We began as usual by adjusting the Samsung HP-T5064's many picture controls for ideal performance in our darkened home theater, and found that the Movie preset actually came pretty close. We pegged the plasma's light output at about 40 footlambert--plenty bright, but not bright enough to cause eyestrain--and chose the gamma -2 setting, which resulted in a shallow, realistic rise from black to brighter areas without obscuring shadow detail. We also tweaked the white balance controls to improve upon the already fairly accurate Warm 2 color temperature preset. To see our complete settings, you can click here or see the Tips and Tricks section above.
After adjustment we were able to compare the Samsung HP-T5064 side-by-side against a few others: the Panasonic TH-50PX77U, the Vizio VP50HDTV, and the Pioneer PRO-FHD1--all 50-inch plasmas--as well as Samsung's own LN-T4665F flat-panel LCD. We watched the HD DVD of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, played through a Toshiba HD-XA2 at 1080i resolution.
First up was a look at how the Samsung plasma handled dark scenes, and overall we had few complaints. Compared to the Panasonic right next to it, the HP-T5064 displayed a very slightly lighter shade of black, although the difference was so minor that we'd bet it would be impossible to discern outside of direct comparison. In nighttime scenes, such as when Wonka's minions hang the Golden Ticket notices, the sky above the town and factory and the shadows around Charlie's sleepy head all appeared relatively inky. The HP-T5064's black levels were noticeably deeper than either the Pioneer or the Vizio, although not quite as deep as those of the Samsung LCD, which delivered the darkest shade of black in the room.
With the gamma set at -2, the HP-T5064's detail in shadows also appeared quite natural-looking. We noted the Panasonic's tendency to make dark parts of shadows appear a bit too bright, but the Samsung didn't have this issue. Areas like the recesses under Charlie's grandparents' bed and the lowlights in Helena Bonham Carter's hair looked slightly more natural on the Samsung, while still preserving ample detail.
Color accuracy on the Samsung HP-T5064 was also superior to the Panasonic, although not equal to the performance of the Pioneer plasma. We were very impressed to measure almost perfect primary colors (see the Geek Box below), and after calibration its grayscale was relatively linear and came quite close to the 6500K standard. This combination delivered realistic skin tones in all lighting conditions, for example, from the pan over the faces of the Golden Ticket winners and the crowd of onlookers to the ruddy complexions of the grandparents in their dim hovel. The accuracy of the HP-T5064's green primary, a rarity among plasmas, made the grass appear altogether more natural than the yellower turf on the screen of the Panasonic.
The one area where we'd like to see improvement was color decoding, specifically in the HP-T5064's desaturation of green compared to the other colors. As a result, the cartoonish grass in Wonka's main room and the foliage of the jungle during his adventure story, for example, didn't have quite the same punch on the Samsung as on the Pioneer--although thanks to the set's black level performance, the majority of colors were still vibrant.
Although its image was not quite as clean as that of the Samsung LCD or the Pioneer, the HP-T5064 evinced about the same level of noise as the Panasonic and looked cleaner than the Vizio. We noticed the telltale motes of low-level noise in some of the darkest scenes, like the shadows in the recesses behind the struggling Augustus Gloop in his choco-tube and the dark brown of the chocolate lake, but they weren't too egregious, especially from our modest 8-foot seating distance. Sitting closer would make the noise more apparent, as always.
The HP-T5064 evinced about the same amount of false contouring as the Panasonic, a big improvement over last year's Samsung models, although again the Pioneer and Samsung LCD were better in this regard. The light cast by the spinning light during the opening chocolate-press scene or by the Bucket family fireplace, for instance, betrayed a few distinct bands as opposed to smooth gradations from light to shadow.
We mentioned that Samsung touts the antireflective properties of the HP-T5064's screen, so we were anxious to compare it to the Panasonic's own glare-fighting screen. For this comparison, the Panasonic won hands-down. In a bright room with our blackout shades raised and the midafternoon sun streaming in, the reflections off the Samsung's screen appeared clearer and brighter than those off the Panasonic's, distracting from the image more noticeably, especially when the screen displayed a dark scene. The Samsung's screen did attenuate reflections slightly more than the non-glare-reducing screens of the Vizio and the Pioneer, however.
Looking at resolution patterns from the Sencore VP403 signal generator, we were surprised that the Samsung didn't resolve as much detail as the Panasonic or the Vizio in either 1080i or 720p modes. Between the two, 720p seemed to have a bit more detail according to the pattern, but the difference wasn't enough for us to strongly recommend one more than the other if you have a choice of which to feed the HP-T5064. For what it's worth, we couldn't discern any difference in between the three 1,366x768 plasmas in highly detailed scenes, such as the extreme closeup of the furry squirrel or Veruca Salt's fur coat.
We also checked out the Samsung's ability to handle standard-def content, using the HQV disc set via component-video at 480i resolution, and for the most part it performed well. It resolved every line of the DVD according to the color bar test, and did a fine job smoothing out moving diagonal lines in areas like the waving American flag. Details in areas such as the stone bridge and the grass appeared a bit softer than on the Vizio but a tiny bit sharper than the Panasonic. The HP-T5064 is equipped with four noise-reduction modes and choosing the most powerful really helped clean up the worst scenes from the HQV disc without sacrificing too much detail. We don't recommend depending on the Auto mode, however, because it didn't seem to combat noise as effectively as the manual modes. Finally, the Samsung quickly engaged 2:3 pulldown detection, removing the concentric lines of moirÃ© from the bleachers behind the speeding car.
Connected to a PC source via the VGA input, the HP-T5064 performed relatively well. It handled the maximum resolution of 1,360x768, resolving every horizontal and vertical line according to DisplayMate. We did see some pixel structure, however, especially in text smaller than 12-point font, that made text and some other fine details appear less clear than on the Vizio P50HDTV, for example. We used the Samsung's auto-adjustment feature and even engaged its Home Theater PC mode, but the Vizio still looked better with PC sources via VGA. For casual use as a big-screen monitor, however, the HP-T5064 should be perfectly adequate.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6650/6690K||Good|
|After color temp||6544/6493K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 280K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 91K||Good|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.640/0.335||Good|
|Color of green||0.302/0.594||Good|
|Color of blue||0.151/0.059||Good|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Y||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|
|Samsung HP-T5064||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||321.62||233.3||288.46|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.3||0.22||0.27|
|Cost per year||$98.45||$71.63||$88.38|
|Score (considering size)||Good|
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