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Not every 4K TV needs to be the biggest, priciest puppy in the window. Meet the recently announced Samsung UN40HU6950 (MSRP $1,199), the smallest member of Samsung's new HU6950 series. While it's small by 2014 4K TV standards—most of them are at least 65 inches—this lilliputian display boasts a comparable affordability that's sure to wag a few tails.
Surprisingly, the HU6950 actually holds its own against much bigger dogs. Great contrast and supremely accurate colors complement the massive resolution. Toss in above-average backlight uniformity and reliable motion performance, and you've got one heck of a TV on your hands.
Overall, the 40-inch HU6950 is a tremendous performer, and may be one of the best 4K deals this year—especially with online pricing at less than $1,000 right now. This TV is also available in 50- and 55-inch sizes.
The HU6950's biggest selling point is undoubtedly its 4K resolution; this TV offers four times the pixel count of full HD, which makes for an incredibly sharp image. But consumers should be aware that it's actually a great performer in more traditional areas, too. In fact, for the price, this may be the best mid-range 4K we review this year in terms of overall flexibility.
Time in the lab unearthed strength after strength in this TV's favor. Right out of the box, consumers will find solid black levels, good contrast, and highly accurate color production while using the Movie picture mode. In fact, this is doubly good news: Because the HDTV color standard and the computer monitor color standard are practically identical, you can use this Ultra High Def display simultaneously as a desktop monitor and a television. I also discovered good backlight uniformity—when you're watching head-on, black and dark-gray areas of the screen maintain the same luminance from center to corners.
This otherwise stellar Samsung does have one drawback, though. You simply won't see a good picture while watching from severe off-angles, which strains the viability of group viewing. At wider angles, not only is the image a bit washed out, but the corners suffer from ugly backlight bleed.
Finally, gamers and sports fans will both be pleased by this display. With Game mode activated in the System menu, the HU6950 has a quick response time and very little input lag considering its pedigree. Overall motion performance is also commendable: I saw very little of the blurring or ghosting that sometimes plagues LED televisions. Where it's unavoidable, customizing Samsung's Auto Motion Plus mode cleans things up smoothly.
Samsung may be crowned king of curves this year, but the HU6950 has a more traditional appearance. A silver-and-black, razor-straight stand complements narrow bezels that terminate into brushed metallic edging. The TV's rear casing is lightly decorated plastic, and houses all of the ports and video connections.
Speaking of ports, the HU6950 has a plentiful selection—perhaps even too much for a 40-inch TV. Arranged in an L shape on the back of the panel, you'll find four HDMI inputs, three USB 2.0 inputs, an ethernet (LAN) input, composite and component inputs, a coaxial jack for cable/antenna, digital audio out, analog audio out, IR blaster out, and an RS-232 control port. The HU6950 is also One Connect ready, meaning you can download Samsung's latest developments in smart features at any time.
Samsung doesn't include a ton of extras with the HU6950, but seeing as this TV falls within the lower-end of the company's 4K lineup, that's to be expected. Fortunately, the Samsung Smart Control is still included. Because it allows for both motion-based navigation and voice control, this mouse-like remote is a great addition to any Samsung smart TV, though handling it deftly requires some practice.
Access to the Smart Hub, Samsung's on-board internet platform, definitely adds to this TV's value—the only thing that bars it from the premium TV club is that it lacks 3D functionality. Once the UN40HU6950 is connected to the internet, the Smart Hub stands in as a terrific content headquarters for streaming services, apps, games, and home network functionality.
The basics are all here: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Facebook, Twitter, an internet browser, and full access to shared WiFi media. Just know that while this particular iteration of the Smart Hub is fully optimized for the TV's higher resolution, most of the apps are not.
The TV's internal upscaling engine does a decent job smoothing out the flaws inherent to upscaling, but picky users may find themselves yearning for a cleaner, pixel-by-pixel appearance: The Plex app, for example, doesn't scale very well, and looks a bit blocky.
For a much more in-depth breakdown of what's available from Samsung's 2014 Smart Hub, click here.
As for the on-board menu software, it's as easy to use as ever. Samsung's blue-and-white menus scale properly to the HU6950's 4K resolution and look great. Each option in the Picture and Audio menus is explained in some detail, as well, which is always appreciated. The HU6950 sports the usual Samsung picture modes: Standard, Dynamic, Natural, and Movie. You'll also find plenty of audio options, including a virtual surround-sound imitator and an equalizer.
Perhaps the most surprising additions to the HU6950's software are its advanced calibration controls, which eclipse those available on much higher-end 4K TVs. In the Advanced Controls menu, hobbyists and D.I.Y calibrators will find a gamma slider, 2- and 10-point white balance, and a full CMS (Color Management System). These controls ensure that it's very easy to shape the TV's picture quality to ideal standards, assuming you also have the requisite hardware.
The UN40HU6950 (MSRP $1,199) is one 4K TV with a bite that's bigger than its bark. For the price, you're getting next-gen resolution, great black levels, stellar color accuracy, and well-designed smart features. It may be on the small side for a 4K display, but that gives it serious advantages over larger edge-lit TVs more prone to backlight bleed and uniformity problems.
If you're wondering about the merits of a 40-inch 4K, listen up. First of all, the drawbacks of upscaling sub-UHD content are less apparent at this size. Secondly, the HU6950 can comfortably straddle the line between TV and computer monitor, giving it a welcome flexibility. Finally, it's simply a great out-of-the-box performer—I barely had to calibrate it to achieve ideal picture quality.
Want a great value that fulfills multiple display needs today and tomorrow? Stick this Samsung in your pipe and... consider it. If you're on the hunt for a slightly more premium experience (such as 3D functionality), Samsung's 50-inch HU8550 is only $200 more in the same size.
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