Another Samsung, another great TV
What is the Samsung UE48H6500?The Samsung UE48H6500 is the latest mid-tier TV from the Korean giant and sits just above the highly regarded H6400 in their range. The '48' in the model number denotes a screen size of 48-inches and the retail price (at the time of writing in August 2014) is around £629 depending on where you look online. For those that are interested the H6500 series also includes screen sizes of 40 and 55 inches but we wouldn't expect there to be any real difference in terms of performance.
The H6500 is a Full HD LCD TV with an edge LED backlight and it looks to be relatively feature packed in terms of its specifications. There's active shutter 3D for those that are still interested in some added dimensionality and the H6500 includes two pairs of 3D glasses. Samsung also include two remote controls - a fairly standard one and one of their new Smart Controllers. There's also quad-core processing and a very comprehensive Smart TV platform with just about every video streaming service you'll ever need.
What does it look like?Looks-wise the H6500 is very old-school Samsung with a simple 1cm wide black bezel surrounding the screen and a largely plastic construction. There's no screen curving going on in the lower tiers of Samsung's 2014 TV range, so it's a decidedly flat screen that is thankfully free of unwanted reflections. The H6500 uses Samsung's 'quad' stand, which remains an acquired taste but at least the chrome finish looks nice and the panel can be swivelled, allowing for easier positioning.
The chassis is deeper than many recent Samsung TVs, with a depth of 4cm for most of the length and an extra centimetre at the bottom where the speakers are housed. Personally we're happy for the chassis to be a bit deeper, especially if it results in a more even backlight and better sound. Speaking of which, the forward-firing speakers are built into a gap along the bottom of the panel, just above a silver strip. At the centre is a Samsung logo with an indicator light beneath.
What connections does it have?Around the back are all the connections and, considering where the H6500 sits in Samsung's TV range, there's a healthy selection. You get four HDMI inputs, one of which supports ARC (Audio Return Channel), and three USB ports, one of which can be used to add a HDD and thus turn your TV into a PVR. The three USB and two of the HDMI inputs face sideways and are 15cm from the edge. This isn't two bad but ideally we'd like to see them a bit further from the edge, although two of the HDMI inputs also face rearwards. There's no MHL support on any go the HDMI inputs on the H6500 but frankly that's no great loss.
There's a generous set of connections and four of those all-important HDMI inputs.
In terms of other connections there is an aerial socket, with dual tuners, and two satellite connectors. Which means that if you did add an HDD and turn the H6500 into a PVR it would be fully functioning with the ability to record one programme whilst watching another. The H6500 also supports legacy connections such as SCART, component and composite, along with a digital optical output. You also get a headphone socket and an Ethernet port, although as with most modern TVs the H6500 comes with WiFi built-in. The chances are that the HDMI inputs, USB ports and WiFi will be the main forms of connection that you use.
How do I control it?When it comes to controlling the H6500 you have plenty of choice. First of all there's the standard remote control that Samsung have been using for a number of years now. It's been somewhat reduced in size recently but is still an effective way of controlling the H6500, even if it doesn't have an aspect ratio or 3D button anymore.
Next up is Samsung's new Smart Controller, which has been designed to work seamlessly with the Smart System. There is a motion pointer, a few basic controls and even a microphone for voice control and overall we found it to be very effective. If that wasn't enough, there's even the option of motion control, although we still find we prefer the more traditional approach currently.
Finally there is Samsung's remote app, which is currently called Smart View 2. This is available free for both iOS and Android and provides a viable alternative to the other methods of control. The Smart View 2 app provides all the necessary controls and uses a slick and attractively designed interface. There's also the option to watch content on your smart device, turning it into a second screen, and overall we found the app to be robust, intuitive and effective.
What features does it have?Aside from the features that we've already mentioned, the H6500 also includes active shutter 3D and whilst the popularity of this format might be waning, it remains a feature that we expect to see on a mid-tier modern TV. The H6500 also includes two pairs of active shutter glasses so, if three dimensions are your thing, you can sit down and watch your favourite 3D movie straight away.
Samsung's Smart TV System is among the best on the market and whilst it might not be quite as revolutionary as LG's new webOS-powered platform, it remains the most comprehensive - you can find a detailed review here. No other Smart System currently has as many video-on-demand, streaming and catch-up services as Samsung's, so you not only get Netflix and Amazon Instant but also Wuaki TV and all the major catch-up services (BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5).
