The biggest challenge for mid-range and lower big-screen LCD TVs is black level response. There are two key problems to overcome: controlling light levels well enough through the LCD panel to deliver a black colour that doesn’t look like a washed out grey, and making sure (especially where edge LED technology like that used by the UE55F6500 is concerned) that the picture achieves a uniform black level response during dark scenes rather than having some parts of the picture displaying clouds of excess brightness.
Happily the UE55F6500 does reasonably well for its money with both these tests so long as you follow the basic set up guidance in the previous section.
With the backlight level set low enough the screen delivers dark scenes that look more immersive and believable than usual for an affordable mid-range TV – especially as the decent black levels don’t depend on so much light getting removed from pictures that you can no longer see much shadow detail.
As for the backlight clouding problem, we detected practically no evidence of it once the backlight had been adjusted down, even when feeding in a test signal featuring a bright white circle at the centre of an otherwise black frame.
Before we get too carried away, though, the UE55F6500’s black level response is a fairly significant step down from that of Samsung’s F6800 and especially F7000 and F8000 models, in that there’s palpably more greyness in the darkest picture areas. Actually, it also felt to us as if there was a bit more greyness during dark scenes than we noticed with its smaller sibling – the 46-inch UE46F6500. But still, compared with the mid-range 55-inch competition in general the UE55F6500’s contrast performance holds up pretty well.
TVs with good black levels usually muster good colours, and so it proves with the Samsung UE55F6500. Its colours combine vibrant saturations with impressively natural and well-balanced tones, with the colour and white balance management tools providing more than enough flexibility and subtlety to get colours very close to the levels required by the Rec709 standard if that’s where your tastes lie.
We did have to work a bit harder to get colours looking their best than we’ve had to with Samsung’s higher-level TVs this year, though – probably because you have to counter the slightly higher greyness quotient in the panel’s core picture make up.
As we now routinely expect with Samsung TVs, the UE55F6500’s pictures look extremely sharp and detailed. In fact, we had to calm the sharpness down a little at times – certainly if any Blu-ray we were watching had much grain in it. Also the heavy sharpness can mean grainy sources look a bit processed and noisy if you’ve got the set’s motion processing in play. Plus, ironically, grainy sources can look more rather than less noisy if you’ve forgotten to turn off the UE55F6500’s noise reduction systems when watching HD. So don’t!
For the most part, though, the sharpness is clearly a strength, especially on a screen as large as 55-inches, helping you get the most out of HD’s detail advantage.
Motion isn’t as clear or judder-free as it is on Samsung’s high-spec TVs. But while there’s a degree of resolution loss over fast motion it never descends into smearing. Similarly, while there’s more judder in the Samsung UE55F6500’s pictures than those of its step-up models using its out of the box settings, it’s not often seriously distracting, and you can calm it with the Clear motion processing setting without the image starting to look excessively unnatural unless your source is, as discussed previously, excessively grainy.
Overall, the UE55F6500’s pictures aren’t truly vintage Samsung efforts. But even a merely good Samsung is still a pretty tempting prospect when you’re talking about a 55-inch TV for only marginally over a grand.