The Insignia NS-42P650A11 follows a design scheme that has become standard to HDTVs since the early 2000s. The size and shape of the stand, the charcoal black of the bezel, and the recessed placement of the ports are all straight out of the HDTV handbook. The NS-42P650A11 doesn't bring anything new to the table, but that's not necessarily a bad thing: it is very possible to over-innovate, whereas this Insignia is at least following a tried and true design standard for high-definition televisions. On the other hand, it's also missing a key feature we often find indispensable when dealing with HDTVs that are 40 inches or larger. The NS-42P650A11 does not swivel or tilt, which is an acceptable mishap when dealing with smaller TVs, but for any model 40 inches or larger is going to be a pain in the neck (perhaps quite literally) if you planned on using the TV from multiple viewing angles. Considering the inflexibility (and frankly, ugliness) of the NS-P650A11's stand, users might want to simply remove the thing and wall mount it, since it's no less flexible within that modicum. All in all, though, the Insignia NS-42P650A11 is neither beautiful or noticeably ugly, it just sort of looks like a run of the mill HDTV.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 is a thin plasma with a standard color scheme (save for the gray-blue hue of the screen, which doesn't show up well in photographs) and a heavy, rugged sort of stand. All function, very little form.
The Insignia NS-P650A11 has typical touch-sensor controls--and by this we mean they won't do you a lick of good in the dark, and frankly are pretty hard to see in a well-lit area as well. But they're "hidden" in that sense, which some users might find preferable.
Like the TV itself, the remote has a simple layout and design. The navigational buttons are situated around the selection button (here called "Enter"), with Menu and Exit buttons placed out of the way between the navigational section and the live TV section (volume and channel controls). Perhaps the only noticeable things about this remote are the sizing of the volume up and channel up buttons (they are quite a bit bigger than the volume down and channel down buttons... Insignia's subliminal message: Higher numbered louder channels for all!) and the addition of extra plastic around the battery area for what we assume are improved ergonomics. And of course, the remote is not programmable or backlit--like the TV, it's a very no-frills affair.
In the box, you get the TV, stand, remote, 2 AAA batteries, manual, warranty info, cable tie, and cleaning cloth.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 has very standard connectivity options: 2 HDMI inputs, 2 component inputs (with one of them a shared composite input), a USB service port (for firmware updates only), a 3.5mm DVI audio input jack, and two audio outputs (analog and digital). There are no internet or media ports, and no S-Video or VGA inputs (though HDMI 1 is a shared DVI input). While this is a limited and lackluster connectivity spectrum to be sure, it's right in line with Insignia's design schematic of low-cost, no-frills televisions.
There's no innovation to be found here, but as the saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it. The NS-42P650A11 follows a now standard port placement plan amongst HDTVs, situating the ports in a recessed area on the back of the TV, close to the lower right-hand corner. While this would be more convenient if the NS-42P650A11 swiveled, at least the ports are close to one side and evenly spaced from one another.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 did not perform strongly during our color tests. While most of the greyscale was represented with a fair amount of accuracy, we noticed some very apparent errors in color temperature reproduction, resulting in blue- or redshifted grays (that should, obviously, be free of saturation). On top of these color temperature errors were some fairly serious color reproduction problems--the NS-42P650A11's color curves maintained a hint of smoothness, but for the most part were choppy and either under or oversaturated. Compared to the rec. 709 standard color gamut, the NS-42P650A11 performed decently in the white and green spectrums, but peaked early in reds and blues (which are going to be much more noticeable during almost any kind of broadcast). The bottom line is: don't buy this plasma for its color performance, as you're going to notice problems in almost any kind of broadcast.
Compared to other similarly priced plasmas, the NS-42P650A11 has a pretty unimpressive maximum contrast ratio, managing a little over half of the maximum contrast ratio of the LG 42PT350 (an older and similarly priced plasma), and falling well short of the standard. Needless to say, we were disappointed. More on how we test contrast.
We tested some pretty unimpressive performance here, with very little smooth color transition across the entire spectrum. More on how we test color performance.
We've come to expect, based on the technology behind them, a good control of color temperature amongst plasma televisions. This kind of performance isn't awful, but is it noticeable and visible? Yes indeed. While this performance may not look terrible upon first glance at the chart, the Insignia NS-42P650A11 scored poorly due to the fact that it showed color temperature errors across the entire spectrum of black to white, meaning there won't be a single shade or color that's produced at the right temperature. More on how we test color temperature.
As is clear from the graph, the NS-42P650A11 fell pretty short of good color accuracy, especially on the blue side of the spectrum. More on how we test color temperature.
