We have not seen any reviews yet on the latest mid-range Samsung Smart TVs and certainly not on the 2011 models here in Australia so we are happy to present you with an in-depth report on the Samsung 6600, which is the top model in the Series 6 range. This Internet connected Smart TV landed on our test bench courtesy of Samsung Australia and Albany Retravision, our local electronics superstore.
If you are looking to upgrade your TV and haven't done so in the last few years you'll be amazed at not only the superlative quality of the viewing experience but also the interconnectivity of these so-called Smart TVs.
Let's have a good look at the Samsung 6600 as representative of this new generation.
With the full-scale transition to digital TV broadcasting in Australia in good swing, and the fact that many channels are already offering full HD programming, a lot of folks are faced with the choice: will I get a set-top box and keep my old CRT going for a few more years or shall I buy a new TV?
The choice is obvious if money is no object but there is already an incredible range of decent digital TV sets available under the $1000 price point. These will already be far more capable and much more pleasant to watch than your old and square-looking CRT but for this review we have set our sights a little bit higher: the 2000 - 2500 dollar price range. All the main players like Sony and Panasonic have many models in this segment but Samsung as arguably the number one brand for TVs in Australia (and probably globally as well) has been leading the industry when it comes to launching the first 3-D Smart TVs and are really pushing those features in just about all of their 2011 models.
This is a much touted feature which you will find in most TVs these days in this price bracket. As with any new technology (even though 3-D by itself has been around since the early days of photography and film) the availability of 3-D broadcasting apart from the occasional sports event, is practically non-existent. This limits the usefulness of 3-D to watching 3-D movies on an appropriately equipped Blu-ray player. We will be reviewing a Samsung 3-D Blu-ray player within the next few months (see our follow-up review here) so that will be the proper time to go into depth with this feature. One pair of 3-D glasses was packed with the unit and Retravision kindly loaned us another unit.
Just as our mobile phones have developed into smart phones with many features similar to those found on your computer, the modern TVs similarly have sprouted features that come straight from the computer world of today. And here are some of my favourite features:
Allshare allows your TV to wirelessly interconnect with compatible mobile devices such as your phone, laptop and hard drives using the Dynamic Living Network Alliance protocol (DLNA). Obviously, our Samsung Galaxy S smart phones can easily do this and by downloading the Allshare software any laptop can be hooked up into this network. This feature allows you to share content, such as movies, photos and music through the one device, your TV.
Apps are applications that can harness the usefulness of your TV and which are freely downloadable. One such app is the remote control for the Galaxy phone which basically gives you a full duplication of every function that you will find on the standard remote control. This is a pretty cool feature just in case you have misplaced the real remote control! Mood Light is another app that’s freely downloadable. It can “set the mood” in the lounge by displaying a crackling woodfire in a – all too short – loop. Or choose from other settings like a Christmas theme and various other cheesy themes...
I’m surprised that no one has created a tropical aquarium app yet. It should be at least 60 secs long so that it doesn’t look repetitious. Sure, you can download an MP4 from a BluRay disc and put it on but it has to be from a stationary view so that it looks like an aquarium...
Look forward also to the release of Samsung’s 3D apps by the end of June! This enables you to view trailers from 3D movies without a 3D BlueRay player. It is an excellent way to promote the 3D viewing experience. More on this in the second instalment.
The ability to browse the web is also standard with this line of TVs. I normally work with a 16 inch notebook screen, augmented by some 24 inch monitors. But suddenly you have the real estate available that comes with a 46 incher and whilst that resolution is not as high as you get from a dedicated computer monitor, it is perfect if you sit on the couch and use it from that distance.
Being able to surf the Web without having to turn on your PC is a huge boon. This means that you can also chat with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and Skype. I'm not sure if this aspect of Social TV will be a favourite in many households if the regular TV programming is constantly interrupted by another senseless tweet…. But then there are times when you're not watching any TV when these features will be totally appropriate.
