Samsung B6000 (UE40B6000) LED LCD TV Review

Does LED lighting have the edge? Phil Hinton examines Samsungâ??s slimmest TVâ?¦so far!

by Phil Hinton
TV Review

58

Samsung B6000 (UE40B6000) LED LCD TV Review
SRP: £1,600.00

Introduction

There is something about super slim flat panel TVs that give you a futuristic sci- fi feeling. In the not to distant past with monster 36” CRT boxes, the thought of your telly being slimmer than a packet of tabs was certainly seen as a pipe dream. But here we are less than 9 years into the 21st century and it looks like ultra slim flat panels have come of age. But is it really necessary?

Obviously that question could be the basis for an interesting forum thread, after all you don’t watch a TV for its slim looks, rather the picture quality said telly produces, or at least I do. I have no doubt that a big advantage of such slim TVs is that some enthusiasts will be able to convince the better half that they are buying a piece of art work for the living room as well as a new large screen TV. And indeed it is available online at reasonable pricing from the likes of Amazon.

Design and Connections

And it has to be said that on unpacking this 40” Samsung I did catch myself saying ‘Wow!’ when examining the slim lines and design. The UE40B6000 is Samsung’s entry level LED TV and certainly the slimmest we have seen here at AVForums towers. It achieves this slim look by employing edge LED technology instead of the usual CCFL backlight used in conventional LCD sets. The white LEDS are placed along the sides of the panel and illuminate the screen through guided light paths across the back surface, instead of being placed directly behind the screen and lighting outwards. This is claimed to produce a uniform screen brightness but in a slimmer panel.

There is no denying that thanks to the LED system used, the Samsung looks amazingly thin and the overall design is very pleasing to the eye. Using the company’s Crystal TV design approach the bezel has an initial clear edge that then infuses a touch of light ruby colour in the outer edge before this turns black towards the screen surface. Under the Samsung logo on the bottom centre of the bezel there is also a pink/red light that indicates the panel is powered up (and it blinks annoyingly when you press a button on the remote). On unpacking the screen, it takes all of 5 minutes to attach the supplied table top stand which boasts a clear central holding strut on a black and red bottom plate, emphasizing the Crystal design. And another point to mention here is just how light this panel is to lift.

Because this screen is so slim, some might be mistaken for assuming it is just a monitor with an outboard tuner box. But surprisingly this is not the case; both TV tuners and the audio system are hidden within the TV's belly with no impact on its waist line slimness. However there have been some changes for hooking up devices using scart or component cables. Samsung do not have any physical scart or RCA connectors available on the back of the TV, instead they use break out cables which plug into the set using 3.5mm jacks at the TV end, with female scart and component connectors at the other. This is a unique approach to solving this particular issue, although the actual break out cables are not the highest quality items we have ever seen. At the rear are 4 HDMI V1.3a inputs which are neatly positioned on the slightly raised input platform and parallel to the rear panel. This does, however, create one slight issue if you are using high quality HDMI leads, as they can end up sticking out from the side of the panel if they are too thick to bend downwards before spilling over the edge.

One of this TV's main features is a USB 2.0 input on the side which allows the connection of playback devices such as an iPod. There is, however, lots of menu hopping just to get a music file to play (and the speakers on the TV are so bad, that it is not really worth the hassle as its ‘distortion overload’). However, accessing my Nikon D90 DSLR was easier and the slideshow application worked flawlessly allowing me to view images stored on the camera. Though it refused to play back any video files from the camera, probably due to the file format used.

Rounding off the package we have the TV remote which is a rather large piece of black plastic. All the controls are well laid out and in a somewhat logical manner, but there are some function buttons that do feel out of place like the EPG button placed near the bottom. The body of the remote is also a weird shape that has a hook like curve at the bottom. I have no idea why that is there, but it may stop it falling down the back of the sofa! One nice touch I have to mention is the backlight which comes to life with use of any button press.

So once set up and connected it was time to power up the screen and auto tune the digital channel line up. This was pretty straight forward to do and even the biggest technophobe on the planet will have no issues in setting up the Samsung to receive TV channels. The layout of the EPG and information buttons is also well thought out with a nicely designed table of contents, 'now' and 'next' and 'channel line up' list. You have a choice of two on screen information bars; pressing the info button brings up the synopsis of the content you are viewing, whether it’s HD or SD and how long it has left to run. By pressing the guide button we are presented with the full EPG table.

