Another string to the PS51D6900’s bow is how much detail it manages to reproduce from full HD 3D Blu-rays. Its 3D pictures are actually the crispest we’ve seen, in fact, and thus provide a timely reminder for anyone who doesn’t believe that LG’s passive 3D technology rival entails a compromise in 3D sharpness and detail.
Removing Samsung’s decently comfortable standard 3D glasses (the brand also does some lightweight designer models for around £90-£100 each if you’re feeling flash) and switching the TV to 2D is also a very positive experience. Especially striking is how much deeper and more natural dark scenes look on the PS51D6900 than they did on Samsung’s 2010 6 series plasmas, thanks to a much improved black level response. There’s much less grey mist hanging over the darkest parts of the picture, which helps dark scenes look more believable and intense, as well as making films look more cinematic generally.
The improved black levels additionally help the PS51D6900 produce a generally very natural colour palette, since there’s less sign of the sort of colour crushing you can get when showing deep reds, blues and greens on TVs that don’t have a deep black level response.
As usual with plasma TVs, the PS51D6900 doesn’t deliver the same levels of brightness and punch at the bright end of the picture spectrum as the best LED/LCD TVs - including Samsung’s own models. But the improved black level response does at least deliver a boosted contrast range that really helps you engage with what you’re watching.
HD 2D images enjoy the same sort of extreme sharpness noted with 3D viewing, meanwhile, and this joins forces with some quite powerful colour processing to allow the picture to enjoy smooth, accurate colour blends. These in turn help HD pictures look solid and as three dimensional as they could without actually turning the TV into 3D mode.
The set’s 2D to 3D conversion circuitry is impressively good at accurately placing objects at the right spatial depth, and noise levels are well controlled compared with some previous Samsung plasma generations.
The PS51D6900 even seems relatively untroubled by traditional plasma problems such as dot fizzing over skin tones and image retention. And, of course, it enjoys the usual plasma benefit of being viewable from a much wider realistic viewing angle than any LCD TV.
With the PS51D6900 even managing to put past Samsung audio woes behind it to produce a pleasantly well-rounded and open (if not particularly powerful) soundstage, do we have anything negative to report about the PS51D6900 at all?
Well, aside from the aforementioned slight increase in crosstalk versus Panasonic’s more expensive GT30 and VT30 models, the PS51D6900’s black levels are also quite a bit less profound than those of its Panasonic rival. The PS51D6900 doesn’t have many tools at its disposal to tackle judder either (aside from an increasingly ubiquitous 600Hz sub-field drive system), and this can result in pictures looking a little stuttery during camera pans. But even at its worst this issue could never be described as excessive, and certainly doesn’t stop the picture’s many positive points from ruling the roost.
Samsung’s PS51D6900 isn’t the last word in plasma picture performance. That honour still belongs comfortably to Panasonic’s 2011 GT30 and VT30 models. What the PS51D6900 most definitely does manage to be, though, is easily the best value 3D screen we’ve seen so far, delivering a level of performance and functionality that far, far exceeds anything you’ve got a right to expect of its sub-£1000 price. In fact, we’ve got a feeling that although it’s only May, we might just be looking at the TV bargain of the year.