Small-screen Samsung is a stel­lar per­former

Deep, in­sight­ful blacks; nu­anced colours; great value Bet­ter HDR is avail­able for more money

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Tests -

Isn’t it bizarre that 40in now seems like a fairly small screen for a TV? Not long ago this was the size you went for when you wanted to turn your lounge into a home cinema, and the size that man­u­fac­tur­ers launched their flag­ship mod­els in.

But that’s no longer the case. We’ve grown ac­cus­tomed to the larger mod­els and now if you want the best a man­u­fac­turer has to of­fer in terms of specs and fea­tures, you need to go for at least a 49in model, if not a 55incher.

Eco-hin­der­ing

Take Samsung for ex­am­ple: its Oledri­valling QLED range only goes as small as 49in. Even the more ad­vanced mod­els in the less pre­mium MU range are re­served for larger screen sizes. If you want a 40in model, the most ad­vanced op­tions are in the 6000-se­ries, as this, the UE40MU6400 is.

On the one hand that’s a shame, be­cause you have to make do with­out pre­mium fea­tures such as a 10-bit panel, but on the other hand the price is very af­ford­able. And, given that price, the per­for­mance is pretty darn im­pres­sive.

One added ben­e­fit of the UE40MU6400 hav­ing a fairly stream­lined fea­ture set is that the cal­i­bra­tion op­tions are equally stream­lined. Com­bined with some gen­er­ally sen­si­ble out-of-the-box set­tings, this makes it sim­ple to get the TV per­form­ing at its best.

As usual, we’d rec­om­mend that you turn off the pic­ture-hin­der­ing op­tions in the ‘Eco So­lu­tion’ mode, then tweak the Stan­dard mode slightly by tak­ing a few points off Con­trast, adding a few to Bright­ness, and switch­ing the Auto Mo­tion Plus fea­ture off. If you gen­er­ally like a lit­tle bit of mo­tion pro­cess­ing, it’s prob­a­bly worth ex­per­i­ment­ing with the Cus­tom mode, tweak­ing Jud­der Re­duc­tion to your lik­ing, but for us the TV’S mo­tion is best with­out the pro­cess­ing.

That’s pretty much all there is to it, al­though do bear in mind that you’ll have to tweak the set­tings a sec­ond time when you feed the TV an HDR sig­nal, as do­ing so pro­duces its own set of de­faults. In this case it’s ac­tu­ally worth also adding a few points to Back­light, but other­wise the cal­i­bra­tion ad­vice re­mains the same.

De­liv­er­ing more daz­zle

Hav­ing made those few, sim­ple tweaks, you’re now ready to get watch­ing, and in all like­li­hood you’re go­ing to make a bee­line for some 4K HDR con­tent, ei­ther via the built-in Net­flix or Ama­zon apps or a 4K disc-player.

While it’s fair to say that the im­pact of 4K is more keenly felt at larger screen sizes, there’s no deny­ing the im­prove­ments to sharp­ness and de­tail seen even on a 40in dis­play. We play Dead­pool on a 4K disc, and the MU6400 pro­duces a su­perbly crisp and well-de­fined pic­ture, with all of the def­i­ni­tion nec­es­sary to give tex­ture to fabrics and re­veal freck­les and pores on any char­ac­ters who aren't wear­ing masks.

The TV lacks the 10-bit panel and peak bright­ness nec­es­sary to achieve Ul­tra HD Pre­mium cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and it’s fair to say that it strug­gles to muster the punch nec­es­sary to make the most of HDR con­tent, but given the price of the set and the fact that HDR is still a way off ubiq­uity, we’re pre­pared to ac­cept that – es­pe­cially be­cause gen­eral con­trast and colours are very im­pres­sive.

The depth of the blacks means that the whites, while lim­ited com­pared with more pre­mium TVS, look fairly pure and bright, and there are few TVS at any price that can lay claim to a more nat­u­ral colour pal­ette. Skin tones are nat­u­ral and nu­anced, the com­pet­ing colours of a checked shirt are re­al­is­ti­cally bal­anced, and neon signs are recre­ated with the req­ui­site elec­tric glow. Again, a more pre­mium set will de­liver more daz­zle, but this is other­wise pretty much a flaw­less per­for­mance.

