The D550 is a plasma TV with a host of functions on offer, including web-connected services, 3D compatibility (active-shutter technology) and a very attractive price tag.
As of last year, Samsung's plasma-screen TVs have gained an inch in screen size without changing their external dimensions. This has been achieved by slimming down the bezel, as you can see below—the left half of the image is the 2010 TV, the right half of the image is the 2011 model:
Functions & DesignThe D550 is a pretty plain kind of plasma TV. The 51-inch screen is surrounded by glossy black plastic borders covered by a thick layer of transparent plastic. The TV is well assembled and has a decent-quality finish. However, as with all plasma TVs, the screen has a shiny finish which can prove problematic in brightly lit rooms.
This model doesn't come with Samsung's new internal menu, instead sticking to the 2010 menu. This is looking a little out-dated, but navigation is smooth, which is the main thing.
The PS51D550 has all the connections you'll need, with four HDMI ports (two at the back and two on the sides), a composite (YUV) connection, a scart socket and a VGA connection. There's also an Ethernet port around the back of the TV and two USB ports on the side. These can be used to hook up a Wi-Fi dongle or an external storage peripheral for access to content via the TV's built-in multimedia player.
The good news is that this plasma TV has the same media player as Samsung's LCD TVs. NTFS-format storage peripherals are supported and most of the HD video files we tried out (AVI, Divx, MKV, MP4, M2TS and WMV) played with no problem at all. However, MTS files and subtitles files in MKV and MP4 containers aren't read by the media player—these have to be removed from the container and played as separate files.
Shiny screen, prone to reflections
Like the menu, the remote that comes with the D550 is showing its age. In fact, it was first seen in 2008 but it has been updated to include a 3D button for more recent TVs.
This graph shows the ghosting time, measured in ms, which measures the time it takes this TV takes to entirely remove the previous frame. The shorter the time, the more fluid moving images will appear.
Responsiveness is excellent, which is one of the real strong points of plasma technology. We measured an average ghosting time of 7 ms, which is up there with the best in the current TV market!
Note that seeing as we tested this TV at a reader's home rather than in our lab, we weren't able to check the input lag.
2D Image QualityOut of the box, the PS51D550 has a well-balanced grey scale. However, colours are far from perfect, with an average delta E of 6.8. We'd recommend you switch to Cinema mode and set the colour temperature to Standard instead of Warm 2.
Colours in Cinema mode: average delta E 3.7
Once you've done that, colour fidelity gets better, even if it's still not perfect—we measured an average delta E of 3.7, which is pretty good.
Contrast measured in Cinema mode: 2220:1
The contrast ratio is within average. We measured the black at 0.05 cd/m², which is nice and deep. However, as with all plasma TVs, the white isn't as bright as it could be. We measured the average white at 112 cd/m², giving a contrast ratio of around 2220:1, while Panasonic's plasmas often top 5000:1.
Screen burn-in protection via a left-to-right scanning system.
During our tests, this TV seemed prone to image persistence. We therefore wouldn't recommend using it with a PC. However, Samsung has loaded this TV with a left-to-right scanning function to help keep screen burn-in to a minimum. To activate this function, go to the system menu then select 'Screen Burn Protection'. It's a practical and effective solution.
The TV screen's viewing angles are excellent and image restitution is very consistent across the display, as is usually the case with plasmas.
For watching films, SD upscaling works well enough and HD movies look quite simply perfect. It's just a shame that this TV doesn't have a motion interpolation function to keep fast-action scenes flowing smoothly. You'll therefore have to put up with some judder in 24 fps movie formats.
3D Image QualityFirst of all, the 2D-to-3D conversion function is, as usual, more about marketing than anything else, as the quality of this faux 3D is rather disappointing. As well as creating very few actual 3D effects, certain details in the image are reproduced in a rather dubious way and can just end up looking ugly and confusing.
With genuine 3D content, this plasma TV does a very good job. Depth in the image and protruding objects are rendered well. Plus, there's practically no crosstalk at all. That said, it still can't quite match Panasonic's plasmas.
Below—the result as seen through 3D glasses (top: Samsung PS51D55 / bottom: Panasonic TX-P42ST30):
With a perfect result, we shouldn't see any trace of the 'R' frame on the left, and, vice versa, none of the 'L' frame on the right. For the time being, only plasmas from Samsung and Panasonic get this right.
Not that no 3D glasses are supplied as standard, so you'll need to buy pairs separately if you count on using the 3D mode in this TV. Samsung glasses come in several sizes (large, medium, kids) so at least you'll be able to get a pair that fit properly.