As far as adjustable or noteworthy dynamic features go, the Insignia NS-P650A11 has a distinct lack of them. While we did notice some very obvious auto-dimming during our screen uniformity test, there was no local dimming to be found (and what with the NS-P650A11 being a plasma tv, this makes sense). We recorded fairly good results during our tests for tunnel contrast and white falloff, with only mild haloing and blemishing occurring during a screen that was bright or dark in majority. Like many plasmas, the NS-P650A11 did well in this regard, but considering that its peak brightness was only 113 cd/m2, we weren't surprised with the results. More on how we test picture dynamics.
While 1080p is by far the fan-favorite resolution amongst fair-weather TV oglers, perhaps because the much adopted opinion amongst the general public is that more pixels means better picture quality (and in truth it does), the fact is that almost no television broadcasts support 1080p just yet. While this is likely a closer than a distant future dream for broadcast stations, and it likely dates the effectiveness of native 720p televisions to a degree, it means that with the NS-42P650A11 you'll be getting the maximum resolution out of live cable television. If you're a gamer and you want a big, beautiful 1080p resolution for your hadouken-tossing, dragon-slaying night life, this Insignia is perhaps not the best choice, though a 720p plasma is like to give better overall fps response when the processing gets tough. Its native resolution is 720p, meaning that it isn't at its best in 1080p formats, but does exceptionally well scaling live broadcasts. One odd thing we found was that while it suffered a minimal amount of overscan in its home ratio setting (16:9), 480, 720, and 1080p all scaled perfectly when the ratio was switched to Screen Fit mode. On-screen text was fairly illegible at smaller fonts in 1080p, but the other resolutions fared much better.
We test viewing angle in order to determine how much real estate a TV can offer in terms of viewing comfort for groups of people or its flexibility in room placement (as in, do you need to be staring straight at it, or is there some leeway to be taken?). While we originally bemoaned the NS-42P650A11 for having no stand flexibility, it appears it may not be as much of a problem as it first appeared. During our testing, we measured the overall contrast ratio up to 90 degrees off-center, and this Insignia's total viewing angle simply blew us away. Usually with LED/LCD televisions, the contrast ratio drops below 50% somewhere between 30 and 40 degrees off center. The NS-42650A11 dropped to 68% contrast ratio at 50 degrees, and then began going back up again at 60 and 70 degrees. To put it more plainly, you can pretty much watch content with no loss in contrast ratio from the side of the television.
The NS-42P650A11 showed us some great motion performance, with almost perfect smoothness, and Indiana Jones would've thrown a fit at this model's almost complete lack of artifacts (this is a good thing: they belong in a museum, not in a TV). While there was just a touch of shape distortion during our color and pixel based motion tests, we found that the NS-42P650A11 was able to very effectively display complex moving pictures with very little distortion of any kind, maintaining foreground and background clarity in things like faces, intricate latices, and the details of hatched brickwork.
The NS-42P650A11 performed decently during our screen uniformity tests. We did find that it initiated a bit of auto-dimming, though this feature only seemed to kick in during an entirely dark screen, and only when the screen had been entirely dark for about 2.5 seconds. It seemed that this dimming feature was not something that could be toggled on or off, but was programmed into the TV to occur whenever there was a lack of signal. We doubt it would happen during any kind of "fade to black" prior to commercial (because of the delay), but there was also some bizarre flickering that occurred while the TV attempted to process whether or not it was receiving a signal. This doesn't seem likely to pose any kind of problem within the realm of everyday viewing, but it's something to keep in mind.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 ships with two integrated 10-watt speakers. The audio quality was pretty good for standard speakers, but the surround sound mode barely made a difference, seeming only to boost the "surround" effect of spoken dialogue, and not so much music or sound effects. This is the kind of audio quality that would be fine for a single user who is not too far from the TV, but we'd recommend making use of the 3.5mm audio out capabilities for any consistent group use.
During our power consumption test, we found that the NS-42P650A11 had a fairly average power consumption for a plasma. While, typically, LCD/LED technology tends to have more potential for higher power consumption costs (due to generally higher backlight settings and a much higher peak brightness), the NS-42P650A11 has a fairly small contrast ratio, with neither maximum brightness nor deepest darkness reaching very far to the edge of either spectrum--meaning that the consumption rate will not be high on the brightness end, but during darker screens, the NS-42P650A11 is not as dark as other similarly priced plasmas (black level of 0.27 cd/m2). All in all, however, this plasma will cost about $15.04/year.
As with almost all of the HDTVs we review, the Insignia NS-42P650A11 was calibrated out of the box for maximum black level and vividness, but not maximum color accuracy. The brightness, which was originally set at 55, we bumped up to 84, while changing the sharpness from 20 to 0 (and yet the picture remained overly sharp). The other settings (contrast and color) did not need changing. Unfortunately, it was not possible for any variation of calibration to boost the NS-42P650A11's overall color accuracy.