Menus

Moving on to the menu system we are greeted with a slick design that is easy to follow and navigate. The main page opens with picture settings first, with sound and other options including media player listed to the left. In the main picture menu we are greeted with the now standard front panel controls. These range from Picture Mode, ‘Dynamic, Standard, Natural and Cinema’, Blacklight, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour, Tint and then advanced settings and picture options.

Inside the Advanced picture menu we have controls for Black Tone (Off, dark, darker, darkest). These are for adjusting the lower end picture gamma and the auto dimming features of the TV, to make black response more intense. I found these to be far too much for the set to handle, without adding in issues with shadow detail and black clipping. Instead I decided after some testing to leave it switched off for the most consistent picture quality (even then it was not totally inactive). Also present in this menu are controls for Dynamic Contrast which again is left off for the best overall picture quality. Gamma does as it suggests and adjusts the gamma curve for the entire picture and with it set at +1 (in cinema mode) it achieves a result close to 2.2, which is our desired point for broadcast and Film material. However, as you will notice later in the review, it doesn't stay there.

We then have a CMS system called Colour Space which has three setting to chose from, Auto, Native and Custom. The Auto setting attempts to produce colour points accurate to the material type being shown (Pal, NTSC or HD). Native is overblown and oversaturated to match the panel's extreme performance capabilities and Custom allows set up of RGBCYM colour points manually (providing you have the correct equipment to do this – it is impossible by eye to get close to any standards). Next up is the White Balance (greyscale) which offers full adjustment over the Gain and Offset controls to get the greyscale mix correct. Don’t confuse these controls with setting up the colour points as some have recently done. Read up on how these work to set them correctly (there are threads in the calibration forum), and of course this cannot be done by eye. Finally we have flesh tone, edge enhancement and xvYCCall of which are best left in the off position.

The final selection in the main Picture system is the Picture Options menu page. Here we have controls for Colour Tone (colour temperature), Screen size (there is a 1:1 pixel setting for HD signals called screen fit), DNR settings, HDMI Black level, Film mode, 100hz Motion Plus and a Blue Only mode for setting Saturation (use SMPTE bars test pattern without the need for the glasses). It is worth pointing out here that all these controls in the main menu can be set per input, which allows perfect set up and calibration of your various sources connected to the TV. There's also another picture menu under the Tools button on the remote control which allows access to the likes of the Eco mode which we left switched off for the best picture quality. The other controls under the left hand headings help you set parameters such as sound options. Talking about sound, this is one area where this TV suffers from its slim design. The speaker system leaves much to be desired in terms of audio quality and the various presets and EQ system do little more than make what already sounds bad, sound bad in different ways. The sound is too shrill and abrasive with lots of distortion even at low volumes. There is no mid bass frequency response of any description, so an out board sound system is highly recommended with this TV.

Test Results

As always it was time to get out our measuring and calibration gear to see just how well this new LED backlit TV, would perform against the industry standards. Of course, it’s the importance of these standards that we take the time to make sure every display is capable of the very best, accurate images so you can see everything at the right levels for colour and black and white performance. In measuring the B6000 we found our first issue with this new technology. To achieve the desired black levels that Samsung are aiming for with the LED system, they are using an automatic dimming system (not local dimming- that is only available with an LED backlight). The effect of this dimming, which cannot be turned off in the main menus or service menu areas, is to adjust the screen luminance in such a way that it makes greyscale set up very difficult. I will cover the other issues with the dimming later. In the best out of the box settings and with contrast and brightness set for our review room, I set about measuring its performance.

Looking at the greyscale and gamma graphs first, you would be forgiven for thinking that a child had drawn the greyscale tracking graph with some crayons. I have to say that this is one of the most disappointing performances I have seen, but also points to the issues with the auto dimming affecting the set. You can see that there is a very distinct gamma peak under 20ire which also coincides with the greyscale tracking. Indeed, as our Sencore VP401 was going through its 10% shifts from 0ire up; the 10, 20 and 30ire fields looked too dark to the eye, never mind the software measurements. I could see the LEDs dimming to try and obtain the deep black background, as I used some window patterns, and the grey of these boxes was not at the desired luminance level. To say that this was frustrating would be an understatement and I longed for an option to switch this dimming off. The reason we can’t do that is down to the picture processing and how the LED system works. As we get further up the scale of luminance the dimming is obviously not as much of an issue. As you can see the results are not great with red well under in the mix which can be seen on screen with an overly blue hint to whites.

