I had the opportunity to calibrate the Samsung PN63B550 recently at Cleveland Plasma. This part of the review will be a little sparse, but Saturday night I will be comparing the B550 with the latest, thinnest (and greatest?) Samsung plasma head to head, and I will go into more detail of the picture quality of each one.
Sources were a Panasonic Blu Ray player and DirecTV, both connected via HDMI. The room was quite open and bright, with lots of sunshine, though none shone directly into the screen.
With the set in movie mode at the default settings, my first impression was similar to the impression I get from a Panasonic 800u in THX mode before calibration: pretty natural, smooth, and good color, but lacking in punch and shadow detail. I thought I saw just a hint of the clay-face look; brightly lit faces looked a little glazed over, but that was on a questionable quality program on DirecTV. It looked like the light output was too low for this environment, making the picture lack excitement. The black level looked promising, though; I could not see any difference in a black image when I turned the set off and on again. On a totally black screen I could not tell if the set was turned on. I'm sure that would not be the case in a darker theater room, though.
I hooked up my test equipment and ran some measurements before I changed any settings. I used CalMAN Pro with the i1Pro spectroradiometer, and small window patterns were used. The results are shown in attachment 1. Grayscale tracking was surprisingly good. Keep in mind that, in the RGB tracking graph, the divisions are at 5%. This is zoomed in more than most published graphs, where each division might be 10 or 20%. Because of the good RGB tracking, the color temp averaged 6977. The color gamut looked pretty good. The color primaries were just slightly wide. The overall color saturation was a little too hot, though, as shown by the absolute luminance graph. The gamma, while not bad, did compress some at the high end; that may be the cause of the slight clay face look I noticed, though it's not so bad that it should cause that look all on it's own. More likely, it was just bad enough that on a poor quality source with a bit of that look to begin with, the added gamma compression was just enough to make it stand out. Light output was 38.7 ftl. Unfortunately, I was unable to accurately measure contrast ratio because I didn't have my low light reading meter (Milori Trichromat-1, AKA Sencore CP III) with me. I will have that when I do the comparison Saturday night and will get full on/off and modified ANSI contrast measurements.
I went into the service menu and was disappointed to see the expert mode was missing, and there were no color space adjustments. It was definitely sparser than I am used to seeing from Samsung. For these reasons I exited and just did the calibration in the user menus.
Fortunately, the advanced user menus have everything I wished for except adjustable color space, which many Samsungs have. Instead there are 2 choices for color space: native and auto. I measured the best calibrated results from native (attachment 2) and auto (attachment 3). Auto was best.
The calibration eliminated the black crush and raised light output to a level that is better suited to a brighter environment. I was also able to get better grayscale tracking. The gamma compression was totally eliminated. After calibration, color decoding was superb for a set without full color space adjustments. Resulting measurements are shown in attachment 4. I can find nothing to complain about in these measurements; it is all excellent!
Looking at some DirecTV and Blu Ray, the picture looked very good. My notes say "very smooth pic, no graininess or false contouring." Also, the color looked fantastic! Now, I am still disappointed that there was no custom color space adjustment as in some other Samsungs, but without an a/b comparison it's hard to imagine the color looking any better. The set had much more punch and vibrancy than before. My only negative impression was with DirecTV: it did look a little soft, lacking detail. I didn't notice that with Blu Ray, and I will hold off judgment on that issue until the comparison Saturday night. I will also look harder at the contrast performance then; the room was just too bright to make solid judgments on contrast or black levels.
Overall, I was very impressed. It's a huge leap from Samsung's models just 2 years ago, and even a noticeable improvement over the last models.
Part 2 can be found here: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...3#post16491623