Although it doesn’t often prove possible, when we can we really like to look at two products from different parts of a single brand’s range as close together as possible. And in the past week we’ve had exactly one such chance, as Samsung’s flagship PS51D8000 has been directly followed onto our telly test benches by one of the brand’s much lower-end models, the PS51D550. So we should be able to see much more clearly all the corners Samsung has had to cut to deliver the cheaper model.
These start with the PS51D550’s design, which certainly suffers in the presence of the sensational metallic splendour of the PS51D8000. Compared more fairly with other plasma TVs in its price bracket, though, it’s actually rather an attractive and well-built beast in its glossy black bezel offset by a transparent outer trim. The transparent neck of the stand is a tasteful touch too.
The PS51D550 initially appears not to have suffered any compromises when it comes to its connections. There are still four HDMIs, and these are still v1.4 affairs too, on account of the fact that the PS51D550 continues to offer active 3D playback despite its strikingly low price.
Also retained from the PS51D8000 are two USB ports, a D-Sub PC port and even a LAN port. The PS51D550 doesn’t get the flagship model’s built-in Wi-Fi, but this is only to be expected. And you can still add wi-fi if you want it via an optional USB dongle. There’s still a Freeview HD tuner too, even though we could just about have imagined this getting lost in the cost-cutting drive.
The Freeview HD tuner is not joined by a Freesat HD tuner like it is on the PS51D8000, though. And closer inspection reveals a much more potentially painful blow as it transpires that the LAN port is really only there to support the Freeview HD tuner. It offers neither DLNA PC streaming nor access to Samsung’s excellent Smart TV online service.
These are both large features to lose - assuming, that is, that you actually need them. For while there are people for whom extensive multimedia support is a must-have, there are doubtless also plenty of people out there who are far more interested in saving money than they are in being able to stream files and video from a PC or Samsung’s own online servers.
One more final ‘hidden’ compromise of the PS51D550’s connections is that its USB ports only play video, photo and music files; they can’t also be used for recording from the Freeview HD tuner to USB HDDs like they can on the PS51D8000.