The blame game

Switch to 1080p and the TV’S gen­eral char­ac­ter is un­changed, with nat­u­ral colours and deep blacks again mak­ing for a solid and re­al­is­tic im­age. The up­scaler is very im­pres­sive, too, dig­ging up a sig­nif­i­cant amount of de­tail and sharp­en­ing edges to a de­gree that makes the im­age look not a mil­lion miles from na­tive 4K.

The same can’t be said of any stan­dard­def­i­ni­tion con­tent you might oc­ca­sion­ally find your­self watch­ing via a beloved DVD or retro TV chan­nel. Clearly, the Samsung is no mir­a­cle-worker but, given the amount of pro­cess­ing go­ing on, the im­age is sur­pris­ingly sta­ble, nat­u­ral and watch­able.

Ev­ery source is de­liv­ered with an im­pres­sive amount of in­sight into those deep blacks, and with mo­tion that, while not en­tirely blur-free, is nat­u­ral and with­out jud­der.

Fi­nally, if you’re a gamer you’ll be de­lighted to dis­cover that the UE40MU6400 has so lit­tle in­put lag in Game Mode (we mea­sured 21.3ms) as to be en­tirely im­per­cep­ti­ble. If you’re play­ing on this TV and still los­ing, it’s def­i­nitely not the telly’s fault.

Sound so­lu­tions

The MU6400 has three au­dio modes to choose be­tween, but Stan­dard and Op­ti­mised are the only two re­ally worth your time. Stan­dard is, pre­dictably, the one that’s best suited to gen­eral view­ing, be­ing the most bal­anced and neu­tral, while Op­ti­mised boosts bass and tre­ble and widens the sound­stage, which can be worth­while with a big ac­tion film or game.

No pro­cess­ing can com­pletely over­come the lim­i­ta­tions of phys­i­cal speak­ers, though, and those of the MU6400 are a bit light­weight and sibi­lant, mak­ing most au­dio sound a bit hard and un­sub­tle.

Hon­estly, there isn’t a TV out there that sounds great, so it’s lit­tle sur­prise that this £500 model is only pass­able. As al­ways, we’d rec­om­mend adding a sep­a­rate sound­bar so­lu­tion. The Q Acous­tics Me­dia 4 (£280) would be a good op­tion.

Stel­lar per­for­mance

While the UE40MU6400 lacks some of the pic­ture fea­tures of its more pre­mium sib­lings in Samsung’s 2017 range, it does get ex­actly the same bright and in­tu­itive op­er­at­ing sys­tem and the same im­pres­sively com­plete suite of apps.

You get Net­flix and Ama­zon Prime Video, Google Play Movies and TV, Now TV, Spo­tify, and all of the catch-up apps. Only Samsung’s newly re­leased TV Plus app dis­ap­points, prov­ing to be lit­tle more than a pe­cu­liarly lim­ited re­skin­ning of the Rakuten app that’s also on­board.

There are two re­motes in the box – a stan­dard, plas­tic clicker-type, and a more min­i­mal­ist, stripped-back wand. Nei­ther has short­cut but­tons for Net­flix or Ama­zon, which is a shame. Samsung may point to the fact that you can ac­cess both us­ing voice com­mands spo­ken into a mi­cro­phone on the top of the wand, but we sus­pect few peo­ple are ac­tu­ally go­ing to do that.

Still, the speed and flu­id­ity of the in­ter­face makes switch­ing be­tween apps and sources snappy, es­pe­cially if you ini­tially take the time nec­es­sary to re-or­der them based on what you use most.

TV man­u­fac­tur­ers might be do­ing their best to con­vince ev­ery­one they need a gi­gan­tic, Imax-ri­valling screen for their front room, but the truth is that for many peo­ple 40in is big enough. The good news for those peo­ple, as ev­i­denced by the UE40MU6400, is that you can still get a great pic­ture at that sort of size – and at a very af­ford­able price.

It doesn’t de­liver HDR at its very best, but in prac­ti­cally ev­ery other way the MU6400 is ab­so­lutely stel­lar, and for £500 that’s more than a fair deal.

“The MU6400 is good news for peo­ple who don’t need a large screen TV. You can still get a great pic­ture at this size – and at an af­ford­able price too”

All the usual con­nec­tions are lo­cated at the back, in­clud­ing USB and HDMI

The MU6400 has two re­motes – a stan­dard clicker and a min­i­mal­ist wand

The Samsung doesn’t make the most of HDR, but it’s an im­pres­sive pic­ture any­way

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