Samsung PN51E550D1F Plasma TV Review
Best Value 3D TV 2012
The Samsung PN51E550 is a mid-range plasma HDTV from the company that might just be one of the best this year. While the E550 series doesn’t have the bells and whistles found on Samsung’s higher end models, it is a 3D smart TV that’s handsomely designed and, at an MSRP of $1199, won’t dip too greedily into your pocket.
I reviewed Samsung’s E530 series in May and found that the E550, while only $200 more expensive, is a much better deal. You get access to Samsung’s well-organized internet features, 3D capability, and vastly improved motion performance, which was a big flaw on the E530.
A standard charcoal black plasma TV, but classed up a bit with the addition of glass components
Instead of the obligatory charcoal, rectangular display panel, and squat, hefty black stand, the PN51E550 actually has some subtle, fairly unique design characteristics. For instance, the stand is overlaid with smooth, green-glossed glass. This glass then seamlessly melds into the neck of the stand, which surprisingly allows for around 25° of swivel to either side. The TV may not float in mid-air, but in this business, we get excited about the little things.
Like other Samsung plasmas from 2012—the E530 series comes to mind—the PN51E550’s on-set controls are allocated to Samsung’s signature Jog Stick, located on the bottom, left side of the bezel. The E550’s ports are on the back, left-hand side of the TV, oriented in rear-facing and side-facing manners. There are two side HDMI ports and two side USB inputs. Then, within a recessed area on the back of the TV, you’ll find traditional, semi-permanent connectivity options: inputs for an Ethernet cable (LAN), DVI (PC) audio, a third HDMI, an EX-LINK port for service updates, a shared Component/AV input, and a coaxial jack for a cable or antenna connection. Its output ports include a digital audio out for a surround sound system.
Smart TV Features
At first glance, the Samsung PN51E550 seems like a completely average plasma TV.
The menus featured on the PN51E550 are standard for Samsung’s 2012 plasmas. They feature semi-opaque sub-menus for Picture, Sound, Network, Timer, Settings, and Channel options. They are easy to navigate and memorize using the E550’s included infrared remote. It’s hard to think of any way that Samsung could improve upon them.
The E550 is a smart TV, meaning it gives you access to Samsung’s smart platform—a collection of streaming content, games, and apps called the Smart Hub. Samsung’s Smart Hub is one of the best platforms available right now.
The E550 generally displays an above-average picture.
For an MSRP of $1199, the 51-inch E550 from Samsung held up to our gamut of tests and scrutiny with above-average results in almost every category. While it doesn’t have the largest contrast ratio this year or the most accurate color, its combined imperfections form a very solid, reliable whole. In the area of core performance, its color and contrast are fitting and suitable to viewing of almost any type.
The only real drawback of the E550’s performance is in its audio, which relies on fairly tinny 10-watt speakers to produce audio that’s a little below average.
Samsung’s 3D technology is immersive and convincing, yet not altogether perfect.
3D tech has come a long way since its initial foisting into the home television market. Like a stern grandfather, we’ve watched it stumble and trip while its parent companies continued to boast that it was as graceful as a gazelle. Yet 2012 cemented a very serious truth about 3D: It can look good, and it will. But most of the time, it doesn’t.
The 3D here doesn’t detract from the overall value of the E550 series, but take it from us: If all you want is 3D, don’t buy this TV. However, if you want a sound plasma with a 3D option (and Samsung’s grade-A Smart Hub), you could certainly invest in pricier TVs that don't bring as much to the table as this one does.
As a standalone mid-range plasma, the Samsung E550 is a solid pick.
With a decent core performance, a sizable contrast ratio, acceptable 3D, and Samsung’s excellent Smart Hub in tow, the PN51E550 is a sound investment. Getting a 50+ inch plasma for a little over a grand is already a tempting deal, and its green-glass design aesthetic, internet features, low-cost power consumption, and overall flexibility feel like a laundry list of added bonuses.
While there are TVs with better picture qualities out there, the E550 (MSRP $1199) is solid in all areas, and we were impressed with its consistency and wide range of features. This would be a great budget TV to centralize a home theater set-up around. This is a smart investment.
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