Samsung wants you to own one of its ultra-HD TVs — even if you can't afford the top-of-the-line models. The Samsung 65-inch UN65JU6500 is a relatively affordable 4K TV (3840 x 2160 pixels) with a crisp, bold picture.
Currently priced at around $2,000 (prices are continually dropping), the Samsung UN65JU6500 is less than half the price of Samsung's top-of-the-line 9000 set of the same size. It doesn't have some of that model's extra features, such as a built-in camera or 3D support, yet the UN65JU6500 has many of the same features as sets that cost $1,000 more. The LCD TV uses full-array LED backlighting, for example, for improved shadow details, and a quad-core processor to support its smart-TV features.
Design: Bungalow, Not Penthouse
You could pay more to get a razor-thin bezel or an audaciously designed stand — two qualities this model lacks. The UN65JU6500 is a bit thick, at 2.5 inches, compared to 2 inches for the $3,000 LG 65UF900V, but many shoppers won't notice these aesthetic differences once the UN65JU6500 is powered on.
More important, the UN65JU6500 has all the necessary connections, including Wi-Fi (802.11ac), three USB ports, four HDMI connections, component and composite video inputs, optical for audio, an RF (coaxial) input, and an Ethernet jack.
Image Quality: Colorful Performance
The Samsung UN65JU6500 has two major image strengths: accurate color reproduction and excellent picture detail. It also upscales standard HD material — an important capability, since it constitutes the majority of material available — with aplomb.
With native 4K video, the UN65JU6500 rendered rich colors and vibrant details. Nature videos delivered the kind of impressively crisp images that make for ideal showroom demos. When I watched the 4K version of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the set seemed slightly more precise than some other ultra-HD models from Panasonic and LG. It was easy to pick out individual raindrops pelting down from a skyscraper, and close-ups looked lifelike without becoming overly harsh (often a sign of excessive video processing that can flatten out an image).
The UN65JU6500 also did a solid job of revealing details in shadows, such as those in the opening scene of the Blu-ray version of Skyfall. I could also count more stars in the sky in Gravity, although the trade-off was a slightly less black sky, and the stars tended to flicker in motion scenes on this 120-Hz set. However, contrast ratios were better than those on several other 4K sets we've tested.
Meanwhile, colors remained faithful, with deep-blue oceans; lush, red roses; and realistic skin tones. In our standard color benchmarks using the set's best preset movie mode, the UN65JU6500 was one of the most color-accurate models we've tested so far.
When upscaling chase scenes from the Blu-ray edition of Skyfall, the Samsung 65JU6500 did not disappoint. Some details, such as the outlines of individual roof tiles, were inevitably lost, but there were no egregious errors (such as objects that can get omitted in the upscaling process).
Audio Quality: Above Average
The Samsung UN65JU6500's two 10-watt downward-firing speakers don't make for a stellar sound system, but they're better than some others in this price range.
The TV offers several different audio profile settings, including presets for music, clear voice, and movies. The latter setting gives the audio a more open surround-sound feeling, while the music preset boosts the midrange and bass end.
The music setting certainly helped the experience when watching Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones Shine a Light rockumentary, but using the movie setting for Skyfall tended to eliminate some of the drama of Adele's voice and bury it in the mix.
Interface: Evolving Smart TV
Samsung continues to evolve its Smart Hub interface. It supports a ton of apps and settings, which can be overwhelming, so Samsung has built in a tutorial and has modified the software to make it a little more accessible. Along the bottom of the screen are featured apps, and in larger, rectangular icons, you'll find your most recently accessed sources, such as YouTube, Vimeo, TuneIn and Netflix.
When you select the featured apps, you'll get a more pleasing graphical view than before. However, the graphics are just screenshots of the apps within colored squares, so some work still needs to be done to fit them more smoothly into the interface. There are several different categories of apps, ranging from casual games to educational ones for kids.
Also included is a social networking feature from Yahoo that puts comments and interactions on the left side of the screen. It's an interesting feature but, again, lacks integration; most people will stick with using an iPad as a second screen.
Remote Control: This Wand Isn't Magic
The UN65JU6500 comes with a conventional wand-style IR remote control. With the increasing complexity of smart-TV features, this clicker is starting to show its age.
Surfing the Internet using the UN65JU6500's built-in Web browser, for example, was irritating at best. To move the cursor, I had to hold down the directional keys — a utilitarian solution to the problem. It was slow and arduous, like playing Asteroids, and it was frustrating trying to center the cursor on precisely the right spot. Other inexpensive big screens have similar issues with their remotes, so this is not a problem unique to the UN65JU6500.
If you've lusted after a Samsung ultra-HD set but couldn't justify spending $4,000 or more on a TV, the UN65JU6500 may be the model for you. It doesn't have the slimmest design, but its picture performance is strong among 4K sets. Even though it's $200 more expensive than the Vizio 65-inch P-Series Ultra HD P652ui-B2, this Samsung offers some advantages, such as better color accuracy. And with all of its additional smart-TV features, there's plenty to appreciate in the Samsung UN65JU6500.
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John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and the CBS News television program. Follow him @jqontech. Follow us@tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.