In fact the only major service missing is Sky's NOW TV, which is currently exclusive to LG TVs. Aside from all the video services, you also get a decent web browser and an effective media player. The H6500 uses quad-core processing, so not only is the Smart System well designed and pretty to look at, it's also very fast and highly responsive. The same is true of Samsung's concise, intuitive and informative menu system, which also includes extensive calibration controls.
If it's a Smart TV you're after, you won't find one with a bigger IQ than the Samsung.
What does it sound like?Surprisingly good which, given how awful the sound on modern TVs has become, is a pleasant surprise. The secret to the H6500's success is undoubtedly its deeper chassis, which allows for larger speakers and thus a greater feeling of presence to the audio. The speakers also fire forward, which makes for a more effective front soundstage, whilst the larger screen size means there is a greater sense of stereo separation. The H6500 doesn't include a built-in subwoofer, so the lower end isn't quite as impactful but certainly the mid-range and high frequencies were nicely rendered, keeping dialogue clear and music and effects well produced.
The H6500 uses two stereo speakers with 10W of amplification each, which might not sound like a lot but is enough to deliver plenty of sound without becoming distorted or tinny. The built-in audio of the H6500 should be sufficient for general TV watching in the average living room but if you feel that you need a bit more there are plenty of alternatives. Samsung themselves offer the excellent HW-H550 soundbar as a possible option, whilst the new HW-H600 provides an equally tidy solution. By sticking with a Samsung audio solution you will be able to take advantage of greater synergy with features such as TV SoundConnect.
Samsung provide a fairly accurate preset in the form of their Movie mode and anyone wishing to get their TV as close to industry standards as possible would be well advised to use this setting. We ran through all the basic controls optimising them for our viewing environment and turning off any unnecessary picture features. The result was a reasonably accurate greyscale out-of-the-box, although as is often the case with Samsung TVs there was an excess of green and a deficit of blue, giving whites a light yellow tinge. However the gamma was tracking quite accurately around your target curve of 2.2.
The colour accuracy was also good out-of-the-box, in particular the luminance (brightness) of the colours, which measure very close to their targets. There was some slight over-saturation of some of the colours and some errors in the hue of cyan and magenta but this was largely due to the excess green in the greyscale. This should be easy to correct using the provided calibration controls and overall this is a very good out-of-the-box performance.
Thanks to the inclusion of both a two and a ten-point white balance control, it was a simple task to correct the errors in the greyscale. We simply moved green down and blue up using the two-point control, which immediately improved the accuracy significantly. Then all we needed to do was fine tune the greyscale using the ten-point where necessary and the result was a reference performance. The gamma curve also remained very accurate, tracking around our 2.2 target.
Moving on to the colour gamut and once we had calibrated the greyscale, we immediately saw that the colour accuracy had improved; the yellow tinge was gone and all of the colours appeared very natural. The colour management system (CMS) on the H6500 was also very effective and we simply had to tweak the primary and secondary colours to get another reference performance. There were some very slight errors in red but, overall, any errors were well below the perceivable threshold. The accuracy also extended to saturation points below 100%, with all the colours performing well. You can find our recommended best settings based upon the review sample here.
In terms of image accuracy the H6500 is second-to-none, with a reference picture after calibration.
What's good about this TV?Pretty much everything about the H6500 was good, resulting in an impressive all-round performance that will make the Samsung ideal for anyone looking for a new TV. The image accuracy discussed in the technical section certainly plays an important part, resulting in a picture that looks natural. The impressive black level and contrast ratio numbers also help, delivering a TV with a suitably wide dynamic range. We measured the native blacks at 0.05cd/m2, which is good, and the H6500 also had plenty of brightness. As a result the on/off contrast ratio was 2460:1 and the ANSI contrast ratio was 2232:1.
Are the numbers good?
Those are quite good for an LCD panel and show that Samsung's investment in MVA panels is paying dividends. The backlight uniformity was also very good, perhaps due to the deeper chassis, and there was a pleasing lack of dirty screen effect or banding. The video processing was excellent, with the H6500 passing all of our tests and, as a result, even standard definition content could look good on the 48-inch screen. Of course once we moved onto high definition material, the H6500 really stepped up a gear, producing images with plenty of detail.
