Samsung PS51E490 Picture Quality
Kicking off our tests with some standard definition feeds from the built-in tuner, it’s quickly clear that pictures on the Samsung PS51E490 aren’t in the same league as those of the recently reviewed Samsung PS60E6500. First, They’re considerably softer and less detailed - a result, probably, of the combination of the screen’s 1024 x 768p rather than full-HD resolution, and a less able upscaling engine. Also, colours look considerably more muted, leaving pictures routinely looking rather flat. It doesn’t help standard definition colours, either, that there seems to be a constant slight orange undertone to images that no amount of toying with the colour settings entirely removes.
Even while watching bright daytime TV fare, meanwhile, it’s clear that the Samsung PS51E490 doesn’t enjoy the same contrast range as the more expensive, high-end Samsung PS60E6500.
Obviously making comparisons with more expensive TVs isn’t especially helpful if your budget is limited. But all we’re trying to do is help you understand why watching standard definition on the Samsung PS51E490 isn’t a particularly enjoyable experience.
Shifting to HD broadcasts immediately introduces a fairly major improvement, however. Colours look punchier and more dynamic for a start, and the excessive softness of standard definition playback is replaced by a much crisper, more detailed look. You would, of course, expect this to happen when shifting from standard to high definition on any TV, but the shift is exceptionally pronounced on the Samsung PS51E490 thanks to the underwhelming nature of its standard definition efforts. What's more, the Samsung PS51E490‘s motion also looks cleaner and smoother with HD, and even the image’s contrast seems to improve.
It should be stressed, though, that we’re not suggesting here that the Samsung PS51E490’s HD pictures are in any way exceptional by the standards of the TV world at large. There isn’t quite as much detail as you get with the best full HD TVs around, and colours look a little basic, in that tones don’t contain as much subtle detail blending as we would ideally like to see.
A selection of Blu-rays is up next. And again there’s an incremental improvement in the Samsung PS51E490’s performance. For instance, black levels oddly look better than with any other source - reasonably deep by the standards of flat TVs generally, yet with much more detail in shadowy areas than you would expect to see with any similarly affordable LCD TV. It’s also great to see during very dark scenes, there is no sign of the sort of backlight clouding and bleeding so common with rival LCD technology.
There’s more of a grey-green pall over dark scenes than you see with this year’s premier plasmas, such as the Panasonic TX-P65ST50B, but it’s not overbearing, leaving the Samsung PS51E490 as one of the strongest black level performers in the budget TV world. Blu-ray images look slightly sharper than broadcast HD ones do too, and colours are both richer and more subtly delineated.
However, while mostly enjoyable, even Blu-ray playback can’t entirely escape the Samsung PS51E490’s budget nature. For instance, although sharper than broadcast HD, there’s still not the degree of detail you see with really high quality TVs.