Samsung UN46F6300 LED TV Review
Why buy a flagship TV? The affordable F6300 is all steak and no gristle.
The Samsung UN46F6300 (MSRP $849.99) is a mid-sized, middle tier LED LCD television. Within Samsung's 2013 LCD lineup, the F6300 serves as a very solid stepping stone between the high end and the low end.
A study in partial measures, the F6300 is smart, but not 3D; has a dual-core processor, but no micro dimming; carries a small price tag, but delivers high-end picture quality.
Really, if you're looking to spend as little as possible, but still want a smart TV, this one is great. Its design is a little on the cheap side, sure, and it doesn't have quite the bells and whistles of Samsung's flagship models—but as a performer and an internet-ready display, it's a very valuable product.
Glassy gray grandeur
The F6300 may straddle the line between Samsung's entry-level and high-end LCDs, but its design is a pleasant imitation of the more expensive series. This TV's panel is broad and thin, with bezels that terminate into semi-transparent, rounded edges. It's really unlike any of the other Samsung LCDs we've reviewed this year, favoring a gray, glassy overtone that emphasizes ambient light, rather than trying to absorb it into a matte black.
The panel is held aloft by four slender gray legs that form an X shape. The legs seem a bit inexpensive, but they do deliver a sophisticated, high-end overall look. The F6300's bulbous-edged sides are by far its most interesting aspect, however, as they tend to capture the essence of whatever hue dominates the room.
Samsung includes extras too. The so-called "Accessory Kit" feels very much like a goodie bag. Inside, you'll find the standard Samsung controller—there's no Smart Touch remote with this series—as well as batteries, a power cable, and this year's newcomer: An IR blaster. The IR blaster is truly Samsung's claim to smart platform fame; this tiny device is what allows Samsung smart TVs to integrate a cable/antenna set-top-box right into the TV's menu. More on that in the next section.
The F6300 may be trying to appear expensive, but the series' video connection options and media ports are the real deal. This unit's four HDMI inputs and three USB slots are what set it apart, at least physically, from the lower-end series this year.
Samsung's HDMI ports make use of a display identification data to communicate with connected devices—I plugged in our Panasonic Blu-ray player, and was immediately able to control it with the Samsung remote, thanks to "AnyConnect+," which apparently means the TV can reach out and control a lion's share of your AV system.
A shared component/composite hub for 480i/720p/1080i connections is along for the ride, as well as LAN (ethernet) in, RF in, DVI audio in, digital audio out, a headphone jack, and the IR blaster port. The whole assembled TV only weighs about 28 lbs., and swivels about 20° upon its base, making it easy to move and position for numerous viewing locations.
As smart as they come
One advantage to buying the cheapest smart TV a company manufactures is that you're almost always getting the same features and functionality found on the flagship model. In this case, the F6300's Smart Hub is—truthfully—no worse in functionality or design than the F8000's, Samsung's 2013 flagship LCD. There are a couple of drawbacks—the F6300 does not support a wireless keyboard, and cannot be evolved via the Evolution Kit—but that's nothing to get your cables in a knot over.
Where smart platforms are concerned, Samsung's is probably the best this year—thanks to set-top-box integration. The included IR blaster serves as a wired remote extender to allow integration of infrared-based source devices into the Smart Hub. Confused? In other words, the TV wrangles up information from your cable or satellite and herds it in its own menu. This means that you can search for, browse, and check air times for content provided by Comcast or Dish alongside streaming options from Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video.
While there's plenty to cover in Samsung's Smart Hub this year (and you can read all about it here), the cable interactivity is by far the most rewarding. Placing the F6300's IR blaster near our Dish box, the TV instantly pulled in and listed the upcoming programs (as well as actors, run times, channel information) as soon as it connected to the wireless source. Such flagship-level functionality works wonderfully on this mid-tier product; the only downside is that the TV doesn't ship with Samsung's smart touch remote, which includes an embedded microphone. Typing things into the search bar using the standard remote is a bad time.
It's easy to get caught up in the glitzy glamor of internet functionality—even without it, the F6300's basic software is quite commendable.
The sub-menus for Picture and Sound each allow a wide range of customization. Experienced hobbyists won't find the full range of possible calibration controls here, but the F6300 still lets you alter its gamma, grayscale balancing, and color temperature—enough to theoretically get things perfect.
Inserting a USB storage device into one of the F6300's three USB ports will allow playback of photos, music, and videos—assuming they meet the proper file-type requirements. Audio adjustments include multiple sound modes (Movie, Standard, Amplify), an equalizer menu, and two settings—DTS TruSurround and DTS TruVoice—that don't really do anything.
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Terrific quality overall
As far as TV performance goes, the Samsung UN46F6300 is just about flawless. It's not a flagship in performance—not quite—but throughout all of our tests and subjective observation, I found very little to complain about. The most common concerns when testing and judging LCDs involve the quality of the panel's build, which can make for severe errors in color quality and motion performance. Fortunately, the F6300 performs admirably—whether under the scrutiny of human eyes, or robotic ones.
Playback of Blu-ray discs and cable programming revealed a very pleasing picture. I watched a number of scenes from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey after calibrating the display, and noticed highly-preserved detail, flattering but realistic color saturation, and mostly smooth performance during motion scenes. Testing backed this up: The F6300 adheres to international color standards almost perfectly, though its red and blue are slightly redder and bluer than they should be, resulting in some detail loss. Within Movie mode, with a warm color temperature, the F6300 matches standards for gamma (luminance gradation), and maintains the correct shade of white for most of its grayscale.
Scenes rich with color and detail—such as Dwarven armor and rolling hillsides—look terrific; even subtler, darker hues stand out with a level of detail not often seen on LCD panels. The F6300's black/white differentiation is decent, fostering light levels suitable for sunny rooms or florescent bulbs, and black levels capable of capturing an immersive amount of contrast. You won't find plasma-level contrast performance here—and none of the insanity that OLED TVs are capable of—but this is definitely above average for an LED LCD panel.
This TV's screen uniformity and motion performance could both use a bit of work. Its edge-mounted LEDs tend to bleed into black bars during 16:9 letterbox content, and 4:3 standard definition content. At half or less backlight, it looks fine, but maxing the backlight will result in some light bleed that's a little distracting in a bright room, and is quite annoying in a dim or dark one. Another area of contention is the F6300's motion performance—it's not perfect. However, for film content, the F6300 looks fine, and its Auto Motion Plus mode does away with blurring and trailing during sports or video-based footage. Just don't turn it on during films, lest you want Prometheus to look like Honey Boo Boo.
While it's definitely better off in brighter ambient lighting, the F6300's picture quality is very impressive for its price point and build. We generally withhold our highest praise for plasma panels, but this Samsung LCD can dance with the masters in the right conditions.
The F6300 brings honor back to liquid crystal displays
Within the TV industry, reviewers and hobbyists alike agree on one thing: Plasma TVs produce a better picture than LCDs. And, hand over heart, it's true. However, LCDs like the Samsung F6300 redeem the fickle technology's mass popularity: This TV's picture looks very good, hands down, and its software works with fluid precision.
If you're in the market for a mid-sized TV, and want the bright light levels of LCD over the ink-black shadows produced by plasmas, the 46-inch F6300 is a great option. While it's not as frilly as Samsung's flagship LCD, it performs commendably, and for $850 is priced quite fairly. If you don't need the smart features, we recommend you buy into a cheaper series. If the Smart Hub is calling your name, however, the F6300 is your man.