Samsung PN51F4500 Plasma TV Review
The perfect TV... for 2009
The PN51F4500 ($849) is Samsung's entry-level plasma series for 2013. That means no 3D, smart content, or wacky features. For that cheap price, you're buying a basic display with a 720p native resolution.
The F4500 offers solid picture quality, but only for sub-1080p content like cable and DVDs. That's perfect for the majority of viewers, though. Looking for an investment that'll be relevant longer? Check out the competition.
Please... no more gloss.
Our 51-inch F4500 test unit isn't going to be winning any awards for fashion. The name of the game is cheap black plastic, and this TV wears it in spades (or clubs). Fairly thick, glossy bezels wrap the gray-tinted screen, which perches above a flat, rectangular stand of the same material. Your ports and on-set controls are around back. The F4500 series is cheap, and this time Samsung doesn't try to hide it.
The big problem with the glossy finish is the way it catches light. During viewing, reflections can be distracting unless you either meticulously arrange the lamps in the room or watch in the dark—which is probably the best choice, considering that it's a plasma. This obviously isn't the biggest problem a TV owner can face, but with such a simple product, there's not much else that merits discussion.
As the F4500 series is decidedly entry-level, its available connectivity is less a buffet, more a kids' meals. For high-definition output devices, you've only got two HDMI inputs to work with. There's also a single USB port, a shared component/composite cluster, a digital audio out, and a coaxial jack for cable/antenna connection. The F4500's Accessory Kit is equally bare bones; the included infrared clicker may glow in the dark, but it's still the most basic amongst Samsung's 2013 remote controls.
Sometimes, a TV is just a TV.
Streaming content? Apps? Browser? 3D? Nope, sorry. This TV doesn't do any of those things, and it's proud of its simple country roots. In all seriousness, this Samsung's main selling points are its price tag and the intrinsic picture quality associated with plasma TVs. As far as extraneous uses go, media stored on a USB drive can be played back—pictures, music, and videos. Hey, at least you aren't paying for awful flash games!
Samsung does go out of its way to soothe your fear of burn-in, though. The F4500 is equipped with an automatic pixel shifter, built-in scrolling bars, and adjustable 4:3/letterbox bars (black or gray).
Burn-in doesn't seem to be a huge issue, however; we ran some standard definition content for a number of hours, and then ran the scrolling bars, and the phosphor cells were able to refresh without retaining anything on-screen.
The F4500's most rewarding feature is its on-board software, which is quite advanced for an entry-level series. Included alongside controls for Cell Light, Contrast, and Brightness are more advanced options: RGB modes, custom color space selection, 10-point white balance, gamma, and the same Black optimizer setting found on the F8500 flagship.
A great picture—at the right distance.
The PN51F4500's native resolution is 720p, and that's part of why it's so cheap. The actual pixel count is 1366 x 768, but with the Screen Fit aspect adjustment, it's capable of proper bit-mapping—pixel-for-pixel matching between a TV and the source material, which means no overscan, no stretching, and no squashing. For this reason, the F4500's 720p resolution is really only a problem under certain circumstances.
First, you likely don't want to use it as a monitor. Sitting close enough to browse websites reveals an ugly, sub-optimal pixel density, and text looks blocky and stair-stepped. Anything really text-heavy is not going to look amazing.
On the other hand, sitting too close to the F4500 is really the only time it doesn't look pretty good. At eight to 10 feet away, cable or satellite content—the majority of which is broadcast at 720p or less—looks excellent.
We put the F4500 through the usual rigorous paces in the lab, and discovered decent performance in all the key areas. Its healthy contrast ratio is bolstered by both quality black levels and an acceptable amount of light output. As usual, the F4500's plasma tech makes for smooth, blur-free motion, especially at 720p or lower resolutions, though things tend to interlace and blur more with 1080p source material. The F4500 preserves subtle color detail, but is not as vibrant in hue as it could be.
Overall, the picture quality is great for most content, but is not ideal for high-resolution playback.
Perfect for most content
At the end of the day, the PN51F4500 is well-suited for most uses. It can't quite compete with a native 1080p plasma—higher-end video games and Blu-ray discs don't look their best here—but for "middle ground" content, like cable or DVDs, the F4500 provides a higher-quality picture than much of the year's TV crop.
At $849—though currently marked down to $499—this no-frills plasma has a single function, but it performs it efficaciously. Put it across the room, and anyone without 20/15 visual acuity is going to say it looks as good as plasmas costing two or three times as much. The only drawback to this set is that it's outdated: In a few years, if 1080p or higher resolutions become the broadcast standard, it's going to feel like a flip phone. If you need picture quality for the here and now, though, it's the man for the job.
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