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Samsung UNC6500 review: Samsung UNC6500

Samsung UNC6500

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
10 min read

Samsung's ultrathin edge-lit LED-based LCD TVs created quite a stir last year, and in 2010 numerous other makers have followed the Korean giant's lead with inch-or-so-thick panels of their own. Samsung's are generally still the thinnest, however, and on models like the UNC6500 series the company manages to pack more features and extras--the latest being Hulu Plus--into its TVs than just about anyone else. In terms of picture quality, as expected, the UNC6500 doesn't offer a significant improvement over standard LCDs, but it is mighty efficient as well as oh-so-sleek, which might be enough to justify the extra cost to buyers who don't care about 3D.


Samsung UNC6500

The Good

Slightly darker black levels than some edge-lit LED-based LCDs; mostly accurate color with linear grayscale in bright areas; handles 1080p/24 content well enough; numerous picture controls and tweaks; superb streaming and widget content via well-integrated Apps platform; sleek styling with inch-deep panel; energy efficient.

The Bad

Relatively expensive; lighter black levels than most local dimming LED-based LCDs; subpar uniformity and off-angle viewing; inaccurate primary color of red; black areas tinged bluer; stand styling not for everyone.

The Bottom Line

Though its picture doesn't overcome the typical disadvantages of edge-lit LED LCDs, the excellent feature set and minimalist style of the Samsung UNC6500 series exhibit plenty of appeal.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 46-inch Samsung UN46C6500, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Models in series (details)
UN32C6500 32 inches
UN40C6500 40 inches
UN46C6500 (reviewed) 46 inches
UN55C6500 55 inches
UN65C6500 65 inches


A thin strip of translucent plastic runs along the edge of the UNC6500's bezel.

Design highlights
Panel depth 1.2 inches Bezel width 1.75 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes
Other:Transparent edge, 4-leg chrome-colored "X" stand

Like most other edge-lit LED-based LCD displays, the most striking design characteristic of the Samsung UNC6500 series is a thin profile when viewed side-on. Seen from the front, the TV's skinny design aesthetic continues with a narrow, dark gray bezel textured in a brushed, matte finish we prefer to the standard glossy black found on many TVs. A transparent edge completes the subtle look of the panel itself--a look that seems at odds with the decidedly unsubtle, four-legged, chrome-colored stand. We still prefer the UNC6500's looks to the all-silver of the UNC8000 series, but both buck the TV norm and may stand out (no pun intended) too much for many living room decors.

The flashy, silver stand may be a little too much for many living rooms.

Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 8.4 x 2 inches Remote screen N/A
Total keys 49 Backlit keys 44
Other IR devices controlled No RF control of TV No
Shortcut menu Yes On-screen explanations Yes

The remote included with the UNC6500, though similar in size, shape, and button count to the one offered on step-up sets like the UNC8000, has one huge advantage. Instead of catering to slick looks with impossible-to-use, flush semikeys, the C6500's clicker has standard, raised buttons. We don't like the new grid layout as much as the better-differentiated cursor keys on last year's remotes, but at least that fingerprint-magnet finish is gone.

Samsung didn't change its basic TV control menus from last year, and that's a good thing. The transparent, blue-highlighted graphics are easy to read and navigate, and response is snappier than last year. Text explanations are present for just about every function.

Samsung's menus are largely unchanged from last year, and that's a good thing.


Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
3D compatible No 3D glasses included N/A
Screen finish glossy Refresh rate(s) 120Hz
Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes 1080p/24 compatible Yes
Internet connection Yes Wireless HDMI/AV connection No
Other: Optional Wi-Fi USB adapter (WIS09ABGN, $80)

The big step-up feature of the UNC6500 series over less expensive Samsung LED-based LCDs, such as the UNC5000 and UNC6300 series, is the company's Apps platform of built-in streaming services. This is the least expensive Samsung LED-based LCD TV to offer Apps, although if you want to connect via Wi-Fi, you will have to pay extra for the USB dongle.

The UNC6500's other key options are standard for a midrange LED, starting with the edge-lit backlight (more info). It lacks the 3D found on the UNC7000 series, but if the 3D issues we experienced on the UNC8000 are any indication, you might not want to pay extra for this new feature.

In terms of video processing step-ups, the difference between the 6500's 120Hz and the 7000's 240Hz is even less noticeable than usual. Though we did detect minor smoothing with 1080p/24 sources on the 6500 compared to some other TVs, we deem it minor enough to still award a "Yes" for this feature (see Performance for more).

