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Samsung UNH6400 series review: Classy clicker sets midpriced TV apart

Samsung's midrange H6400 series delivers middling value and picture quality mixed with superlative style and features, including the best remote we've ever tested. Is that reason enough to consider it?

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David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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18 min read

At CNET we often tell people that, to get the best experience out of their TV and related gear, they should invest in universal remote and a dedicated sound system, such as a soundbar. One upside of this strategy is that the remote and speakers included with the TV become irrelevant.

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6.5

Samsung UNH6400 series

The Good

The Samsung UNH6400 LED TV is the company's cheapest model to include its fantastic new remote. The TV boasts a sleek minimalist design that's almost all picture. It offers a very capable Smart TV suite with more content than any other manufacturer. Picture quality highlights include accurate color, excellent processing, and a nice bright-room image. Samsung includes two pairs of 3D glasses.

The Bad

The remote is still worse overall than a good universal model for controlling multiple devices; 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

Although it offers pedestrian picture quality for the price, the Samsung UNH6400 has a wonderful remote, a full feature set, and very sleek design.

So when I say the Samsung UNH6400 has the best remote of any TV I've ever tested, I don't mean it's worth buying just for the clicker. Don't get me wrong: with its killer combo of superb ergonomics, fun motion control and best-in-class versatility, Samsung's new remote is simply a joy. Especially if you're into using the TV's Web browser or whipping around the menu system to take advantage of its umpteen apps.

And yes, this great new clicker can also command your other gear, including a cable box/DVR. But it still doesn't control and integrate your system as well as something like the $99 Logitech Harmony Smart Control . And if you're like me, remotes on your coffee table are like immortals in Highlander: There can be only one.

Beyond its fancy clicker the H6400 is a great-looking, full-featured midrange TV that, like the H6350 with its more workaday remote, puts those attributes before picture quality. If you're happy with their merely average performance and place more weight on their other strengths, both hold plenty of appeal. More than the price of the Harmony separates these two TVs however, so unless you demand the H6400's 3D capability, the H6350 is the better value.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch Samsung UN55H6400, 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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Design

Samsung isn't breaking any new ground design-wise with the 6 series, but the H6350 and H6400 still cut handsome figures. And their bezels seem thin enough to cut class, resulting in a pleasingly modern, almost all-picture look.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The designers gave a slight nod to the H6400's step-up status by encasing the frame in a thin layer of transparent plastic, but it very slightly thickens up the overall feel of the TV compared to the more naked-looking H6350. I did appreciate the H6400's lack of chrome accents on its body, however.

The chrome legs of the stand are slightly taller and more angular on the H6400 as well. I always appreciate when a stand lets a TV swivel.

Seen from the side, the UNH6400 is slightly thicker than many LED TVs but still pretty thin at 2.5 inches deep for all but the 65-inch version, which has a depth of 2.8 inches. That's impressively slim for a TV that uses direct, rather than edge, LED backlighting.

Smart Remote: Great, if you plan to use it

Samsung is calling its all-new clicker the Smart Touch Remote. I'm calling it the most unique and useful design for a TV remote I've ever tested. That doesn't mean it beats the best universal remotes, however, one of which I'd still prefer in my system.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

For the last few years I've been very impressed by LG's motion remotes, which behaved a lot like a Nintendo Wii controller. You control a cursor by waving the remote at the screen, and once you get the hang of it, navigation can happen more easily and efficiently than with the standard method of clicking from one selection to the next, especially on a large screen with a lot of icons. Much like touchscreens seem the ideal interface for phones and tablets, and a touchpad or mouse rules the PC screen, a motion controller provides (in my experience) the best control over a lean-back Smart TV interface.

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The little white ball serves as the main motion cursor. Sarah Tew/CNET

This year Samsung copied LG's idea and then improved upon it. Like LG's system, Samsung's motion remote is remarkably precise and makes navigation of most menus and selections -- especially the browser, and the onscreen, virtual remote and keyboard -- swift and even kinda fun.

But one flaw in LG's design is the need to occasionally shake the wand to activate the cursor. On Samsung's new remote, simply resting your thumb on the little concave touchpad wakes up motion control and summons the cursor. Conversely, removing it from the pad deactivates the functionality. It's a remarkably simple arrangement that takes about 10 seconds to assimilate and works beautifully in practice.

