In 2009 Samsung made significant improvements to the picture quality of its higher-end plasma TVs, bringing videophile cred to bear against category king Panasonic. This year Samsung has announced an even larger lineup of plasmas, and one of the most intriguing from a potential bang-for-the-buck proposition is the PNC590 series. It lacks the features--namely Internet connectivity and services--of its like-priced competition from Panasonic and LG but makes up for it with promising specs. All told, however, C590 can't quite match either the 2010 Panasonic G series or the 2009 Samsungs we reviewed, despite delivering decent picture quality overall. Videophiles seeking a 2010 Samsung plasma might be better served higher in the company's lineup, but less discerning fans of the brand will have few complaints with the C590 series.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch Samsung PN50C50, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
Editors' note, September 29, 2010: This review has been updated to reflect testing of a firmware update that enables correct 1080p/24 processing.
|Models in series (details)|
|Samsung PN50C590 (reviewed)||50 inches|
|Samsung PN58C590||58 inches|
|Samsung PN63C590||63 inches|
|Panel depth||2.8 inches||Bezel width||2 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
|Other: Transparent edge and stand stalk|
The Samsung PNC590 series is formally dressed in glossy black with just a couple of classy, subtle styling cues--namely the transparent plastic edging of the frame and composing the stand stalk--to set it apart from the pack. The black-backed glass of the stand base matches perfectly, and we didn't mind one bit that the panel is thicker than the ones found on step-up Samsung plasmas. This is one handsome TV that should blend well into any room.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||8.4 x 2 inches||Remote screen||N/A|
|Total keys||49||Backlit keys||44|
|Other IR devices controlled||No||RF control of TV||No|
|Shortcut menu||Yes||On-screen explanations||Yes|
The remote included with the PNC590, while similar in size, shape and button count to the one offered on step-up sets like the UNC8000, has one huge advantage. Instead of catering to slick looks with impossible-to-use, flush semikeys, the C590's clicker has standard, raised buttons. We don't like the new grid layout as much as the better-differentiated cursor keys on last year's remotes, but at least that fingerprint-magnet finish is gone.
Samsung didn't change its basic TV control menus from last year, and that's a good thing. The transparent, blue-highlighted graphics are easy to read and navigate, and response is snappier than last year. Text explanations are present for just about every function.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||plasma||LED backlight||N/A|
|3D compatible||No||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Glass||Refresh rate(s)||60Hz, 96Hz|
|Dejudder (smooth) processing||No||1080p/24 compatible||Yes|
|Internet connection||No||Wireless HDMI/AV connection||No|
|Other: DLNA and USB streaming of photos, video and music|
The midrange C590 series lacks the Samsung Apps and streaming media options found on step-up models. It does have an Ethernet port on the back, however, and when connected to your home network it can stream photos, music and video from a networked PC and download firmware updates. The USB ports also allow such streaming. Check out the user manual, page 34 for details.
|Adjustable picture modes||3||Independent memories per input||Yes|
|Dejudder presets||0||Fine dejudder control||N/A|
|Aspect ratio modes -- HD||4||Aspect ratio modes -- SD||4|
|Color temperature presets||4||Fine color temperature control||2 points|
|Gamma presets||7||Color management system||No|
The picture-affecting control selection is on par with the C590's non-LG competitors. Samsung omits a few of the user-menu options found on step-up models, including the color management and 10-point white balance systems, but there's still plenty for tweakers to adjust.
|Power saver mode||Yes||Ambient light sensor||Yes|
|Picture-in-picture||Yes||Onscreen user manual||No|
|Other: Basic on-screen HD connection guide; on-screen troubleshooting; sound-only option; three modes to prevent/remove burn-in|
Not much goes missing here. If you're worried about burn-in (we aren't), Samsung includes a pixel orbiter that slowly moved the image around the screen, as well as a scrolling bar to erase signs of image retention should it occur. Unfortunately the screen saver, labeled "auto protection," didn't seem to work at all when we left an image paused for extended periods, so you shouldn't depend on it.
We'd like to see a real onscreen manual as opposed to the simplistic "connection guide." The troubleshooting section is nice, but is mostly geared toward easing the job of customer service reps tasked with diagnosing owner problems over the phone. We like the option to turn off the screen manually, leaving just the sound, which cuts power use down to 26 watts.