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Samsung UNH6350 series review: Midrange TV puts design, smarts first

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The Samsung UNH6350 is a looker. Its all-black bezel is vanishingly thin, and combined with a distinctive spider stand it exudes a lot more style than you'd expect from a midrange TV.

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6.8

Samsung UNH6350 series

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The Samsung UNH6350 LED TV has a sleek minimalist design that makes it seem more expensive than it is. It offers a very capable Smart TV suite with more content than anyone. Picture quality highlights include accurate color, excellent processing and a nice bright-room image. It's also priced well for its level of style and smarts.

The Bad

Lighter black levels and uneven picture uniformity lead to a mediocre home theater image; bad sound quality; Smart TV design can be overwhelming.

The Bottom Line

Despite picture quality that's just average, the Samsung UNH6350's high-end features and design for a midrange price will win plenty of converts.

Because that's exactly what it is. The H6350 is likely to be among the most popular TVs sold by what is hands-down the most popular TV brand worldwide. It offers just enough good looks, and just enough Smarts, to get mainstream buyers to fork over the extra cash compared to something from Vizio or another competing brand. It also skips what many consider to be needless extras, namely 3D and a fancy remote.

As you might expect the H6350's picture quality isn't its main selling point. Strong color and video processing performance can't overcome its middling contrast--to get a better picture from Samsung you'll have to pay a lot more. We haven't tested enough 2014 Vizios or competing brands yet to say how they compare, but if last year is any indication, the H6350 will end up being a good value if you're looking for style and smarts, but not so much if picture is your priority.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch Samsung UN55H6350, 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.

Design

The UNH6350 takes the sleek "all-picture" aesthetic as far as I've seen on a midrange TV, and it looks better than many makers' flagship sets. The highlight is the subtle thinness and color of the 0.3-inch black frame on the sides and top, which makes the TV seem almost ethereal. I like the look better than last year's more rounded UNF6300 and even than this year's UNH6400; its thickening skin of transparent plastic makes it seem chunkier than its cheaper line-mate.

The thicker bottom edge of the UNH6350 is bordered at its lower edge by a chrome-colored strip that matches the swiveling, four-legged spider stand. I'm not a huge fan of the stand design, but it's become a Samsung trademark, albeit one of the few not copied by other TV makers. Note that the 75-inch version has a different stand, which consists of separate legs mounted to either side of the panel, and no swivel.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Seen from the side the UNH6350 is slightly thicker than many LED TVs, but still pretty thin at 2.5 inches deep for the 60-inch and smaller versions; the 65 and 75 inchers are a bit thicker. That's impressively thin for a TV that used direct, rather than edge, LED backlighting.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The UNH6350 is the company's most expensive Smart TV to lack the great new 2014 motion-enabled touchpad clicker found on the UNH6400 models and up. Instead you get a standard multi-button remote that's more cluttered and inferior overall, unless you do a lot of entering channel numbers directly via the numeric keypad. Or intend to replace the included remote with a universal one anyway.

Samsung UN55H6050 product photos

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Features

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Direct
Screen shape Flat Resolution 1080p
Smart TV Yes Remote Standard
Cable box control Yes IR blaster External
3D technology N/A 3D glasses included No
Screen finish Matte Refresh rate(s) 120Hz
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Screen mirroring Yes Control via app Yes
Other: Cable box integration and control via IR blaster; Optional motion control/Skype camera (model VG-STC4000, $99 list)

While the UNH6350 lacks the new remote as well as 3D capability, it's otherwise basically identical features-wise to the UNH6400. In other words, if you don't care about those extras, there's little reason to pay more for the 6400.

That's because the step-up features that you'd think would improve picture quality, namely a higher "Clear Motion Rate" (of 240 on the H6350 vs. 480 on the H6400), and Micro Dimming, actually have very little impact. Micro Dimming on the UNH6400 isn't true local dimming -- it's software-based only -- and in our tests showed little to no discernible benefit. The same goes for CMR, Samsung's inflated stand-in number for refresh rate . Both sets have 120Hz panels, and show very similar (and excellent) motion and video-processing performance.

Smart TV: Aside from a few omissions like voice and gesture control, the UNF6350 has the same extensive Smart TV system found on step-up 2014 models. Lack of the touch/motion remote makes the system less fun and easy to use however (especially the browser), and makes Samsung's relatively icon-heavy Smart screens in particular a pain navigate. That said, it's still among the best Smart suites on the market.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

New for this year, pressing the main "Smart Hub" button takes you only halfway into the system, and that's a design decision I applaud. Up pops a little band of icons overlaying but not dominating whatever you're watching, allowing quick access to a bunch of apps. You can clear this list completely, and new apps are added as you use them, but the customization isn't as easy as it should be. There's no way to add apps to the band manually aside from simply starting one, and I couldn't figure out how to reorder them. In comparison to the elegance and tight integration of LG's WebOS band, Samsung's band seems like a last minute add-on--a band-aid to combat Smart Hub's inherent visual complexity.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Speaking of complexity, Samsung hasn't changed much else since its 2013 overhaul. Once past the band the main Hub interface is a multi-page monster reminiscent of an Android smartphone, with five different screens you flip through by shuffling among the icons at the top: On TV; Movies and TV shows (on demand); Multimedia (YouTube videos, DLNA, USB, hard drive and cloud-based media); Games and of course Apps. To its credit response times were quick on the quad-core 6350. Last year I called the design "refreshing, colorful, and relatively simple, a welcome change from the clutter of the company's previous versions" but it compared to WebOS and some other, less ambitious systems, it can be visually overwhelming.

