Samsung FP-T5884 Plasma TV Real-World Performance
The Samsung's color was generally very good, but flesh tones were often slightly ruddy-looking, and sunlit foliage tended toward a glowing, Crayola green. But the flesh tones were, at least to a degree, program dependent, and luminescent greens are so common in digital displays that I sometimes wonder if manufacturers deliberately shift their color palettes in this direction for that eye-grabbing, showroom look.
Neither of these characteristics was related to color space. As you'll see in the Measurements section, the Samsung's color space, in the Auto mode, is more accurate than most of its competitors. And both problems could be tamed somewhat by adjustments to the Color and Tint controls. To the extent that they could not, my eyes easily adjusted to them.
Another concern is the set's black level. The reproduction of deep blacks was merely average for a flat panel display. Dark scenes with little contrast—that is, scenes that range from black to dark shades of gray without bright highlights—had a subtly washed-out, foggy look that characterizes many digital displays on such material.
Fortunately, this type of scene is relatively rare. For every example, like the below-decks opening sequence in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, there are a dozen dark scenes with bright highlights. Such scenes cause fewer problems for video displays, because the eye uses those bright highlights as a reference point by which to judge the depth of the blacks. Sets like the FP-T5884 can look much better on these scenes than their measurements—or their performance on those rarer, black and gray scenes—might otherwise suggest.
So while the Samsung, like many competing sets, struggled with scenes such as the one the opens Master and Commander, it did surprisingly well on dark-but-highlighted scenes. A prime example of this is a long sequence in the exceptional new Blu-ray transfer of The Rock—a night mission to rescue hostages on Alcatraz (The Rock of the title) and foil a domestic terrorist plot. These scenes will look richer on a set with very deep blacks, but they are fully convincing on the Samsung. On this and similar scenes, the performance of this set never took me out of the movie—and in the final analysis, isn't that the most important point?
The Samsung's performance was all uphill from there. I have a demo disc from Pioneer that was designed to show off the strengths of that company's plasma sets. But it looked superb on the Samsung as well. Its colors were clean and natural, and the flesh tones on the live video material looked correct. Most of the dark scenes looked believable, there were no visible artifacts, and the details were crisp without appearing enhanced.
In fact, the detail on the FP-T5884 was first-rate, particularly at 1080i and 1080p. The exceptional Blu-ray transfer of Alexander is loaded with pristine details, particularly in the beginning as Ptolemy, now an old man, dictates his memoirs of Alexander to his Egyptian scribe, or later in the film when the Greeks enter Babylon. To be fair, these sequences look amazing on any good display, but they certainly did not disappoint in any way on the Samsung.
I tend to concentrate primarily on the high-definition performance of modern sets, which is appropriate—if you're spending this sort of money for a video display and watching mainly standard-definition material, you're probably not reading this site anyway! But standard-def material is still important, and the limited amount I sampled on the Samsung also looked good. I might wish for better video processing than I found here, but with today's upconverting sources, that shouldn't be a deal breaker.