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.
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.
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.