The default first page is On TV section, complete with a recommendation engine that suggests new shows. It basically attempts to replace your cable or satellite box with the TV's own interface -- and when it can't do that, to at least control the box via Samsung's own remote. I didn't like it quite as much in practice as I did LG's system from 2013 , which is being largely carried over this year, but it roundly beats Sony's 2014 system. One annoyance with Samsung, however, was the inability to have On TV show only HD channels. Of course you can always use Samsung's own Guide to browse, and it's better than last year although still not nearly as good as the native Fios program guide on my box.

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The IR blaster controls your cable box. Sarah Tew/CNET

When controlling the cable box, the slight delay between pressing a button and seeing the results on-screen was still noticeable and annoying at times. It's impressive for an IR-dongle-based system like this, but it's still not as responsive as direct control via a universal or included cable box remote, especially when moving around the box's guide or menus.

Unless you use its dedicated numeric keypad a lot, the H6360's standard remote doesn't have a major advantage over H6400's touchpad/motion clicker for cable box control. Yes, the standard remote does offer "STB Guide" and "STB Menu" keys, but new for this year the touch control has added transport (play, pause, fast-forward and rewind) keys, and its motion control makes the pop-up on-screen remote much more useable than before.

One big downside to the standard remote becomes obvious when you use the Web browser. Samsung's browser software is great for a TV (albeit still worse than any smartphone, tablet, or PC), but when you have to shove a cursor around the screen using just the four keypad buttons, it gets old fast. If you're going to use the browser a lot, it's worth plugging in an external wireless keyboard. Unlike the H6400, the H6350 cannot pair with a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse. I was able to use a cheap wireless USB keyboard however, the Logitech K400, which has a touchpad that worked well.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung's app selection is second to none, and it's still the only TV maker with HBO Go. Other notable apps among the hundreds available include Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Cloud Player, and AOL On (Fios TV, available on 2013 models, is missing for now). There's a Fitness VOD app with on-demand workouts, 35 different Kid-specific app, and many, many more. As you may have guessed, the Games page is just a subset of apps devoted to a handful of casual games you've never heard of; it replaces last year's largely useless Social page.

For more detail I'll refer you to the 2013 UNF8000 review, which delves deeper into On TV and its recommendations, describes the other four pages, and touches on setup and other esoterica. Unless otherwise noted above it's the same suite as found on the 2014 H6350.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: In true Samsung tradition there's plenty on tap here, including 2-point and 10-point grayscale control, an excellent color management system, and four picture presets. Samsung's class-leading Auto Motion Plus dejudder control not only turns the Soap Opera Effect on or off, it allows adjustment of both blur reduction and smoothness -- and includes a setting called LED Clear Motion that improved motion resolution further.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: Nothing major is missing here. Four HDMI ports, three USB, and an optical digital output do the digital heavy lifting, while analog video is served by a single component-video port that's shared with composite video. There's no VGA-style PC input, but there is a port for the included wired IR blaster.

Picture quality

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Samsung's midrange TVs haven't progressed much in this area; the H6350 performs almost exactly the same as last year's F6300. It showed relatively light, unimpressive black levels, superb color and video processing, and more uniformity errors that I expected from a direct-lit LED TV. I do appreciate Samsung's trend toward matte screens at this level, which helps a lot in bright rooms, but can't push the H6350's picture above a "6" on our scale.

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.

Black level: I chose "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" to evaluate the UNF6350's picture quality, and as with last year its black level performance was mediocre. It matched the black level of the other two Samsungs almost exactly, beat the Sony W800B and Sharp by a nose, and fell short the depths displayed by the Vizio and the Sony W850B by a wider margin.

In bright scenes the letterbox bars of the latter two appeared darker than on the others, lending a bit of extra pop and contrast to the image. The gap widened when the scenes shifted to nighttime and darkness, such as the campsite in Chapter 9. The Samsungs looked just a bit washed out compared to the Vizio and Sony W850B, while their advantage over the Sony W800B and the Sharp was quite difficult to discern. Only when the scenes turned very dark, for example when Bilbo talks to the dwarf on the goblins' doorstep (1:50:43), did the Samsungs look slightly better than the Sharp and the Sony W800B.

