Next I channeled around DirecTV, landing on a rerun of Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. Deadliest Catch is filmed in HD using a barrage of different professional and consumer grade handheld HD cameras, so while the imagery is always stunning the video quality isn't nearly as consistent. During many of the show's night scenes the C6500's edge lighting was mildly apparent, something I didn't experience with the brightly lit, indoor hockey footage earlier. The C6500's were the most apparent when in the presence of a largely static or slow moving dark area; for instance the night sky over the Bering Sea, versus a dimly lit portion of a crab fishing boat's deck. It was during these sequences that I noticed the C6500 doesn't really achieve true black or even the deepest blacks I've seen from a flat panel display (that honor currently belongs to Panasonic's plasma lines), though among large screen LED based displays, the C6500 is among the best. Despite the discovery of the C6500's edge lighting system in some shots and not quite there black levels the 6500VF's overall performance with Deadliest Catch was still impressive. I've found that certain LED TVs have a tendency to gloss over fine details and textures, much the same way early generation plasma's and LCDs once did, not so with the C6500. The creases and sea hardened lines in the fishermen's' faces were rendered with such fine detail that during close ups, regardless of the outside lighting conditions, it appeared as if they were drawn on, they were so crisp and clear. The same held true for the detail in many of the mens' beards and days-old stubble. Ocean waves, especially the mist or spray coming off of them, is always difficult to get right and while the C6500 didn't fully manage to make the fine particles of water appear exactly like fine particles of water, it didn't do what many LCD and LED TVs do, which is spray the characters with obvious white and semi opaque pixels. It was somewhere in between, but closer to the real thing than not.
Moving on to Blu-ray source material, I cued up The Criterion Edition of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Criterion/Paramount). Within moments of the film's first scene it became apparent that when fed an appropriate HD signal, say a beautiful 1080p transfer from an already digitally shot, 2K film, the C6500's performance could reach new heights. Let me start with what remained largely the same, the C6500's detail, texture and color rendering, including saturation and tone, was sublime. Skin tones and texture, even those found on the largely CG face of Brad Pitt throughout the film, appeared natural and lifelike. Fine details such as fabric textures, aging wallpaper, wood grain and even the decaying streets of New Orleans were presented with the utmost care and attention to detail. The C6500's black level performance firmed up and reached new depths in comparison to my earlier HD broadcast tests, though the edge lighting issue remained. In some of the film's night scenes, for instance the battle between Pitt's tugboat crew and an enemy submarine, the C6500's black level detail was among the best I've seen and, provided the action, albeit dark, kept moving the C6500's edge lighting was less apparent. Speaking of motion: the C6500 showcased zero video or motion artifacts, and remained smooth and natural throughout my viewing of Benjamin Button. Remember - I disabled Samsung's Auto Motion Plus 120Hz processing.
I ended my evaluation of the Samsung C6500 with some streaming content courtesy of CinemaNow and Netflix streaming, both of which are apps that are available via the Samsung's app store, which you can access directly from the C6500's screen. While the app store may have been beautifully rendered, the video streamed through the before mentioned apps was atrocious. Now I'm not one of those guys who is going to sit here and tell you that streaming video is evil and that it's simply a fad propagated by the iPod generation because it's not. Streaming media is the future and as some studies suggest the future is actually happening now; I argue it still has a ways to go before its quality equals its convenience.
Streaming video can look relatively good on smaller displays and portable media devices like an iPad or smart phone; on a 65-inch super bright, super sharp LED TV not so much. When presented with streaming video content the C6500 only serves to magnify its flaws and while many streaming services, such as CinemaNow, may claim HD quality video, there is a big difference between total pixels and the compression used to stream HD content in real time - a fact you will become intimately familiar with when watching streaming content via the C6500.
The C6500's edge lighting is its most obvious Achilles heel; during dark or dimly lit scenes it is ever present and a constant reminder of the price you pay in order to achieve this level of industrial design in an HDTV. Also, because of its edge lighting flaws the C6500's overall black level performance was also a bit shy of reference grade, a bar set by Pioneer and Panasonic. However, neither of the before mentioned brands offers a display as gorgeous as the Samsung C6500. Hell, Pioneer doesn't even make a HDTV anymore.