Unlike the kind found on a laptop or some other remotes, that little touchpad isn't used to move the cursor at all. Its only other major functions are to enable scrolling, particularly on the Web browser, and to serve as the main "OK" or "Select" command with a downward click, which feels sort of like a mouse button.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

I loved the vibe of the small-but-not-too-small Smart Remote, especially its subtly curved shape and ribbed backside. Every key lives within easy thumb-reach, and for those apps and menus that don't support motion control, you drive between selections with a standard four-way cursor placed around the edges of the pad. The touch-to-activate-motion system is a boon here too, because menus that don't support touch become instantly recognizable: if the little motion cursor doesn't appear at your touch, it's time to resort to the four-way keys.

As usual Samsung sacrificed a bunch of direct-access keys available on its traditional clicker (see the H6350 review) to make the Smart Remote smaller and more ergonomic. Major ones include the numeric keypad, a few set-top box controls, and the Tools shortcut menu. I did appreciate that dedicated transport keys (play, pause, ffwd and rewind) are present on the Smart Remote, but wondered why Samsung elected to include "MTS" and "CC;" I'd much rather get forward/reverse skip, or even STB Menu and DVR. I was also miffed at the H6400 remote's lack of backlighting.

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Many commands necessitate using the virtual onscreen remote. Sarah Tew/CNET

Commands that aren't granted a dedicated key are available via an onscreen remote, which pops up when you press the Smart Remote's "Keypad" button. It's more of a pain than direct-access keys, but a heck of a lot easier than on Samsung's 2013 TVs , thanks to motion control. How much of a pain depends on what you want to do; if you frequently type in channel numbers directly, for example, that virtual numeric keypad might soon become your hated nemesis.

So for me, despite it being the best remote I've ever seen included with a TV, Samsung's Smart Remote would still be relegated to a drawer somewhere, replaced in my system by a universal unit like the Logitech Harmony Smart Control. That's because I want only one remote, and the Logitech can control multiple devices. Yes, Samsung's Smart Remote can also command Blu-ray players and home theater systems, but I have other devices I need controlled (like my Roku and game console), and I demand more customization than Samsung's remote offers. I also need dedicated forward and reverse skip buttons for skipping commercials on my DVR, and I'd become annoyed at the need to frequently access the onscreen remote to control my cable box (see below).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

That said, on a simpler system or with a someone who's more inclined to use the Samsung TV for most activities and apps, as opposed to external devices, the Smart Remote could easily render a universal clicker obsolete.

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
Screen shape Flat Resolution 1080p
Smart TV Yes Remote Touchpad/motion
Cable box control Yes IR blaster External
3D technology Active 3D glasses included 2 pair
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); Optional extra 3D glasses (model SSG-5150GB, $20 list); Optional Bluetooth wireless keyboard (model VG-KBD2000, $99 list)

Features

The H6400 includes just about every non-picture-related option I'd consider worthwhile among Samsung's 2014 panoply of features. Yes, more-expensive 7 series sets have a nifty split-screen trick that allows simultaneous TV watching and Web browsing, but I have one, too (it's called a tablet). Until you get to real picture-related options like the local dimming found on the 8 and 9 series models -- with or without a curved screen and/or 4K resolution -- I don't think it's worth spending extra over the 6400 (although I won't know for sure until I test one of the 7 series).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

While the UNH6400's excellent remote is the main step-up over the H6350, it also has 3D capability that the cheaper models lack. Samsung includes two pair of 3D glasses, and like nearly every newer active 3D set, the H6400 complies with the full HD 3D standard, in case you want to use different glasses.

Although the H6400 would seem to have a superior picture over the H6350 judging from its higher "Clear Motion Rate" (of 240 on the H6350 vs. 480 on the H6400), and Micro Dimming, both features actually have very little impact on the picture. 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 picture quality, including similarly excellent motion and video-processing performance.

Meanwhile, the step-up UNH7150 series has a CMR of 960 and Micro Dimming Pro. The latter is once again software-based, and so unlikely to have more than a marginal effect on picture quality, while I don't expect much out of the former either.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Smart TV: The H6400 offers Samsung's full Smart TV monty for 2014: the motion remote as well as voice control and search. Those extras make the system seem more polished and easier to use than what we saw on the H6350, especially when it comes to entering searches or navigating the myriad onscreen menus. In its full form, Samsung's smart suite is arguably just as good, if not better in many ways, than my current favorite for the 2014 Smart crown, LG's WebOS. I'll know more when I can thoroughly test an LG

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 multipage 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. Last year I called the design "refreshing, colorful, and relatively simple, a welcome change from the clutter of the company's previous versions" but compared to WebOS and some other, less ambitious systems, it can be visually overwhelming. Thanks to the motion remote, however, it's easy to navigate, and responses were quick on the quad-core 6400.

