Samsung D6900 (PS51D6900) FULL HD 3D Plasma Television Review
All this for less than £900 - what's the catch?
IntroductionSamsung Series 6 televisions have traditionally bridged the gap between their mid-range and flagship products, offering most of the features of the top-tier sets whilst being priced much more competitively. The Samsung PS51D6900, again, meets this criteria and lacks very little, on paper, when put against their D8000 range. Steve has had the PS51D8000 in for testing recently and it gained a fairly solid Recommendation. I can also reveal that Mr Withers currently has the 64" D8000 in his possession and is even more impressed so it will be interesting to see how how the D6900 compares particularly bearing in mind that the D6900 can be purchased for over £300 less, in this screen size, and doesn't come with the shiny silver bezel that some find too distracting. The D6900 still boasts nearly all the Smart TV functions of the 8000, the same excellent calibration suite and the 3D HyperReal processing engine so it could be a potential bargain for some. We've seen the PS51D6900 advertised for less than £900 and that's a lot of screen real estate and features for the price!
The PS51D6900 has a larger sibling in the PS59D6900 that is likely to provide a very similar viewing experience although some reports would suggest the larger screen model possesses deeper black levels.
Design and ConnectionsAs ever, when it comes to matters of design we can only ever offer our subjective opinions but we have to say if it ever came to a straight choice between the, rather shiny, D8000 and the rather more understated D6900, then based on looks alone, the D6900 would certainly be our preference. It looks every inch the 6 Series Samsung with its slim charcoal grey bezel framed by a 1cm transparent strip and we're very happy not to see the 'chicken foot' stand that's present in Series 7 upwards. We know what they were thinking when introducing that particular design feature but that doesn't stop us from thinking a solid rectangular base looks far better. The D6900 may not boast the sleek elegance of the 'one sheet of glass' plasma's but is less reflective as a result.
The chassis is very slim, measuring 4.5cm at its deepest point but we'll resist the primeval urge to make puerile jokes about the extra inch of screen the Samsung styling affords the relatively svelte chassis to contain but every little extra helps! The connection plate, to the rear, features both down and side facing ports, with all 4 HDMI inputs being side connected. The HDMI ports are located nearly 17cm from the edge of the bezel so most 'standard' leads should remain hidden but those with more study cables may need to consider angle adapters. In addition to the HDMI inputs there are also two USB ports (1 for PVR usage), a headphone jack, SPDIF audio out and PC audio in.
The PS51D6900 ships with breakout adapters for analogue Component and RGB Scart leads that connect on the downwards facing portion of the plate along with a LAN connection, D-SUB PC in and the DVB-T2(Freeview HD) aerial socket. All in all, it's a comprehensive, and fairly standard, set of connections although, personally, I've just reached the point where a 5th HDMI port wouldn't go amiss.
Just a quick note on buzzing, as some owners are struggling with on their units: the review sample, as with every PDP, emits a buzz from the back of the panel. On this particular unit it was inaudible, to me, without sticking my ear behind the panel but we'd assume some variance will be present on other samples and the fact our test areas back on to a relatively acoustically dampening wall probably helps; were they made of brick, for example, things might be different.
The remote control supplied is Samsung's standard plasticky affair but is at least backlit and logically laid out. With 1 in 3 adults in the UK now owning smartphones, it's likely a fair few people will be trying Samsung's apps that allow for almost full RC functionality and ease the use of Smart TV functions. We've no major complaints about the unit but we would like to see Samsung apply more of their design nous, to the remote's, going forwards.
MenusOn top of the standard Contrast, Brightness and Colour controls, within the Picture menu, there's also the Cell Light slider that has a range of 0-20. In effect it acts a supplementary Contrast control that affected only the brightness of white, having no interaction with black levels. In the Movie picture preset we found a setting of 17, in conjunction with the Contrast slider being set optimally to maximise dynamic range, yielded a light output of 35ftL - ideal for our test conditions. The Sharpness control requires no meddling with in Movie mode with it being correctly set to 20 by default.
