Samsung UN46F6300 LED TV Review
Why buy a flagship TV? The affordable F6300 is all steak and no gristle.
Behind the Screens
The UN46F6300 (MSRP $849.99) is a top-notch performer. We tested decent motion performance, with a valuable de-judder processor, deep blacks, bright whites, and very accurate colors. Movies and cable content look smooth, vibrant, and—most importantly—correct. The TV's Movie mode renders very accurate color with little tweaking, and setting proper black/white reference levels was a cinch. Best of all, this mid-range unit allows for ample tweaking of the calibration variety, including options for 2- and 10-point gamma, color temperature, and color space selection.
A commendable range of light
Picture dynamics—or contrast ratio—is the measure of a TV's range in terms of pure light output. The ideal is reached when a TV can get bright enough to approximate real objects that are highly luminous—like a candle in a black room, or the sun through summer leaves—while also growing dark enough to represent shadows, an unlucky cat, or a black hole. TVs with a high contrast ratio are capable of the dynamics required to convince our brains that we're really seeing the night sky, full of stars. TVs without one fall to the bottom of our leaderboards.
Fortunately, this upper middle-class Samsung LCD provides a healthy ratio between its peak white and reference black. LCDs typically struggle to produce acceptable black levels; typically, we like to see 0.1 cd/m2 or less. The F6300 performed admirably, showing off an inky black level of 0.08 cd/m2, which is quite good for an LCD. It looks especially convincing beside the TV's ample brightness. We measured 318 cd/m2 at 20% APL (average picture level), giving the UN46F6300 a contrast ratio of 3975:1. While it's nowhere near Samsung's flagship plasma, it's plenty enough for most viewers, especially in middling amounts of ambient light.
The Scrooge McDuck of off-angle viewing
Horizontal viewing angle refers to how far from the center of the screen you can watch a display without its dynamics or color production shifting into unwatchable ranges. Due to the way LCD panels are made, the light they produce must travel through a number of strata before it gets to your eyes, and thus these kinds of TVs typically struggle to come anywhere near the 178° ideal (maximum viewing from all angles). For LCDs, we like to see about ±45° (90° total) of viewin' goodness.
Unfortunately, the F6300 is stingy with its light. Scientifically, its panel type and sub-pixel arrangement make for a rather poor total viewing angle of 25°. That's truly a poor result, giving viewers a touch over 12° from the center of screen to either side before contrast integrity starts to drop off. Expect wider angles to result in graying blacks, dimming whites, and some color shifting; in a word, unwatchability. Consumers with wall-mounting on the brain may want to consider this finding before they go diving into their sea of golden coins and off to the store to buy it.
Sample and Hold is getting old
Plasma TVs excel at displaying moving content—but the F6300 is not a plasma. LCDs (the other white meat) use a process called "sample and hold" to create and then maintain a particular electric charge; the charge acts electromagnetically on the liquid crystals to create the appearance of something moving on-screen. Unfortunately, this process—while instantaneous—tends to take too long to "let go" after holding, and results in trailing and blurring of motion-based images in certain LCD TVs.
The F6300, an LCD television, struggles with this issue. Thankfully Samsung has equipped the F6300 with a motion processor—called Auto Motion Plus—which works to de-blur and de-judder content. Fast-moving content tends to blur a bit on this TV, but for sports, news, and some video games, the interpolated appearance instigated by Auto Motion Plus is actually fine. The mode does what it should. It looks ghastly unnatural during film content, however, so expect faster movie scenes to be a bit blurry. Overall, though, the F6300's motion performance is quite palatable.
High-end color production
When examining the way a TV produces and handles digital color, we look for three key performance aspects: the right color (hue), the right amount of color (saturation), and the right luminance of that color (brightness). Each individual color produced by a TV has set credentials that it is meant to meet. Our test gathers the data to plot the TV's produced colors against the ideal colors in a visual illustration called a color gamut. Compared to the Rec.709 ideal color gamut, the F6300 is very accurate; other than blue, its red, green, and white points are nigh perfect.
One place where the F6300 struggles a bit—but not too much—is maintaining a consistent color temperature. Color temperature is a measurement in Kelvins of the correlated temperature of light, were it sourced within a blackbody vacuum. Our test checks to see if the TV maintains the same temperature from its brightest white, down through all of its grays, to its darkest black. A consistent color temperature means the same shade of white throughout the grayscale. Shifts in color temperature can cause blue- or orange-tinting (called "cooling" or "warming") to whites and grays on screen. The F6300 errs slightly as it grows darker, raising in temperature into middle gray, and then dropping drastically at the darkest end of the spectrum.
Last, we test the TVs full range of primary colors and its entire grayscale, from step 0 (black) to step 255 (peak). This allows us to measure how smoothly a TV transitions between incremental hues and shades of gray. The ideal result is smooth, slowly sloping lines, which promise detail and continuous additional luminance. The F6300 tested with downright optimal curves, each line describing an obtuse half-circle. This Samsung balances its primary colors evenly, making for a rich, high-quality picture regardless of luminance level.
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