Samsung UNH6400 series review: Classy clicker sets midpriced TV apart

Voice search and control is available on models from the UNH6400 series up, accessible by hitting the Voice button. I said "ESPN" and the system was smart enough to show me the channels that matched my search (ESPN News, ESPN HD, ESPN 2, and so on) rather than perform a Web search, for example. It worked just as well on some channels ("Sportsnet NY") but failed quite often ("A&E, "NHLNet HD"). It also handles a few preprogrammed commands and custom searches, from "Volume up" to "What's the weather in ___?" to "Anything interesting on tonight?" Its accuracy was very good, as long as I stuck to those phrases, but there were also plenty of failures. As with most of today's voice-control functions, you'll have to put up with more than a few misinterpretations or irrelevant results to go along with the times when it works as you'd expect. At least it's better than it used to be.

You can also perform a standard text search using an onscreen keyboard. Both text and voice searches for video titles hit your TV listings as as well as YouTube, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and CinemaNow. Samsung's search doesn't hit Netflix, Amazon Instant, or HBO Go, however, making it less useful overall than the universal search on Roku or even the Amazon Fire TV, for example.

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Samsung's app selection is second to none, and it's still the only TV maker with HBO Go. Other notable apps among the hundreds available include Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Cloud Player, and AOL On. (Fios TV, available on 2013 models, is missing for now.) There's a Fitness VOD app with on-demand workouts, 35 different kid-specific apps, and many, many more. As you may have guessed, the Games page is just a subset of apps devoted to a handful of casual games you've never heard of; it replaces last year's largely useless Social page.

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Cable box control: The default first page of the Smart TV interface is the On TV section. It basically attempts to replace your cable or satellite box's interface with the TV's own, which consists of six thumbnails of shows playing now and six more that start in the near future. It supposedly learns your preferences over time to figure out which shows to surface, although I did wish for some customization, especially the ability to have On TV show only HD channels. In addition you can use Samsung's own Guide to browse, and it's better than last year although still not nearly as good as the native Fios program guide on my box. I was particularly galled by the fact that no matter which channel I was tuned to, Samsung's guide always began at channel 2.

Personally I wouldn't normally use On TV to select my shows, because most of the TV I watch is stored on my DVR's hard drive. That list of recordings isn't incorporated into On TV at all, so On TV has no idea which of them I watch and can't make suggestions based upon them. For people like me, who almost never watch live TV, Samsung's interface falls short of the one on the box itself.

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The TV controls your cable or satellite box via Samsung's own remote with commands routed through the included IR blaster (above). I didn't like the system quite as much in practice as I did LG's system from 2013, which is being largely carried over this year, but it roundly beats Sony's 2014 system. When controlling the cable box, the very slight delay between pressing a button and seeing the results onscreen was almost unnoticeable; the H6400 seemed seemed faster than on the H6350. That said it's still not as responsive as direct control via a universal or included cable box remote, especially when moving around the box's guide or menus.

If you do decide to use the TV to control your cable box, you'll find yourself visiting the onscreen remote a lot. As I mentioned it's better than Samsung's previous version, thanks to the ability to select and press the onscreen "keys" much more quickly than before, but it can't hold a candle to a good universal remote.

Accessing my list of recorded shows on the DVR was especially tedious. I had to press "Keypad" (which summons the virtual remote), then use the motion control select the "STB Menu" virtual key (the virtual key marked "DVR" didn't work), then use the four-way cursor to click down to "DVR," and then over to "View Recordings." Compare that to one press of the "DVR" button on a standard remote. For some reason the "Return" key also failed with my DVR, and I was annoyed that the Guide button summoned Samsung's own, not the one on my cable box. All of which goes to show that any control scheme is only as good as the commands included, and if it can't "learn" new or custom commands, more's the pity.

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Picture settings: In true Samsung tradition there's plenty on tap here, including 2-point and 10-point grayscale control, an excellent color management system, and four picture presets. Samsung's class-leading Auto Motion Plus dejudder control not only turns the Soap Opera Effect on or off, it allows adjustment of both blur reduction and smoothness -- and includes a setting called LED Clear Motion that improved motion resolution further, albeit along with some visible flicker.