As you would imagine calibration of the greyscale took some time and persistence to get our results. It was certainly tracking better than the out of the box result, but gamma still had a push under 20ire though it did come back around 40ire to track at 2.28 (however, it doesn't stay there when normal material is running - see the 'Picture Performance' area below). This push doesn’t appear to be defeatable without control of the dimming software, which of course we don’t have. In terms of the gamut and use of the CMS, we were able to correct most of the points, with blue proving more difficult. You can use the CMS in an effective manner, but the secondary points are far more tricky to get correct for both luminance and the correct x,y co-ordinates. You have to make some choices as to where you will sacrifice to get at least one aspect more correct than the other. It’s certainly encouraging that Samsung provide these controls and I suspect this approach will work better or worse depending on the display technology Samsung use it with. I would suspect that this system used with a Plasma display would be more accurate. I would however encourage Samsung to look at designing a more linear approach such as a hue, saturation and luminance system for all the colour points.

PIcture Quality

Let’s answer that question about auto dimming and normal TV and Blu-ray images first. Yes, you can see the auto dimming and screen uniformity issues watching normal material. It is clear that it is a downside of the technology and simply something you have to either live with, or find something else that suits your needs. Backlight bleed in dark scenes is also an issue as it is with some other LCD technologies, although it is more obvious towards the edge of the screen. I noticed it more with 2.35:1 material where the black bars were brighter towards the edge of the screen and if the scene was dark, this change in luminance moved into the image. With bright, daylight images on screen, the uniformity issues are less obvious as you would expect, although if you look carefully, they are still there and it appears that the gamma in brighter scenes is below the 2.2 level, which we were hoping would remain uniform. So with the obvious downsides covered, how do the images otherwise look?

I was impressed with the SD performance of this screen and even with fairly low bitrate freeview channels, it was very watchable from normal viewing distances. It is here where some of Samsung's picture processing technology really does work above the average. The scaling performance was extremely commendable on the B6000 with the TV set up correctly. There is a distinct lack of edge enhancement or ringing to SD football coverage, especially in long shots that can ruin the usual flat panel experience. Indeed, the images look just as clean as our reference Kuro in terms of performance with the normal image noise issues almost non existent, or at least very well hidden. I suppose it’s no surprise given the rumoured costs of Samsungs picture processing tools, that in my opinion, they produce some of the best SD images I have seen for a while on an LCD panel. In terms of cadence detection and the usual HQV tests, the B6000 passes the entire Pal and NTSC tests with flying colours. So the picture processing is certainly very well implemented here, doing a very good job indeed with SD material.

Moving to Blu-ray material and making sure we have the screen in the 1:1 pixel mode, again the image (barring my previous comments about the auto dimming and gamma) looks very detailed and offers a bright looking picture. Again we are in out of the box settings and although there are points where the image can get slightly overcooked in some scenes, colours and skin tones did hold up reasonably well without too much of a false look to flesh. The images when bright and vivid, look like any other LCD TV, but with slightly oversaturated primary colours. However, I just can’t help getting annoyed with the auto dimming, which with some scenes, completely falls apart with luminance cut by as much as 30 percent. It may be that some viewers will never notice this effect, but I would find it hard to believe that would be the case. These shifts in luminance and gamma do introduce issues with the image looking slightly overcooked in terms of colour, brightness and white clipping.

Moving to our calibrated settings also introduced a very strange effect with the colour points we had set correctly. It would appear that with the amount of fluctuations with luminance and gamma, the images also introduce issues with the colour balance. Skin tones that should now be natural and well resolved, still appear to be oversaturated and red in appearance. And even colours like the yellow school bus in 'The Dark Knight' are too strong and look over processed. Indeed, even though we attained the calibration results in the graphs above, the actual onscreen performance of the set seems to either completely bypass them in real time, or more likely, the TV with all its trickery and processing lacks a uniform ability to resolve colour energy at the correct levels. Very strange!

Again I have done my best to try and let you see the actual effects I had on screen with the following screen captures. In terms of fairness we are obviously comparing two different display technologies and even calibrated images on one, can look slightly different on the other. However, skin tones and colour balance should be expected to remain similar in tone and intensity across the display technology gap. This comparison is not the most scientific or controllable way to show you the issues as perfectly as I can see them here on this TV, but it should certainly illustrate the main points of what I have found. Remember your monitor and graphics set up will affect the results and these images should be used for illustration purposes only.

