Editors' note (March 4, 2010): The rating on this product has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace, including the release of 2010 models. The review has not otherwise been modified..
Whether you're dating a supermodel or shopping for a new HDTV, thin doesn't come cheap. The least expensive member of Samsung's 2009 family of ultrathin LED-backlit LCD TVs is the UNB6000 series, but that doesn't mean it's a bargain. If you can stomach the extra charge, however, your reward will be an extremely sleek-looking TV, a very good-looking picture, and that sweet sense of Begley Jr.-esque self-satisfaction that comes from knowing you're consuming minimal electricity. We're not the biggest fans of the UNB6000's fluctuating backlight, and we'd like to see a more-uniform picture for this much scratch, but otherwise its image quality leaves little to be desired. That said, numerous other HDTVs offer equal or better picture quality for less money, which makes high style and higher technology the main selling points of the UNB6000 series.
We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 46-inch Samsung UN46B6000 ($2,799), but this review also applies to the 40-inch UN40B6000 ($2,299) and the 55-inch UN55B6000 ($3,599). All three sizes share identical features and specifications.
(Editors' Note: Many elements are identical between the UNB6000 and the UNB7000 series we reviewed earlier, so readers of the earlier review may experience some deja vu when reading the same sections below.)
The UNB6000 measures just 1.2 inches deep at its thickest point, and tapers even thinner toward the edges of the panel. Samsung offers a special flush wall mount, and if you decide to keep the TV on its stand, the thin panel will look equally impressive from the side. From the front the set is no slouch either; a slim, subtle red border edges all four sides of the panel, while the outer transparent edge, which is a bit thinner than that of the B7000 series, lends a jewel-like look. On the downside, you can't get this series in any color but red.
The matching stand is also edged in red, and the lack of beveling on its glass surface separates the B6000's stand from that of the B7000 series. Both have a transparent pedestal to keep the thin panel gracefully suspended above the stand's surface and let the TV swivel to either side.
Aside from the obvious thinness, the LEDs allow for a couple other design bonuses. The UNB6000 runs a lot cooler than other LCD and plasma displays producing a similar amount of light, and the panel itself weighs less than other models.
Samsung used the same menu system as last year, albeit with red borders to match the TV itself, and we still think it's one of the best in the business. Big, highly legible text is set against transparent backgrounds that occupy almost the whole screen. Getting around is easy and there's helpful explanatory text along the bottom to describe the different selections.
The remote control is basically the same as last year, aside from a new protrusion on the rear that keeps the clicker stable on a flat surface, and we're definitely fans--especially since Samsung ditched the rotating scroll wheel. The buttons are big, backlit, and easily differentiated by size and shape, and we liked the dedicated "Tools" key that offers quick access to the E-manual (see below), picture and sound modes, the sleep timer, and the picture-in-picture controls. We didn't like the remote's glossy black finish, however, which picked up more than its share of dulling fingerprints after a few minutes.
Edge-lit LED backlighting heads the UNB6000's feature set. Samsung calls these sets "LED TVs," but it's important to remember they're actually otherwise normal liquid-crystal display TVs that use light-emitting diodes instead of the standard fluorescent backlights. Unlike the Sony KDL-55XBR8 and Samsung LN46A950, which both use local dimming technology that mounts the LEDs behind the screen, the UNB6000 series is edge-lit, with LEDs arranged around the edge of the screen. Check out the slideshow for more information.
The main difference between the UNB6000 series and the more-expensive UNB7000 models is its interactive capability. The B7000 sets have Yahoo Widgets, built-in content, and the capability to stream music, photos, and video from a networked PC. The B6000 models lack those extras, although they do feature Samsung's InfoLink service, first seen on 2008 TVs like the LNA650 series. InfoLink is a much more basic portal to Internet-updated information than Yahoo Widgets, and can only display news, custom stocks, and local weather information. We liked the easy-to-read font in normal and large sizes, however, as well as the intuitive controls. USA Today provides the newsfeed, which can sit in the corner of the screen like a ticker, or be expanded to let you read numerous top stories in a variety of topics. One annoying quirk was that we couldn't remove the Setup screen easily--hitting "return," as the manual suggested, merely turned off the whole service.
Samsung includes the same picture-affecting features found on the B7000 models, starting with a 120Hz refresh rate and dejudder processing, the latter with more adjustments than we've seen on any such display so far. We also liked the myriad conventional picture adjustments, starting with four adjustable picture modes that are all independent per input. There are five color temperature presets that are augmented by the capability to adjust each via a custom white balance menu; three varieties of noise reduction, including an automatic setting; a film mode to engage 2:3 pull-down (it also works with 1080i sources); a seven-position gamma control that affects the TV's progression from dark to light; a dynamic contrast control that adjusts the picture on the fly; a "black tone" control that affects shadow detail; and a color space control that lets you tweak the Samsung's color gamut.
You can choose from four aspect ratio modes for HD sources, two of which let you move the whole image across the screen horizontally and vertically. As we'd expect from a 1080p TV, one of those modes, called Screen Fit, lets the UNB6000 scale 1080i and 1080p sources directly to the panel's pixels with no overscan--the best option unless you see interference along the edge of the screen, as can be the case with some channels or programs.
We appreciate the three power-saver modes, which further reduce energy use. As far as other conveniences, Samsung throws in picture-in-picture, an "E-manual" on a USB thumbdrive, and even a customer care screen that includes the firmware version for when you need to call the company. We're also big fans of the new-for-2009 capability, unique among HDTVs, to download firmware directly to the TV, rather than making you go to the Web site, as was the case before.