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Connectivity: Nothing major is missing 'round back. Four HDMI ports, three USB, and an optical digital output do the digital heavy lifting, while analog video is served by a single component-video port that's shared with composite video. There's no VGA-style PC input, but there is a port for the included wired IR blaster.

Picture quality

The H6400 is a decent performer, but picture quality isn't its strength. And for people deciding between this TV and the H6350, know that they're much more similar than different when it comes to image fidelity. In fact, I tested both simultaneously and many of the observations below appear in both reviews. I also checked out Micro Dimming on the H6400, and as expected it didn't improve the picture.

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Both the H6400 and H6350 showed relatively light, unimpressive black levels, superb color and video processing, and more uniformity errors than I expected from direct-lit LED TVs. I do appreciate Samsung's trend toward matte screens at this level, which helps a lot in bright rooms, but it can't push the H6400's picture above a "6" on our scale. Neither can its good (but not great) 3D picture quality.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Black level: All three Samsungs performed about the same in this important category, which is to say mediocre. The H6400's black level did beat the Sony W800B and Sharp by a nose, and fell short of the depths displayed by the Vizio and the Sony W850B by a wider margin.

In bright scenes from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", the letterbox bars of the latter two appeared darker than on the others, lending a bit of extra pop and contrast to the image. The gap widened when the scenes shifted to nighttime and darkness, such as the campsite in Chapter 9. The Samsungs looked just a bit washed out compared to the Vizio and Sony W850B, while their advantage over the Sony W800B and the Sharp was quite difficult to discern. Only when the scenes turned very dark, for example when Bilbo talks to the dwarf on the goblins' doorstep (1:50:43), did the Samsungs look slightly better than the Sharp and the Sony W800B.

Details in the shadows were solid on the Samsungs, with Bilbo's jacket and hair, for example, very nicely defined. The only laggards in this department, the Sharp and the Vizio, appeared a bit bright and a bit dark in the shadows, respectively.

I also checked out some scenes with Dynamic Contrast turned on, because according to Samsung that's the control that engages the software-based Micro Dimming on the UNH6400. The setting had no effect on black levels, but it did increase the brightness of highlights, providing a bit more dynamism to the picture. The big tradeoff, however, was that near-dark areas lost some detail, and to reclaim it I had to increase the brightness control -- which, in turn, hurt black levels. Another issue is that with the control off the TV's gamma was nearly perfect, and by turning it on it became worse. For these reasons, I kept the control, and thus Micro Dimming, turned off for my evaluations.

Color accuracy: The H6400's superb measurements for color were borne out in program material; none of the Samsungs had major issues in this area -- and again all appeared very close to one another. Their one fault, exacerbated by lighter black levels, was a bluish tinge to black and near-black areas. The Vizio and W850B didn't show quite that amount of blue shift, while the issue on other two looked very similar to what I saw on the Samsungs.

Skin tones, for example the face of Galadriel in the moonlight (1:35:00), looked very good, the Samsungs both looked a bit better -- and more saturated -- than the Sonys in this regard. Primary colors, from the green of the lush forests of Middle Earth to the blue of the potion Radagast feeds the hedgehog, were just as true.

Video processing: The Samsung UNH6400 performed like a champ in this area, but didn't clearly beat the other two Samsungs despite its higher Clear Motion Rate specification. The main difference concerned how its LED Clear Motion setting behaved.

First, it's capable of delivering true 1080p24 film cadence. Unlike most LED LCD TVs, however, it can also deliver full motion resolution at the same time -- you don't have to engage the oversmooth Soap Opera Effect to get optimum motion resolution. On the Sonys, the Sharp, and the Vizio, conversely, no mode offers true film cadence with zero smoothing and full-motion resolution.

Of course if you're a fan of smoothing you might also appreciate the H6400's 10-point dejudder control under Custom for Auto Motion Plus, which enables you to dial in as much Soap Opera Effect as you like -- from "The Young and the Restless" to "Soap." All of the other AMP settings, aside from Off, introduce some smoothing.

