Not very long ago I reviewed - and was not especially impressed by - Samsung's PS-42PS5SD. But that entry-level model is certainly not to be confused with the similarly monikered 42PS5HX. You see, while the SD in the other model's name stands for standard-definition, the H on this model denotes high-definition...
Samsung's customary flare for design is clear as day on the 42PS5HX, which combines glossy black on the screen frame with silver for the speakerbearing subsection. The cunning little gap that's been left between the screen and speaker bar is particularly sweet.
Fittingly, for a TV focussed on HD, the 42PS5HX carries both an HDMI input and HD-friendly component video jacks. Aside from these, there's an analogue PC socket, a couple of Scarts, and all the other lesser-quality AV gubbins.
Enforcing this TV's HD Ready specification is a native resolution of 1366 x 768; another key feature is its Digital Natural Image Engine (DNIe) processing, for improving motion handling, boosting colour saturations and tone, extending the contrast range, and adding more fine detail.
Elsewhere can be found noise reduction, SRS TruSurround audio processing, and picture-in-picture tools. That's pretty much it so far as the interesting stuff goes, though.
Unfortunately, it doesn't take long to figure out that the 42PS5HX's use of an HD-resolution panel hasn't really benefited its picture quality much. Like its SD sibling, the screen suffers from an uninspiring black level response, which sees dark movie scenes looking washed out and unnatural in colour tone.
Our Tech Labs measured contrast at an unexciting 335:1, after calibration.
Problems with colour fidelity aren't exclusive to dark areas either, as skin tones tend to look green round the gills no matter how bright the scene you're watching.
There's also a softness to the 42PS5HX's standard-definition pictures, be they from the tuner, a Sky Digital receiver or even a DVD player.
Stepping up to high-definition brings good news, and it's here that the 42PS5HX's HD pictures outshine those from the 42PS5SD. Here colour fidelity improves and the fizzing noise over motion has being reduced.
The 42PS5HX's sound fares rather better than its pictures. The soundstage is big but controlled, bass is plentiful and the mid-range is bright but seldom harsh.
Although reasonably priced for an HD Ready 42in plasma TV, I can't help but feel that the 42PS5HX requires buyers to swallow too many picture compromises for comfort.