All of our calibration is done in conjunction with the DisplayMate software.
The NS-42P650A11 is a very no-frills, bare essentials kind of television, and has almost no extraneous features save for three video modes: dynamic, standard, and movie.
As we've made clear already, the Insignia NS-42P650A11 has no internet features, and by association has no smart features, downloadable software updates, or anything else that internet connectivity brings to the table. It is more or less unchangeable (save for potential firmware updates via USB) as it is out of the box. Its menu interface is simple and easy to navigate, and has so few features that need to be accessed on a regular basis you likely won't be spending too much time in it beyond initially setting up and calibrating brightness/color temperature to your personal preferences.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 has very simple and easy to navigate menus (easy to navigate because they are so simple). There's no internet or USB playback to be had here, so the most you'll be doing is adjusting color temperature to suit different programs or switching between native and surround sound modes. Aesthetically, the menus aren't particularly attractive. We found the menu font and not-so-subtle "reflective" affect used on it to be more cheesy than anything, but this isn't a huge drawback, as the NS-42P650A11's limited menu system likely won't be getting too many visits beyond initial set-up.
The menu sidles up along the left side of the screen, is opaque to allow for background content viewing (a plus, so you can see in real time what your setting changes are doing to the picture), and is as simple as they come.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 Important Information Document (that's really what it's called) is as simple and minimal as the TV, probably out of Insignia's push to use less paper and "go green." Its highlights include troubleshooting, basic maintenance instructions, specs, and Insignia's warranty information. For a more in-depth user guide, we recommend visiting the Insignia website and downloading this model's PDF-format manual.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 (MSRP $499) is a newer television than the Samsung PN42C450 (MSRP $599); despite this, the Insignia doesn't offer much more in the way of extra features. The Samsung has a deeper black level, but its color performance is about the same as the Insignia (with neither performing very well). Both are native 720p televisions, with the Insignia handling motion smoothness and artifacting tendencies just a little better than the Samsung (and with much better overall resolution scaling), as well as having a larger maximum viewing angle. While the Samsung offers local media playback via USB, and has a couple more ports (namely VGA), they are more or less entirely similar in that regard. It really comes down to price and performance, and with the Insignia performing comparably at a lower price (despite being newer), we have trouble recommending the older, more expensive Samsung. Both are on the cheap side, and it shows.
Black level and peak brightness are what determine any television's contrast, and plasma technology's appeal (at least in the realm of TVs) has traditionally been its ability to produce deeper black levels than LCD televisions. Despite this, the Insignia has one of the sorriest black levels we've seen in a while, and at 0.27 cd/m2 is way behind other similarly priced plasmas. While the Samsung is certainly not the king of the ring with 0.13 cd/m2, it wins out against the Insignia. If you want a budget plasma with a deep black level, the Samsung PN42C450 is a better choice than the Insignia NS-42P650A11.
Plasma TVs were, at one time, the most popular choice for screen sizes 46-inches or more. But if you're going to buy a mid-sized, budget plasma for five or six hundred dollars, you know you're not going to score in the area of diverse functionality and connectivity, and probably are more concerned with the basics--good color accuracy and contrast ratio, for instance. Unfortunately, neither of these lower-end plasmas offers great color reproduction, both testing RGB curves that were bumpy and more or less all over the place in terms of accuracy.
Neither the Insignia nor the Samsung are great with resolution scaling outside of their native 720p, but the Insignia did slightly better in this regard. While the Samsung has more video processing features, many of them are only marginally useful on their own (edge enhancement, dynamic contrast, etc.) The NS-42P650A11 has one of the largest maximum viewing angles we've ever scoped out, and for this regard would probably be a better TV for a large group during sports or cinematic gatherings.
While both the Samsung and the Insignia performed strongly during our motion tests, the Samsung's performance was slightly above average, while the Insignia's was just a few artifacts short of perfection. Again, the Insignia seems like it would be a phenomenal sports TV.
The NS-42P650A11 and the PN42C450 are quite similar in their connectivity options, neither offering internet or 3D features, with the Samsung PN42C450 having a VGA input port whereas the Insignia only has an HDMI-adapted DVI. Otherwise, there are no noteworthy differences.
We feel that the Samsung is a more aesthetically pleasing TV to look at, mostly due to the Insignia's ugly frankenstand (it really looks cobbled on).