Streaming media
Netflix Yes YouTube Yes
Amazon Video on Demand Yes Rhapsody No
Vudu video Yes Pandora Yes
CinemaNow Yes DLNA compliant Photo/Music/Video
Blockbuster Yes USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: Hulu Plus, Dailymotion; SynchTV Kids

As of press time the ever-evolving Samsung Apps platform is the only one available with Hulu Plus, although Vizio and Sony Internet-compatible TVs are slated to get the subscription streaming video service this fall. Even after that happens, however, we're betting Samsung will still offer the largest number of video streamers thanks to options like Dailymotion, CinemaNow, and Blockbuster, which are not found on other TVs.

The Samsung Apps platform provides access to more streaming media services than competing TVs.

No major video services go missing, and audio is covered by both Pandora and Napster. With the exception of Amazon VOD and Synch TV Kids, which take the form of Yahoo widgets for some reason, all of the streaming services are integrated into Samsung's main Apps platform.

We didn't test Netflix, Amazon, Vudu or YouTube this time around, mainly because the services worked well, as expected, on previous Samsungs like the UNC8000 and PNC7000. We did check out Hulu Plus, however, and came away with mostly positive impressions. Video quality was very good to excellent overall, depending on the source, navigation was snappy and we liked the built-in search (aside from the tedium of entering terms using the TV's remote) and the App's general interface.

Hulu Plus has a great interface and very good image quality, but we were irked that we couldn't change the picture controls.

The one big problem we had with Hulu Plus, however, was lack of picture control. On other Apps, like Netflix, we were able to adjust basic picture parameters, choose from among picture modes, and most importantly (as far as we're concerned) disable dejudder processing. With Hulu Plus none of those options were available, and the picture looked stuck in the default Dynamic setting--otherwise known as Torch Mode, with overly bright highlights, oversaturated, inaccurate colors and the telltale smoothing effect of dejudder. We assume Samsung will update the App to include some picture controls in the future, but as it stands we prefer to get Hulu Plus from an external source (like the Blu-ray player), where picture controls remain an option.

Check out our hands-on impressions of Hulu Plus on the Samsung CD-C6900 Blu-ray player for more info.

Internet apps
Yahoo widgets Yes Skype No
Vudu apps No Weather Yes
Facebook Yes News Yes
Twitter Yes Sports Yes
Photos Picasa/Flickr Stocks Yes
Other: Includes Google Maps, Samsung TV support videos, Getty images and more

Samsung wants you to think of its Apps platform much like a certain other Apps store from Apple. The TV version from Samsung is a far cry from the iPhone version today, but does offer more options than similar services on other brands' TVs. Since the service debuted earlier this year it has added Facebook, Google Maps, and videos with product support and info on Samsung products. On the other hand most of the games are gone, to the disappointment of absolutely no one.

The Yahoo widgets experience is much improved over last year.

In addition to Apps within the main interface, there's a separate Yahoo widgets interface with 23 total add-ons available at press time. They include weather, news, sports, and the like, along with meatier widgets like Amazon Video-on-Demand, Drivecast, Flickr and, yes, Facebook. The widget experience is much, much better than in the past, owing to faster load and response times. Now the widget taskbar comes up almost immediately, and navigating between widgets and within a widget itself is a breeze.

On the other hand we'd prefer to see one integrated interface, such as the one Vizio offers, for all interactive functions. For both Facebook and Twitter, for example, the TV has both an App by Samsung and a Yahoo widget. Both interfaces offer news, weather and even photo services (Picasa for Apps, Flickr for widgets). With all that content, juggling two interface options can become confusing.

Both Apps and widgets have profiles and universal sign-in features, which makes them easier to use. An option to input searches, passwords and other text with something other than the unwieldy onscreen keyboard would help a lot, however.

Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 4 Independent memories per input Yes
Dejudder presets 3 Fine dejudder control Yes
Aspect ratio modes -- HD 4 Aspect ratio modes -- SD 4
Color temperature presets 4 Fine color temperature control 10 points
Gamma presets 7 Color management system Yes
Other: New 10-point color temperature system; RGB filters and built-in test patterns

Samsung has officially retaken the picture settings crown from LG this year, at least on step-up models like the UNC6500, which offers basically the same level of control found on flagship Samsung TVs. Highlights for tweakers include a new 10-point system that works pretty well--(albeit not as well as LG's) in addition to a dejudder control system that does work better than LG's (albeit not quite as well as Samsung's own system from last year). Internal test patterns and red, green, and blue color filters also help would-be calibrators.

The 10-point color temperature system works well for those looking to dial in their preferred image quality.

