After waiting far too long for Full HD plasmas to appear, they're now starting to become commonplace.
The only remaining problem is their high price when compared with Full HD LCD TVs. All hail Samsung's £1,900 latest, then...
At first glance, no obvious compromises have been made. The PS50P96FD is a usual Samsung looker and makes all the right connectivity moves. These include three HDMI (v1.3) sockets (compatible with auto lip-synch and Deep Colour features), component video, a PC port, and a digital optical audio output.
Samsung's picture technology
The PS50P96FD can take 1080p/24fps feeds of the sort output by most new Blu-ray players, and can show 1080-line sources with no overscanning - pictures can be reproduced on a pixel by pixel basis.
Features include Samsung's Ultra FilterBright technology (for soaking up the onscreen reflections and helping the TV claim its 15,000:1 contrast ratio) and a trio of picture processing elements - one worthwhile; the other two not.
The Digital Natural Image engine (DNIe) is welcome: it does a fair job of souping up colour response, fine detail levels, contrast range and noise suppression. Movie Plus and Edge Enhancement are less welcome.
The former seeks to make motion less juddery, but also adds distracting, flickering noise around the edges of moving objects. The latter simply tries too hard, leaving edges looking stressy and unnatural. At least these processing systems are optional.
For the tinkerers among you, meanwhile, other useful options include black level and white balance adjustments, gamma settings, all manner of fancy colour controls, digital noise reduction, and a dynamic contrast feature. It's surprising to find the menus sluggishly responsive, though.
Vibrant Full HD
In operation, the PS50P96FD punches well above its price weight. Fed Mission: Impossible III on HD DVD, the 1920 x 1080 resolution displays exceptional amounts of texture, clarity and detail. Also, with its 1:1 pixel mode in action, there's no problem with video noise whatsoever.
That Full HD resolution makes its presence felt in another department too: colours. There appears to be slightly more subtlety in colour blends than you'd expect to see from a lower-resolution plasma screen of a similar size, helping HD pictures look more natural and three-dimensional.
Not related to the screen's Full HD resolution but still mighty impressive is the vibrancy of the PS50P96FD's colour tones and the profundity of its black level response.
Regarding the latter, the deep, rich blacks of the movie's night-time assault on the Berlin warehouse are reproduced with striking authenticity and practically no sign of common problems like 'grey mist' or a green undertone to dark colours.
Our only complaints about the PS50P96FD's pictures are that reds can look a touch orangey at times, and that motion blurs marginally more than we'd expect from a plasma (as opposed to LCD) screen.
The set's audio is also a little weak, lacking the power and range to completely do the impressive pictures justice.
The question is, can we put up with such relative trivialities in the face of so much quality elsewhere and that remarkably affordable price? The answer is a resoundingly positive single word.