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Samsung PS-63P76FD 63in Plasma TV - Samsung PS-63P76FD
Before getting stuck into the 63P76's picture performance, there's one last point about it that we ought to consider: its price. For at £3,543 it really looks remarkably competitive. It's over two grand cheaper, say, than Panasonic's current full HD 65in model, the TH-65PX600, and over a grand cheaper than Pioneer's 60in full HD PDP-LX608D.
The price makes the quality of its pictures all the more remarkable. For they're at least as good as those of the Panasonic, and not nearly as far short of those of Pioneer's magnificent PDP-608XD (which we're reviewing next week!) as you'd expect given the price gap.
For starters, it really makes its full HD status count in the sheer definition with which it renders HD sources like the HD DVD of 300. For instance, you can make out seemingly every one of the millions of arrows fired en masse at the Spartans during the Persians' unforgettable opening assault.
The extra definition is put to good use in presenting almost infinitely subtle colour blends too (crucial to getting the maximum enjoyment out of 300's ultra-stylised comic-book colour scheme), while the 18-bit processing system ensures that I never spotted a single sign of colour banding during our entire test period.
Also very impressive is the Samsung's black level response. The darkness of the night around the Spartan camp fires is delivered with impressively little of the common greying-over flaw seen with many supersized flat TVs, allowing the scene to look truly rich, full of scale and genuinely cinematic.
The picture additionally seems more dynamic and bright than those of all of its 60in-plus rivals bar the Pioneer 608XD, and there's a terrific sense of solidity and richness to the picture that's never less than a joy to behold with HD sources.
Other good stuff finds some fair resolution retention over moving objects (thrashing LCD, but perhaps not quite as perfect as I'd like); a remarkably clean 1080p/24 performance (though one lacking a little of the fluidity seen on Pioneer's 608XD); and a decent standard definition performance provided your source isn't too grubby in the first place.
There are a few flaws in the 63P76's makeup, though. First, I'd say that really bright picture elements can cause a little image retention (though this should reduce over time). Also, the Movie Plus mode is probably best avoided on account of the way it tends to create shimmering noise around moving objects; the Edge Enhancement is also best avoided as it tends to stress edges too much, leaving them separated from the image as a whole; there's a gently orange look to rich reds and occasional skin tones during darker scenes; and very dark picture elements can look fractionally green. But these latter slight colour issues are avoidable; things you strangely get accustomed to over time; or perhaps most pertinently of all, really very easy to live with in the context of the Samsung's price.
With some remarkably potent audio to back up the 63P76's truly huge and surprisingly impressive pictures, it's fair to say that Samsung's string of TV successes shows no sign of coming to an end - even when the brand is dipping its toe in the relatively rarefied waters of the 60in-plus brigade.