We're of the opinion that, if you really love movies, you should invest your available funds in either an LED-backlit LCD TV or a plasma set. The simple truth is that the blacks on these TVs are much better than on CCFL LCD sets. What you get, as a result, are much more realistic colours, and, of course, blacks that look black -- not a sort of mushy grey.
The 1080p, 50-inch Samsung PS50B550 plasma TV costs about £900 and so is aimed at the middle of the market. This isn't a TV for the bargain hunter, but it does offer a fair amount of bang for your buck, giving you a big screen, a slick design and a good user interface.
Design and connectivity
Like many of Samsung's TVs, the PS50B550 has a rose-black finish. It's popular with some people but we're fairly indifferent. We don't hate it by any stretch of the imagination, but we wouldn't be too upset if it was just plain black either. We are, however, keen on the sharp, square design. It's not as modern-looking as some TVs, but we're of a retro disposition, so we like it. Overall, it's an attractive set.
In terms of video input, you get three rear HDMI sockets, two Scart inputs, and component and VGA sockets. There's a further HDMI input on the side, along with the usual composite and S-Video sockets. You'll also find a USB connector, for photo slideshows and MP3 playback. This TV doesn't, however, boast the impressive video-playback skills of some of Samsung's high-end LED-backlit TVs, which is a shame.
Old plasma TVs had a few problems with pixel noise. This was a result of the individual cells having a constant small charge that kept them ready to spring into life when they were called upon. This problem has, over time, been fixed. We did note a small amount of noise on this TV, but, from a normal viewing distance, you'd probably never notice.
Freeview and standard-def performance
As always with Samsung's plasma TVs, the PS50B550 didn't disappoint with its Freeview picture. We really like Freeview on plasma TVs. Plasma technology is the closest thing to a cathode ray tube currently on the market, and we think it makes for a more natural, likeable image.
We watched our usual daytime TV on the PS50B550, including Neighbours and The Jeremy Kyle Show. The attractive Aussies looked as winsome as we've ever seen them and the filthy Brits looked as slack-jawed and idiotic as we've come to expect from Jeremy Kyle's guests.
We noted that the picture was a little on the soft side, but that didn't seem to affect the detail, which was as good as that on any TV we've seen recently. In particular, hair and close-ups of faces had more than enough fine detail. This is good news, because we've seen some TVs that make a hash of this, and it really ruins the experience.
Blu-ray and gaming
We really liked the Blu-ray picture quality. The PS50B550 manages to convey a massive amount of detail and fantastic colours. We set our panel brightness down to around 50 per cent. Doing this saves electricity and increases the life of the panel. It does, of course, mean the picture is slightly dimmer, but, for night-time viewing, this is unlikely to be a problem.