For many, one of the handiest features would also be the built-in wireless LAN. I hate messy wires so anything that can be done wirelessly is a big plus, particularly when the router is situated in another room.
Installing this 46 inch display is straightforward. The trickiest thing is to screw the stand onto the display panel and it is only tricky because you have to position the panel onto something soft, like a couch, if you doing it by yourself. The large panel sits on this single point of contact and can be pretty wobbly if you need to plug cables into the back panel. Best to use both hands to stabilise. The panel can swivel about 20 degrees to the left and right for the best viewing position. For its size, this 46 inch is very light weight at under 16kg compared to some of the heavyweight monstrosities it will replace. I once owned a top of the line Sony Trinitron which weighed 90 kg! That one takes three guys and a wheelbarrow to carry it anywhere….
The high build quality is immediately apparent as well as the very attractive design with the thin bezel. This is a type of TV that would look very well mounted on a wall. For us, as a test platform for AV devices, where you need to access the plethora of HDMI and other connectivity ports on a regular basis, we prefer to use the stand as would most households. In order not to detract from the display, this unit has the basic remote control functions duplicated on a small panel at the back, just around the lower right corner. Just reach around with your fingers and the buttons pop up on the main screen. Handy indeed but I’m not sure if you still have enough room for that if it is wall mounted!
As with most installations we tried to do as much as possible without looking at a manual to see how user-friendly the process is and also, isn't this how most people work? To make our job easier we could not even find a manual in the box but only a small instruction sheet on how to put together the stand…. Actually, there is a manual built into the system and easily accessed through a dedicated button on the remote control. We just followed the instructions on the screen from the moment it first got turned on. Easy as. There was one problem with the auto tuning we initially thought because I could only get the digital SBS stations but not the ABC's. Also the analogue stations were pretty grainy… What happened? I had plugged in the antenna fly lead into the unit and also into the wall socket. Problem was I was handling two different fly leads! So the antenna was not really plugged-in! In light of that it was actually pretty amazing that the SBS stations came through so loud and clear! Now that I had quickly rectified this oversight all locally available stations were properly tuned in.
One of the impressive aspects of this new series of Samsung TVs is that the menu system is intuitive and very legible when you're sitting on the couch. I always appreciate a user-friendly interface when reviewing a system.
The next step was to hook it up to the router. For most non-technical people this is where things can start getting a little bit daunting. Not in this case. The Wi-Fi connection made it all very easy to discover the router and after punching in the password we were all set to go.
Now we came to the moment where we found out that these smart TVs behave just like a computer: it first needed to update the Smart Hub and the web browser with some new apps. (1/20) updates it said. This was the only time when I thought the updating process was taking too long as the progress bar was not moving. Eventually all these apps were installed, followed by another 15 updates the next day. These apps include your social network applications like Facebook and Twitter, Skype and YouTube and if you are a footy or rugby aficionado there are apps to help you deal with your addiction…. Most guys would find the NRL and AFL Game Analyser of great value.
The Viewing Experience
We love the Internet connectivity and that you can share stuff around the office or your house and shuffle it from one device to the other but ultimately you bought a TV, not a computer, so the viewing experience must be absolutely top-notch before all the other things would rate a mention. Fortunately, all Samsung displays are energised by a bunch of magic tricks, courtesy of the Samsung engineers. For most of us it sounds like marketing hype but there is real science behind Clear Motion Rate, Hyperreal Engine, Cinema Black, White Colour Enhancer Plus, Real Black Filter, Cinema Black and Micro Dimming….
Whilst most of the time you would be blissfully unaware of how all these terms enhance your viewing experience there was one instance where the Clear Motion Rate function did not work all that well I thought. We had just been watching a movie which looked absolutely great on the screen when we decided to check out the Extra Features of this film. It basically was an interview with the actors but any hand gestures that they made were blurred and jittery. Whether this was caused by the Blu-ray player that we used or whether it had to do with the original filming and subsequent compression of the video, we could not determine why it occurred. We aim to review the Samsung 3-D Blu-ray player with built-in PVR for the next instalment so that we can shed light on this issue.
