Ultra HD/4K may be the next big thing in video, but not everyone who's in the market for a TV right now needs or wants that step up in resolution...and price. Even though the TV manufacturers have gone all in on 4K, most of the majors still offer some 1080p HD models from which to choose, including the subject of today's review: the 55-inch Samsung UN55J6300, which sells for $899.99.
Samsung's 2015 TV line includes two 1080p series: the J6200 and J6300. The "higher-end" J6300 is available in screen sizes from 32 to 75 inches, and it uses a direct LED lighting system with Micro Dimming Pro technology (which the J6200 lacks). Micro Dimming Pro adjusts the brightness of the entire LED grid and turns off the whole grid during all-black scene transitions; there's no local dimming control to adjust specific areas of the screen during video playback to improve black-level performance. To get that feature, you have to move up to the company's Ultra HD offerings.
The UN55J6300 has a 120Hz refresh rate and includes Samsung's new Tizen-based smart TV platform, with built-in Wi-Fi, a quad-core processor, and Smart View 2.0 to share content from/with mobile devices.
Setup and Features
The UN55J6300 has a simple but elegant appearance, with only a quarter inch of glossy black bezel surrounding the screen. The TV uses Samsung's V-shaped, matte silver stand that does not swivel. Since the unit uses a direct LED backlighting system instead of an edge-lit design, the cabinet measures 2.5 inches deep--that's about twice as deep as the 65-inch edge-lit UN65JS8500 UHD model I reviewed earlier this year. The TV weighs 34.6 pounds without the stand.
The connection panel includes four HDMI ports, with ARC on input 2 and MHL support on input 3. You also get one shared component/composite input, one RF input, analog and optical digital audio outputs, Samsung's EX-Link port for integration into a control system, a LAN port for a wired network connection, and three USB ports for media playback and the addition of peripherals like a USB keyboard or camera.
The TV comes with Samsung's standard IR-based remote and not the higher-end Bluetooth-based model with motion/voice functions. The supplied remote is backlit and has a straightforward button layout. The remote does not include controls for a set-top box, nor does the UN55J6300's onscreen interface give you the advanced, integrated set-top box control that you'll find on higher-end models like the JS8500.
Samsung has revamped its Smart View 2.0 mobile app yet again, this time eliminating all remote-control functions so that it works only as a media-share app. I'm not sure this is a bad thing. The remote-control aspect of Smart View was never its strong suit, and removing it has allowed Samsung to simplify the app's layout to make it extremely easy to use. Basically, the home screen organizes your phone or tablet's media content into Photos, Videos, and Music. You can browse the content and select what you want to view or listen to, and it immediately starts playing on the Samsung TV. You no longer have to "swipe" it to the TV. Wisely, Samsung does still allow you to control the TV"s volume level through the app.
The UN55J6300 has almost all of the advanced picture controls found on Samsung's higher-end TVs, including two- and 10-point white balance, multiple gamma presets, multiple color spaces, an adjustable backlight, a full color management system, noise reduction, and more. Since this is a 120Hz TV, the menu includes the Auto Motion Plus blur/judder controls, with options for Off, Clear, Standard, Smooth, and a Custom mode in which you can independently adjust blur and judder and turn on LED Clear Motion. We'll talk performance in the next section.
On the audio side, the TV has two down-firing 10-watt speakers, but it omits the two 10-watt woofers found on the higher-end JS8500; as a result, the audio isn't quite as full on the low end as I heard from the UN65JS8500, but this TV still has solid dynamic ability, and vocals aren't as thin and nasally as you often hear through TV speakers. Plus, Samsung makes it easy to send the audio to external Bluetooth speakers/headphones. The Sound menu includes five sound modes, with a virtual surround option, a dialog clarity tool, a five-band equalizer, audio delay adjustment, and the ability to enable HD audio pass-through.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the UN55J6300 uses the new Tizen-based smart TV platform. You can read my full review of the Samsung 2015 platform here. The only difference that I could see between the smart TV platform in the J6300 versus the JS8500 is the fact that, because the latter is a 4K TV, it adds M-GO and UltraFlix 4K-friendly apps that are missing in the J6300 and uses the 4K versions of apps like Netflix and Amazon Video. Otherwise, features and the speed of loading/navigation were similar.
