Insignia NS-42P650A11 Review
We cant recommend the Insignia NS-42P650A11 as a serious, long-term investment.
The NS-42P650A11 (MSRP $499) is a mid-sized plasma from Insignia. Keeping in line with Insignia’s tradition of minimalist features and low prices, the NS-42P650A11 should deliver deep blacks, simple set-up, and little-to-no “bells and whistles.” This, of course, means no 3D, internet, or smart features and is one of the only ways a 42-inch HDTV with plasma technology is going to retail for less than $500.
Users can also expect simple menus and a modest selection of ports, but for some users that is preferable to a TV with “the works.” Unfortunately, what all users want (even for a low-end plasma) is good color performance and that is where the NS-42P650A11 falls noticeably short.
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.
The Insignia NS-42P650A11 has the 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. 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.
Smart TV Features
Inflexible menus and no internet features.
In case it wasn't already clear, the Insignia NS-42P650A11 has no internet features. It also, as you might guess, 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.
Its menu interface is simple and easy to navigate. It has so few features that require regular access so you likely won’t be spending too much time in it beyond initially setting up and calibrating brightness, picture mode, etc. to your personal preferences.
While motion performance and viewing angle are good, everything else is pretty dismal.
I was very dismayed by this Insignia's picture quality before even testing it. It just looks... bad. Its shadows are full of blue and red streaks and are banded, lacking the fine detail to appear realistic. Furthermore, its black level is very bright—especially for a plasma television—resulting in a very narrow contrast ratio.
The one thing the Insignia NS-42P650A11 does well is handle motion-based content. In the hallowed tradition of the plasmas before it, it 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.
It also tested with a huge viewing angle, which makes it ideal for sports or group watching.
It doesn't perform very well, but then again, this television is very inexpensive.
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. 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 very narrow. Toss some poor color performance into this mix and you have to wonder what you’re really paying for.
It did outshone many expensive plasmas in the areas of motion performance and viewing angle, and would be a great low-end sports television for a dorm room, but we can’t recommend it as a serious, long-term investment. Even still, at that price ($499), you could do a lot worse.
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