The clarity of the display is absolutely outstanding. I like my settings fairly bright but if you're into lowering your electricity costs even more there is an Eco-Sensor that measures the intensity of the light in the room and calibrates the brightness of the TV so for daytime viewing the picture will automatically be brighter than at night. This is a handy feature to have but the reason why we went for an LED backlit TV rather than a standard LCD is the extreme energy efficiency of the LED version. For normal viewing this 46 inch model only uses 311kWH per year, based on 10 hrs of viewing every day. This translates to only some $65 per year at the present energy prices. Standby mode is equally frugal at just 0.1w. No wonder it has a 7 Star rating.
There are three models in the Series 6 range from Samsung and they each come in three or four different sizes from 32 inch to 60 inch. Differences between the models relate to inbuilt extra features like Skype, Web browser, wireless LAN, and the ability to record directly to PVR. The official retail pricing goes from around $2000 to just a fraction below $2700. As we always say on this site: you have to do your research first to see what the best available price would be. There is a lot of competition out there for this segment and it would be foolish to pay too much. Internet shopping is a perfectly acceptable way to get the best price.
However, in the case of a major purchase like a TV we would highly recommend to visit your local suppliers for the following reasons: all the brands are displayed so you can compare both size, looks and picture quality in the store. Usually any questions that you have can be answered on the spot if the salesperson is knowledgeable. Being able to go to a local electronics superstore enables you to take away the TV of your choice immediately, gratifying one of the basic desires that we people seem to have, that of wanting to enjoy the experience straight away once we've made the decision! And if there are any issues with the product that you bought it is way easier to just bring it back to the store than having it shipped back to the online retailer that you bought it from. Face-to-face contact is far better when it comes to warranty issues.
Okay, but what about price? Here is the interesting thing: often the local retailer has special deals, can match or come close to these online retailers’ price. They don't mind you asking what is their best price. For instance, the model that we reviewed, the 6600, retails for $2699 but can easily be had in the store for under $2400. They want your business and it is always good to invest in the local economy. Even if you have to pay a little bit extra this will be well worth it in light of the other reasons that I mentioned.
The Samsung 6600 (model number: UA46D6600WM) is about as awesome as can be with the current technology when it comes to the viewing experience that we have come across. This is not just my personal opinion but also of those who have taken part in the testing process. There are no discernible negatives that we have seen in the hours and hours of testing over many weeks. If you are upgrading from a standard CRT you will be blown away by the new viewing experience of the Series 6! If you're into full-scale Internet connectivity with web browsing and built-in Wi-Fi, the 6600 model of this series would be the one to recommend.
Stay tuned for the next instalment (see our follow-up review here) where we go into detail with the 3-D feature with the Samsung 3-D Blu-ray player. On purpose we have left the whole 3-D issue out of the rating for the reasons mentioned above. Until we get proper 3-D broadcasting it will always be a "nice to have" feature but not essential yet for most people. We will also check out the best way to add to the viewing experience by enhancing the listening experience. In other words we will also be looking at a home entertainment system that is fully optimised for this Samsung Smart TV.
• Full HD (1920 X 1080)
• ConnectShare Movie
• Smart HUB- (AllShare, Samsung Apps, Search All, Your Video, Social TV)
• Personal Video Recorder
• 2D-3D Converter
• 3D Hyper-Real Engine
• 3D Sound
• Wide Colour Enhancer Plus
• Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC)
• Oneness Design
• Ultra Clear Panel
• CMR 400
• 3 USB Connectivity
• 4 HDMI
• SRS TheaterSound HD
• Dolby Digital Plus
• Wi-Fi Built In
• BD Wise