Samsung SPN4235 42" EDTV Plasma Television


Samsung's SPN4235 Plasma TV is an entry-level plasma screen with a nice feature set. The 4235 boasts two component video inputs and one each of S-video, DVI, composite, VGA, and antenna inputs. The set's obvious appeal is that is has a small form factor - there's almost nothing there but screen. It's ideal to install on a wall if you want a big screen set but don't have the living room space for a large projection or tube television.

Although I ultimately returned my SPN4235, I did keep it for several weeks, so I had an opportunity to get familiar with the pros and cons of this set.

A few specifications

Street price $2500 or so, if you can find it on clearance
Size 40.5" wide, 3.2" deep, 24.9" high
Resolution 852x480 (EDTV)
Screen (diagonal) 42"
Video Inputs 1 S-video, 2 component, 1 composite, 1 VGA 15-pin, 1 DVI
Video input location Rear of set, facing down
Convenience features 2-tuner PIP with split-screen mode, Freeze, Zoom/Panorama, Sleep timer
Remote type IR, non-learning but can control a limited number of other manufacturers DVD players and cable boxes.


The 4235 is easy to hook up - with one severe problem that I will describe in the next paragraph. The inputs are all located on the back and face down. Unless you have a wall mount that cannot be adjusted in any way, you should have an easy time connecting your sources. The two component inputs allowed me some flexibility, since my Lexicon DC-1 cannot switch component video. The PC input was easy to use. I plugged my laptop in and was ready to go.

One glaring flaw with this television was the lack of options for hooking up audio to this set. Samsung sells this set without built-in speakers. This is an excellent idea, since many of us are going to hook the set up to a surround sound system anyway. Samsung, however, does not provide any line-level audio outputs on this television. The only audio outputs at all are some spring-loaded clips to attach their speakers. In other words, the set would be ideal to hook into a home theater, except Samsung doesn't provide a way for you to do it! This boneheaded decision on the part of Samsung means that the built-in dual tuner PIP features of the set are useless, unless you want to hook additional speakers up to the television - and then you won't get surround sound.

Update: It's of course possible to use an external tuner for this set like Viewsonic's Nextvision (The N4 is available for $70-ish on Ebay as I write this.). However, you'll lose some of the convenience of this set's picture-in-picture capability.

The menus on the SPN4235 are clunky. For example, to switch input sources, you must press the button and then use the remote's joystick to select what input you want. There appears to be no way to directly select an input source - which may make programming your universal remote a challenge - you'll need a macro to switch video sources.

The menus also spit out "Not available" a lot. Due to the way the buttons are arranged on the remote and on the television itself, you would assume the channel buttons on the remote could also be used to navigate the menus. They can't. Rather than just doing nothing, the menu disappears when the channel buttons are pressed, leaving only the "Not available" message.

Video quality

The SPN4235 is an EDTV plasma set, which means its resolution is 852x480. This is great for watching all those widescreen DVDs. The set supports 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i signals, but you obviously won't get full HD quality. I was able to test the set with 480i and 480p signals only. The set deinterlaces 480i pictures, which makes for a cleaner picture than my older Panasonic Superflat set. Panorama mode, a mode that attempts to stretch the sides of a 4:3 image to fit on a 16:9 screen, was a mixed bag. For some material, the image distortion wasn't very noticable. For other material, it was like watching television projected onto a barrel. If all you watch is 4:3 material and you don't do a lot of movie viewing, you should avoid the SPN4235.

All SPN4235s are not created equal. Some of them have Samsung's DNIE technology and a film mode, which may or may not improve the picture quality. My SPN4235 did not have either of these features, so I cannot say if they help or harm picture quality.

The SPN4235 should be a good mate for a progressive scan DVD player. The images from my Panasonic DVD Recorder were very film-like. The overall viewing experience was excellent. We watched Return of the King on the set as our first demo. The picture from the DVD was extremely clear in the outdoor scenes of the film.

The picture wasn't perfect, however. The SPN4235 does not display details in dark scenes very well. Some details simply disappear. Some dark shades of color appear "dithered" and blotchy. This is apparently an issue with many low-end plasma sets. It likely won't bother you unless you sit very close to the television (as you would when playing a video game). Fades to black are also not as smooth as they were on my old Panasonic Superflat.

I tried out the VGA input with my Thinkpad X20 laptop. My laptop's native resolution is 800x600 (SVGA), which scaled nicely to the SPN4235's screen. The owner's manual for the SPN4235 doesn't recommend leaving still images on the screen for very long due to the possibility of burn-in, so I didn't experiment much. The image quality was certainly acceptable for presentations and such. Dark shades were (again) not rendered very well on the SPN4235. I noticed that part of my desktop backdrop just disappeared into nothingness. I have a picture of rocks in a fast-moving river, and the detail on the dark rocks was just ... gone.

Build quality

If you buy an SPN4235, buy one from a retailer who has a good return policy. You may find the picture problems of this set are ones you can't live with - especially for nearly $3000.


Overall, if you can find the SPN4235 on clearance for half price, it'd be a great buy. This set's form factor is great (it's all screen!), and if you don't need to use the internal tuners for anything, you can overlook the lack of an audio output on the set. But at full or sale price, you'd expect a better picture. Also, at full price you would expect to be able to USE the built-in tuners and still get surround sound!

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This web site was last updated December 19, 2009.