Samsung is one of those mega-companies that seems to do everything well. Once known for cheap, second-rate consumer products, Samsung has steadily improved its reputation until it is now one of the most respected manufacturers in the world. Its DLP rear-projection TVs, LCD flat panels, and plasma TVs are all highly regarded, and rightly so—they generally produce superb pictures. The HP-T5064 plasma is no exception, as we shall see.
The HP-T5064 has the same resolution as most 50-inch plasmas these days—1365x768—but it provides more controls than most. For instance, there are four different ways to combat image retention (commonly called “burn-in”): flooding the screen with white, moving the image around the screen by a user-defined number of pixels in a user-defined amount of time, horizontally scrolling a box that contains a smooth transition from white to black (called a grayscale-ramp pattern) across the screen, and activating gray sidebars for non-widescreen 4:3 images. Very slick.
A side-mounted USB port called Wiselink lets you connect a USB storage device with JPEG photos or MP3 audio files. This is great for sharing digital pics with family and friends, but I’m not sure who would want to listen to music on a TV’s internal sound system — especially this one, which is worse than most. You could connect the TV’s optical digital-audio output to your main audio system for better sound quality, and this capability is convenient if you have no other way to listen to music in the TV room.
Thankfully, Samsung has improved the menu system over previous generations. The picture controls are now the first things to appear when you press the Menu button, rather than being several layers deep. Of particular interest is the Size (aspect ratio) control, which includes a setting called Just Scan that essentially eliminates cropping on the edges of the image; this is rare in a non-1080p display and lets you see more of a high-def image.
The remote is much the same as earlier models—long and skinny with the ability to control up to four devices other than the TV. As usual for universal TV remotes, you must select inputs with a single Source button rather than dedicated input buttons—bummer. One slight improvement is that the TV, Volume Up/Down, Channel and Mute buttons are illuminated, but none of the other buttons are, making them difficult to find in the dark.
As soon as I started watching movies and TV programs on the HP-T5064, I was impressed with its splendid picture quality. The DVD of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was alive with detail—I could almost feel the rocky shoal scraping the hull during one night scene, and Davy Jones’ squid-like countenance was disgustingly sharp.
Colors really popped, thanks in no small part to the set’s superb blacks, which also made the letterbox bars totally unobtrusive. Skin tones were completely natural (at least, those of the living), and the aqua sea looked inviting enough to dive right in. Details such as the clutter within the dimly lit sorceress’ hut were clearly discernable,drawing me deep into the scene as few TVs can do.
I just got the HD DVD of The Matrix, one of the darkest movies in recent history, and I was eager to check it out. The Samsung’s great black performance served it exceedingly well, producing a rich, deep image that brought the philosophical nightmare tolife. The greenish tinge in much of the movie was faithfully reproduced without making the characters look sickly.
I almost choked along with Neo as he is awakened from his forced hibernation, and I could clearly see every pod and umbilical in the endless power plant as he looks around, discovering the truth for the first time before being flushed into the waiting claws of Morpheus’ ship. Once inside the Nebuchadnezzar, the makeshift jumble of cables and equipment were as sharp as a tack, enhancing the sense of claustrophobia.
HDTV was a real treat. I watched Barbeque University on KCET-HD, L.A.’s digital PBS station—the turkey on the rotisserie looked so real, I started to salivate, and the red, yellow, green, and purple peppers were gorgeous, lending a vibrant splash of color alongside the browning bird.
Even standard-def programs looked smooth, sharp, and clean. I watched Law & Order on TNT, with all the gritty police action and smooth courtroom finagling clearly rendered. Sure, it was softer than HD, but what do you expect? The Samsung did a more-than-respectable job of upconverting standard-def images to the panel’s native resolution.
There’s a whole lot to like about this set and very little to dislike. If you want an excellent picture with superb blacks, eye-popping yet natural colors, and exquisite detail, you’ll definitely find it here. At $2700, it is the most expensive plasma in this survey, but as the adage says, you get what you pay for. With the Samsung HP-T5064, you get plenty, and for a lot less than you would have paid a year ago. TPV