The C6500 can't help but have a 65-inch screen but alas it's one of its bigger issues. First, because the C6500 is so large it can act a little bit like a mirror in certain lighting situations; it's not as bad as earlier LED models but it's still a factor at times. Second, streaming doesn't really look good nor hold a candle to even DVD quality content on any sized screen, except maybe an iPad or smart phone, and it definitely has no business on a screen like the one found on the C6500. The C6500's 65-inch screen only serves to magnify streaming video's (and even DVDs) many flaws. Netflix streaming was by far the worst though Apple downloaded video wasn't far behind.
Samsung may have the best app store this side of Apple but I don't like that their chosen format is PC only, leaving us Apple aficionados high and dry. I suppose connecting an Apple TV to your C6500 is a suitable work around and at $99 probably a better way to go, especially considering that an Apple TV has WiFi capability built in, which solves two of the C6500's problems.
Lastly, while many may view the C6500's lack of 3D support as a downside it isn't, for that's not who this LED TV is aimed at. The C6500 is a cost effective alternative to Samsung's own 8000 Series displays, which are 3D enabled. While I applaud Samsung's choice to release a series of displays without 3D capability, I'm sure future models will include 3D though I doubt there will be quite the same up-charge for it going forward.
Competition and Comparisons
While every manufacturer is getting into the LED TV game, few are making them at the size of the C6500. Vizio recently released a 65-inch edge lit LED TV that features Internet connectivity and app support as well as 3D capabilities all for $3,699.99, which is noticeably less than the C6500. However the Vizio LED TV doesn't boast the same form factor or build quality as the C6500 nor does it share its razor thin profile.
It's far more common to find a 55 or even a 60-inch LED TV than it is a 65-inch like the C6500; LED TVs such as Toshiba's 55-inch 55WX800U come to mind. The 55WX800U is a full 10-inches smaller though it boasts many of the same features as the C6500, is 3D capable and boasts a similar form factor all for $3,299.99 retail.
In the coming months there's going to be an onslaught of larger LED TVs in both 3D and non-3D variants from the likes of Samsung, LG, Vizio and more so while Samsung may have a good portion of the bigger than thou LED TV market to themselves at the moment, that isn't always going to be the case. To stay up to date on the latest LED TV news and reviews be sure to check out Home Theater Review's LED HDTV page.
At just under $4,500 retail the Samsung C6500 is one of the more stylish HDTVs available today and when you consider its performance, especially with HD broadcasts such as sporting events and cable programming it's clear who the C6500 is aimed at. While the C6500 does suffer a bit at the hands of its edge lighting design, it's still a capable performer for many of today's Blu-ray titles. DVDs begin to show their age and limitations on the C6500 but are still enjoyable, which is more than what I can say for streaming content and/or Internet video played back via the C6500.
The obvious question you have to ask yourself when considering the C6500 is whether or not you can live without 3D. While I personally despise 3D and wish it a quick and painful death, there's no getting around the fact that it's the novelty item of the moment and the C6500 simply doesn't have it. While that may be precisely the reason why Home Theater Review publisher, Jerry Del Colliano, bought the C6500 and why I dig it, it may not be the right choice for you - especially if you have children. Furthermore, there are a number of LED TVs out there that offer many of the same features as the C6500, including 3D, for less.
That being said, among the larger, edge lit, LED TVs currently
available, the Samsung C6500 is one of the best. If you're in the
market for a super thin, beautiful display that is capable of capturing
the excitement of HD sports while still retaining the subtlety of film
via your favorite Blu-ray discs and can overlook some edge light
deficiencies, built-in WiFi and a lack of 3D support then the Samsung
65-inch C6500 LED HDTV is worth your consideration.
• Read more LED HDTV reviews by HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.
• Explore Blu-ray player options in our Blu-ray Player Review section.
• Find on-wall speakers to pair with with UN65C6500.