Like Chelsea, the football team it sponsors, Samsung's rise to the top of the TV premiership is partially due to the depth of its squad. A quick browse of Samsung's website reveals an incredibly wide and varied line-up of 'F' series TVs, covering all needs and budgets. That, combined with the company's knack for innovation and style, makes Samsung the team to beat in 2013.
So, having been blown away by Samsung's flagship set, the UE55F8000, it's time to find out how things are shaping up further down the range. This 40in model comes from Series 6 range – two rungs down from the top-end Series, natch – but still comes equipped with a phenomenal range of features for the money.
That includes active 3D, built-in Wi-Fi, catch-up TV and DLNA file streaming, not to mention Samsung's new multi-screen Smart Hub – all for around £800.
Design and connections
Understandably it lacks the pizzazz of the 7 and 8 series, but the Samsung UE40F6400 is still a gorgeous-looking set. Much of its appeal lies in the shiny Quad swivel stand and its four silver prongs.
But the screen itself features an eye-catching (but relatively thick) gloss-black bezel, encased in a transparent plastic trim. It's significantly less luxurious than the F8000, with a plasticky texture and a hollow-sounding back end, but on the whole it's well-made.
The socket count is also generous. There are four HDMI inputs, alongside component, composite, SCART and RF inputs. An Ethernet port lets those without Wi-Fi get online, while a CI slot provides a pathway to pay TV channels.
Rounding up the selection is an optical digital output, IR out and three USB ports, which support media playback from flash drives and Freeview recording onto external HDDs. The USB ports, three of the HDMIs and the RF all face sideways.
The stand-out feature is Smart Hub, which offers a wide variety of Internet content. But uniquely, Samsung's portal offers a full house of UK TV catch-up services – BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5. That's a massive draw for any buyer and puts most rival TVs to shame.
But that's not all. The line-up also includes Netflix, LoveFilm, Blinkbox and Knowhow Movies on-demand film sites, YouTube, BBC Sport, BBC News, Skype (which requires an optional camera), Spotify, Facebook and Twitter – not to mention a range of games, puzzles and lifestyle apps for the whole family. It really is an unparalleled selection.
The built-in Wi-Fi connection also makes it possible to stream music, video and photos to the TV from DLNA servers on your home network. This will work with Windows 7 or 8 laptops running Windows Media Player, but works better with Samsung's Allshare software. You can stream pretty much any file type, including MKV, DivX, WMV, AVI, MP3, AAC, WMA and JPEG, plus the same formats are supported from USB devices.
Smart interaction is another major factor of the UE40F6400's feature list. These include voice control, which we'll discuss later and S Recommendation, which learns your viewing habits and preferences over time and suggests relevant TV channels and web content within the Smart Hub interface.
Elsewhere the set supports the active 3D system, with two pairs of lightweight glasses in the box (extra pairs cost £xx each) plus there's a Freeview HD tuner but not the Freesat HD tuner found on the Series 8 sets.
In terms of picture processing it's driven by Samsung's 3D HyperReal Engine with 200 Clear Motion Rate, which is designed to combat blur – a traditional problem among LCD screens.
Finally, this set doesn't support Samsung's Smart Evolution kit, which means you won't be able to upgrade it to include next year's new features.
All this functionality might sound complicated, but day-to-day operation of the UE40F6400 is never a chore. From the word go it runs through all the key settings, including wireless network setup and Freeview tuning.
There's a dual-core processor on board, which means navigation isn't as quick as the UE55F8000's quad-core engine, but still negotiates the demanding Smart Hub menus with reasonable alacrity.
This ergonomic handset makes it quicker to enter text and move between menus. Swiping your finger on the pad lets you move between individual options, but swiping the lines at the edges scrolls through whole pages and lists. Simply tap the pad to select an option.
Meanwhile a selection of buttons dotted around the pad cover all the main functions. Among them is a 'Voice' button – press it and you can speak commands into the remote's built-in mic, which are then carried out by the TV, in theory anyway.
However, it's frustrating to use. Even though I enunciated every word slowly and clearly (which is weird in itself) it rarely recognised what I said. Smart Hub came up as 'club' at one point, while 'Apps and Services' came up as 'Patterson'. I had a lot more joy with the UE55F8000.
But when it does recognise a channel name or keyword, the results are displayed along the bottom of the screen. It's nice in principle but a faff in practice – you spend so long getting it to work that you might as well just use the remote.
