Samsung HP-S4273: A Media- Savvy Plasma HDTV

This 42-inch Plasma HDTV from Samsung may have fewer pixels than some of the latest high-resolution flat-panel displays, but it compensates for that with its superb contrast and easy multimedia file support.

Weighing 89.7 pounds, the TV has a glossy black frame that features an unobtrusive Samsung logo and an illuminated circular power button centered on the lower bezel. Most notable among the HP-S4273's many connections are a CableCARD slot along with a USB port and two flash memory card slots that provide easy access to digital images and music using the TV’s integrated player.

While viewing the set, I was disappointed to find that it couldn't stretch widescreen programming (SD or HD) to fill the entire screen. Also, some video noise cropped up in the darkest grays and was evident during some dark movie scenes. Color accuracy was average, with red tones shifted slightly toward orange and green shifted significantly toward cyan. (TV manufacturers often set green tones to look mow bluish in order to grab the attention of sports fans, as this adjustment has the effect of making half-dead lawns look lively and the turf of a stadium "pop.") Another phase of my testing revealed that the HP-S4273 was capable of impressively dark black levels (0, 09 Cd/m2), which allowed it to produce an average contrast ratio of 1,190:1- an excellent result.

Standard- definition (SD) video can look terrible on an HDTV that lacks effective video processing. I gauge the SD video-processing prowess of HDTVs using a selection of popular DVD movies and DVD-based test materials, including the Silicon Optix HQV benchmark test DVD. When it was fed a 480i signal over component video cable, the HIP-S4273’s performance was quite good at minimizing jagged edges that can appear when interlaced video is displayed. The HP-S4273 had fewer jaggies than the value-priced 42-inch Vizio VP42 plasma television, an Editors’ Choice winner. Aside from that, however, the Vizio - as well as the amazing and expensive 42-inch pioneer PRO-940HD- delivered a more detailed picture when displaying HQV’s challenging bridge scene and the faces of actors.

The HP-S4273 was also slow to detect film sourced DVD movies, leaving obvious jagged edges and moiré artifact visible until it finally locked on. Moreover, the TV failed one of the two film mode tests on the HQV test disc. The HP-S4273's handling of the HD HQV benchmark rest resulted in a barely above-average final wore, with points deducted for some minor jagged artifacts and half-resolution (single-field) processing of the 1080i material.

Still, it was a decent performance. Aside from some problems screening film- sourced DVDs and dark scenes, the Samsung HP-S4273 is an excellent HDTV option.

Samsung HP-S4273: $2,799

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