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Coming to the 50PSA556 pretty soon after LG’s surprisingly impressive 47LG7000 LCD model, I have to say that my immediate feeling regarding its picture performance was one of slight disappointment.
This stems from two sources: the image’s brightness, and the image’s sharpness.
Regarding the brightness, there’s just no ignoring the gap between the sort of vibrancy and punch of the LG LCD and the relatively dull, muted light output of the Samsung.
You can improve things to some extent by calling in the PS50A556’s Dynamic output mode, but even this can’t totally redress the balance. And it also has the unfortunate side effect of making sources – especially standard definition broadcasts – look distractingly noisy.
As for sharpness, despite the PS50A556 having a Full HD resolution it just doesn’t deliver the same sort of jaw-dropping high definition snap and clarity seen with the very best LCD screens – especially any of Philips’ recent output.
The problem isn’t remotely severe enough to stop HD images on the PS50A556 looking clearly HD in nature, but the overall effect feels more like something you’d see on a good HD Ready screen than a Full HD one.
This slight softness with HD sources is extenuated during standard definition viewing, with Samsung’s DNIe system failing to achieve the same sort of standard definition upscaling heroics witnessed by some rival processing systems.
In fact, if you use any picture presets aside from the Movie option, standard definition pictures can really start to look quite unpleasant, with very exaggerated MPEG artefacts during digital broadcasts.
To be fair, you can considerably reduce this sort of noise using a provided noise reduction circuit. But this causes problems of its own in the form of extra softness and a slightly ‘processed’ look to proceedings.
Even once you’ve started to come to terms with the PS50A556’s sharpness and brightness shortcomings, though, you start to see something else as well: colour tone problems. Again particularly evident with standard definition sources, it seems as if some skin tones look a bit too pink or orange for comfort, while some shades of green look slightly sickly, and sometimes dark elements in otherwise reasonably light pictures take on a gently green undertone.
I shouldn’t over-stress this issue, as it’s not as much of a deal-breaker as it probably sounds when it’s just written out cold. For much of the time the PS50A556’s colours are actually pretty believable, particularly using the Movie preset. Also, the amount of time they’re believable increases exponentially if you switch to HD viewing.