Samsung PN51F5500 Review (PN51F5500AF)
51 Inch 1080p Plasma TV Active 3D Smart TV
By Robert Wiley
The PN51F5500 is the smallest size in the mid tier plasma series from Samsung. Picture quality is strong here but it lacks a bit when compared to the top tier F8500 plasma. This is to be expected, but the feature set is still quite good. The F5500 uses Active 3D to create 3D images, Samsung's new Smart Hub is offered with all the apps and online content you would ever need. It loses the built in front-facing camera, but voice interaction is present a lot more useful than we initially thought it would be. In the end, the PN51F5500 is a feature laden model aimed to be a value set.
Picture Quality Rating: 9/10
The Samsung PN60F5500 has excellent picture quality and is a solid contender with Panasonic's ST60 series that received good reviews from us. If I were to say which plasma TV maker has the best picture rendition, I'd go with Samsung. Aspects like color, black levels, contrast, and brightness are all balanced very well. Personally, I think the color space on a Samsung plasma is a little better than Panasonic after calibration. The F5500 does a few things different that it's top tier bother, the F8500. The biggest difference is the light output. This one doesn't achieve the brightness of the F8500, so bright room performance isn't going to be as strong. Make sure the PN51F5500 is going to be placed in a light controlled room for the best picture. Screen reflections are another issue for rooms that aren't light controlled. There is no louvered filter to disperse the light here. In a controlled lighting environment, the F5300's full HD picture quality is excellent.
The F5500 series plasma may be the mid tier choice for the year, but picture quality is top notch. This shot shows excellent black levels plus lots of detail for dark and light areas alike
Black Levels and Contrast
The PN51F5500 takes notes from the flagship F8500 models to provides deep blacks with good detail in dark scenes. The blacks don't measure up the the levels of the F8500, but are strong nonetheless. Plasma have always had the advantage when it comes to black levels over LCD/LED TVs.
We always say that a good calibration yields the best picture quality that a TV is capable of. That is no different here. After calibration, colors on the 51F5500 are very natural and true to life. There aren't any problems of over-saturation or colors being too bright. The Color Tone setting is perhaps one of the most important settings to get right when it comes to color. A setting of Warm1 is going to muster up the best color performance. Best means most balanced in this case. The Warm2 setting,which we normally use, really pushes green into the picture. Warm1 really looks the best on this plasma TV.
Eco Sensor – Energy Saving or Overly Dim?The Eco Sensor is a effort to control the energy usage of the F5500. What it really does is control the Cell Light setting in order to keep the brightness down depending on the room light. The result is a picture far too dim to really enjoy. If the picture ever dims unexpectedly, this should be the first setting to turn off in order to address the problem. It can be found here in the menus: System > General > Eco Solution > Eco Sensor
Active 3D Performance
The PN51F5500 uses active 3D to create 3D images and the performance is strong. Samsung's Active 3D has a history of being good and improvements are seen year after year. Depth of the 3D image is a high point making the images really look like they fall into the screen or pop out into the room. Since it is active 3D, 1080p is delivered to each eye for extra clarity and detail. Cross talk and blurry corners in the image have also been improved over previous years. There is a small amount of flicker in the glasses if there is a window or other light source in the room. In the end, it isn't terribly distracting.
This year's Active 3D glasses are very light and have a more streamlined design
The active 3D glasses this year are lightweight and comfortable. This is a plus considering that many active 3D glasses are bulky and hard to wear for an extended period of time. These glasses really enhance the over all experience. 2 pairs of glasses are included in the box. The Samsung SSG-5100GB glasses sell for around $20.
Game Mode – Almost there with Input Lag
Plasma TVs are usually recommended as gaming TVs, but Samsung's plasmas has a hard time with input lag. Even with the Game Mode enabled, our tests showed input lag at anywhere between 70 and 100ms on the PN51F5500. That's a little bit more than the target levels. It is important to note that I didn't think it was terrible. Okami HD on the Playstation 3 certainly wasn't unbearable, I notice the lag. Gamers who mainly play First Person Shooters will probably notice it a good deal more. A dedicated gaming TV should probably be found elsewhere. The Game Mode can be found here in the menus: System > General > Game Mode.