As ever with Samsung TVs, there are an absolute slew of options in the Picture menus that will undoubtedly appear very daunting to less experienced users. As a rule of thumb, if you ever see a control marked as dynamic 'something', 'blah blah' enhancer or noise reducing we'd advise you to leave them off and in the D6900 we found no exception. Fortunately selecting the Movie preset bypasses most of the unnecessary controls so it's another good reason to use it, in addition to it providing the image closest to industry standards.
As we mentioned in the introduction, the PS51D6900 is not shorn of Samsung's excellent calibration suite with both a 2 and 10 point white balance controls, in addition to a RGB colour management system available in the Advanced Settings of the Picture Menu. ThePicture Options area houses the Film Mode that has Auto1, Auto2 and Cinema Smooth options.Note: The Cinema Smooth option only appears when 24p material is detected and we'd recommend engaging it for this particular kind of material to ensure smooth, flicker free images are displayed for most of your Blu-ray discs.
Being a 3D ready display the D6900, of course, houses some 3D options. Firstly we have 3D Mode allowing for selection of 2D to 3D conversion, Side by Side etc and a 3D Perspective control. There's also a Depth option that only affects the 2D to 3D mode and L/R Change that swaps the images for each eye for those experiencing discomfort at default settings. We found setting 3D Auto View to on worked perfectly in detecting the nature of the 3D signal being received.
Test ResultsHaving quickly ascertained that the Movie picture preset, along with a Colour Tone (read temperature) of Warm2, gave results closest to standards, we set about adjusting the Brightness and Contrast controls to suit our environment and maximise dynamic range. We were actually quite surprised how far out the Brightness setting was, by default, so we'd definitely recommend owners get up a good PLUGE pattern to check their D6900s as they could be missing lots of detail near black, if our review sample is anything to go by. Contrast also required careful set up, in conjunction with the Cell Light, to avoid clipping whilst providing a decent light output so test patterns are also recommended here. It's amazing what difference getting these, seemingly simple, parameters correct will do for images and it's well worth the very modest time and monetary investment needed to do so. With that small lecture over, let's take a look at how the D6900 measured up, pre advanced calibration.
Images, and in particular, skin tones were noticeably too warm and this is borne out by the RGB Balance graph showing red as tracking about 5% high across the greyscale. Blue also runs too high lower down the scale and this results in a rather purplish look to blacks, particularly as green is low throughout. It's not a terrible result, by any means, but we've seen much better out of the box performance from Samsung's in Movie mode. No matter, with the available controls, we should be able to improve matters considerably.
To get a true out of the box take on colour reproduction, the following measurements were taken with Colour Space set to Auto. To take advantage of the D6900's CMS, colour space needs to be set as Custom and the results were slightly different with Custom displaying a less expanded colour gamut and a higher degree of luminance accuracy. This is a pretty good looking set of results for the D6900 and although our primary colours are all a little too bright, with green and red over-saturated, to boot, overall errors are still below the threshold of being noticeable, red excepted, with delta errors below 3. Red is noticeably 'aggressive' but we should be able to tame it sufficiently.
Beginning with the 2 point white balance sliders and then honing our greyscale with the 10 point controls, we were able to achieve an extremely respectable greyscale and near perfect gamma response as we can see from the charts above. On-screen images are now all suitably free of unwanted tint and really popping out of the screen. There is still just the slightest suggestion of purplish blacks but it's not at all noticeable without extraordinary scrutinisation. It's not that often we see quite such a large improvement to actual images when using the most accurate picture modes but the D6900 benefited hugely from greyscale calibration, even if the pre-calibration charts suggested only a small reduction in Delta Es was required.
The CIE diagram suggested we'd just need to reign in our colours a little to register reference results, so let's see what we managed to achieve with the CMS. We weren't quite able to reign in green without taking it slightly off-hue but, in all honesty, it was near impossible to notice the error with our demo material. The fact that luminance errors were now of the minuscule variety and overall errors, for all colours, well below 3 means job done. On to watching some actual material safe in the knowledge we're getting the most out of the D6900.
