I've had my PN64D550 since mid August and haven't seen one single brightness pop. After reading the thread about the "pops", I thought I was one of the lucky ones in getting a 2011 Samsung plasma not having this issue.
Last night, however, I started getting the brightness pops. Not with Blu-rays or watching programming through my DVR -- but through my brand new Boxee Box that I just set up last night. Right away I started getting the brightness pops on most of the stuff I was watching. Crap.
I thought the Boxee was defective at first, but to make certain before returning it to Best Buy, I connected the Boxee Box to my 42" LCD TV and there were no brightness / gamma fluctuations that I'm getting using the Boxee with my PN64D500 Samsung.
I know from working in video production that programming produced for broadcast must carefully deliver video levels (legal broadcast colors) that stay within regulated perameters. And since material streamed from the Boxee Box is far from broadcast quality - it seems that maybe the current Samsung plasma lineup is too sensitive to clipping than they should be. My set doesn't have issues with anything (yet) other than what I'm bringing in through the Net.
I just read the brief piece by the editor at CNET. I think the issue is bigger than CNET admits. My issue (like many of yours) is that when watching some material, the brightness pops are happening a lot. I'd say several times per min. in scenes with high contrast. This is a real issue . . . not one that someone purchasing a new TV should have to accept as "good enough".
Aside from this and too much crosstalk with 3D, the set is stellar with an amazing image. If I have to live without a firmware fix to address the pop problem, I know my love for this TV will diminish very quickly.
Let's all demand that a) Samsung ADMIT they are aware that they have a problem and b) that they promise a firmware fix fast. If they can't fix, they should recall defective product.