Whatever your reaction to curved screens, the idea behind them is to create a more immersive, in-your-face video experience. So a 40-inch version, which has the viewer sit closer to the TV, should play right into the curved wheelhouse. Unfortunately, the mixed performance of the Samsung UN40JU6700's picture distracts from this TV's head-turning design.
Priced to sell at roughly $650, the Samsung UN40JU6700 is an ultra-HD 4K (3840 by 2160 pixels) set with smart-TV features and built-in Wi-Fi. In general, it does a good job displaying 4K and upscaled Blu-ray programming. It also uses full-array backlighting, according to Samsung's specifications, but it can show a lack of screen uniformity with blotchy lighting apparent in scenes dominated by a single color, such as a dark sky.
Design: Dangerous Curves
The curved Samsung UN40JU6700 comes with a matching curved pedestal stand. This makes for an attractive presentation, and the arc of the panel is not overly exaggerated. The set also includes Samsung's Smart Hub interface for online streaming services, and the usual array of ports.
There are four HDMI plugs, but annoyingly, only one is compatible with copy-protected 4K content. Additional connections include three USB ports, composite and component video connections, Ethernet, and RF jacks.
Performance: Lacks Uniformity
There is much to like about the Samsung UN40JU6700's picture. By comparison to other 4K sets this size — including Samsung's own flat, 40-inch, ultra-HD UN40JU6500 — it delivers more-saturated colors and good detail within bright highlights, and doesn't wash out when you move away from the center viewing sweet spot. Programs in 4K all looked good; however, depending on where lights were positioned in our test room, I noticed more reflections on the screen than usual. On the other hand, with a screen this size and with the crisper, 4K picture, I would expect viewers to sit closer to the set, thus minimizing visible reflections and taking full advantage of the ultra-HD resolution.
In general, the Samsung UN40JU6700 also did well when upscaling Blu-ray movies to 4K. There were no obvious artifacts, such as streaky stars, when I was watching Gravity (even though the video-processing controls were left in default mode for movies). Against the constellations of stars, however, there was a grayish cast rather than the deep black of space. But more noticeable was the Samsung UN40JU6700's inconsistent backlighting.
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A blotchy lighting pattern was apparent, with eight distinct flares or blotches of gray on the screen that appeared against the star field as Sandra Bullock spun out into space. On a completely dark screen, the blotchy pattern was even more obvious and was clearly something that would be apparent during dark scenes with occasional bright elements — although it's not obvious from just looking at our contrast-ratio test numbers.
Demonstrating that video processing and effects can be different from set to set, the Samsung UN40JU6700 did not exhibit some of the image distortions that appeared in other Samsung TVs, such as streaky stars. But it did have trouble upscaling fast action scenes, such as those in Skyfall. In one motorcycle chase, the heads of the villain and of James Bond drop out of the picture.
However, after I turned off an advanced picture setting (Auto Motion Plus), the problem disappeared. Whether most owners would go to the trouble of testing different settings to resolve such issues remains to be seen.
As with most TVs this size, the audio skills of the Samsung UN40JU6700 aren't particularly notable. There are various presets, such as Clear Voice for emphasizing dialogue (which also kills the lower bass notes, however). The TV's Music setting is the richest of the presets, but the sound is still compressed. For those looking for better sonic results, yes, Samsung makes curved soundbars to match its curved sets.
Interface: A Handy Remote
The Samsung UN40JU6700's included smart remote looks at first glance to simply be a curved design reflecting the set itself, but it's more than just aesthetics. Like a streamlined Roku remote, it doesn't waste space with a numerical pad. Instead, it utilizes channel and volume up/down buttons and a four-way directional pad.
A pointer button when depressed turns the controller into a wireless mouse that moves the cursor on screen with a wave of your hand. I found the whole design a marked improvement over standard, wand-style remotes, making it much easier to move around menus and settings, such as switching from speakers to Bluetooth headphones for nighttime listening.
The remote also has a built-in mic to support Samsung's voice-command feature, which, while far from perfect, can save you time keying in searches.
Pushing the Smart Hub button invokes Samsung's raft of streaming-service apps and options. Most of the popular apps, such as Netflix and a Web browser, come up first, with scores of other services arranged in subcategories, such as sports and kids' titles. A search function can dig out programs featuring a favorite actor from across multiple sources, but it doesn't cover all services and so is still a work in progress.
If curved screens do have a place among flat-panel TVs, it's in the smaller-sized models where closer, more intimate viewing is appropriate and you're likely to enjoy the benefits of the immersive effect. However, while the Samsung UN40JU6700 offers remarkable features, such as a smarter-than-average remote, it has some picture flaws that may send ultra-HD shoppers looking elsewhere.