Samsung UN55F6800 LED TV Review
This high-end Samsung lives up to its price with A-plus performance.
Meet the UN55F6800 (MSRP $2199.99), a high-end LED LCD from Samsung that comes equipped with Samsung's 2013 Smart Hub.
Our 55-inch test sample performed like a champion, besting every other Samsung TV we've tested this year, save for the company's flagship plasma.
Still gawking at the price? We are too. If money's an object, same-sized competition from Panasonic, Vizio, and even Samsung itself should have you comparison shopping, since each offer nice alternatives for up to $1000 less.
Sometimes, more is less.
Samsung's LCD lineup is full of variety this year: Samsung's LCD lineup is full of variety this year: crescent stands, silver trim, X-shaped bases, translucent borders, and more.
This TV's thin panel yawns in uninterrupted black while it sits low atop what Samsung calls the "Y-Feet Stand." These chrome feet indeed look like the letter of their namesake, extending into four points. While stylish, the stand can also be treacherous: The feet must rest atop a flat, level surface, lest the TV tip over—parents, take note.
The F6800's bezel is singular, as well. While decently thin and hued in black, it flares out on all four sides into an unusual plastic edge. The edge is about three-quarters of an inch in width, entirely see-through, and seems prone to chipping should the TV fall. Given that, it's not as flimsy as it sounds. The silvery, light-emphasizing design lends a very modern feel to the whole TV—but it's certainly not going to appeal to everyone, either.
Outside of its design, the UN55F6800 is more like other Samsung LCDs. In fact, its control scheme and ports selection are identical to the UN46F6300. Highlights here are four HDMI inputs, three USB inputs, shared component/composite jacks, and a port for the IR extender. The included Accessory Kit houses the TV's power cable, setup guide, IR blaster, and remote. Unlike the F6300, the F6800 ships with the Smart Touch Remote, which enhances the browsing/navigating experience and allows for voice commands.
You show, I'll tell.
The 55-inch F6800 is, naturally, a smart TV—for $2,000 clams, it'd better be. The TV requests a connection to the internet upon initial set-up, and once established (via WiFi or an ethernet cable) the F6800 is ready to smart. But hark! It's more than 629% likely that your new TV will ask to update its firmware and content before letting you into the Smart Hub club. This is a pain if you're impatient, but we recommend it—if Samsung's going to improve things for free, why stop 'em?
The Smart Hub is more than just a fancy HQ for Netflix and Facebook this year. The last two years saw the advent of these content cloister clusters, with many a TV manufacturer slapping as much as possible into the TV's software—the good, but especially the bad and the ugly. Samsung's Smart Hub goes beyond this (while still falling prey to it) by integrating cable or satellite content as well. Placing the included IR extender near the receiver of your set-top-box provider and connecting via HDMI is all you need do. The TV does the rest.
Be it a flashy chip set or a processor of the dual-core variety, the Smart Hub's content integration process is surprisingly efficacious. Current listings, upcoming shows/movies, program length, first-bill actors—all of this information is populated after just a few moments of "thinking." We are gaga over this year's Smart Hub—it's like the TV is actually smart for once.
After a few days of use, the Smart Hub will start to learn which shows/programs you frequent and make Pandora-esque guesses as to what else you'd like to watch via a function Samsung calls S-Recommendation (you can guess what the 's' stands for). You never really know what you're going to get, but it certainly doesn't hamper the experience in any way.
Unlike "lesser" 2013 series, the F6800 TVs come with the Smart Touch Remote. This lilliputian wand is a boon companion where browsing, navigating, and typing are concerned. Don't get me wrong—a wireless keyboard (supported) and mouse are still the go-to tools for 100% efficiency, but the Smart Touch is a huge improvement over a standard controller. The small touchpad is easy to graze with the thumb, operating the browser's mouse with actual mouse fluidity.
The coolest thing about the Smart Touch Remote, though, is its built-in microphone. Simply push the microphone button and speak into the remote as though it were a handheld recorder. You can say things like "Smart Hub," "More Commands," "What's On For Sports?" or "Captain's Log, Day 3, We appear to have crash-landed on some bizarre alien planet..."
The TV will search for shows, movies, or more generic queries and attempt to A) understand what you said and B) locate what it thinks you said and then list it on screen. As one might guess, like S-Recommendation, this function isn't perfect, but it works more often than not.
Let it be known: There is some real "shovel ware" here as well. Most of the apps you'd actually use come pre-installed on the F6800; Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Facebook, and Twitter, to name those most useful. However, within Samsung's app store is some real junk—terrible flash games and pointless TV show ads. For our full run-down of the Smart Hub's pros and cons, click here.
Outside of smart features, the F6800 is still quite complex, though not as much so as models living on the razor's edge of high-end functionality. Basic picture controls are easy to find and change—Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, and Color—with more complex options buried in their own sub-menus under the "advanced" moniker. Experienced calibrators will have a little more control here, with 10-point white balance and gamma following suit. More casual viewers will never have to fiddle with these settings unless they purposefully seek them out.
A superb performer on all fronts.
The UN55F6800 slogged through our bevy of lab tests with a Bruce Willis-style smirk, shrugging at color checks and luminance readings with South Korean swagger. We test for dynamic range (light output), color accuracy per international standards, motion handling, resolution bit-mapping, and a number of other performance areas. The bottom line is that this panel is expertly engineered, and it shows.
Testing revealed a TV that flourishes in normal to high amounts of ambient light, but is capable of playing with the big boys in darker, dim environs as well. Adjusting the LED backlight to suit the room of use is a must, but at lower backlight the F6800 produces very respectable minimum luminance, and at higher levels can compete with incoming sunlight. This high amount of contrast flexibility makes for a picture that's rich in varying degrees of depth, capturing subtle details above black and below white.
While its contrast results were impressive, I'm even more impressed at this TV's color accuracy. HDTV standards dictate a set amount of color saturation, specific hues, and correlated color temperature—all of which the F6800 met with surprising accuracy. This was very clear during subjective playback: Incoming cable at 720p and 1080p Blu-ray discs looked vibrant and real, heavily-detailed and smooth. Such highly accurate color does more than cement the vivacity of fully-saturated hues—it brings to life the subtler details that separate the wheat from the chaff.
One place where the F6800 needs a bit of work is in motion processing, where most (if not all) LCDs struggle without some modicum of interpolation. The F6800 features Samsung's Auto Motion Plus as well as LED Clear Motion, which Samsung claims supposedly give this 120 Hz paneled display a "clear motion rate" of 600.
I don't know what that means outside of Samsung TVs, but compared to the recently reviewed F6300, the F6800 can definitely process complex scenes with a little more panache. Setting Blur Reduction to 10 and turning on LED Motion Plus dims the overall light output a bit, but at 75-100% brightness in a dark room, this isn't much to complain about. Unassisted motion is plagued by the blurring and trailing common to LCDs, but enabling processing modes almost completely eliminates it.
Overall, the picture quality is strong with this one. Unless you're a die-hard fan of the sub-field drive employed by plasmas to affect their almost-perfect motion handling, there's absolutely no reason not to drink deeply of this LCD's delicious picture.
A high-quality panel at a high price.
The 55-inch F6800 is very expensive—at an MSRP of $2,199.99, it's a luxury item to many consumers, and it isn't without competition. You could buy into Panasonic's highly-praised ST60 plasma series and get 10 more inches of screen—for just $200 more.
Money aside, this top-tier performer puts many a 2013 LCD to shame, and comes packed with one of the best smart platforms currently on the market. With its unique design, superb picture, and valuable features, the F6800 is without doubt and excellent machine.
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