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Samsung PN51E530A3F Plasma TV Review

51 in.

This is the perfect example of a relatively cheap, entry-level plasma that does nothing more than it needs to.

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Introduction

At an MSRP of $999, the Samsung PN51E530 is the perfect example of a relatively cheap, entry-level plasma that does nothing more than it needs to. This is the kind of TV that would retail for $500 or less if it didn’t have a big name like Samsung gracing its bezel, but with that name recognition comes an expectation of strong performance.

The E530 did well during our gamut of tests, showing good color production, a decent contrast ratio, and a respectable viewing angle—the most important aspects of a no-frills plasma. Unfortunately, it underperformed during our motion tests.

Despite its mild flaws, the E530 looks to be an above-average, fairly priced budget television.

Design

A simple and attractive design that needs no explanation.

Other than the Jog Stick on the bottom of the bezel, there’s nothing about this TV’s design that is worth mentioning. It’s not much changed from last year’s D530 and has the same trappings as a large majority of modern HDTVs.

The available ports are few, though this is standard for TVs in this price range. You’ve got one dedicated USB input for photo, music, and movie playback, two HDMI inputs, a cable input, an EX-LINK port for service updates, a component AV input, and an analog audio output for wiring to a surround system or any external speakers.

Being a plasma, it’s not very thin. When fully assembled, the E530 weighs about 50 lbs, so it’s not the kind of TV you’re going to be hefting around very often. We like the placement of the jog stick, but think it unfortunate that its bottom-bezel placement was likely only initiated because the E530 doesn’t swivel, which is heresy for a 51-inch panel display.

This TV will blend comfortably into almost any room, but don’t expect its appearance to wow anyone, either.

Smart TV Features

This plasma is a no-frills affair—expect simple menus and a total lack of internet functions.

The simple menus the E530 comes equipped with aren’t bad. They’re very intuitive—by that, we mean it’s pretty hard to encounter anything you don’t understand. Picture the opposite of Sony’s internet platform layout. There aren’t any fancy “ping” sounds or pretty graphical renderings to look at, but it makes getting into and out of the menus a snap.

This TV has a clear intention from the engineering and marketing side of things—complexity is not it.

Picture Quality

The E530’s strengths outweigh its flaws.

With plasmas, deep blacks, good motion performance, and consistent picture dynamics win the day. With a contrast ratio over 3000:1, the low-end E530 has plenty of white/black differentiation. This strong contrast is also maintained where dynamics are concerned.

...the E530’s strengths outweigh its flaws. Tweet It

We were hoping for accurate color production as well—for $1000, a TV this plain had better deliver good performance. While its color gamut is one of the best we’ve seen this year, it showed blurry motion with mild shape trailing and no way to correct it through motion smoothing. Despite this unfortunate drawback, the E530’s strengths outweigh its flaws.

Conclusion

You can get better performance for less money.

For $999, the E530 is priced fairly. It tested with a strong contrast ratio, an almost perfect color gamut, good picture dynamics, and it has a plain, classic appearance.

Before you rush off thinking it’s the budget TV for you, there are some drawbacks to report. For a plasma, we were disappointed with how the E530 handles motion. It’s blurry and has no motion smoothing settings to remedy this. If you’re looking for a good sports TV, steer clear of this one.

If you feel like web browsers are best left to the realm of PCs, apps to the realm of the smartphone, and 3D to the big screen in IMAX, the E530 might be what you’re looking for in a television. However, We'd recommend checking out some other budget plasmas first; you can get better performance for less money.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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