Samsung PS51D6900 3D Plasma TV Review

2D Calibration

Note: Our Samsung PS51D6900 review sample was calibrated using Calman Professional, the industry-leading video calibration software.

After turning the D6900 plasma on, we adjusted the picture mode to “Movie” from the default “Standard”, which (almost always) gives an uncalibrated display the best fighting chance at producing a high quality, accurate picture, before any further picture tweaks are made. We also used our previous experience of Samsung HDTVs, and shut off the MPEG Noise Reduction and Noise Reduction systems, as well as the Dynamic Contrast option (which produces a “richer” picture – something that isn’t always necessarily desired – and can introduce other technical side-effects).

2D Mode Greyscale

Pre-calibration RGB Tracking
Pre-calibration RGB tracking and delta errors (dEs)

We were fairly happy with the picture quality in this configuration, but we could detect a slight red haze, which made flesh tones look slightly too warm. For an out-of-the-box measurement, this is a fairly good result, although we’ve seen better results on some of Panasonic’s THX-certified Plasmas.

Post-calibration RGB Tracking in [Movie] mode
Post-calibration RGB tracking and dEs in [Movie] mode

Samsung’s displays usually benefit from a good calibration, and although this isn’t open to all users, we really do think it’s worthwhile to get the absolute best out of the television. Thanks to its 10-point Greyscale (“White Balance”) adjustment option, removing the red casts and producing a perfectly neutral picture took almost no time at all on the Samsung PS51D6900. Any colour tints were reduced well below the point of being noticeable, let alone irritating. The calibrated Greyscale performance was one of the best we’ve ever seen, and although this is to be expected (more or less) on an HDTV equipped with 10-point Greyscale calibration, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth celebrating.

Gamma curve in [Movie] mode Gamma tracking in [Movie] mode
Gamma curve in [Movie] mode Corresponding gamma tracking

The 10-point Greyscale adjustment screen can also be used to even out Gamma issues, in order to make sure that the brightness at each stimulus level is optimal. All the calibrator needs to do is balance the Red/Green/Blue controls until the most tint-free Grey shade is achieved, and then raise (or lower) all three controls simultaneously to influence Gamma tracking. This more subtle aspect of the Samsung PS51D6900′s performance was by no means bad in the out-of-the-box state, and became nearly perfect after we used the aforementioned technique. As with all (affordable) Plasma TVs we’ve seen though, some fluctuations away from optimal gamma tracking are likely in practice.

2D Mode Colour

We’re used to achieving perfection on Samsung HDTVs, thanks to the excellent colour management system (CMS) they’ve been using for some time now. This uses R/G/B adjustments rather than giving direct control over the hue, saturation, and luminance of the colours (as with most TV makers’ menus), so it might take some getting used to for those who haven’t calibrated a Samsung TV before. Rest assured, even if the layout is unfamiliar, the level of control is theoretically just as good as systems which give direct control over Hue/Saturation/Luminance.

We achieved the following result with the [Colour Space] menu on the PS-51D6900:

Post-calibration CIE chart in [Movie] mode
Post-calibration CIE chart with reference to HD Rec.709

The colour management implementation on this HDTV surprised us, because when we were making adjustments concerning Green, we had to fight with the controls to achieve the result we wanted. For example, by default, the Green primary colour was over-saturated, and to counter this, we had to increase the [Red] control for this particular colour, to drag the colour position slightly closer towards red. We had to set this control to “100″ (the maximum setting) to achieve the result you see in the chart above, and even then, there remains some inaccuracy (although we didn’t find it hugely visible). This is surprising, and unusual for Samsung.

Post-calibration Luminance levels in [Movie] mode
Post-calibration colour luminance (coloured bars = targets; black bars = measured values)

There’s little to say about the colour decoding (or colour luminance) measured from this plasma television, other than that, after calibration, it’s perfect. This is critical for realistic colour reproduction, and makes the slightly off-hue green error discussed above seem less significant.

3D Calibration

With 2D done and dusted, we attached a pair of Samsung SSG-3100 active shutter glasses to the front of our Klein Instruments K-10 meter, and switched them on. This has the effect of allowing the meter to take the glasses’ own colour tint into account, so we can adjust the controls on the 3D TV to counter-balance for a neutral picture.

3D Mode Greyscale

3D Pre-calibration RGB Tracking
3D Pre-calibration RGB tracking and delta errors (dEs)

Although Samsung are catching up with (or have surpassed) Panasonic’s Plasma televisions in some areas, out-of-the-box 3D Greyscale tracking is not one of them. 3-dimensional images displayed with an excess of blue from 30-100% brightness, with 20% brightness and below appearing overly reddish. We imagine many users won’t notice and will be more concerned with the extra-dimensional effects, but the tinting becomes more obvious when comparing 2D and 3D display modes with the same film or programme.

3D Post-calibration RGB Tracking in [Movie] mode
3D Post-calibration RGB tracking and dEs in [Movie] mode

10-point Greyscale calibration isn’t an option when the PS51D6900 is operating in 3D mode, so we had to make do with the standard 2-point control, which allows for the greyscale mixing in the low-end (darker) and high-end (brighter) areas to be adjusted, rather than at specific brightness levels. Our first attempt failed to produce a noticeably better image, cleaning up dark areas and bright areas, but at the expense of a large colour cast appearing at near 50% brightness. As a result, we displayed a 50% brightness patch on the screen and adjusted all six controls at the same time, until it was suitably natural. After this, we re-measured the entire greyscale range and were happy to see that, other than an excess of red at 10%, we had achieved a very good result. It’s a shame that 3DTV calibration isn’t really widespread, because flattening out 3D Greyscale tracking makes a big improvement to picture quality.

3D Mode Colour

Samsung Plasmas aren’t the most 3D calibration friendly, and although Greyscale can be saved independently between 2D and 3D modes, we’re only allowed to have one set of colour management settings per input. That means that in order to perfectly calibrate for 3D colour performance, we’d have to dedicate a second HDMI input just for 3D. We can’t imagine anyone will do this, so instead, we left the adjustments we’d made for the 2D mode in place in 3D:

3D Post-calibration CIE chart in [Movie] mode
3D Post-calibration CIE chart with reference to HD Rec.709

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