Once you’ve ditched the stupid Dynamic preset, the PS50B650 can also produce some impressively natural colour tones with HD. Subtle stuff like skin looks authentically shaded, yet much more dynamic fare like the player’s shirts during an HD football match manages to combine genuine vibrancy with enough finesse to portray any tiny patterns, weaves and textures they contain. The near-total absence of striping in the picture can presumably be laid at the door of a combination of a powerful colour engine and the screen’s full HD resolution. Staying with colours, I was also impressed and relieved to spot no issues with the green undertones to dark scenes or orangey look to reds that so often trouble plasma technology.
Motion looks good in one way, too, in that more resolution is retained when showing moving objects than you get with all but the best LCD rivals – and the 100Hz engine that helps this happen generates no obvious artifacts. In fact, HD images look terrifically sharp and detailed, even using the slightly softening Movie preset.
However, the only time I noticed really obvious motion problems was when panning quickly round my environment while playing Call Of Duty 5 on the Xbox 360. This action caused gentle smearing, especially with dark levels like Station or Makin. Elsewhere, the general brightness levels of the picture are impressive for a plasma screen that apparently uses around 40 per cent less power than Samsung’s previous generation.
Actually, the only significant problem I have with the PS50B650’s HD performance is that occasionally really rapid camera tracking shots do tend to suffer with judder. Not really severely, but certainly more obviously than I noted recently with Panasonic’s new 600Hz plasma range.
The PS50B650’s standard definition pictures sadly don’t impress as much as its HD ones. First and worst, standard definition pictures look just a touch soft. Admittedly you can give them a slightly crisper look if you call in the Edge Enhancer tool, but this actually makes the picture look harsh and bitty, and so for me is a non-starter.
My other concern is that colours aren’t as consistent with standard definition as they are with HD. They’re still vibrant, but some tones, particularly where skin is concerned, can look rather unnatural. Skin tones sometimes have a slightly plasticky appearance, too.
To be fair, the PS50B650’s standard definition pictures are by no means bad. But they are one of the reasons the screen only scores an 8 rather than a 9. The set’s sound is the other reason. For as with many Samsung TVs we’ve tested in recent times, the soundstage produced by the PS50B650 isn’t potent enough in the bass department to produce the sort of grandstanding sonics its big and mostly beautiful pictures warrant.
It’s not all bad news, though, since there is, at least, more treble clarity and mid-range openness in the PS50B650’s soundstage than we’ve noted with recent Samsung LCD TVs, and the soundstage spreads quite wide without losing cohesion.
While the PS50B650 is not without its flaws, if you’re looking for a glamorous, reasonably affordable high-performance HD monitor, especially if you’ve already got a separate audio system, the PS50B650 is a truly mouthwatering proposition.