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Samsung's 6 series televisions represent the company's mid-tier smart TVs for 2014. We got our hands on the UN48H6400 (MSRP $1449.99), which sits at the top of Samsung's midrange mountain. This 48-inch set comes loaded with a 1080p resolution, a brand-new smart TV platform, a 120Hz refresh rate, and Samsung's iconic X-shaped base.
Sound familiar? That's because a similar model, the H6350, offers the same core features. The H6400 has a few extras, though: 3D capability, Samsung's smart touch remote, and a micro dimming feature for enhanced contrast.
Our job is to find out whether these extras warrant the price difference: $1449.99 for the 48-inch H6400 versus $1249.99 for the 48-inch H6350. While both of these displays offer an excellent picture and superb smart TV features, you might want to save a few bucks and go with the cheaper model.
Taking a design cue from last year's models, the H6400's screen is contained by a clear plastic strip that runs around the perimeter. The shiny border is less pronounced than the 2013 versions, though—and that's a good thing: The thin perimeter melts into a dark room, making the H6400 seem like all screen.
The display rests on Samsung's X-shaped base, which has become standard fare for the company's smart TVs. Back when I first saw this design in 2012, I loved it, but thought it might be too modern for some tastes. Nowadays, this base seems completely normal in our high-tech society. Best of all, it swivels!
For connectivity, the options are generous. Four HDMI inputs, three USB slots, a component/composite input, an ethernet jack, a digital audio output, and an RF out reside on the backside. Underneath these ports, on the bottom-right side, you'll find Samsung's Jog Stick, which functions as your on-set controls and comes in handy when you lose your remote.
Try not to lose your remote, though, because Samsung packages a really good one with the H6400. Consumers will find the new Samsung Smart Control with this TV, and it's a great update over last year's smart remote.
Instead of just throwing a giant touchpad at you, this new remote focuses on motion control. Simply place your thumb on the circular button in the middle (don't press!), and move the remote around. Yes, it seems similar to LG's motion-controlled remotes from years past, but this one feels way more fluid. The Smart Control also has buttons for volume control, channel control, voice search, input, TV guide, and more. It's not perfect, but after using it for a few days, I prefer it over last year's remote.
Samsung has barely changed its menu interface in the past two years, and we're perfectly fine with that. The interface itself may take up most of the screen, but every option is cleanly organized and explained for casual users.
While selecting picture options and calibrating your TV is very important, it certainly doesn't sell TVs. Smart features, on the other hand, do. For 2014, Samsung refreshed its Smart Hub platform, and by "refreshed" I mean "trimmed the fat."
There are five screens to choose from on this platform: On TV, Movies & TV Content, Games, Apps, and Multimedia. Gone is the Social screen from last year, to which I say "good riddance." Social media has yet to be done right on a TV, and the Smart Hub is better without it.
On TV is Samsung's cable-integrated screen, and it looks the same as it did last year. Having an aesthetically pleasing TV guide isn't revolutionary, but it does make the experience of finding something to watch more enjoyable.
Movies & TV Content is populated with new releases, and you're given options on where to watch these titles. All of the movie content had to be purchased on Vudu or CinemaNow, though—where's the Netflix love? I saw a few TV shows available on Hulu Plus, but again, many had to be purchased on one of the a la carte apps.
The screens for Apps and Games are pretty straight-forward, and from what I saw at CES 2014, Samsung is bringing much better gaming content to the Smart Hub this year. These games are unplayable on this review unit, though. Evidently, the TV needs software updates that aren't yet available.
Finally, Multimedia is filled with popular YouTube videos, which is kind of like last year's Social screen. If you'd rather watch YouTube on your smartphone, you can also access your USB media files on this screen. I was able to load up a variety of pictures and movies on the H6400, and they played flawlessly. Digital media junkies rejoice!
When it comes to picture quality, the Samsung UN48H6400 gets a lot right: An above-average contrast ratio, solid motion performance, and decent color accuracy will please enthusiasts and casual viewers alike. Not everything is peachy on this display, though, specifically its viewing angle and lackluster screen uniformity.
The H6400's strongest trait is easily its motion performance, which handled moving content and fast-paced movie scenes without a hitch—it has a 120Hz panel, after all. Samsung offers plenty of motion enhancement options, too, although I wouldn't recommend any of them: Even applying a mild setting makes content look like a soap opera.
Colors also look good out-of-the-box. Most people will never notice the H6400's mild color flaws—but if placed side-by-side next to a display with perfect colors, you'd be able to spot a few differences.
The poor viewing angle on this Samsung is easy to see, however. This is a 48-inch display—the viewing angle should be wider so that no one gets stuck with a bad view when you gather friends for a football game or Dancing With the Stars. The H6400 offers its best picture quality straight-on, which is unfortunate for your guests.
One last issue we discovered concerns this TV's uniformity—which influences performance during black, shadowy scenes. Specifically, I noticed some light bleed around the corners, which is especially noticeable with letterbox content: Parts of the screen that should be inky black instead look blotchy.
Make no bones about it: The Samsung UN48H6400 is a top-notch television with all the trimmings.
Samsung makes plenty of top-notch TVs, though. The H6400's picture quality is pretty similar to the next model down, which can be found for $300 cheaper and looks almost identical. If you're intent on purchasing a Samsung TV, get that model over the H6400—unless you absolutely need the new Smart Control remote.
The truth is that a sale price of $1100 still doesn't make this Samsung a great value, even though it's clearly a great TV. Take a look at Vizios 48-inch E Series, which offers better all-around performance for about $500 less. Samsung's H6400 is a fine choice, especially if you want a sleek exterior and premium smart features—just don't expect too much bang for your buck.
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