The panel is 3D-capable, using the active (rather than passive) 3D system, and Samsung provides two pairs of active shutter glasses despite the Samsung PS51F5500’s reasonably aggressive pricing.
With 3D, the Samsung PS51F5500 turns out to be ridiculously good for its money. Particularly unexpected was the picture’s almost complete freedom from crosstalk noise – in fact, in this key respect it seemed to perform even better than the far more expensive Samsung PS51F8500.
Motion is surprisingly well handled in 3D mode too (with the Cinema Smooth processing on), avoiding the tendency towards judder apparent in some previous Samsung plasma TVs.
The Samsung PS51F5500’s impressive contrast range pays dividends with 3D meanwhile, as it helps the screen delineate a good sense of depth and space, and despite the use of active rather than passive 3D technology there are no serious problems with flicker (unless you leave your room lights on high).
It must be stressed that 3D pictures aren’t as bright and vibrant as they generally look on LCD TVs, and they don’t look quite as high in resolution as the images seen on Samsung’s F8500 plasmas or F7000 and F8000 LCDs. But the lack of crosstalk compensates nicely for the marginal reduction in detail, and colours still look natural if you can manage to watch in a dark room.
Wrapping up the PS51F5500’s impressive performance is some surprisingly decent audio. The speakers seem to make good use of the TV’s relatively chunky proportions, delivering a really well-rounded, dynamic and open soundstage that manages to ebb and swell nicely with the changing dynamics of a good action film.
There’s no serious distortion until you push volume levels stupidly high, and the soundstage feels wide and involving. There’s more bass than we customarily hear from a flat TV too, and this prevents the set from suffering with the sort of treble bias that can lead to harshness.
There’s a little loss of precision in the treble register, which denies you some of the really fine details found in high quality film mixes. But overall the PS51F5500’s audio can be considered well above average for its price level.
With us spotting no serious issues with image retention on the PS51F5500, it clearly has great potential as a gaming monitor. And happily it follows this through by keeping input lag to a pleasingly low 33ms – low enough to not substantially upset your gaming skills.
The Samsung PS51F5500 carries a strong selection of picture setup tools for its money, too, including gamma adjustment, white balance adjustment, and a cell light adjustment to provide you with an extra tool for optimising the screen’s contrast and black level settings. If you're a serious AV enthusiast who wants a plasma on a reasonable budget, these tools will keep you busy.
Samsung has been very canny with its pricing of the PS51F5500. At the £700 level we’ve found it, it undercuts the Panasonic P50ST60 rivals by a handy couple of hundred quid, meaning that even if the Panasonic set turns out to be as good as we expect it to be (we'll be reviewing it very soon) the PS51F5500 will still look like a compelling proposition to cash-strapped home cinema fans.
If you’re at all interested in watching films, meanwhile, this Samsung's cinematic picture quality outperforms any LCDs we can think of in the same sort of price bracket, especially where contrast is concerned.
The only qualification we can think of is that if you’re looking for a TV to go into a very bright room, it’s possible an LCD might suit you better.
While the Samsung PS51F5500 doesn’t attain the same giddy heights as Samsung’s F8500 flagship plasmas, it’s a brilliantly judged and astutely priced mid-range option that no self-respecting home cinema fan can afford to ignore.