Excellent picture quality?
As we watched various documentaries on BBC 4, we were impressed by the quality of images that the H6500 could produce. The wonderful photography was reproduced using every pixel on the panel and the colour accuracy ensured everything looked suitably natural. The H6500 was just as effective with Blu-rays, handling the 24p without a hitch and delivering a film-like image. We watched Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Transcendence and Furious 6 on the H6500 and the results were excellent, with well rendered images that delivered a faithful representation of the original film.
What about 3D?
The H6500 proved equally as adept when it came to 3D content and with 3D Blu-rays in particular, the results were very impressive. The H6500 had sufficient brightness to counteract the dimming nature of the glasses, although in fairness the lenses on the Samsung glasses aren't that dark. Watching Rio 2 and Nurse showed that the images had plenty of depth, with excellent layering and a nice sense of 3D 'pop'. There was also a pleasing lack of any distracting artefacts like crosstalk and as a result the 3D experience proved to be very enjoyable.
Will it save the planet?
Finally for all you eco-warriors out there the H6500 is very energy efficient, using no power at all (or at least below 0.5W on our meter) and using only 78W in its calibrated Movie mode. The energy usage increased to 91W for 3D because the backlight and contrast settings were higher but that's still very good for a 48-inch screen.
What's not so good about this TV?Frankly there was very little to complain about with the H6500 and what we could find was fairly trivial. The H6500 uses 400Hz Clear Motion Rate and although motion handling has never been a strong point of LCD technology, the Samsung handled itself well. Yes there were instances of blurring with fast moving objects but we never found it especially distracting and if you watch a lot of sports, you can always resort to frame interpolation. However, as always we would never recommend any form of frame interpolation where film-based content is concerned, unless you want it to look like cheap video.
What about Input Lag?
If you're a serious gamer then the H6500 might not be ideal for you because the Samsung measured 80ms in Movie mode. This improved considerably in Game mode, measuring at 42ms but even that might be a bit high for the hard-core gamers. Unfortunately the old trick of renaming the input as PC didn't get the measurement any lower but to be honest 42ms will be fine for most people. We certainly didn't have any problems gaming on our PS4 but we have seen lower measurements this year and 42ms is on the high side for a Full HD TV.
Don't sit too far to the side
Whilst the use of an MVA panel might result in a better black level it does mean a more limited viewing angle, so you need to be aware of that if you plan on watching off to one side. Of course we would always recommend watch TV from directly in front of the screen, if possible, and at least you can swivel the screen if necessary. The 3D glasses are comfortably light and not too tinted but the lack of shielding at the sides means that you really have to watch TV in the dark to avoid any distracting flicker. In addition the 48-inch screen size means that the 3D isn't as immersive as it might be on a larger TV.
If you're looking for a solid all-round TV that does the lot, then look no further.
- Great dynamic range
- Good screen uniformity
- Very accurate images
- Impressive video processing
- Comprehensive smart platform
- Plenty of features and accessories
- Construction is a bit on the plastic side
- The 'quad' stand remains an acquired taste
- The input lag could be lower
Samsung UE48H6500 (H6500) Full HD TV Review
Who is this intended for?
The Samsung UE48H6500 is a great all-round TV that delivers the goods in all the key areas, offering an attractive combination of performance, features and price. It would certainly be an ideal choice for anyone looking for a new TV for their living room. The picture quality is excellent, the accessories and features as good as anything you'll get on Samsung's flagship models and the price is very tempting.
Should I buy one?
You certainly won't find better at the price point and if a good picture and support for 3D is important, then the H6500 should be on your short list. You also get the most comprehensive set of video streaming services from any manufacturer, so if catch-up TV and Netflix or Amazon are important to you then the H6500 will definitely fit the bill.
What other options do I have?
This sector of the market is a highly competitive one, with LG's LB730, Sony's W706, Panasonic's AS600 and Toshiba's L74 all offering excellent alternatives. However the obvious competitor to the H6500 is going to be Samsung's own H6400, which is almost identical except that it doesn't come with the satellite tuners. So if dual tuners and Freesat aren't a priority to you, and these days the latter probably isn't, then the excellent H6400 makes an equally tempting option.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality8
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money9
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