Samsung's Series 6 TVs are designed to be Ultra HD sets for price-conscious shoppers. The smallest in the line, the 40-inch Samsung UN40JU6500, is also the least expensive in the line at around $750. Unfortunately, the less expensive set also has some picture performance trade-offs.
The Samsung UN40JU6500 is a 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 pixels) set with smart TV features for streaming popular video and music services directly to the set. It uses a straightforward LCD panel with LED edge lighting, and there are no extra bells and whistles, such as a webcam or Bluetooth smart remote control. It boasts accurate colors and good image detail for a 4K set, but the UN40JU6500's picture washes out when viewers are not seated at its center sweet spot.
Samsung uses the same design for all of its Series 6 sets. So, like the other models in this line, the UN40JU6500 rests on a center-mounted pedestal that uses a T-shaped stand in front for support. The TV is thin enough (2.5 inches) to mount on a wall as well.
The UN40JU6500 has all the usual connections, although only one of the TV's four HDMI ports is fully compatible with the 4K copy-protection scheme, a definite annoyance. (The 55-inch set in the Samsung Series 6 line supports 4K copy protection in all four HDMI ports.)
In addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, there are connections for Ethernet, coaxial cable, component/composite video, and digital and analog audio outputs.
Performance: Mixed Picture
The best feature of Samsung's UN40JU6500 is the very accurate color reproduction in the set's best preset Movie mode (as evidenced in our color gamut tests). Downloaded 4K programs also look good on the set. Every flyaway hair and tiny reflection is crystal-clear. Contrast, while far from the best we've tested, was good enough in the top-resolution material, with details still visible in brightly lit parts of the picture.
The downside of the Samsung UN40JU6500 is that it is particularly sensitive to vertical and horizontal off-axis viewing. If you move anywhere out of the viewing sweet spot at the center, you'll see that the colors immediately begin to wash out and fade. For a single couch potato, this may not be a problem, but for a family or house with roommates, someone is going to end up with a less-than-ideal view.
Watching upscaled content, such as a Blu-ray disc of Gravity, revealed some additional strengths and weaknesses of the UN40JU6500. There was good detail, such as the ribs of the astronauts' gloves, and good color balance (oceans were neither too blue nor too green). However, there were some backlighting problems that produced faint halos around bright objects, such as the Space Shuttle moving in front of a star field.
As with most sets of this type, blacks tended to be more gray, and I witnessed some picture distortions that I've seen in other, larger Samsung sets (such as the 55-inch UN55JU6500F and 50-inch UN50JU6500). In scenes where an astronaut moves across the sky, stars in the background begin to stretch and blur; adjusting several advanced picture settings did not eliminate the problem.
This Samsung had difficulties upscaling fast, action sequences in Movie mode, as well, although some picture-setting adjustments resolved the issue. In the iconic rooftop motorcycle chase scene from Skyfall, both the villain and Bond appear to momentarily lose their heads. So, I switched the set's Auto Motion setting from "standard" to "off" and the problem disappeared — and their heads reappeared.
Even with these flaws, upscaled HD and Blu-ray content can occasionally look too good, revealing shortcomings in the original movie. The sets in James Cameron's Aliens, for example, looked plastic and artificial when upscaled on the Samsung UN40JU6500.
On the audio side, the Samsung UN40JU6500F delivers enough volume to fill a modest-size living room or den with a John Williams movie soundtrack. However, compared to some larger sets, the sound from the 40-inch UN40JU6500 sounded thin and compressed. Soaring vocals lose some of their drama, there's little bass to speak of and no dynamic range apparent, even in the best-sounding Movie mode. (Add a soundbar if you can afford it.
Interface and Remote: Ready and Able
Samsung includes a basic IR wand-style remote control with the UN40JU6500 set. The remote includes the usual array of numbers and four-way directional buttons to help users move through menus; a Smart Hub button invokes the streaming online options. You lose one feature on this remote that the company includes on the model that accompanies larger sets: There's no backlighting, which can make it difficult for you to find the right button in the dark.
Otherwise, the smart TV interface and options are the same for the UN40JU65000 as they are for larger Samsung sets in this line. The Smart Hub is a tiled menu at the bottom of the screen that reveals the major streaming service options, such as Netflix and Amazon, and gives you access to a full Web browser, and a digital tutorial and owner's manual. Navigating to the set's apps screen lets you choose from scores of additional services and apps, such as sports like MLB, and music channels like Pandora.
Samsung provides a competitive array of options and also supports the PlayStation Now app for subscribers who want to play PlayStation 3 games (a separate controller is required). My favorite "smart" feature, however, is still the easy way the TV connects to a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones for TV viewing when I don't want to wake the family.
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If you're looking for a bargain Ultra HD set, the Samsung UN40JU6500 is worth considering, and it has a brand name to back it up. However, it doesn't match the picture quality of sets that are of similar size — such as the 43-inch Sony Bravia X83C — that cost just $50 more.