Editors' Note: Those looking for a bigger display can opt for the 55-inch Samsung UN55UU6500, which offers all of the same features.
Finally, there are 4K ultra-HD sets for those of us with more modest budgets — and more modest living spaces. Samsung's 50-inch Series 6 4K set is available for less than $850. While the higher-resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) ultra-HD format generally benefits larger screens, this set delivers improved picture detail that will please viewers in tighter quarters.
The Samsung Series 6 UN50JU6500 eliminates some luxury features, such as a webcam and ultraslim design. It uses a full-array LED backlight, but black screens tend to look gray in most modes. On the other hand, the UN50JU6500 does prove two points: 1) Bigger isn't always better, and 2) you can't judge all the TVs in a line by looking at just one model size. This smaller 50-inch set in Samsung's Series 6 line delivers a better overall picture than its larger 55-inch Series 6 sibling.
Design: Simple, But Full-Featured
Standing on a T-shaped, center-mounted pedestal, the 2.5-inch-thick flat panel presents an unembellished facade. The Samsung Series 6 UN50JU6500 has all the requisite connections, including built-in Wi-Fi, three USB ports and four HDMI ports, all of which are compatible with the latest 4K copy protection scheme.
There are also ports for Ethernet, digital audio output, stereo audio input, RF and composite/component video.
Performance: Beats Bigger Models
Overall, the Samsung Series 6 UN50JU6500's color and contrast are noticeably different from those of the larger Samsung UN55JU6500F in the same line. The 50-inch set is warmer (eliciting more pink and red hues) and brighter, and it delivers better contrast ratios.
In the TV's Movie Mode, American Hustle in 4K yielded gold lamé accents that looked richer, and there was more detail in bright highlights. Colors seemed well balanced, rather than too cool. (Samsung sets often lean toward blue.) Our color temperature test results bore this out (see chart).
Even when upscaling Blu-ray material, such as the movie Gravity, contrasts were sharper, as revealed in the tiles of the space shuttle, and colors were more saturated. Unfortunately, some of the same image issues that bedeviled the larger Samsung UN55JU6500F were apparent on the 50-inch UN50JU6500 as well. As George Clooney's character arced through space, the stars in the background turned into scores of streaks rather than pinpoints of light. Furthermore, turning off the Auto Motion Plus setting that I suspected might be responsible did little to ameliorate the effect.
The UN50JU6500's upscaling handled Blu-ray and DVD action sequences with aplomb. It maintained its image quality during fast-paced scenes, without generating odd pixels or momentarily chopping out some picture elements. It also did a good job of revealing details in shadowy corners, such as those in the opening scene of Skyfall.
Gamers won't be pleased with the UN50JU6500's poor image lag results. In our tests, this set registered times well over 200 milliseconds, meaning that serious fraggers will probably notice the delay, especially during multiplayer battles.
One area where the smaller UN50JU6500 falls behind the larger Samsung Series 6 is audio; it has a more focused and less expansive sound than the bigger TV. It means you lose some sonic depth in music and soundtracks, and while there's enough volume to crank up Mad Max: Fury Road to thunderous levels, it tends to sound too shrill.
Interface: Smartly Done
The Samsung UN50JU6500 includes a conventional wand-style IR remote control. It lacks dedicated buttons for popular services like Netflix, but it does have backlighting, which is a godsend in a darkened living room. It also has a Smart Hub button to bring up Samsung's smart TV apps.
The Samsung Smart Hub is essentially a menu at the bottom of the screen, offering connected services, including Netflix and Amazon, as well as access to other information, such as an electronic version of the owner's manual, a Web browser and a slide-show tutorial on how it all works.
You can dig deeper by going to the apps screen and choosing from scores of options organized under categories such as sports and games. It's not glitzy, but it works. The search function can also help you find something to watch, but like other search tools, it's less than perfect: Entering "Clint" brought up YouTube videos (Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz) and Vevo results (Clint Black), but not rental options from services like Amazon, automatically.
Maybe I'm guilty of defying my mother's advice to not sit too close to the TV, but I notice the difference between a conventional HDTV and a 4K ultra-HD set even at this relatively smaller 50-inch screen size. The whole TV world is clearly moving to make 4K displays standard, and even with its less-than-perfect picture, at this price, it's hard to resist the Samsung UN50JU6500.