Details in the shadows were solid on the Samsungs, with Bilbo's jacket and hair, for example, very nicely defined. The only laggards in this department, the Sharp and the Vizio, appeared a bit bright and a bit dark in the shadows, respectively.

Color accuracy: The H6350's superb measurements for color were borne out in program material; none of the Samsungs had major issues in this area--and again all appeared very close to one another. Their one fault, exacerbated by lighter black levels, was a bluish tinge to black and near-black areas. The Vizio and W850B didn't show quite that amount of blue shift, while the issue on other two looked very similar to what I saw on the Samsungs.

Skin tones, for example the face of Galadriel in the moonlight (1:35:00), looked very good, the Samungs both looked a bit better, and more saturated, than the Sonys in this regard. Primary colors, from the green of the lush forests of Middle Earth to the blue of the potion Radagast feeds the hedgehog, were just as true.

Video processing: Like its predecessor the Samsung UNH6350 performed like a champ in this area, nearly matching the UNH6400, and indeed even the UNF8000 from 2013, despite its lower Clear Motion Rate specification.

First, it's capable of delivering true 1080p24 film cadence. Unlike most LED LCD TVs, however, it can also deliver full motion resolution at the same time -- you don't have to engage the oversmooth Soap Opera Effect to get optimum motion resolution. On the Sonys, the Sharp and the Vizio, conversely, no mode offers true film cadence with zero smoothing and full motion resolution.

Of course if you're a fan of smoothing you might also appreciate the H6350's 10-point dejudder control under Custom for Auto Motion Plus, which enables you to dial in as much Soap Opera Effect as you like -- from "All My Children" to "Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi." All of the other AMP settings aside from Off, introduce some smoothing.

Engaging LED Clear Motion setting under the AMP menu reduces light output by about 30 percent, but that's not a big deal since this TV (like most LED LCDs) has plenty of light output anyway. In both the On and Off positions, the TV was able to achieve the full 1,200 lines of resolution -- a superb score for a 120Hz television. On looked very slightly cleaner in our test pattern, however, so sticklers may want to leave it there (and, if you're using our picture settings for this TV, bump up the Backlight control from 11 to 14). Note that engaging the setting on the H6400 introduced some flicker, but on the H6350 it did not.

As usual with Samsung, you'll need to select the Auto1 setting under Film Mode if you want correct 1080i deinterlacing of film-based sources; the default Auto 2 failed our test.

Uniformity: Since this is a direct, rather than edge-lit LED, I expected a better showing in this category. While there were no glaring bright spots or "flashlights" along the edges, I noticed some variations in brightness across the screen, and when the screen went all dark there were slightly brighter "clouds" in the upper section. These issues weren't visible in all program material, but when they appeared, for example during the opening credits of The Hobbit, I did find them distracting. The screens of the Sonys were more uniform in general then the three Samsungs, which in turn were about the same as the Sharp and better than the Vizio.

From off-angle the H6350 was typical for an LCD, washing out and losing pop about as quickly as the other sets, and also becoming bluer- or redder-tinged. The exception was the Vizio, which washed out even more quickly but maintained better color fidelity.

Bright lighting: The screen finish is sort of semi-matte, but more matte than glossy, and identical on all three Samsungs in our lineup. While it didn't deaden reflections quite as well as the Sharp or the Sony W850B, it handled them very well; about the same as the W800B and better than the Vizio. On the other hand the screen managed to retain its black levels nicely in a lit room, performing about the same as the others--with the exception of the Vizio, which was worse again.

Sound quality: The UNH6350 won't win any awards for sound. Yes, it outperformed the Sony W800B and the Vizio, sort of, but it still won't impress anybody with its audio chops. On music the bass sounded loose and flatulent, while treble was too crisp and scratchy. In its favor it didn't sound as thin as the other two, but they're all bad enough (and much worse than the W850B) that I'd have a tough time choosing. With the explosions of our movie test, the bridge assault from "Mission: Impossible 3," audio improved to slightly, but it still wasn't good, and the impact and fullness audible on the Sony W850B were absent.

Unlike with video, the three Samsung didn't share largely identical sound. The H6350 was probably the worst, the H6400 in the middle, and the F6300 the best. The former two delivered more bass but it was too much, too boomy, while the F6300 was more balanced, if somewhat thinner.

Samsung UN55H6350

TestResultScore
Black luminance (0%) 0.011Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.3Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.000Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.706Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.124Good
Avg. color error 1.437Good
Red error 1.456Poor
Green error 1.253Good
Blue error 2.76Good
Cyan error 1.116Good
Magenta error 1.116Good
Yellow error 0.94Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) PassGood
1080i De-interlacing (film) PassGood
Motion resolution (max) 1200Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200Good
Input lag (Game mode) 46.87Average

Samsung UN55H6350 CNET review calibration report

How We Test TVs

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6.8

Samsung UNH6350 series

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6Value 7