As you might expect the motion controller was great for browsing the Web. Samsung's browser software is among the best I've tested for a TV (albeit still worse than any smartphone, tablet, or PC), and using motion control to select links, as well as swiping down on the touchpad to scroll, worked well. Motion control also eased use of the onscreen keyboard, for entering URLs and search terms, but if you're going to be doing a lot of typing, it's worth plugging in an external wireless keyboard. The H6400 can pair with any Samsung Bluetooth keyboard, and with my tests of KDB-VG1500, it worked well. I was able to use a cheap wireless USB keyboard however, the Logitech K400, which has a touchpad that worked OK. Notably, neither keyboard's touchpad was as easy to use as the remote's motion control however.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Voice search and control is available on models from the UNH6400 series up, accessible by hitting the Voice button. I said "ESPN" and the system was smart enough to show me the channels that matched my search (ESPN News, ESPN HD, ESPN 2, and so on) rather than perform a Web search, for example. It worked just as well on some channels ("Sportsnet NY") but failed quite often ("A&E, "NHLNet HD"). It also handles a few preprogrammed commands and custom searches, from "Volume up" to "What's the weather in ___?" to "Anything interesting on tonight?" Its accuracy was very good, as long as I stuck to those phrases, but there were also plenty of failures. As with most of today's voice-control functions, you'll have to put up with more than a few misinterpretations or irrelevant results to go along with the times when it works as you'd expect. At least it's better than it used to be.

You can also perform a standard text search using an onscreen keyboard. Both text and voice searches for video titles hit your TV listings as as well as YouTube, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and CinemaNow. Samsung's search doesn't hit Netflix, Amazon Instant, or HBO Go, however, making it less useful overall than the universal search on Roku or even the Amazon Fire TV, for example.

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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 apps, 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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Cable box control: The default first page of the Smart TV interface is the On TV section. It basically attempts to replace your cable or satellite box's interface with the TV's own, which consists of six thumbnails of shows playing now and six more that start in the near future. It supposedly learns your preferences over time to figure out which shows to surface, although I did wish for some customization, especially the ability to have On TV show only HD channels. In addition you can 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. I was particularly galled by the fact that no matter which channel I was tuned to, Samsung's guide always began at channel 2.

Personally I wouldn't normally use On TV to select my shows, because most of the TV I watch is stored on my DVR's hard drive. That list of recordings isn't incorporated into On TV at all, so On TV has no idea which of them I watch and can't make suggestions based upon them. For people like me, who almost never watch live TV, Samsung's interface falls short of the one on the box itself.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The TV controls your cable or satellite box via Samsung's own remote with commands routed through the included IR blaster (above). I didn't like the system 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. When controlling the cable box, the very slight delay between pressing a button and seeing the results onscreen was almost unnoticeable; the H6400 seemed seemed faster than on the H6350. That said 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.

If you do decide to use the TV to control your cable box, you'll find yourself visiting the onscreen remote a lot. As I mentioned it's better than Samsung's previous version, thanks to the ability to select and press the onscreen "keys" much more quickly than before, but it can't hold a candle to a good universal remote.

Accessing my list of recorded shows on the DVR was especially tedious. I had to press "Keypad" (which summons the virtual remote), then use the motion control select the "STB Menu" virtual key (the virtual key marked "DVR" didn't work), then use the four-way cursor to click down to "DVR," and then over to "View Recordings." Compare that to one press of the "DVR" button on a standard remote. For some reason the "Return" key also failed with my DVR, and I was annoyed that the Guide button summoned Samsung's own, not the one on my cable box. All of which goes to show that any control scheme is only as good as the commands included, and if it can't "learn" new or custom commands, more's the pity.