Other features
Power saver mode Yes Ambient light sensor Yes
Picture-in-picture Yes On-screen user manual No
Other: Basic onscreen "HD connection guide; onscreen troubleshooting; Sound-only option

Not much goes missing here, although we'd like to see a real onscreen manual as opposed to the simplistic "connection guide." The troubleshooting section is nice, but is mostly geared toward easing the job of customer service reps tasked with diagnosing owner problems over the phone. We like the option to turn off the screen manually, leaving just the sound, which cuts power use down to 24.3 watts.

HDMI inputs 4 Component video inputs 1
Composite video input(s) 1 S-video input(s) 0
VGA-style PC input(s) 1 RF input(s) 1
AV output(s) 1 audio Digital audio output 1 optical
USB port 2 Ethernet (LAN) port Yes

Since it's limited by cabinet depth, the jack pack of the UNC6500 is unusual. A horizontal and a vertical row of jacks are arranged so the cables run parallel to the panel, instead of plugging in perpendicular. The selection of analog inputs is sparse almost to a fault, with just one composite and one component port, which share a single audio input. Plenty of HDMI inputs are available however, and the second USB port is nice if you use the optional Wi-Fi dongle for one.

The UNC6500's slim design leave it with an unusual selection of inputs.

Though not up to the picture quality standards of local dimming models or Samsung's own flagship hybrid dimmer, the UNC8000, the significantly less expensive UNC6500 showed image quality on par with other edge-lit models we've tested. Black levels were a bit deeper than other edge-lit sets, if unspectacular overall; color accuracy was solid in bright areas and suffered as the image darkened; and uniformity showed some characteristic flaws.

TV settings: Samsung UN46C6500
Prior to calibration the Movie mode of the UNC6500 was the most accurate, as usual for Samsung. It turned in a relatively linear grayscale that was nonetheless plus-blue overall, with gamma that was too dark (2.53 versus the 2.2 target), especially in the dimmer parts of the image. After calibrating the user-menu controls, especially the 10-point Interval system, we achieved even better linearity--aside from areas below 20 IRE, which veered from plus-green to extremely plus-blue near black--and excellent gamma (2.28 average). We'd like to see finer control of the grayscale points, especially in those dark areas, but overall the final result was solid.

One exception was the primary color of red, which was unusually inaccurate for Samsung, being shifted toward blue. We did not attempt to correct this issue with the color management system, although perhaps a more thorough calibration could do so.

For our image-quality tests we looked up "The Book of Eli" on Blu-ray and compared the Samsung UNC6500 to the models below.

Comparison models (details)
Sony KDL-46EX700 46-inch edge-lit LED
LG 47LH5500 47-inch edge-lit local dimming LED
Samsung UN55C8000 55-inch edge-lit local dimming LED
Vizio SV472XVT 47-inch full-array local dimming LED
LG 47LE8500 47-inch full array local dimming LED
Panasonic TC-P50G20 50-inch plasma
Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasma

Black level: The Samsung UNC6500 outdid the edge-lit LED-based models from LG and Sony in this area, but couldn't match the others, including the less expensive Panasonic and Vizio models. As usual we saw the biggest difference in darker scenes, such as Eli's stay in the shack in Chapter 1. The letterbox bars, black shadows and black structures in the foreground all appeared deeper and more realistic on the other displays than on the UNC6500, with the exception of the LG LH5500 and the Sony EX700.

Overall shadow detail was solid. The somewhat lighter black levels did make shadows appear less realistic than on the deeper-black TVs, but in its favor the Samsung didn't obscure as many details in dark areas as some of the other sets, including the LH5500 and the Sony, nor did it evince the brighter shadows we saw on the Panasonic plasma.

Color accuracy: In most scenes the UNC6500 delivered solid color, although a couple of issues separated it from our reference. Skin tones in dimmer scenes, such as Solara's face when she describes her night with Eli to Carnegie in Chapter 11, evinced a bluish cast--perhaps due in part to the primary color of red's shift toward blue--which persisted in brighter areas, albeit to a lesser extent. Black areas and near-black shadows also showed the telltale bluish tone seen on many of the other LCDs, albeit not nearly to the same extent as the Sony.

On the other hand the difficult muted colors of the skies and landscapes seemed relatively close to our reference in bright areas, and in the few scenes with vibrant colors, such as the approach to the California hills in Chapter 21, primary and secondary color accuracy was mostly good.

Video processing: Samsung equipped the UNC6500 with numerous video processing settings, including three dejudder presets--Clear, Sta


Samsung UNC6500

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6