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Christmas Gift Guide

Samsung PNC590 series overview

Corner detail

Stand detail

Side view

Back panel inputs

Side panel inputs

Remote control

Main picture settings menu

Tools menu

Allshare menu

Eco Solution menu

Screen burn protection menu

Picture Options menu

White balance menu

Picture quality

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.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Minimal styling cues keep the C590 classy.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Samsung kept the slick transparent stand stalk from its 2009 models.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
We didn't mind one bit that the panel is thicker, at 2.8 inches, than the ones found on step-up Samsung plasmas
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Back panel connectivity is ample; that Ethernet jack is for firmware and local file streaming only.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
A fourth HDMI is located on the side, along with a second USB input.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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 series, has one huge advantage. Instead of catering to slick looks with impossible-to-use, flush semi-keys, 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.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
We're still fans of Samsung's transparent, explanation-equipped menu system.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The Tools menu offers shortcuts to a few oft-used items.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The PNC590 lacks direct access to Inernet services like Netflix, but it can stream videos, music and photos from networked PCs (or USB sources).
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Numerous power saving options are on-hand, but the C590 is less-efficient overall than Panasonic's 2010 G series.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The C590 covers anti-burn-in well, but the screen saver didn't activate in our test.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Samsung's Cinema Smooth mode is designed for 1080p/24 sources, but it didn't work well in our tests.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Although its picture quality surpassed that of the like-priced LG PK750, the Samsung C590 series fell short of the Panasonic G20/25 series, as well as the Samsung plasmas we reviewed last year, in a couple of areas. Its black levels were only average, its color tended slightly but visibly toward blue, and its video processing failed the 1080p/24 test. Like all plasmas it trounces the uniformity and off-angle performance of just about every LCD, and while its screen reduces in-room reflections better than other Samsung plasmas we've tested, it doesn't maintain contrast as well under bright lights.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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