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. Click here for more information.
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.
The UNB6000 series offers good connectivity, as long as your AV system doesn't have many analog components. The highlight is four HDMI inputs, arranged vertically along the shallow connection bay on the back of the TV (note that fat cables might not fit the nearly flush sockets very well). You also get two USB inputs, a VGA-style PC input, and a single component-video input that can be converted to accept composite video instead. An RF input for antenna or cable, an optical digital audio jack, and the Ethernet port complete the picture. If you need to connect more than one analog device, you'll need to use a switcher or an AV receiver.
Samsung's UNB6000 showed very good picture quality overall, with relatively deep black levels, accurate color and excellent, adjustable video processing. We weren't fans of the way the backlight would fluctuate, and screen uniformity is disappointing for such an expensive TV. In case you're wondering, the UN46B6000 review sample we examined delivered basically the same picture quality as the UN46B7000 we placed right next to it, with just a couple of exceptions noted below.
One area where the 6000 and 7000 differed slightly was their initial picture settings in Movie mode: the 6000 measured bluer in its most-accurate Warm2 color temperature setting, scoring an Average and not a Good as we saw on the 7000. It's not a big deal, however, since Samsung's numerous picture controls allowed us to calibrate the 6000 to achieve an excellent grayscale in addition to our normal light output of 40 footlamberts. As with the 7000, we had to increase the gamma control from zero to +3 to improve shadow detail significantly and ameliorate some of the worst effects of the variable backlight (see below). Unfortunately, this change caused overall average gamma to worsen, from 2.22 to about 1.9 (the ideal is 2.2). Gamma was still too dark in near-black areas, and became too bright in brighter ones, but the sacrifice was worth it in our opinion.
For our comparison, we set the UN46B6000 up next to the UN46B7000, along with a few other high-end HDTVs we have on hand, including the LED-powered Samsung LN46A950 and Sony KDL-55XBR8, the standard Samsung LN52A650 LCD, and a pair of plasmas, the Panasonic TC-46PG10 and our reference Pioneer PRO-111FD. We checked out "Appaloosa" on Blu-ray for the majority of our image quality tests.
Black level: Performance in this area was good overall, but not as impressive as that of the best sets in our comparison--and about equal to that of the 7000. Our main complaint revolves around the fluctuations of the LED backlight. In very dark scenes, the entire backlight, and thus the letterbox bars and shadows, would dim, while in brighter scenes it would become brighter. Other displays do similar things, but on Samsung's edge-lit LED screens it was more noticeable and affected more than just completely black screens.
During "Appaloosa" the first instance we noticed was in Chapter 1, when the screen goes to black right before the title appears. The illumination basically switches off abruptly instead of fading naturally to black. That switch-off occurs infrequently enough to not be a major distraction, although we wish it didn't happen at all, and in material that fades to black frequently such as the beginning few minutes of "Transformers," it can become annoying.
The 6000 also suffers from another backlight-related issue, similar to what we saw on the 7000: in some very dark scenes, illuminated areas appeared darker than on the other displays, robbing the image of pop and contrast. We didn't see the effect in "Appaloosa" except for during the end credits--where the white name "Ed Harris" against the dark background, for example, appeared significantly dimmer than on the rest of the displays--but we did see it elsewhere. The initial sequence from "The Day the Earth Stood Still," which we cited in the 7000 review, showed dimmer and fewer stars on the 6000 than on the other TVs, for example, although the effect wasn't as pronounced as on the 7000. It's worth noting, however, that scenes dark enough overall to trigger this loss of contrast are relatively rare, and most dark scenes had plenty of pop.
Indeed, the UNB6000 did deliver a deep shade of black, although not quite as deep as that of the 7000. It appeared about as dark as that of the A950 and deeper than the A650, but not as inky as the Pioneer, Sony XBR8, or Panasonic. On the flip side, shadow detail and gamma were slightly better on the 6000 than the 7000 we tested, although still a bit too dark on both compared with the plasma displays. We noticed the difference in the dark fireside scene in Chapter 20, for example, when the face of Harris looked dimmer and less-distinct than on the other displays, but a bit better on the 6000 than on the 7000.
Color accuracy: The Samsung UNB6000 scored well in this category, with excellent primary colors and color decoding, along with a solid grayscale that only lost accuracy in very dark areas. Skin tones, such as the well-lit face of Renee Zellweger in the restaurant with Harris and Viggo Mortensen, looked accurate enough if a bit too flat and slightly under-saturated compared with our reference displays. This may be an issue with the improper gamma at the upper end--a necessary sacrifice to prevent dark areas from being too dark. Other colors, like the deep blue sky above the town and the green of the brush, looked quite accurate, but again were missing some punch and saturation in bright areas.