Passing video processing tests is usually a strong suit for mid to high range Samsungs so we were surprised to see the D6900 not to lock on to the 2:2 (PAL) cadence. In fact, the processing engine only effectively locked on to the most common NTSC 2:3 cadence successfully. Blu-ray 24p material proved no issue provided Cinema Smooth was engaged in the Picture Options area of the Picture Menu and was, as billed, smooth and free from undue flicker. Scaling duties were handled in typical Samsung fashion, i.e. cleanly and without induced haloing, whilst motion adaptive deinterlacing tasks are shown with similar proficiency.
Samsung are usually pretty much the kings of passing these types of tests but they're not averse to throwing in some 'backdoor' processing with the likes of undefeatable motion and image smoothing. Fortunately, there's no sign of the former but there is of the latter. We really don't want to make too much noise about it but lovers of cinematography might find their sensibilities offended and that's understandable, however, we don't consider that it will be an issue for the majority of owners and our user threads, on the forum, are testament to that. Simply, most have no idea when and/or if it's happening. Game mode does restore the (very) high frequency details but, on this sample at least, the greyscale was too far out to calibrate to respectable levels so it's not something we'd necessarily recommend D6900 owners resort to and certainly not to those without some calibration experience and the appropriate kit. As ever, if you think it's something that might concern you, try and get a decent demo but we'd wager most wont have a problem.
In the obscurely positioned Game mode - it's in the System Menu under General - the D6900 returned fairly respectable figures of between 31 and 36 milliseconds lag to controller input. Personally, I had no problem in the slight increase in latency, when compared to my usual gaming TV, but those serious about competitive gaming might be best served with another set. In comparison to years gone by, the D6900 showed far less inclination for image retention and, provided reasonable care was taken, left over logos and HUDs never showed themselves in real world viewing. It was suggested in a review feedback thread that we pursue 4 hour gaming sessions in order to check plasma's out for image retention and, much as I like this idea, those days are over for me - I have children. Kids have their own IR testing merits, however, and I'm pleased to report the Nick Jr logo is not burnt into the D6900, despite my 5yr old's best efforts!
For a 51 inch plasma display, the PS51D6900 does a good job in not hiking up the electricity bills too dramatically in drawing an averaged 240w, calibrated - in 2D, and 320w in 3D mode.
Picture Quality - 2DThe D6900's accurate calibrated image was backed up well with it's respectable black level and a decent dynamic range. The D6900 isn't a plasma that's going to set the world alight with its contrast performance but that's not even remotely an issue until the lights are dimmed and, even then, we're happy to sacrifice a little outright black level for the very poor uniformity we see in so many LED LCDs. To give some context, this Samsung sits somewhere between the Panasonic and the LG plasmas, in terms of black levels, with it appearing closer to the Japanese manufacturers 'best in class' performance, particularly in more brightly lit situations. We mentioned in the LG PZ950 review that the LG did exhibit quite a degree of dithering that was particularly visible with green PWM noise in black and, to a degree, the Samsung is quite similar. We must point out, however, that to see it occurring on the D6900, you'd probably be sat a little too close. With the ruler flat gamma response, shadow detailing is very good indeed and motion is handled well but, on a personal note, I was aware of some phosphor trailing with the D6900, where I'm not particularly prone to spotting it with other plasma's.
Perhaps the topic most dominating our Plasma discussion boards this year has been discussion on the Panasonic range of TVs propensity to alter the brightness of images as Average Picture Level (APL) changes. On some sets it's proving very noticeable and distracting to owners. The bad news is that the D6900 does something similar but the good news is that - with the sample provide, at least - it manifests in a less stepped and noticeable manner to the Panasonics. To put things in to perspective, we saw the brightness 'pops' occur only a handful of times in nearly a fortnights everyday use and, when it does occur, it's over very quickly. We really do consider this trait to have only been of minor nuisance but the instances of occurrence may vary, unit to unit. In other words, the quality of the images we were getting 99.9X% of the time were easily good enough - particularly at this price-point - to forgive this foible. Overall we found the D6900 provide us with an excellent viewing experience with both HD and SD sources and with a variety of content, from sports to movies.
