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Samsung UNF6400 series LCD review:

Midrange price, middling picture

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: If you're a tweaker and don't just want to watch your TV in Vivid mode you'll be glad to find a number of different settings to mull over. There are four preset modes including our favorite, Movie, plus a 10-point grayscale that is handy if you intend to use our settings. The Auto Motion Plus dejudder control also provides plenty of adjustability, so you can dial in exactly how much soap opera effect you want.

Connectivity: The highlight of the TV's connection options are the four HDMI ports, which is what we expect on a TV at this price. Besides that you receive three USB ports for accessories like Skype cameras and playback from USB drives. A combined composite/component drive comes next and then a digital optical output. Internet capability is dealt out via an Ethernet port and an onboard Wi-Fi receiver.

Picture quality
The effects of Samsung's midrange "micro dimming" continue to be a no-show, and so black levels, and in turn overall picture quality, aren't the best at this price level. It did handle the competing LG models well but every other TV on test, including the less-expensive Vizio M Series, whipped it mildly or soundly.

Black areas were marred by some uniformity issues on a darkened screen as well. Shadow detail would have been OK, but in combination with poor color accuracy in the lower ranges shadows the picture simply looked drab. In brighter scenes color accuracy was good, however, with skin tones and leafy, sky-y bits being vivid and well-saturated.

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)
LG 47LA6200 47-inch LCD
LG 55LA8600 55-inch LCD
Panasonic TC-L50E60 50-inch LCD
Vizio M551d-A2R 55-inch local-dimming LCD
Panasonic TC-P55ST60 55-inch plasma

Black level: The Samsung didn't fare well against among its midrange peers. It produced the second-lightest black levels in the room after the LG 55LA8600, although the LA8600 wasn't too much better than the Samsung. The UNF6400's shadow detail was in line with its black levels, and that's to say it wasn't as fine as on some of the others and some blacks could look grayish rather than solid.

The hilltop scene in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" (Chapter 12, 45:55) is a very testing one for most TVs, as it has plenty of low-level detail and not much else. It features a slow tracking shot of dark figures as they're about to launch a final attack on Hogwarts. The scene proved too much for the competing LA6200 with a very confused image of mostly gray. The image mostly got the better of the Samsung too, though it gave some definition to the figures at least. But it was the poor black levels of the Samsung that robbed the image of the punch I saw on the Panasonic E60 and Vizio M-Series, not to mention the ST60. On these screens the hill, the figures, and the towers of Hogwarts behind them were much more sharply defined.

Color accuracy: The Samsung's color performance was mixed, like a tin of paint -- when you get the balance wrong the results can look drab and gray. In low-level colors, particularly during the hilltop sequence mentioned above, the green color palette was reduced to grays and browns, to an extent I'd never seen before. Initially thinking it was something to do with the calibration, I tried one of the other color presets and the results were worse!

When watching something brighter, though, the color mix was something Sherwin-Williams would have been proud of -- although the Samsung wasn't alone in this, with the rest of the lineup also performing well. Using the start of Chapter 5 of "The Tree of Life" we see the mother lounging in her backyard. On the F6400 the green glass was flecked with purple flowers, the mother's hair looked a natural shade of red, and her skin looked as lifelike as on the other TVs. The only subtle difference was that her dress was a bit bluer than on the others, where it looked more turquoise.

Video processing: The F6400 ably demonstrated Samsung's capabilities with image processing, acing all of the important tests. When I engaged the Custom setting under Auto Motion Plus (deblur at 10, dejudder at zero), the 24p flyby of the Intrepid aircraft carrier from "I Am Legend" was delivered without undue pull-down artfacts (stuttering) or smoothing.

In that setting the TV was also able to deliver a full 1,200 lines of motion resolution when I engaged the LED Clear Motion toggle. Doing so caused light output to fall quite a bit, but that's OK because the TV is plenty bright to begin with (in case you're wondering, leaving that setting off still delivered an excellent 1,080 lines). Of course you can turn on smoothing/dejudder if you like that effect, but one of our favorite things about Samsung's video processing is the option to choose no smoothing yet still get full motion resolution.

If you're a gamer the TV will contribute some lag to your online sniping session, but with an average of 44.6 milliseconds it still only counts as an "moderate" amount as televisions go.

Uniformity: The TV we received suffered from poor uniformity, with two lighter, kidney-sized patches in the middle of the screen. These were only visible on a very dark screen, however, and weren't as distracting as other "backlight clouding" problems on some other sets.

Off-axis viewing on the F6400 could also get fairly ugly depending on the content you were watching. The final act of "Skyfall" with its black-and-orange color mix looked awful when viewed off-axis, with the blacks turning green and the whole image almost turning into a negative. The same thing happened with the Panasonic E60. The later daytime shots looked a lot less gruesome off-axis, though blacks did turn to blue.

Bright lighting: The television features a moderately reflective screen that captured bright lights more noticeably than many of the others, leading to some distracting effects in dark scenes. On the other hand the screen managed to retain its black levels relatively well in a lit room -- better so than the LG 6200, for example, which fell apart with blue-blacks with the lights playing lazily on it.

Sound quality: The sound performance of this TV was unexpectedly good, with decent slam in action movies, intelligible speech, and almost listenable music replay. When playing Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" the sound wasn't exactly danceable, but it had decent bass weight without "buzz sawing" and the vocals sounded more present. Of all of the TVs we tested at its price it was the best at producing something that sounded like music. The LG LA8600 sounded better, but again, that TV is a lot more expensive.

Explosions in the bridge scene in "Mission: Impossible 3" had some gut impact and sounds that were lost on the LG 6200 and the Panasonic E60 -- such as the truck horn that sounds immediately after one of the rockets hits -- were rediscovered by the Samsung. Sure, I've heard TVs that have better glass-breaking effects, but the Samsung was able to deliver more of the audio spectrum than its competitors in both movies and music.

3D: For an active system at a budget price the F6400 performed fairly well in 3D, with only minor ghosting and crosstalk artifacts in the "ghostly hand" scene from "Hugo" (4:44), matching the ST60 in this department and exceeding the performance of the LG6200. As usual, the better passive TVs, the Vizio and LG LA8600, showed almost no crosstalk. Later on, as Hugo is chased by Sacha Baron Cohen's inept transit cop, the picture didn't break apart during motion. Generally, color performance and black levels were very good.

Geek box: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.019 Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.19 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.800 Good
Near-black error (5%) 1.419 Good
Dark-gray error (20%) 0.367 Good
Bright-gray error (70%) 0.842 Good
Avg. color error 1.851 Good
Red error 0.682 Good
Green error 2.119 Good
Blue error 3.564 Average
Cyan error 0.659 Good
Magenta error 1.595 Good
Yellow error 2.489 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1,200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 350 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 44.6 Average

Samsung UN55F6400

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