When it comes to other specifications, the slightly hit and miss tone established so far continues. Failing to really catch the eye, for instance, is a claimed contrast ratio of 30,000:1. It probably sounds crazy to diss a figure like this when only a year or two ago the very highest flat TV contrast figures around were between 15,000:1 and 20,000:1. But there’s just no getting around the fact that the industry leaders in the plasma world, Panasonic and Pioneer, are now both quoting figures in excess of 1,000,000:1.
It’s also a slight pity these days not to find 100Hz on this set, though there is potential compensation for this in the shape of Samsung’s Movie Plus system, which interpolates extra frames of image data to try and make motion look sharper and more fluid.
That’s not the end of the video processing either, as the set also carries Samsung’s DNIe+ video processing, with its desire to improve colours, contrast, motion and noise suppression. You get 18-bit colour processing promising 262,144 shades of grey level gradation, and Samsung’s Filterbright technology, whereby a special filter built into the screen drastically reduces onscreen reflections. This feature is one of the contributing factors to the set’s 30,000:1 contrast ratio.
Other interesting features include a selection of reasonably useful picture presets; picture-in-picture facilities; a tool for tackling plasma’s issues with screen burn; and an unusual ‘cell light’ option reckoned to affect the screen’s overall light output. Though to be honest, we struggled to see how this latter feature did anything not also achievable via the set’s brightness and contrast settings.
There’s one last niggle I need to get off my chest before we get into the PS50A556’s performance: it’s operating system. For the most part this isn’t bad, thanks to a decently designed remote control and passably attractive onscreen menus. But it lets itself down in two really daft ways. First, to skip between external video inputs, you have to repeatedly press the ‘Source’ button, rather than being able to call up a list of inputs and quickly select the one you want from there.
Second, if you choose, say, the Sports picture preset, you can’t change this from the Picture or Sound onscreen menus; if you try to, you just get a message telling you to change the feature from the separate Setup menu. Surely it would have been simpler to let you adjust the Preset from the picture and sound sections rather than generate an error message pointing you elsewhere? Weird.