Samsung has been making big noises about its 3D LCD TVs, but it's kept rather quiet about its 3D plasma sets. In fact, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the company didn't actually make any. Nevertheless, the 50-inch, 1080p PS50C6900 plasma TV is one of the cheapest large-screen 3D TVs around. You can pick it up for about £950.
Not too porky
Like most of Samsung's current TV line-up, the C6900 looks stylish. The combination of the dark metal effect and transparent Perspex used on the bezel looks ace, and we also love the brushed-aluminium stand. While the TV is thicker than some of today's super-slim LED models, it's certainly much thinner than you'd expect a plasma display to be, measuring just 36mm deep at its thickest point.
The only real compromise with the design is that the slim chassis means you have to use small adaptor cables for some connections, such as the Scart socket and component inputs. Otherwise, the TV is actually pretty well endowed when it comes to connectivity. You'll find four HDMI ports, two USB sockets and an Ethernet port.
As you'd expect on a TV in this price range, the USB sockets can be used for playing back media files from memory sticks or hard drives. The telly's format support is very good. Along with DviX and Xvid, the TV also plays high-definition MKV video files. If you plug a storage device into one of the USB ports, you can record shows too, which is a neat feature to have if you don't already own a PVR.
If you'd rather not use local storage with the TV, you can instead use the Ethernet port to stream files across your home network from a PC or NAS drive. The Ethernet port is also used to access a pretty broad range of Internet services, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LoveFilm and, best of all, BBC iPlayer. In fact, Samsung's Internet offering is one of the best on the market at the moment.
The set also has a Freeview HD tuner. This means that, along with the usual standard-definition channels, you also get access to BBC One HD, BBC HD, 4HD and ITV1 HD.
The TV is built around a 1080p plasma panel with 600Hz drive technology, which increases the firing rate of the individual plasmas cells to deliver cleaner motion. The set also has a few tricks hidden away in its menus, including a flesh-tone setting to help improve skin tones, and a black-level booster to enhance overall black levels.
On the whole, 2D pictures are handled with aplomb. High-definition sources look supremely crisp and sharp, and the set also does a decent job of upscaling standard-definition material, such as Freeview channels. Colours retain an impressively natural look, even when the set's dealing with fairly garish material.
But the C6900's black levels, although perfectly decent, don't quite manage to look as dark and inky as those of Panasonic's best plasma displays. Also, we noticed some image retention on our model, although this will almost certainly fade over time, as the plasma set is broken in.
This TV's real selling point is that it offers a relatively inexpensive way to enter the world of 3D TV. Despite its low price tag, it puts in an excellent 3D performance. The main reason for this is the almost total absence of cross-talk -- the ghosting around images that affects pretty much all 3D LCD screens. As a result, 3D images on this TV look much more solid and engaging, and there's little to distract you from the impressive sense of depth. Also, despite the dimming effect of the active-shutter glasses, 3D images still look relatively bright and punchy.
The set can convert 2D material to 3D if you want, but the results offer nowhere near the impact of real 3D material. We don't think you'll use this feature very often.
The TV is surprisingly capable when it comes to audio quality. Although the presets are too treble-happy, some tweaking of the five-band graphic equaliser will allow you to produce deep and well-rounded bass, giving audio a warm and full-bodied feel.
The PS50C6900 is one of the gems in Samsung's current TV line-up. If you're looking for a 3D TV that delivers the goods at a relatively affordable price, then it's hard to beat.
Edited by Charles Kloet