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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 F8500 plasmas can deliver even deeper blacks, we should stress, as can the likes of the Samsung PS60E550 and any Samsung set from the ST60 upwards. But we’re seriously struggling to think of another TV at the Samsung PS60E550’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 PS60E550 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 Samsung PS60E550 outperforms LCD technology.
Also hugely welcome is the consistency of the Samsung PS60E550’s black levels right across the screen. There are none of the cloudy patches of extra brightness often witnessed with LCD TVs. Plus, of course, since this is plasma technology, you can watch it from much wider viewing angles without contrast deteriorating than is the case with LCD screens.
Strong black level performances tend to be accompanied by natural and dynamic colors, and that is the case with the Samsung PS60E550, too. When watching HD we were extremely impressed by not only the dynamism of the color palette on show, but also by the subtlety with which the screen is able to render small tonal shifts. This is especially obvious/appreciated with skin tones, which look superbly natural at all times, even during dark scenes.