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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, albeit along with some visible flicker.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: Nothing major is missing 'round back. 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

The H6400 is a decent performer, but picture quality isn't its strength. And for people deciding between this TV and the H6350, know that they're much more similar than different when it comes to image fidelity. In fact, I tested both simultaneously and many of the observations below appear in both reviews. I also checked out Micro Dimming on the H6400, and as expected it didn't improve the picture.

picture_settings3.jpg

Both the H6400 and H6350 showed relatively light, unimpressive black levels, superb color and video processing, and more uniformity errors than I expected from direct-lit LED TVs. I do appreciate Samsung's trend toward matte screens at this level, which helps a lot in bright rooms, but it can't push the H6400's picture above a "6" on our scale. Neither can its good (but not great) 3D picture quality.

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: All three Samsungs performed about the same in this important category, which is to say mediocre. The H6400's black level did beat the Sony W800B and Sharp by a nose, and fell short of the depths displayed by the Vizio and the Sony W850B by a wider margin.

In bright scenes from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", 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.

I also checked out some scenes with Dynamic Contrast turned on, because according to Samsung that's the control that engages the software-based Micro Dimming on the UNH6400. The setting had no effect on black levels, but it did increase the brightness of highlights, providing a bit more dynamism to the picture. The big tradeoff, however, was that near-dark areas lost some detail, and to reclaim it I had to increase the brightness control -- which, in turn, hurt black levels. Another issue is that with the control off the TV's gamma was nearly perfect, and by turning it on it became worse. For these reasons, I kept the control, and thus Micro Dimming, turned off for my evaluations.

Color accuracy: The H6400'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 Samsungs 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: The Samsung UNH6400 performed like a champ in this area, but didn't clearly beat the other two Samsungs despite its higher Clear Motion Rate specification. The main difference concerned how its LED Clear Motion setting behaved.

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 H6400'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 "The Young and the Restless" to "Soap." All of the other AMP settings, aside from Off, introduce some smoothing.

Engaging LED Clear Motion setting under the AMP menu reduces light output significantly, 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, but on the other hand, it introduced some flicker that wasn't visible on the H6350. Unless you prefer the flickery look, which to some viewers might seem reminiscent of film projectors, I'd recommend leaving LED Clear Motion turned off on this TV.

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 the H6400 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 lower section. These issues weren't visible in all program material, but when they appeared, for example during the opening titles of "The Hobbit," I did find them distracting. The screens of the Sonys were more uniform in general than those of the three Samsungs, which in turn were about the same as the Sharp and better than the Vizio.

From off-angle, the H6400 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 again worse.

Sound quality: In the H6350 review, I singled out sound quality as one differentiator between the three Samsungs, with the more balanced H6300 sounding best, the boomier, thin-sounding H6350 the worst, and the H6400 in the middle. That shouldn't imply that the H6400 is any good at sound, however. Like the 6350, its bass was still loose and boomy on our test track, Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand," and treble was still scratchy and thin -- just less so. Only the echoey, thin Sony W800B and the thin, distant Vizio sounded worse -- and not by much. With the explosions of our movie test, the bridge assault from "Mission: Impossible 3," audio improved slightly, but it still wasn't good, and the impact and fullness that were audible on the Sony W850B were absent here.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

3D: For a relatively low-end active 3D TV, the H6400 performed relatively well. During "Hugo," I noticed some crosstalk, for example in Hugo's hand or the hair of the guitar player from Chapter 1, and the uniform of the constable in Chapter 4, but it wasn't terrible compared to many active 3D sets I've tested. On the other hand, it wasn't nearly as clean as on the Vizio. The Samsung did deliver a superior 3D image to both Sonys -- while crosstalk on the W800B wasn't as bad as the W850B, it was still much more visible than on the H6400.

Meanwhile the Samsung also produced the brightest image of the active sets, outdoing the W800B by far and nearly matching the passive Vizio. Color was relatively accurate and again, markedly superior to the W850B.

As usual, the fit of Samsung's cheap glasses was loose. They felt flimsy, but in their favor they remained light and comfortable for long periods of time.

Geek Box

Test ResultScore
Black luminance (0%) 0.01Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.35Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.425Good
Dark gray error (20%) 2.064Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.984Good
Avg. color error 1.102Good
Red error 1.256Good
Green error 1.154Good
Blue error 1.32Good
Cyan error 0.735Good
Magenta error 0.577Good
Yellow error 1.569Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) PassGood
1080i De-interlacing (film) PassGood
Motion resolution (max) 1200Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200Good
Input lag (Game mode) 44.07Average

Samsung UN55H6400 CNET Review calibration results

How We Test TVs

samsung-un55h6400-product-photos12.jpg
6.5

Samsung UNH6400 series

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 6Value 6
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