Like many LCD-based screens, the UNB6000 also suffered from a bluish tinge in blacks and near-black shades. The issue was visible in letterbox bars, the shadows around the campfire, and in Harris' shaded face, for example, but the tinge was not as severe as we saw on the 7000.
Video processing: In addition to the three preset strengths of its Auto Motion Plus dejudder processing, called Clear, Standard, and Smooth, Samsung added a Custom mode this year, and its adjustability makes it the best implementation of a dejudder we've seen so far. Custom offers two sliders, one called Blur reduction that affects video-based sources and one called Judder reduction that affects only film-based sources. In our motion resolution tests, it was obvious that Blur reduction was doing exactly that: as we increased the slider from 0 to 10, the lines on the motion resolution pattern became more distinct and less apt to blur together, and the pattern looked best at 10. In that video-based pattern, playing with the Judder reduction setting had no effect.
The key is that with Blur reduction set to 10 and judder reduction set to 0, the cadence of film can be preserved while the blurring some viewers see with LCD (we don't notice it, but that's another story) can be largely reduced. We confirmed this by feeding the Samsung 1080p/24 content during the flyover of the "Intrepid" from "Legend," where the characteristic judder appeared more and more obvious as we decreased the judder reduction slider.
As usual, increasing judder reduction and thus apparent smoothness with film-based material also increased the incidence of unwelcome artifacts. In Chapter 7 of "Appaloosa," for example, when the trio raises a toast with shot glasses, the quick-moving hands of Mortensen and Harris suffered from obvious break-up that became less obvious as we decreased the control.
In resolution tests, the UNB6000 performed well, delivering every line of 1080i and 1080p sources with still patterns, correctly deinterlacing 1080i material (note that we had to set Film Mode to Auto1, not the default of Auto2, to get this to work) and delivering between 600 and 700 lines of resolution in all of the AMP settings (note that reducing the Blur reduction lower than 10 decreased motion resolution on our test pattern). Plasma displays such as the Panasonic and the Pioneer, by comparison, score 900 lines and above on this test, as did the Sony XBR8, KDL-52XBR7 and Samsung A950 displays. As we've noted before, we find it tough to appreciate the benefits of any of these resolution characteristics in program material as opposed to test patterns.
Uniformity: The Samsung UNB6000 exhibited similar uniformity characteristics as the 7000, which was worse overall than the other displays in our comparison--although better than the edge-lit Sony's KLV-40ZX1M. In dark areas and letterbox bars, the 6000's corners and the right side appeared brighter than the rest of the screen, an effect which was visible in Chapter 20, for example.
In gray fields (from 10-70 IRE on our Sencore test pattern generator), we noticed more brightness variations across the screen, including a darker area across the top and subtle brighter splotches elsewhere. We didn't notice these variations much during program material, but they were more noticeable in test patterns than on any of the other displays in our test. Although these issues can vary between review samples, both the 6000 and the 7000 showed similar variations.
When seen from off-angle, the UNB6000 also looked worse than any of the other displays in our comparison. Dark areas quickly washed out and became bluer, while brightness variations intensified, as we moved to either side of the sweet spot in the middle of the couch. The UNB6000 did seem to preserve its vertical viewing angle a bit better than the Sony or the Samsung A950 did, but both sets beat the UNB6000 in horizontal viewing angle.
Bright lighting: Samsung used the same sort of glossy screen as last year, and we're not its biggest fans. In bright lighting, with windows facing the screen and overhead lights turned on, the screen does a very good job of preserving black levels in dark areas. However, the trade-off is overly bright reflections from those light sources and from other bright objects in the room, such as this reviewer's light gray shirt. These reflections were much less bothersome during bright scenes, of course, but in darker scenes they proved distracting.
Standard-definition: On the off chance you do connect a standard-definition source to the Samsung, you find generally solid picture quality. According to our tests, the display handled every line of a DVD source and the shots of grass and steps from the detail test looked good. The set eliminated jaggies from video-based sources well, and its noise reduction cleaned up the lowest-quality shots of skies and sunset with aplomb. Finally, the UNB6000 passed 2:3 pull-down test by eliminating moire from the stands behind the racecar.
PC: As expected, the UNB6000 series delivered excellent performance with both VGA and HDMI sources from computers. It resolved every line of a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution image with no overscan or edge enhancement.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6934/7121||Average|
|After color temp||6500/6486||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||552||Average|
|After grayscale variation||79||Good|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.636/0.327||Good|
|Color of green||0.303/0.598||Good|
|Color of blue||0.154/0.059||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
Power consumption: CNET did not test the power consumption of this TV, but we did test another size, the 46-inch Samsung UN46B6000. See that review for more information.
Editors' note: This review initially misspelled Ed Begley, Jr.'s name.