Picture Quality - 3DThe Samsung LED LCD's have come on leaps and bounds in terms of their 3D presentation and the PS51D6900 is certainly not lagging behind them in the performance stakes, in fact, we would place it only just behind the Pansonic's (both plasma and DT30) when it comes to delivering the active shutter experience. We're not sure if comparisons to LGs passive 'Cinema 3D' TVs are totally valid; whilst it's not quite comparing apples to oranges, it is perhaps like comparing Granny Smiths to Braeburns - choose the one you like best as each has it merits.
There was a little crosstalk present but we probably only noticed because we are especially looking out for it. The D6900 manages to combine the clean image with fluid motion handling and a good sense of depth with the glasses doing a reasonable job of keeping out reflections, to boot. There's plenty of light output available, as well, meaning the light swallowing properties of the eye-wear is not really an issue. Colours looked reasonably natural in Movie mode and with a little tinkering with the white balance controls we managed to get skin-tones looking good. The 2D to 3D conversion feature works as well as any we have seen but we'd still consider it a bit of a gimmick; perhaps its best application is in single player gaming, where it can work fairly well. All in all, we were very pleased with the D6900's 3D abilities and there are no really nasties to report.
FeaturesDespite the D6900 carrying a rather lowly price tag, it's very nice to see the inclusion of a Freeview HD capable tuner, allowing for some subscription free high def goodness. The USB PVR functionality is also present, as per the 'higher end' TVs too and can be a useful back up to a dedicated box. It should be clear by now that the D6900 is a 3D Ready TV but if you've skipped the menu descriptions (how could you?!?), you might have missed it. It's worth noting that the D6900 doesn't come with 3D eye-wear in the box, so that's an extra expense to consider but it does come Wi-Fi ready for streaming and connecting to internet features.
We've given so much praise to Samsung's Smart Hub recently that you could almost be forgiven for thinking we're being sponsored, when of course we aren't, and it's only a slightly shrunken version present on the D6900 with just the omission of the Web Browser, when compared to the more expensive models. Frankly, it's not something we miss when there are so many other choices for internet duties and the inclusion of the likes of BBC iPlayer, YouTube and the Your Video search facility are far more importance to us.
- Reference Calibrated Greyscale
- Excellent Colour Reproduction
- Smart Hub Features
- Motion Handling
- Excellent 3D
- Solid Black Levels with perfect Uniformity
- Freeview HD
- Calibration Controls
- Built-in WiFi
- Brightness 'Pops'
- High Frequency Detail Filtering
- Cadence Detection is a bit Broken
Samsung D6900 (PS51D6900) FULL HD 3D Plasma Television ReviewConsidering that here we have a 1080p 3D Ready display, measuring over 50 inches, packed to the gills with features and costing less than £900, then we are certainly in the realms of Best Buy territory. The fact that the Samsung PS51D6900 manages to deliver both 2D and 3D images with such aplomb only further cements the award. It would appear that Samsung are now including 2 pairs of eyewear in the box now so even more value on offer. The D6900 is not free of niggles - what TV is? - but we're willing to take a few brightness pops and some high frequency detail removal in exchange for the wonderfully natural looking calibrated image, solid blacks and convincing dynamic range. The styling and look of the D6900 also defies the price tag and gaming performance was certainly very acceptable too. We're not sure what went wrong with cadence detection, this year, and it was something of a surprise to see the retrograde steps Samsung took here but, in reality, it's not an issue that will bother many. Are you on a budget? Are you looking to join the 3D party? Do you favour Plasma over LCD? If you answer yes to any two of those questions then the Samsung D6900 is one you should be considering.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,400.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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