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.

Reflections are distracting unless you watch in the dark.

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!

The F4500's most rewarding feature is its on-board software, which is quite advanced for an entry-level series.

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.

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.
Our 51-inch F4500 sample passed most tests with flying colors. As long as it's not trying to cram 1080p resolution into its 1024 x 768 pixel count, it looks brilliant. Deep blacks, decent brightness, smooth motion, and a palatable palette of colors make the majority of content look excellent. It may not be the most virtuosic TV, but that one song it knows sounds mighty fine.

Lovin' this low luminance

Contrast is hugely important to good picture quality. A TV's contrast ratio is a measure of its maximum luminance divided by its minimum luminance, and the resulting number (which averages around 1000:1) says a lot about its overall quality. The F4500 may be the runt of Samsung's plasma litter, but it's a litter that's literally littered with quality shadow tones.

We tested a superb black level of 0.02 cd/m2 and a 20% APL brightness of 157.80 cd/m2 , giving the F4500 a wide contrast ratio of 6575:1—much better than anything from years past. This isn't beyond any of the other plasmas in Samsung's 2013 lineup, but it's very good for the price you're paying.

Flawless, as usual

Viewing angle is a measure of how far you can watch a TV's screen from center before the picture becomes unwatchable or washed out. With LCD TVs, the picture quality tends to suffer most at around 45° and up from the center. Plasmas, however, are capable of a full 178° of horizontal viewing—and the F4500 is no exception. Feel free to wall mount.

A number of flaws, but nothing major

Color integrity is the next most important aspect of picture quality, after contrast ratio. The F4500 sports a killer contrast ratio—part of why it scored so well—but its color is a touch imperfect. Only the most hawk-eyed viewers would likely ever notice most of these issues, but be prepared for some oddities if you watch at a resolution higher than 720p.

Our first test checks the saturation/hue of the TV's primary colors: red, green, and blue. The F4500 matches the ideal hues alright, but oversaturates each by a small degree, meaning it loses some "below peak" details during playback. This won't be as obvious as the lower resolution, but it again discounts it as a machine for high-resolution content.

Next, we tested the F4500's color temperature across its grayscale (16-235). Ideally, we want to see its grayscale maintaining a steady color temperature from black to white. While the F4500 wavers a good amount throughout that range, most of these fluctuations are imperceptible to the human eye.

Lastly, the F4500's color and grayscale curves describe the proper plasma gamma curve—which is inverted to re-allocate detail in places where plasma tech tends to obscure it if left to its own digital devices—sort of an equalizing measure for analog human eyes. While its curves are somewhat well-balanced, they're quite choppy; a full, smooth range of color simply isn't possible, but at its lesser resolution, this is not visible.

Meet the testers

Lee Neikirk

Lee Neikirk

Editor

@Koanshark

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.

See all of Lee Neikirk's reviews

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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.

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