Samsung UN55ES6500 Review

The Samsung ES6500 is not quite the slam-dunk of value we were hoping it might be, but it stands up very well against the similarly-sized and like-priced competition.
The Samsung ES6500 is not quite the slam-dunk of value we were hoping it might be, but it stands up very well against the similarly-sized and like-priced competition.
The Samsung ES6500 is not quite the slam-dunk of value we were hoping it might be, but it stands up very well against the similarly-sized and like-priced competition.

Highs

  • Attractive design
  • Bright picture with solid color and black-level performance
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with tons of Internet apps
  • Above-average sound quality

Lows

  • Poor screen uniformity
  • Some motion artifacts
  • Sub-par 3D performance

DT Editors' Rating

Samsung UNES6500 series information: The review below is based on our time spent with the 46-inch UN46ES6500 TV. However, the observations made also apply to the six other models in this series. Samsung says that sets offer identical features (save weight and dimensions) and should offer similar performances.

Models in Samsung UNES6500 Series Size
Samsung UN32ES6500 32 inches
Samsung UN40ES6500 40 inches
Samsung UN46ES6500 (reviewed) 46 inches
Samsung UN50ES6500 50 inches
Samsung UN55ES6500 55 inches
Samsung UN60ES6500 60 inches
Samsung UN65ES6500 65 inches

Positioned toward the middle of Samsung’s expansive TV line, the ES6500 series is mighty rich on bells and whistles, and only moderately short on performance-related features. You get 1080p HD, 3D (with two pair of Samsung’s active-shutter 3D glasses included), LED backlighting, Samsung’s Smart Hub interface and all of the apps that come with it, and built-in Wi-Fi — all wrapped up in a super-thin package with a tiny bezel and matte-finished screen. What Samsung sacrifices at this level is local dimming of the LED backlights, some image-processing horsepower, and a few other features that, frankly, we don’t consider instrumental in the TV’s performance.

With a low-end street price of around $1,100, this model from Samsung shoots for value, potentially putting some pressure on the likes of Vizio, Sharp and Toshiba. In this review, we take a stab at rating this series’ over-all performance and ranking its relative value.

Out of the box

The ES6500 series isn’t as flashy as Samsung’s top-tier ES8000 and ES9000 series, but it remains one of the most attractive designs on the market. In fact, we’ll take the dark-toned bezel and stand of the ES6500 series over the ES8000’s shiny silver trimmings any day. With that said, we do prefer the U-shaped stand offered with the high-end models to the obtusely-angled X-shape of the ES6500. For now, we’ll just hold out hope that a change is in store for next year.

At the very outer edge of the ES6500 is a thin border of Plexiglass. You might miss it if you aren’t looking closely enough, since the TV’s dark trim shows through. In a subtle way, however, the clear trim adds an element of class that helps distinguish this model from its competition.

Samsung UN46ES6500 review bezel
We received the 46-inch version of the ES6500 for review, so our sample measured 42 x 24.9 x 1.9 (H x W x D-in inches) and weighed a mere 29 lbs. Though we would never recommend anyone try to handle such a delicate piece of equipment without some help, it speaks to the TV’s light weight and general manageability that we were able to remove it from its box on our own. It never ceases to amaze us just how light and thin these panels get year over year.

In the box along with the TV, we found a remote control, batteries for the remote, the TV’s stand and mounting plate, hardware to fix the stand to the TV, two pair of Samsung’s active-shutter 3D glasses and some product literature.

Features

The ES6500 series is outfitted with just about every connection you might need. On the rear panel of the TV we found 3 HDMI connections, 3 USB 2.0 ports, Component/Composite hybrid input (no breakout cables required), a 3.5mm analog audio jack, optical digital audio output and a standard coaxial cable input. Oddly enough there is also a DVI audio input, although we didn’t see a DVI video input anywhere on the TV. Also a bit strange is that Samsung has placed only one HDMI and two USB inputs in a side-facing, recessed bay to allow for flush mounting the TV. All of the remaining connections face out the back, which means anyone with more than one HDMI connection going to the TV will have a tough time going with a flush-mount kit for wall-placement.

Samsung UN46ES6500 review rear ports 3dControl of the TV outside of the remote takes place using a multi-directional, joystick-style button located on the back of the TV at the bottom right. Accessing it is easy and, though some may find it takes a bit of time to get used to, we’ve come to prefer using it to guessing at which of eight available buttons is which.

3D

As previously mentioned, this TV is 3D capable and it will also convert 2D images into something resembling 3D, though the effect is much less impressive. If the two pair of glasses included with the set won’t get you by, more can be purchased online for as little as $20 for the inexpensive, battery operated version, right up to $200 for the most expensive, rechargeable pair.

Smart TV

Samsung’s Smart Hub was already one of the better interfaces available for streaming video from Netflix, Hulu, Vudu and the like, but news came down as we were writing this review that bumped Smart Hub up yet a few more notches in our book. As of now, all 2012 Samsung Smart TVs, including the ES6500 reviewed here, now feature Amazon Instant video streaming service. Amazon Instant is no longer an “up and comer” in the streaming video space. That being the case, the inclusion of its service in Smart devices is, in our opinion, critical. So it is no small feat that Samsung has managed to bring Amazon Instant on board to serve up an even richer provision of content to its devices.