As you can see, even though we obtained very good calibration results using our normal workflow, the actual onscreen images do not produce the colour performance in terms of greyscale and primary and secondary intensity we would expect. I can only put this down to the picture processing issues that cannot be switched off, and a lack of colour balance and light energy from the new backlight system, along with changing gamma, meaning an inability to keep the image uniform or linear. So even though the results above look good in terms of hitting the standards in the graphs, there appear to be uniformity issues at play in realtime viewing. So does this affect the onscreen images to an extent that will ruin the picture quality? Well that all depends on the individual and what they want to obtain from their LCD TV images. If you are looking for a perfect reproduction of film and broadcast material as it is intended to be shown, (at D65 and Rec.709), then no, this TV fails to perform as it should.

However, being honest, I’m sure that the slim design, vibrant and occasionally slightly overcooked images, along with good picture processing and scaling will mean that the B6000 finds quite a few new homes. I’m sure the subjective reviewers will tell all how fantastically slim this screen is and that SD looks good on it. It's pushed colour performance and black levels, in a bright living room might not be as obvious or critical for those who just want a nice looking TV with a bright picture. In terms of uniformity, colour balance and intensity issues (along with the auto dimming gamma and black level cheating), I just can’t bring myself to recommend this for enthusiasts or videophiles who want the best images at home for critical viewing. In terms of performance against other LCD TVs, the B6000 stands up in an acceptable manner for comparative picture quality with good SD quality in terms of scaling, and looks sublime in terms of design. So, a mixed bag and certainly a screen to divide opinions.

Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Stunning design and seriously thin!
  • Plenty of added features, such as iPod connectivty
  • Well designed EPG
  • Menu control and layout is straight forward and well designed
  • Calibration tools included as standard in main menu system
  • Excellent scaling and picture processing for material

Cons

  • Calibration results look good in software, but ineffective in actual control over the on screen image - hence score below, even though graphs looked ok.
  • Edge LED technology is flawed with uniformity issues and auto dimming which cannot be defeated due to how the technology works
  • Gamma issues across stimulus points and on screen
  • Inaccurate colour and greyscale performance
  • Laclustre audio performance

Samsung B6000 (UE40B6000) LED LCD TV Review

If you have made it this far and just finished the last paragraph you will quite rightly assume I can’t recommend this screen for those who want the very best in picture performance – you see I can state the obvious! However that doesn’t mean that this screen won’t sell and that people won’t think it’s fantastic. Obviously, AVForums members will want the very best their money can buy, and may well have doubts about the B6000. I really wanted to like this TV and its slim design does look stunning. Indeed, it is almost a piece of contemporary art. Obviously, we would always recommend a screen that can produce accurate images to the standards for film and broadcast when properly calibrated. To watch it in any other way, is to choose your personal preference over what is defined as 'correct'. That is definitely not something we would ever recommend, but understand that there will be many that do.

With bright and vibrant images and set up in its standard mode, it will look good in a retail environment to the casual consumer. And as such it will find its market if used as just a living room work horse with freeview by a customer not looking for the ultimate in image quality or accuracy. It will do well in most homes where normal LCD screens would fit the bill and it will fulfil its promise. But this LCD TV will never look accurate due to these flaws.

The UE40B6000 is a frustrating product that is likely to split opinions over its picture attributes. On the one hand its design looks stunning, the thinness of the screen is sublime and the SD picture processing is first class. On the other, it fails to produce accurate images, (even after calibration), and it’s auto dimming with gamma shifts just causes more issues than it solves. I have never been so enthralled, yet so utterly disappointed with a display product so far in my reviewing career. It will find many new homes and sell very well, of that I have no doubt, and I would be surprised if it didn’t. And for a new technology it is also reasonably priced at £1260 online from suppliers Direct TVs. But for me and based on testing, retesting and watching hours of material, the B6000 is just too much of a compromise to recommend it to anyone looking for accurate image quality. And that’s an outcome we could have done without, because as a TV and technology statement, it should have been so much better.

Scores

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
.
7

Screen Uniformity

.
.
.
7

Colour Accuracy

.
.
.
7

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
.
.
6

Video Processing

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
.
.
7

Sound Quality

.
.
.
.
.
.
4

Smart Features

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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