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The rest of the AV industry must be royally sick of Samsung. It just keeps on delivering genuine quality at knock-down prices. And surprise surprise, the Korean giant is at it again today - with knobs on!
The product in question is the PS-50P96FD: a 50in plasma TV which, as ever with Samsung flat TVs, comes dressed to kill courtesy of a luxuriously glossy, jet-black bezel that oozes far more build quality than you've a right to expect for only fractionally north of £1500.
But that price becomes even more eye-catching - almost miraculous, in fact - when you add in the fact that the 50P96FD has a full HD resolution. For yes, Samsung has finally caught up with Pioneer and Panasonic and shrunk its plasma pixels sufficiently to fit 1,920 x 1,080 of them into a 50in screen. Crikey. If Samsung proves to have achieved this without compromising the impressive quality seen with its latest ‘normal' HD Ready plasmas, the 50P96FD has the potential to be just about as attractive a big-screen bargain as we've ever tested.
The phenomenal early attraction is built on admirably by the 50P96FD's connectivity, too. Three HDMIs lead the way, all of which, remarkably, are v1.3 affairs. This makes them compatible with such v1.3 features as Deep Colour and automatic lip-synching. Plus they're CEC-compatible, meaning you can use the TV's remote to control any CEC-enabled devices connected to them.
Other highlights include a D-Sub PC interface, a digital audio line out for passing on to an AV receiver multichannel audio tracks carried in via the HDMIs, plus all the paraphernalia associated with a digital tuner.
Turning now to the 50P96FD's full HD pixel count, it's pleasing to find it backed up by a special aspect ratio that permits 1,920 x 1,080 sources to be mapped ‘pixel for pixel' to the screen's own resolution. Furthermore the HDMIs are able to take in 1080p sources in all their configurations, including the 24fps format used to encode most HD movies onto HD DVD and Blu-ray discs.
So far, so good. But this set still has plenty more hidden treasures to unearth. Not least among these is the inclusion in the 50P96FD's screen construction of a new Ultra FilterBright element that Samsung reckons eliminates up to 90 per cent of ambient reflections from the screen, giving a noticeable boost to perceived black levels in the screen's images. Indeed, so potent is the Ultra FilterBright effect in conjunction with Samsung's core plasma engine that the 50P96FD boasts a huge claimed contrast ratio of 15000:1 - a figure that's only marginally down on the 16000:1 claimed by Pioneer's ground-breaking KURO plasmas.