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As a recording device, the P50XR01 turns out to be really rather good. As we'd anticipated, for instance, recordings of the digital tuner are absolutely indistinguishable from the original picture. But recordings of the analogue tuner or external sources like a Sky digibox also look very good using the TV's high-quality XP storage mode, with practically no extra noise and only a little extra softness to reveal that you're watching a recording.
The mid-level SP mode, meanwhile, also delivers extremely watchable pictures (way better than anything you'd have got from a VCR), with only the bottom two image settings being best avoided.
Sadly the P50XR01's screen doesn't quite have the picture quality necessary to do its recordings full justice, thanks to two key problems:
First, black levels just aren't in the same league as those now found on many rival plasma brands, especially TVs from Panasonic, Samsung and Pioneer. The shots of space on the galaxy map while putting in yet another multi-hour stint on the Xbox 360's Mass Effect, for instance, carries traces of that familiar grey misting problem that always gives away TVs with contrast issues.
Problem two concerns the P50XR01's colours, since they just don't look as natural as we'd expect. Reds look distinctly orange, and dark scenes seem to have a slightly green undertone to them. Both these problems were once very common in the plasma world, but we don't really expect to see them so obviously these days.
This isn't to say the P50XR01 is an unmitigated disaster. For a start, its Picture Master HD system does a superb job of keeping video noise out of sight while watching all but the very lowest quality sources. High definition sources look completely pristine from start to finish (with the screen's 1,920 x 1,080 resolution doubtless helping out too), but even standard definition pictures survive the journey up to 50in surprisingly well.
Picture Master HD's colour processing element, meanwhile, might not overcome the orangey reds and dominant greens, but it certainly does allow for some terrifically subtle colour blends and remarkably nuanced shadow detailing. If you're one of those people who doubts that plasma is as comfortable with the smaller things in life as LCD, this P50XR01 will put you straight in no uncertain terms.
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