Samsung’s Smart TV platform is comfortably the most advanced Smart system the TV currently has to offer. It's the only brand to carry all the UK's catch-up services (BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, and Demand 5), as well as other subscription big hitters like Netflix and Lovefilm, and its 'S Recommendations' system does a great job of tracking your viewing habits and suggesting things you might like.
There are a few presentational/ease of use issues with the Smart TV system, as detailed in our in-depth Samsung 2013 Smart TV review.
But there’s one further issue to add where the Samsung PS-50A558 specifically is concerned, namely that some parts of the Smart interface run a bit sluggishly, presumably because this cheaper set uses a dual-core rather than quad-core processing engine.
This can be particularly aggravating when using the voice recognition system, as there’s quite a lengthy delay between first pressing the Voice button on the remote and the voice menu appearing.
As usual with plasma, the highlight is the black level depth the screen can reach. There’s only the faintest trace of the sort of grey clouding over black areas of the picture that are still very common with rival LCD TVs and less able plasma TVs. Samsung’s PS-50A558 plasmas can deliver even deeper blacks, we should stress, as can the likes of the Panasonic PS-50A558 and any Panasonic set from the ST60 upwards. But we’re seriously struggling to think of another TV at the PS-50A558’s price level that can compete in this most important of picture quality areas.
It’s not just the depth of the black level response that impresses, either. As we’d hope to see with plasma, where each pixel is self-illuminating, the Samsung PS-50A558 manages to deliver exceptional amounts of shadow detail in dark areas that ensures even the darkest parts of the picture retain a sense of depth consistent with the rest of the image. This is another way in which the PS-50A558 outperforms LCD technology.