On a more positive note, the new Smart Hub interface is excellent. It's split into five separate screens – Social, Apps, On TV, Movies & TV Shows and Photos, Videos and Music – which 'spin' round as you swipe left and right. Each one is slick, sophisticated and easy on the eye, using large thumbnails and bright colours.
Social lets you watch popular YouTube videos, check what your friends are watching or access Skype.
Apps contains all your downloaded internet content, arranged in a simple grid with a row of recommended apps along the top. It's much less cluttered than Samsung's previous app menus.
On TV features a live TV screen, surrounded by thumbnails of shows on other channels and a row of forthcoming programmes below. From here, you can visit the full EPG or view an hour-by-hour timeline. The use of stills for each programme and channel logos makes this a joy to use.
Movies & TV Shows is where you'll find a selection of on-demand content, displayed with cover art. It's worth bearing in mind that you have to sign up to a Samsung account to access them, and pay subscriptions to individual streaming services where applicable.
Photos, Videos and Music lets you access media from USB drives and DLNA servers. The menus are easy to follow, although actually finding your desired file is a long-winded process due to the lengthy submenu structure.
The EPG is terrific. I love the way live TV and a programme synopsis are displayed at the top of the screen as standard, above the seven-channel programme grid. Cursor movement is speedy too.
The full EPG is complemented by a useful onscreen info banner that lets you surf the entire schedule a week in advance. This is just one of many helpful menus that pop up – for instance, a virtual remote helps out when using the touch pad controller.
The full setup menu is simple but thorough, allowing you to calibrate the picture to the nth degree and adjust the plethora of processing modes.
The UE40F6400 is an assured picture performer. Naturally it doesn't hit the stunning heights of the UE55F8000 but it does provide satisfyingly sharp, bright and natural images for the money.
It laps up HD material from Blu-ray and Freeview, making them look sublimely crisp and punchy. The finest, subtlest textures are rendered with absolute lucidity and edges are emphatic.
Despite its edge LED backlighting, which makes it harder for the set to illuminate the entire screen, the UE40F6400's backlight seems consistent, with little evidence of clouding or pools of light.
Black levels also look deep and solid, while clear shadow detail during dark scenes makes it easy to keep up with the action.
Also impressive is the set's high brightness, which maintains excellent contrast and punch when there's lots of ambient light in the room. That's a godsend for casual TV viewing where you don't want to dim the lights and shut the curtains.
The set also achieves excellent colour accuracy and strong saturation. Kids' programmes look absorbingly vibrant and bold, yet skin tones look natural within the same shot.
Fast-moving sports broadcasts are expertly smoothed out by the set's motion processing. In Clear or Standard modes artefacts are kept to a minimum.
3D pictures look mesmerising, benefitting from the set's stunning brightness, superb colours and crystal clear detail. There's a little crosstalk lurking in the image, most notably on hard dark lines against light backgrounds, but on the whole these are impressive 3D pictures.
The only real weakness is the set's handling of SD pictures, which exhibit more upscaling artefacts than expected. SD Freeview also looks scruffy, but not unwatchably so.
The UE40F6400's 2 x 10W down-firing speaker system is more than adequate for the rigours of daily TV viewing. Voices sound clear, theme tunes are loud and bassy, plus crisp high frequencies make the sound seem suitably open.
The UE40F6400 is a brilliant LED TV, offering assured pictures and plentiful features at a reasonable price. Build, picture quality and operating speed aren't a patch on the F8000, but the gap in quality is much less telling than the gap in price.
The new Smart Hub interface is a triumph, its web content is unrivalled and HD pictures are pretty much as good as you could hope for at this price – deep blacks, a consistent backlight and gorgeous colours.
The hit-and-miss voice control and below-par SD pictures are the only bum notes but neither are deal-breakers, which means the UE40F6400 earns an unequivocal thumbs up.
Manufacturer and model
Screen size (inches)
1,920 x 1,080
3D HyperReal Engine
3D glasses supplied
200 Clear Motion Rate
20W (2 x 10W)
Energy efficiency class
Dimensions (with stand, W x H x D)
928.2 x 617.3 x 264.8mm
Dimensions (without stand, W x H x D)
928.2 x 543.8 x 49.6mm
Digital audio output
SD card slot