Samsung UNF6400 series LCD review: Midrange price, middling picture

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The Good The Samsung UNF6400 LED LCD TV sports an excellent mix of features and looks great sitting on your AV unit. Accurate color in bright scenes; solid video processing; sound quality is way above average; touch-pad remote is responsive and the comprehensive smart TV works well; includes 3 pair of active 3D glasses.

The Bad Mediocre overall picture quality with relatively light black levels, desaturated low-level colors and some some uniformity and off-axis issues; flimsy stand.

The Bottom Line The Samsung UNF6400 offers attractive styling and a full complement of features for the price but is outstripped by rivals for performance.

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6.4 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Value 6

We deal with all different kinds of TVs here at CNET: expensive shiny ones, ones with absolutely stunning image quality, and sometimes they're one and the same. We even get some real stinkers.

But most of the TVs on sale today fall somewhere in the middle, with neither the "wow" factor of high-end sets nor the feel-good value of a true bargain. The Samsung F6400 is a pretty good TV, it has a lot of features and the styling is lovely, but there's something lacking. It turns out that that something is above-average picture quality.

While the UNF6400 is not a bad TV by any stretch, it doesn't perform as well as many sets at the same or lower price level. Among models we've tested, for example, the Panasonic E60 and ST60 and the Vizio M series all offer better picture quality. Unless you really like the UNF6400's feature set, nameplate, or styling, there's little reason to choose it over the alternatives.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the Samsung UN55F6400, 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)
Samsung UN40F6400 40 inches
Samsung UN46F6400 46 inches
Samsung UN50F6400 50 inches
Samsung UN55F6400 55 inches (reviewed)
Samsung UN60F6400 60 inches
Samsung UN65F6400 65 inches
Samsung UN75F6400 75 inches

One of the F6500's strongest qualities is design -- this is a very sleek-looking television. The bezels are very slim and black, and there's a subtle clear edging that gives a pleasing effect. When viewed side-on the television is quite shallow, which makes it a great candidate for wall-hanging. Especially given the lower quality of the attendant stand.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The stand is one of the spindly spider-legged things the company has used for years, but this year's feels horridly cheap. The steel brace inside isn't connected to the plastic sheath on the outer and it actually flexed in my hand. When the TV is sitting on the table it works fine, but the build quality still doesn't inspire confidence.

The UNF6400 ships with a single remote, the Smart Touch Remote Control. It has a responsive touch pad and enables cool features like gestures (drawing the channel number is especially fun). But you may wish for a normal remote at times, especially when manipulating a streamed or recorded program, for example: there are no transport (Play/Pause/Fast-Forward/Rewind) buttons and accessing the controls via an onscreen menu is convoluted, to say the least. The remote does have a microphone for voice search which means you may not miss having the QWERTY keyboard of some previous Samsung remotes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
Screen finish Semi-atte Remote Touch pad
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Active 3D glasses included Two pairs
Refresh rate(s) 120Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: Cable box integration and control via IR blaster; additional 3D glasses (model SSG-5100GB, $19); optional Skype camera (VG-STC3000, $99); optional keyboard (model VG-KBD2000, $99)

When you move up from budget-level to mid- and higher-level televisions you often see a bit of feature creep setting in: the picture quality doesn't change much but the number of doohickeys does. That's is definitely the case for the F6400.

This is the least expensive 2013 Samsung LED LCD TV with the Micro Dimming feature, first introduced last year in models like the ES800 series. As in that model, and unlike with true local dimming, the dimming on the F6400 television is software-only and doesn't control the backlight. What this means is that it can't actually make the blacks much darker, like true local dimming can. (And in case you're wondering, the only 2013 Samsung LED LCDs with true local dimming are significantly more expensive, starting with the UNF8000 series.)

In other words, what seems to be the main picture quality advantage over the less expensive F6300 isn't an advantage at all. We'll be testing the F6300 itself soon to compare the two, but in the meantime we wouldn't recommend anyone buy this set over the F6300 expecting better image quality.

Another potential, and much less important, picture quality differentiator between the F6400 and F6300 is "Clear Motion Rate," a specification Samsung now uses instead of refresh rate. Yes, this rating seemingly belongs with Peak Music Power Output in the "numbers the marketing guy came up with" category, but Samsung isn't the only one doing it. When we asked Samsung's rep for clarification, she replied that the F6300 and F6400, along with every other F6000 LED model, use a 120Hz panel.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Beyond features related to picture quality, the F6400's main standouts are the touch-pad remote (the 6300 has a standard clicker), the Smart TV suite it shares with many 2013 Samsung TVs, and 3D compatibility. The F6400 series is the second-cheapest 3D TV in Samsung's lineup -- only the PNF5500 plasma costs less -- and it ships with two pairs of the entry-level SSG-5100GB active 3D glasses. The glasses are basically identical to the SSG-4100GB model we reviewed last year and didn't like much aside from their low price. Since like most active 3D TVs the F6400 complies with the full HD 3D standard, you could always buy better third-party glasses.

Smart TV: There are two smart-TV systems that stand above the others when it comes to both sophistication and the breadth of their offerings: Samsung's and LG's.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Although it lacks the coolness and ease imparted by LG's motion remote, Samsung's Smart TV system is arguably clearer to navigate with five well-marked panels: On TV (cable integration), Movies and TV shows (on demand), Photos, Videos, and Music (DLNA, USB, and cloud-based media), Social (Skype, YouTube, Facebook, and so on), and Apps. On the F6400 the animations were smooth and loading times were snappy, thanks in part to the dual-core processor.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This year both companies have further integrated Program Guide information and cable box/DVR control into the mix. While my colleague David Katzmaier liked the implementation better on LG TVs that include the motion remote (such as the LA8600), Samsung's is still pretty good aside from the aforementioned lack of direct DVR controls.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The TV comes with a IR dongle and a setup routine whereby you can pick your cable provider, and after that you receive a page of suggestions on "what's on." Unfortunately the suggestions are few in number and the TV isn't much good for browsing current TV programs beyond that. Controlling the cable box -- in this case a Fios DVR -- mostly worked with as much as a 5-second delay when changing channels.

Samsung has one of the most comprehensive collections of "apps" from music to video and even maps. Of interest to avid "Game of Thrones" fans will be the inclusion of HBO Go; Samsung is still the only television provider with that excellent app. But not everyone can afford a new TV and a monthly cable bill so there are a bunch of apps for you cable cutters out there. The TV includes the all-conquering Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Hulu Plus. To see how this TV compares with its competitors in apps, try our Big Chart.

Katzmaier performed more testing of Samsung's Smart TV cable box integration, as well as its browser and numerous other Smart TV features, as he discusses in his UNF8000 review. That TV's smarts should behave in most important ways like the F6400's, so check out that review if you're hungry for more detail.

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