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 and the LG 42PT350 are both 42-inch plasma televisions, and that is right around where there similarities end. Whereas the LG has good color accuracy (and the Insignia doesn't), the latter is a native 720p, and the LG is (oddly) a 1024 x 768 resolution, making scaling awkward at best. The LG didn't do so well in motion performance, but the Insignia impressed us with its smooth dance of pixels (or lack thereof). With this amount of difference, we have to conclude that the LG is a decent budget TV to be used for solo viewing or as a monitor, whereas the Insignia would be a better choice if you're needing a multi-user TV, or one for lower-res, motion based gaming.
The LG sports a much deeper black level than the Insignia, resulting in almost twice the maximum contrast ratio of the Insignia. The Insignia has a higher peak brightness, however.
The LG wins this contest hands down: we've already discussed that the Insignia tested lower than average during our color accuracy tests, but one of the LG's most noteworthy features is its color accuracy (likely due to its native resolution).
Considering the Insignia affords almost 180 degrees of viewing angle for you and yours, it's the better TV if you want to get as many pairs of eyeballs on it as possible. It doesn't have as many options as the LG in dynamic screen features, however.
As we've previously stated, the LG suffered some poor test results in motion performance, whereas the Insignia is actually quite good with smoothness and shape preservation during motion, so your running backs don't end up looking like Gumby.
The LG has a good number of input ports and is much more flexible than the Insignia. If you need a mid-sized budget TV to work as a hub for a home theater, the LG is a much better choice.
The Panasonic TC-P50S30 (MSRP $999) is about twice the price of the Insignia, but is still considered an entry-level plasma for its 50-inch size and basic internet features. You won't get internet with the NS-42P650A11, but that's definitely a part of what you're paying for with the Panasonic (as well as the larger screen). The real dividing line here hangs upon contrast and color performance, and that is where the Panasonic proves its value: a deeper black level and much, much higher maximum contrast ratio, as well as highly superior color curves over the NS-42P650A11. For the price difference, you're looking at the difference between a truly dark plasma with good color accuracy and internet features, and one whose best feature is that you can watch it from a perpendicular position. Considering the Panasonic is older and you can grab it for about $700 nowadays, it's hard to find a reason to recommend the Insignia.
The Panasonic outperformed the Insignia by miles in contrast ratio, mostly due to their differences in black level (0.03cd/m2 VS 0.27 cd/m2) and peak brightness (67.93 cd/m2 VS 113 cd/m2).
The Panasonic tested much better color accuracy, with relatively smooth color curves, whereas the Insignia's were more akin to a dirt road during a drought. The Panasonic also hit the mark during our color gamut comparison, aligning much closer to the rec. 709 gamut than the Insignia.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 won our praise for its immaculate viewing angle and smooth motion performance, though the Panasonic's viewing angle is (comparably) just as good for practical purposes, and it was also a strong performer during our motion tests.
The Insignia and Panasonic did equally well in motion performance, with very few artifacts and quality smoothness.
The NS-42P650A11 would have serious trouble winning any praise in the field of connectivity flexibility, having just the bare minimum of ports, and all of them located on the back with no ability to swivel. The Panasonic TC-P50S30 features back and side-placed ports and has, overall, a lot more options.
While neither plasma has 3D capabilities, the Panasonic features at least basic internet connectivity options, whereas the Insignia has none. If you're a fan of Netflix or Hulu, the choice is clear.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 is not a terrible TV for its price (MSRP $499), but we think Insignia could have given users a little more value for their greenbacks.
First of all, the overall design is lacking. It's a big enough TV that it merits some sort of swivel or tilt ability, but has none. While the panel itself is perfectly fine (not great), it does not integrate well into what we consider to be a pretty ugly stand. And the lack of any side-placed ports makes the absence of swiveling even more lamentable. The on-set controls are hard to see even in a well-lit room, and we already have our misgivings about the finicky nature of touch controls and their lack of good tactile feedback. Sometimes, it's hard to tell definitively if the TV is even off or on.
For a plasma, the NS-42P650A11 has a pretty poor black level. Even amongst LCD televisions, 0.27 cd/m2 is not great. Its peak brightness is higher than a lot of plasmas, but its maximum contrast ratio is still comparably bad. Toss some poor color performance into this mix, and you have to wonder what you're really paying for.
Finally, the lack of connectivity and flexibility on this model limits it greatly. For what you're paying, you don't get any internet or smart features, no USB playback, and just enough ports to get by. The menus are lackluster, and frankly look a little dated, though they're easy enough to navigate. Its best features are viewing angle and motion processing, but those things by themselves aren't enough to redeem the rest of its flaws.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 would be a great low-end sports television for a dorm room, but we can't recommend it as a serious, long-term investment when for a couple hundred dollars more you could pick up the Panasonic TC-P50S30.
Meet the tester
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email