Features Rating: 8.7/10
Smart TV Features and Internet Connection
Samsung one of the top contenders for the best smart TV platform. The 2013 Smart Hub is completely redesigned for easier navigation and organization of content. The Smart Touch remote also enables voice recognition for the F5500 plasma TV. We found these new features to be a nice complement the the generous amount of content that Samsung has packed into their Smart TV suite. Free and paid apps are fast to download and open thanks to the dual core processor under the hood. An internet connection through wifi is speedy enough to stream HD video content and browse the web.
In this shot of the redesigned Smart Hub you see the On TV screen. Here you will see a comprehensive view of what is currently broadcasting. You can also get to an on-board TV guide as well as your recorded content
Click here for the full Samsung Smart TV review for 2013.
The new quad core processor is left out and replaced with a dual core processor on the PN51F5500. This exclusion is pretty substantial if the Smart Hub is going to be used heavily on this TV. No one likes to deal with slow computers. Slow Smart TV platforms have been rampant in the past and is not something we like to see in 2013.
This is the same remote that comes with a lot of the tier Samsung LED TVs. It is the silver variation instead of the black seen with the LED versions. We like the added functionality the Touch Pad remote provides. Sliding your thumb on the pad is much faster than clicking arrows on a 5-war controller. Clicking the touch pad while watching streaming content or physical media pauses and plays content. This is nice since those are used a lot. Note that the remote doesn't have some useful things like number buttons. So keep that in mind. It's a nice inclusion with the 51F5500 and not overly complicated.
The included remote with the 51F5500 features a touch pad. A simple swiping motion will change the page the Smart Hub is displaying. The mic button also makes it easy to use the voice control features
Initially opening the Browser and loading pages is fast. That is the biggest improvement over previous years. The Touch Pad remote comes in handy for controlling the cursor as well. Hint: To scroll up and down pages faster, slide your thumb on the extreme right or left side of the touch pad. LG's Magic Remote is by far the best way to browse the web on a smart TV to date, but Samsung is taking steps in the right direction. The web browser on the F8500 is not a bad option if you want to see online content on the big screen.
Design and Appearance
There's nothing standout about the looks of the TV and design is certainly not going to be the selling point. The PN51F5500 has a black bezel and cabinet with a silver stand. It receives the familiar Samsung quadra-pod stand seen on most of their mid-level TVs. We're happy is isn't the flashy chrome color we have seen in years past. It is certainly nowhere near the futuristic design of the F8500, but it's a modest design that works well. The TV has a thin profile of 2.2 inches in depth.
Sound Quality – Room for Improvement
Sound quality is not the forte for Samsung's plasma entries this year. Something feels missing, even with the volume up fairly high. Volume certainly isn't an issue, as the TVs are plenty loud and can fill a room with sound. The two 10 watt speakers end up sounding hollow and empty and voice gets overwhelmed by background noise and music. For a point of reference, speakers on LG TVs are an example of what good TV speakers should be. The 51F5500 will really benefit from a home theater setup or a sound bar. Sound quality scores a 6 out of 10.
Lately, we have heard reports that some of the C-series and D-series (circa 2010, 2011) Samsung plasma TVs have had widespread problems with coloration (esp. pink or purple) against a white background. Since the longevity rating on these plasmas is 60,000 to 100,000 hours to half life, problems after 2 years would make those life span claims irrelevant.
Value Rating: 9.3/10
The PN51F5500 plasma TV really beats out the competition when it comes to value. All of the great features this TV has to offer come for just $800. That's $200 less than the one inch smaller than the highly rated Panasonic TC-P50ST60. This TV screams value.
Overall Rating: 9/10
- Dimensions Without Stand (W x H x D): 46.9" x 27.9" x 2.2"
- Dimensions With Stand: 46.9" x 31.4" x 12.1"
- Weight Without Stand: 40.8 lb.
- Weight With Stand: 44.8 lb.
- 1080p Full HD
- 3D Active Compatibility
- Smart Hub/Smart TV
- Full Web Browser and built in Wifi
- 600Hz sub-field drive
- 3 HDMI / 2 USB