want to check out that are either currently on or coming up later. It learns your viewing habits as you go along, so its suggestions become smarter over time.
The next screen displays highlights from Samsung's own film and TV rental service. This used to work with the AceTrax service as well, but since that shut down, Samsung's own offering is what's available here so it's not always that useful.
Clicking right with the remote control takes you to the Photos, Videos and Music screen. This is essentially the TV's onboard media-player where you can play files either stored on USB drives or shared to the TV from a laptop or networked hard drive. It works with a decent range of file formats, including Xvid and MKV videos, but there's an annoying quirk in that the fast-forward and rewind controls don't work if you're streaming videos over a network. Instead they only work if you're playing them back from a USB drive.