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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Samsung UNES6500 review:

Samsung UNES6500

Picture quality
Both my colleague David Katzmaier and I had great hopes for this TV after the very good performance of its predecessor, the D6400; alas, this particular TV was a minor let-down.

While color performance was generally excellent on both models, lighter black levels brought the newer UNES6500 down. It did get slightly darker than the more expensive ES8000, but there are plenty of less expensive TVs than the ES6500 that can perform the same feat. Shadow detail was very good, though, and this means that even if the UNES6500 doesn't lead the way in absolute contrast, darker images did have a depth and stability that outdid the otherwise better Vizio M3D, for example.

In terms of image quality the UNES6500 fell almost exactly halfway between the Samsung ES8000 and the Vizio M3D550KD, and it was initially difficult to determine on which side of the fence it should go; that is, until I spotted a strange flaw (see video processing below).

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.

Comparison models (details)
Samsung UN46D6400 46 inch, edge-lit LCD
Panasonic TC-P55ST50 55 inch, plasma
Samsung UN55ES8000 55 inch, edge-lit LCD
Panasonic TC-L47WT50 47 inch, edge-lit LCD with local dimming
Vizio M3D550KD 55 inch, edge-lit LCD with local dimming
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference) 65-inch plasma

Black level:
If I used one of those giant thermometers they use at telethons to indicate how much they'd raised -- but made it measure the black level of any television instead -- some TVs would be closer to the target than others. While models such as the Sony HX850 would set that little bulb to overflowing, the ES6500 would only be about halfway to its fundraising goal.

On some scenes, such as the tricky cemetary scene in "Watchmen," the black bars on the ES6500 looked darker than those of the ES8000. But black bars are only the most obvious part of a TV's black-level performance. The 6500 lacks the expensive model's microdimming in favor of a universal dimmer, and on some scenes the flagship delivered scenes with more contrast.

Shadow detail on the 6500 was very good with excellent depth, but compared with last year's model, the older TV had greater oomph due to a deeper background black.

Like most of the Samsung's we've seen here at CNET this year, the TV turns the backlight off quickly when the screen fades to black, and this can lead to some lag as the backlight switches back on. The credits at the beginning of "Watchmen" feature stylized 3D portraits of the main characters and fade to black each time. The Samsung would shut the backlight off each time, and it was distracting as the TV ratcheted up to full brightness again. In comparison, the Vizio I had by its side was fine, with no lag or image loss.

Color accuracy:Color accuracy was one of the UNES6500's greatest accomplishments and this was due in part to the television's color management system. I found it was possible to dial in highly accurate color reproduction using the CMS -- though the master is still the ES8000. The ES6500 exhibited rich, lifelike skintones and "true" midtones with none of the green-tinged shadows that plagued some of the other TVs in my lineup -- including the Panasonic ST50. Color saturation was very good as well, with strong primary and secondary colors in bold scenes but subtle when the content demanded it.

Video processing: The UNES6500 delivers the correct cadence for 1080p/24 film-based material when Auto Motion Plus (AMP) is set to Custom with a 0 on the judder reduction slider. Other AMP settings affected film cadence negatively; Clear and Off showed the slightly halting cadence of 2:3 pull-down, which is still preferable to the buttery smoothness of Standard and Smooth.

The TV also has a flaw I hadn't seen before: moving edges demonstrated blue-tinged blurring at times. At the beginning of Chapter 7 of "I Am Legend," you see Robert Neville moving his head about in front of a doorway, and only on the Samsung did the leading edges bleed out in blue. Compared with the "haloing" artifact exhibited by 120Hz modes, though, it's much less annoying -- the problem is that unlike smoothing features, you can't disable it.

Another weak point of the Samsung's performance is uniformity, with one of the blotchiest screens I've seen in a while. Not just gray blotches on a black screen either, but some yellow and red mixed in there for good measure. At our test level of a somewhat dim 40 fL, the problem was a little reduced, but it wasn't possible to remove the spotlighting that occured in the corners.

Due to the size of the 60-inch sample I received, the image was off-angle if you sat at the edges of the screen at an 8-foot distance; this introduced some loss of contrast and a purpling of blacks. True off-angle viewing was actually pretty good considering and was similar to the other Samsungs in our lineup.

Bright lighting:
Back in the day, a CRT screen was glossy, and you couldn't help that, since the ray gun needed a glass surface to bounce its TV beams off. A similar thing occurred with plasma. But with the advent of LCD you no longer need glass and the first LCD TVs were matte, and not very reflective. But in order to improve black levels the gloss has made a comeback on LCDs. While some like the LM9700 are so glossy as to be mirror-like the Samsung ES6500 sits on the dull side. Even with the shades up and the house lights on I could comfortably watch dark material such as Batman Begins without worrying too much about reflections.

3D: While the TV includes two sets of glasses, I think 3D is an afterthought for most people. Take, as an example, the viewing figures of the London Olympics: less than 0.5 percent of Brits watched the opening ceremony in 3D according to Pocket-Lint and I can only imagine there was even less interest here. So likewise, 3D is an addendum to the ES6500 and not its best feature. During our punishing "Hugo" test, the TV showed significant cross-talk, but showed a good sense of 3D space from the objects in the foreground to the background with little overexaggeration. If you want to watch predominantly 3D material, there are better options up the Samsung (or even LG) chain.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.019493564 Average
Avg. gamma 2.206 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.2891/0.2748 Poor
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3123/0.3272 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3122/0.3288 Good
Before avg. color temp. 7020.1466 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6558.7186 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 0.8525 Good
Green lum. error (de94_L) 0.9071 Good
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 113.2798 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.2189/0.3265 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3225/0.1475 Good
Yellow hue x/y 0.4203/0.5127 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Fail Poor
1080i De-interlacing (film) n/a Poor
Motion resolution (max) 1080 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 350 Poor
PC input resolution (VGA) 1,920x1,080 Good

Samsung UN65ES6500

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