Engaging LED Clear Motion setting under the AMP menu reduces light output significantly, but that's not a big deal since this TV (like most LED LCDs) has plenty of light output anyway. In both the On and Off positions, the TV was able to achieve the full 1,200 lines of resolution -- a superb score for a 120Hz television. On looked very slightly cleaner in our test pattern, but on the other hand, it introduced some flicker that wasn't visible on the H6350. Unless you prefer the flickery look, which to some viewers might seem reminiscent of film projectors, I'd recommend leaving LED Clear Motion turned off on this TV.

As usual with Samsung, you'll need to select the Auto1 setting under Film Mode if you want correct 1080i deinterlacing of film-based sources; the default Auto 2 failed our test.

Uniformity: Since the H6400 is a direct, rather than edge-lit LED, I expected a better showing in this category. While there were no glaring bright spots or "flashlights" along the edges, I noticed some variations in brightness across the screen, and when the screen went all dark there were slightly brighter "clouds" in the lower section. These issues weren't visible in all program material, but when they appeared, for example during the opening titles of "The Hobbit," I did find them distracting. The screens of the Sonys were more uniform in general than those of the three Samsungs, which in turn were about the same as the Sharp and better than the Vizio.

From off-angle, the H6400 was typical for an LCD, washing out and losing pop about as quickly as the other sets, and also becoming bluer- or redder-tinged. The exception was the Vizio, which washed out even more quickly but maintained better color fidelity.

Bright lighting: The screen finish is sort of semi-matte, but more matte than glossy, and identical on all three Samsungs in our lineup. While it didn't deaden reflections quite as well as the Sharp or the Sony W850B, it handled them very well; about the same as the W800B and better than the Vizio. On the other hand the screen managed to retain its black levels nicely in a lit room, performing about the same as the others -- with the exception of the Vizio, which was again worse.

Sound quality: In the H6350 review, I singled out sound quality as one differentiator between the three Samsungs, with the more balanced H6300 sounding best, the boomier, thin-sounding H6350 the worst, and the H6400 in the middle. That shouldn't imply that the H6400 is any good at sound, however. Like the 6350, its bass was still loose and boomy on our test track, Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand," and treble was still scratchy and thin -- just less so. Only the echoey, thin Sony W800B and the thin, distant Vizio sounded worse -- and not by much. With the explosions of our movie test, the bridge assault from "Mission: Impossible 3," audio improved slightly, but it still wasn't good, and the impact and fullness that were audible on the Sony W850B were absent here.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

3D: For a relatively low-end active 3D TV, the H6400 performed relatively well. During "Hugo," I noticed some crosstalk, for example in Hugo's hand or the hair of the guitar player from Chapter 1, and the uniform of the constable in Chapter 4, but it wasn't terrible compared to many active 3D sets I've tested. On the other hand, it wasn't nearly as clean as on the Vizio. The Samsung did deliver a superior 3D image to both Sonys -- while crosstalk on the W800B wasn't as bad as the W850B, it was still much more visible than on the H6400.

Meanwhile the Samsung also produced the brightest image of the active sets, outdoing the W800B by far and nearly matching the passive Vizio. Color was relatively accurate and again, markedly superior to the W850B.

As usual, the fit of Samsung's cheap glasses was loose. They felt flimsy, but in their favor they remained light and comfortable for long periods of time.

Geek Box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.01 Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.35 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.425 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 2.064 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.984 Good
Avg. color error 1.102 Good
Red error 1.256 Good
Green error 1.154 Good
Blue error 1.32 Good
Cyan error 0.735 Good
Magenta error 0.577 Good
Yellow error 1.569 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200 Good
Input lag (Game mode) 44.07 Average

Samsung UN55H6400 CNET Review calibration results

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Enhanced Refresh Rate 480 Hz
  • 3D Yes
  • LED Backlight Type Edge-lit
  • Display Format 1080p
  • Diagonal Size 55 in
  • Type LED-LCD
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