Samsung PN43D490A1D Review
More overgrown monitor than TV, with an unusual native resolution that doesn't match any broadcast standard.
The Samsung PN43D490 is an odd one, to be sure. It’s 3D-enabled, but has the very odd native resolution of 1024 × 768, which makes it more of an overgrown computer monitor than a TV. Practically speaking, this means that no broadcast standards are natively supported—everything has to be shrunk to fit the screen. Let us be the first to tell you, it doesn’t do the best job of it.
An adequate amount of connections are included, with a pretty fetching design.
The Samsung PN43D490’s most prominent design feature is the “touch of color,” a deep scarlet that runs along the base of the bezel, seemingly under the surface of the plastic. It’s not blaring. In fact, we’ve had to point out the color to other editors. The color red may not be everyone’s bag, but the beauty of the design is hard to deny. Other models come in a grey tone rather than red.
The Samsung PN43D490 has enough ports for the average TV owner, but it lacks some of the options of higher-end TVs. For traditional video inputs, there are three HDMIs, one dedicated component input, one shared component/composite input, a VGA and audio input, and a digital audio output. There’s also a USB port for playing photos, videos, and music from a USB mass storage device. There’s no analog audio output, so you won’t be able to play audio from older audio devices.
Smart TV Features
The menu is simple and easy to use.
The Samsung menus are among the best because they’re so simple and straightforward. If you want picture quality settings, they’re in the sub-menu called “Picture.” Audio settings are in the “Audio” sub-menu. Sure, it sounds simple, but you’d be amazed how many companies screw up their menus with overly confusing structures and designs.
The Samsung PN43D490 ships with a mini version of the full instruction manual. It helps you get the TV set up, but it doesn’t cover all the picture settings and so on. Fortunately, there’s a digital manual built right into the TV’s menu. You can also download a manual on Samsung's website.
That isn't to say that there's a load of confusing features here. The PN43D490 doesn't include any form of internet connectivity, so there's no smart features or apps to worry about. The TV does feature local playback of photos, music, and video, but these are fairly basic features that don't require much explanation.
The all-important category of motion performance is abysmal on the PN43D490.
People typically cite a deep black level as one of the things they like best about plasmas. A deep, rich black level that retains detail in the shadows is great for all kinds of content, especially movies. The Samsung PN43D490 did not disappoint in this category, offering a great 5098:1 contrast ratio as a result.
Unfortunately, motion performance on the Samsung PN43D490 was absolutely terrible. We’re not sure to what we can attribute all of these problems, because we’ve seen a lot of great Samsungs in 2011. Part of it may be due to the 1024 × 768 native resolution. As all broadcast signals had to be down-converted to fit on the screen, it’s possible that something was lost in the process.
The results are clear enough, though. As objects move across the screen, there are heavy amounts of color banding and distortion. Faces twist and smear. Straight lines flicker and attain ghostly halos. It’s a real mess, and it unfortunately undoes what would otherwise be a great TV.
Decent 3D performance, but if your glasses are even a few degrees off from the perfect angle, you’ll see a lot of crosstalk.
The Samsung PN43D490 is a plasma TV that uses active shutter technology. The D490 was among the better 3D TVs we’ve seen at avoiding pitfalls like crosstalk, where the image for one eye shows up in the channel for the other. There was one major issue with the performance, however. You had to face the screen at exactly the right angle to get the best experience—turn your head just a few degrees and the crosstalk went through the roof.
As a result, our crosstalk test results were insufficient to approximate the real-life experience. Naturally, since you're probably not a robot, you’re going to turn your head a little over the course of a two-hour movie. With the PN43D490, each time you do the crosstalk will reappear, reminding you to tilt your head back, and thus taking you out of the movie and back into drab reality.
Overall, the Samsung PN43D490 offers decent 3D performance for what you're paying. The TV also works with any of the 2011 Samsung active shutter glasses, but it does not ship with any. That’s a separate purchase, so if you want 3D you're going to have to shell out even more money.
With all of these motion problems at hand, you can likely find a better TV for the price.
The Samsung PN43D490 is a modestly-priced plasma TV. It originally retailed at $649, but at the time of this review, that price has already dropped to $499, and probably lower from third party retailers. The price isn't a surprise, as this one's a bit of an odd duck. For starters it has the native resolution of 1024 × 768, which matches up with no current broadcast standards. Did Samsung have some leftover parts from their computer monitor production line? We’ll never know. The result, however, was problematic.
All the standard broadcast signals had a hard time conforming to the TV’s resolution, as they simply don't scale well. Certain patterns and details, especially small text, were all but illegible due to significant aliasing. Worse, the television exhibited downright terrible motion performance. Objects in motion tended to lose a lot of their color detail, resulting in ugly, smeared color bands.
On the plus side, it’s a fairly inexpensive 3D TV. Granted the glasses don’t come included and we don’t think 3D is worth it at any price, but some people love it. The Samsung PN43D490 also produced a fantastic contrast ratio and viewing angle, as well as being a stylish object.
Samsung has released some of the best TVs in 2011, but the D490 is far from perfect and we have a hard time recommending it. The Vizio E3D420VX is a better value, and you’ll probably find it for just a little more money, depending on where you look.
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