As we hurtle through the closing half of 2012, we reviewed most of the significant TVs of the year at CNET -- from the joyous highs of the Panasonic ST50 to the ignominious lows of the Panasonic DT50 and everything in between. In this case the in-between is the Samsung ES6500. While we still have a couple of Samsung stragglers to go, the one LED model we were really anticipating was the 6500, mainly because we liked the UND6400 so much last year.
But you know how it is: the more you look forward to something, the more likely it is you'll come away disappointed (Duke Nukem Forever, anyone?). While the 6500 is not the spectacular failure the long-vaunted return of the Duke was, it still doesn't live up to the promise of its predecessor.
While color is very good and almost a carbon copy of the previous model's, the 6500 just isn't as talented in other areas, and seems to follow a trend we've seen constantly this year: while plasmas are better and cheaper than ever; LCDs are often actually worse than in 2011.
Black levels are about average for its price, and shadow detail is excellent, while 3D is just OK. The so-so nature of the TV's overall performance means that at its price and above Samsung no longer has the dominance it once did. Look to unexpected upstarts like Sharp and Vizio at this level instead.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 60-inch Samsung UN60ES6500, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|Models in series (details)|
|Samsung UN32ES6500||32 inches|
|Samsung UN40ES6500||40 inches|
|Samsung UN46ES6500||46 inches|
|Samsung UN50ES6500||50 inches|
|Samsung UN55ES6500||55 inches|
|Samsung UN60ES6500 (reviewed)||60 inches|
|Samsung UN65ES6500||65 inches|
If there's one thing Samsung knows how to do well, it's design. While TVs like the ES8000 may be flashier, the ES6500 is sophisticated and elegant. The ES6500 features a slim-bezel design measuring only 0.5 inch, and it is surrounded by an opaque cap that helps it bleed into your living environment. The stand's design might be polarizing, though, as it uses the spindly four-legged design the company has had for a few years. If you like aliens or deep-sea creatures, then you'll probably love it.
The remote control is quite good and laid out logically with a much-needed backlight button for those late-night movie sessions.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|Smart TV||Yes||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|3D technology||Active||3D glasses included||2 pairs|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
The 6500 sits in the upper middle of Samsung's television range and so includes most of the features the company offers this year. The most obvious are 3D playback and Smart TV. To further facilitate 3D viewing, the TV comes with two pairs of lightweight active glasses. They're actually the SSG-3050GBs from 2011, not the newer Samsung SSG-4100GBs from 2012. Both retail for a scant $20 and they look exactly the same -- the main difference is that the 2012 glasses support the universal standard, so they should actually work with universal-certified 3D TVs like 2012 Panasonics. Check out my 2012 3D glasses comparison for more information.
On the image processing side, the TV offers a "Clear Motion Rate of 240 - 480" for improved motion resolution, according to Samsung. The company's CMR specification, new for this year, supposedly includes refresh rate among its calculations, along with video processing and backlight scanning. The actual panel refresh rate is 120Hz. The backlight is an edge-lit LED without the so-called microdimming feature of higher-end models -- no great loss since that feature doesn't seem to improve image quality as much as more traditional local dimming.
The UND6500 offers most of the Smart features of the 7000 and 8000 series (minus the dual-core processor and Smart Interaction) including a Web browser and downloadable apps. As far as interfaces are concerned, the Samsung and LG look similar this year, though Samsung tries to fit everything on one page.
Samsung's proprietary apps such as the social Family Story program get star billing, but in this particular app's case, unless you have family with Samsung products it's probably best to stick with Facebook. Fortunately Samsung also includes plenty of apps you'll actually care about, including exclusive access to HBO Go. For a look at how this TV compares with the competition check out Smart TV models of 2012 compared.
While competitor Vizio offers a ridiculous number of presets on its televisions, Samsung likes to keep it modest with just a handful, including Natural, Standard, and Movie. If you worry about how much your TV chews through electricity, you can enact the Eco Sensor if you wish.
Advanced calibration settings are extensive, with a Color Management System for tweaking individual colors and a 10-point grayscale. There's also a Custom dejudder mode that lets you dial in how much smoothing (from none to a lot) you want.
While most TVs now include four HDMI ports, and freaks like the Vizio XVT3D580CM include five(!), the Samsung ES6500 makes do with three. It has a hybrid component/composite port and three USBs for connecting peripherals (a mouse, for example, for the browser) and hard drives.