Samsung PS51E490 Design
As soon as you look at the 51-inch Samsung PS51E490, you can tell it’s not one of Samsung’s premium efforts. First, its design is surprisingly ‘standard’, with a fairly chunky black bezel and none of Samsung’s usual aesthetic extravagances. The bezel does, if you look carefully, have a pleasant gradation effect to its ‘charcoal black’ colour, but this is is practically invisible from a normal viewing distance.
Also giving away the Samsung PS51E490’s relatively low-rent nature (we’ve found this plasma TV selling for barely £550) is the grey tone of its screen when the TV is in standby mode. By comparison, the screen in the recently reviewed Samsung PS60E6500 (and many other plasma TVs this generation) looked much blacker when the TV was in standby. The relative greyness of the PS51E490’s screen suggests it doesn’t have particularly impressive high-contrast filtering - a fact confirmed by the discovery that the set uses ‘Real Black’ technology rather than the ‘Real Black Pro’ system on the Samsung PS60E6500.
Samsung PS51E490 Features
Starting to explore the Samsung PS51E490’s features quickly uncovers another cost-cutting measure - the most severe yet. For the set doesn’t carry Samsung’s Smart TV service, with all its video streaming, health/fitness and social media apps.
Even the connections have been limited by Samsung’s push to keep the PS51E490 cheap, as it only offers two HDMI ports when we would have expected three, and just one USB port when we’d have hoped for two.
We’ve started off this review in a rather curmudgeonly fashion. But actually, it’s not our intention to knock the set - at least at this point. All we’re doing is setting the scene so that you are clear right away that if you only want to spend £550 on a 51-inch TV, you’re going to have to accept a few compromises.
Without further ado, then, let’s get into looking at what positives the Samsung PS51E490 has to offer. Perhaps the biggest surprise is its active 3D support - especially as Samsung has generously provided two pairs of its remarkably lightweight (if rather small-lensed) 3D glasses for free.
The set also enjoys a Freeview HD tuner, and despite its lack of Internet access, it does carry an onboard LAN port you can use for networking the TV to a DLNA-ready PC for streaming of multimedia content. The set doesn’t ship with integrated Wi-Fi, but you can make it wireless by coughing up a few quid more to secure one of Samsung’s USB Wi-Fi dongles.
The Samsung PS51E490 doesn’t use the graphics-rich Smart Hub interface found on Samsung’s Smart TVs, but its main set up menus are still fairly pretty and well organised. Highlight features here are the facility to adjust the set’s Cell Light (the plasma equivalent of LCD TVs’ backlight adjustment); a multi-level dynamic contrast system, white balance adjustment, a small selection of gamma settings, plus separate digital and MPEG noise filters.
The only area where we feel Samsung could have provided more flexibility, is with the PS51E490’s presets. There are only three in the main picture menu: Dynamic, Standard and Movie - none of which are especially helpful, thanks to the way they all push the Cell Light and contrast levels too hard. There is also, thankfully, a Game mode weirdly tucked away within the General sub-section of the System menu. But all in all, as with Samsung’s LCD TVs, the Korean manufacturer could definitely do with revisiting its current picture preset strategy.