As always, I begin my performance evaluation with a discussion of the UN55J6300's accuracy--how close it comes to reference standards right out of the box, with no adjustment. The TV has four picture modes (dynamic, standard, natural, and movie), and only one of them--the movie mode--is close to accurate. The good news is, it's very close to accurate, with the grayscale and all six color points having a Delta Error below three (any error number under three is considered to be imperceptible to the human eye) and a gamma average of 2.26. (See How We Evaluate and Measure TVs for more info.) That means, even without a professional calibration--which most people probably won't pay for at this price point--the UN55J6300 can produce a very natural image with neutral whites, pleasing skintones, and and accurate colors.
Should you opt for a professional calibration, the numbers can get even better. I was able to lower the grayscale Delta Error from 2.62 to 0.96 and eke most of the color points even closer to the Rec 709 standard for HD content. The adjustable gamma control provides flexibility to set a darker gamma than our 2.2 reference for movie watching in a darker room.
For daytime and bright-room environments, the UN55J6300 has good brightness capabilities, although its maximum light output isn't as high as recent TVs I've tested like Vizio's M65-C1, Panasonic's TC-60CX800U, and Samsung's UN65JS8500. The movie mode measured about 59 foot-lamberts by default with a 100 percent full-white test pattern, and I could get that number up to about 83 ft-L maximum. The highly inaccurate dynamic mode measured a little brighter, at 94 ft-L. The TV's screen surface is a little more diffuse and less reflective than many of Samsung's higher-end TVs, yet I found it still did a good job of rejecting ambient light to preserve image contrast in a brighter room.
As usual, I lowered the UN55J6300's backlight to about 40 ft-L, which for me strikes the ideal balance for daytime and nighttime viewing. At this setting, the UN55J6300's black-level performance is solid but not exceptional--which isn't surprising for an LED/LCD TV that doesn't have any form of local dimming. Many Blu-ray demo scenes had good overall contrast and looked good even in a dark room, but the darkest demo scenes that I like to use to test black level--chapter one of The Bourne Supremacy, chapter three of Gravity, and chapter four of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl--lacked the deeper shades of black and the better overall saturation of my reference unit, the Samsung UN65HU8550. These scenes were a bit washed out, and the dark areas had a bluish-grayish appearance.
On a positive note, because Samsung opted for a direct LED backlight instead of edge LED lighting, the screen's brightness uniformity is quite good for a budget display. There's no light bleed at the corners, nor are there splotchy patches of light around the screen that can make dark scenes look "cloudy." The TV's ability to render fine black details is also solid, although again because of the black-level limitations, some of the darkest details will be lost.
In the processing realm, the TV passed all of the 480i and 1080i deinterlacing tests on my HQV and Spears & Munsil test discs (as long as it's in the Auto 1 film mode), and it also did a fine job with real-world scenes from the Gladiator and The Bourne Identity DVDs, keeping jaggies and moire to a minimum. The UN55J6300 renders a clean, well-detailed image with both SD and HD content.
Samsung's Auto Motion Plus menu has a variety of blur and judder options to suit anyone's taste. If you like the smoothing effects of frame interpolation (aka the Soap Opera Effect), the Standard and Smooth modes reduce both blur and film judder. If (like me) you don't like motion smoothing at all, the Clear Mode and the Custom mode (with blur set to max and judder set to zero) both produced visible lines to HD1080 in my FPD Benchmark test pattern. Enabling the LED Clear Motion control improves motion resolution even further, but it sacrifices some light output to do so--I'm not sure the benefit outweighs the reward at the 55-inch screen size.
The smart TV platform worked well and gave me no issues. Samsung offers a huge collection of apps, and the ones I tested launched fairly quickly and played reliably. Samsung provides a lot of ways to access personal media files on phones, tablets, USB drives, and DLNA servers, as well as support for a wide variety of file formats. Plus, it has better gaming support than many of its smart TV competition.
Click over to Page Two for Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...