Samsung UN46ES6500 review remote

Picture options

The ES6500 offers three picture presets: Natural, Standard and Movie. That’s not nearly as many options as are offered by several of Samsung’s competitors, but you won’t hear us complaining. We’re happy with just two, since a properly adjusted TV needs only a dark room setting and a bright room setting to work well. Still, the default presets looked pretty good out of the box and we think most will be satisfied with them, should they lack interest in making custom adjustments.

As for picture adjustments, the ES6500 provides more than any casual user would ever need, and plenty for enthusiasts or certified calibrators to work with. We’re happy to see such granular control made available at this price point.

Setup

We’ve noticed that, year over year, less and less adjustment needs to be made to Samsung’s movie preset in order to bring the set’s performance in line with our standards. By default, the ES6500’s movie mode has the backlight and contrast cranked all the way up, so we had to bring those down. We also rushed to defeat Samsung’s two separate motion smoothing features. Otherwise, the remaining basic settings were right where we wanted them. With so little adjustment needed, even those who go no further than picking the movie mode will be enjoying a fairly well-optimized picture, and that’s a very good thing.

Samsung UN46ES6500 review rear stand 3d tvAs we’ll discuss shortly, digging further into the advanced picture options does yield finer results. A one-point adjustment to the gamma setting yielded on-point measurements and warming up the color temperature brought about good (but not great) color performance

Note that we’ve included our recommended settings at the end of this review.

Picture performance

Since the ES6500 provides a high level of color adjustment, very accurate color production can be had should the user be willing to put in the time and effort. With that said, we think most folks want their TV to look great out of the box and the ES6500 certainly does that. Though the set defaults to WARM 2 for its color temperature, we found WARM 1 was far more pleasant to look at, and it lacked a green tinge we were bothered by with the former setting. We did feel like some reds were a little on the hot side, but, by and large, we were pleased with the ES6500’s out-of-box color performance.

Black levels were also very good, especially considering this set lacks the backlight dimming feature of its more expensive cousins. We were even reasonably pleased with the job it did at showing detail in shadows. Contrast, however, just isn’t as refined as Samsung’s more expensive models. Most of the night-time scenes in James Cameron’s Avatar lacked the distinct pop that we’ve seen with Plasma TV’s and more expensive LCD sets.

Samsung UN46ES6500 review stand

On the down side, we noted some pretty obvious screen uniformity issues during our subjective evaluation which were validated by measurements taken with a Datacolor Spyder4Elite. Consistent brightness and color are not this TVs strong suit. We noticed some considerable blotching up and down the screen, especially when grey test screens were being displayed.

We also noted some hot spots near the corners where we presume the edge-lights were mounted. The effect wasn’t too dramatic on our 46-inch sample, but we can’t help but worry that it would much more noticeable in larger screen sizes, considering the same lighting scheme will be applied to much more surface area.

On the plus side, however, this TV is capable of displaying a very bright picture and, thanks to a pleasantly matte-finished screen, is an ideal candidate for bright room environments. What the matte screen doesn’t take care of in terms of reflection, the super-bright picture can wash right out. You can plan on black levels taking a hit, though.

3D performance

We’ve been pretty vocal about our distaste for active-shutter 3D in the past (it’s just really not our thing), so regular readers of our 3D TV reviews probably aren’t expecting a ringing endorsement here anyway. However, we felt like the ES6500 was even more underwhelming as a 3D performer than we’re used to. Crosstalk was a major problem for us – so much so, in fact, that we spent very little time testing the 3D functionality. In short, remove 3D as a qualifier for considering this TV when creating your short list. If you want better 3D from Samsung, you’ll have to pay a bit more for it.

Samsung UN46ES6500 review 3d glasses front 3d tv

Audio performance

Perhaps the biggest and most pleasant surprise the ES6500 had for us was its above-average audio performance. As we’ve noted, built-in TV speakers are less than an afterthought these days (in fact, it almost seems as if sound is being sabotaged on purpose), but with the ES6500, users can expect reasonable on-board audio performance with a relatively full sound that bests most competitors’ ultra-thin models.

Conclusion

The Samsung ES6500 is not quite the slam-dunk of value we were hoping it might be, but it stands up very well against the similarly-sized and like-priced competition. The ES6500’s most attractive attribute when turned off is its stunning good looks. With a thin profile, tiny bezel, Plexiglass border and matt-finished screen, this series from Samsung is about as beautiful as a TV gets at this price. When turned on, the ES6500’s color and black levels are most impressive, while its contrast and screen uniformity were a bit of a disappointment.

On the whole, we think the ES6500 is a solid buy. From it, you get quality performance in a sexy package with all the extras you are likely to want for a reasonable price. You might call it the Toyota Camry of televisions.

Highs

  • Attractive design
  • Bright picture with solid color and black-level performance
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with tons of Internet apps
  • Above-average sound quality

Lows

  • Poor screen uniformity
  • Some motion artifacts
  • Sub-par 3D performance
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