As for noise, the fact that the TV does not need to scale down full HD sources to a lower resolution results in absolutely immaculate HD images, free of such common flaws as dot crawl, grain and edge softness. Provided, of course, that you use the 1:1 pixel setting.
So the 50P96FD delivers on its full HD credentials. But that’s far from the end of its talents. Black levels, for starters, are outstanding too. Life in Bioshock’s underwater city of Rapture is made both easier and more unsettling by the fact that you can see hidden enemies or objects in even the darkest of corners, thanks to the way the screen can resolve black without serious interruption from the greying over effect seen with so many (especially LCD) flat TVs. Or in movie terms, you can actually see the background walls of Captain Barbossa’s treasure cave in the Blu-ray of Pirates of the Caribbean, rather than them being lost in a low-contrast grey-mist.
The Samsung’s colours aren’t just subtly blended, meanwhile. They’re also unusually vibrant by plasma – especially full HD plasma – standards, really bursting to life for rich, bright material like the red jackets of the soldiers during Captain Jack’s escape from hanging at the end of the Pirates of the Caribbean Blu-ray.
One final plus point is the 50P96FD’s almost complete freedom from the sort of dithering noise over skin tones that still affects a number of plasma TVs.
That’s not to say that motion is immaculately handled, mind you. For really quick motion, such as the ships during the space battle that kicks off Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, can look a touch blurry at times. Bringing in the Movie Plus mode definitely helps such motion look crisper, but only at the expense of some quite noticeable noise around the moving objects’ edges. In other words, we couldn’t get motion totally perfect no matter what we tried.
We’d also say that good though they are, the Samsung’s black levels aren’t as profound as those of Pioneer’s KURO screens, while the images from Panasonic’s new full HD plasmas can perhaps look a touch more naturally coloured.
One final niggle concerns the 50P96FD’s audio, which doesn’t quite have the aggression to do its large pictures proud.
So a run of little niggles at the end of our review prove that the 50P96FD isn’t perfect. Big bloody deal. Yes, its black levels might not be as good as Pioneer’s, and yes, its colour palette might not always look quite as natural as Panasonic’s. But put up more fairly against anything else in its own price bracket, it’s in a class of its own.