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Samsung UE46ES7000 46″ Smart 3D LED TV Expert Review

Samsung UE46ES7000

Rating: ★★★★☆

Samsung’s high-end TVs can generally be relied on to set some sort of bar for the AV world each year, either with their designs or their feature counts. Or, as happens with the Samsung UE46ES7000, both!

Design-wise, the 46-inch Samsung UE46ES7000 is a stunning television, courtesy of its ultra-slim bezel (which is barely 1cm across), its striking cross-style chrome stand, and the little bulges in the middle of its top and bottom edges containing a built-in camera and the Samsung logo, respectively.

As for its features, as well as being an active 3D TV – complete with two pairs of included 3D glasses – it has the latest and easily greatest variation of Samsung’s Smart TV online service, as well as new voice, gesture and touchpad remote control options that have the potential to revolutionise the way you communicate with your TV.

It also uses dual-core processing to deliver one of Samsung’s most sophisticated picture processing engines yet, and can even potentially be upgraded in the future with a more powerful processing system.

The 46-inch Samsung UE46ES7000 – priced at £1,699.99 (around $2,655) – sits between smaller brother the 40-inch, £1,299.99 (around $2,030) Samsung UE40ES7000 and bigger brother the 55-inch Samsung UE55ES7000, priced at £2,299.99 (around $3,595)

The Samsung ES7000 series of TVs sit just below the Samsung ES8000 models in the brand’s latest range, distinguished from their flagship siblings by their black and transparent bezel (versus the metallic silver of the ES8000s) and their use of Micro Dimming Pro versus the ES8000′s more sophisticated Micro Dimming Ultimate.

This latter difference is the most significant, since it is concerned with the amount of picture ‘zones’ the TV analyses on the fly when calculating its ideal picture settings.

Just below the Samsung ES7000 series, meanwhile, you’ll find the Samsung ES6800 models, which lose the gesture, voice and touchpad remote control options, and feature a further step down still in terms of picture processing. Plus they use a more standard design, with a more regulation-sized bezel.

We’ll cover the competition in more detail at the end of the review, but key rivals are Panasonic’s GT50 plasma models, Sony’s HX853 models, and LG’s LM660T LCD models.

Features

Samsung is no longer the only brand making TVs with extremely slim bezels, and the tiny black and transparent bezel around the Samsung UE46ES7000 isn’t as attractive as the minimalistic metallic look sported by the 2012 flagship ES8000 range. But none of these issues prevent the Samsung UE46ES7000 from still being a serious bit of eye candy.

Samsung has done a real kitchen sink job where features are concerned. For starters, the Samsung UE46ES7000 carries full active 3D support, complete with two pairs of active shutter glasses included for free and arguably the TV world’s most sophisticated 2D to 3D conversion software.

It’s also got Samsung’s latest and greatest Smart TV online platform, complete with its dazzling new Full HD interface and piles of new content.

Highlights of this content include a really strong selection of video services – now including BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm, Netflix, AceTrax, and Samsung’s own 3D channels – as well as Samsung’s innovative Fitness, Family and Kid zones.

The Fitness zone enables you to set up multiple user profiles and join in with a wide selection of calorie-rated fitness videos, while the Family zone enables you to set up a closed other TV/PC network of friends and family for sharing videos and messages.

Finally, the Kid zone provides a selection of child-friendly videos and a virtual sticker book for rewarding good behaviour.

To be honest we haven’t found ourselves using these new zones in their current form as extensively as we’d expected, but there’s certainly potential for them becoming much bigger parts of our life as they likely get added to and refined in the months ahead.

As with Samsung’s ES8000 models, the Samsung UE46ES7000 boasts all of the Korean brand’s new control innovations. The most controversial of these enables you to control the TV by moving your hands around.

This has potential to be a less cumbersome way of getting the cursor around web pages, and even means you can control the TV without needing a physical remote control at all. However, the system requires great care in its set up, requires too much precision when you’re trying to select something and makes you feel tired quite quickly.

Much more useful is the touchpad remote control you get alongside the standard remote. The touchpad responds cleanly and feels engagingly tactile, and its layout and feel are both strong. You can also talk into it rather than shouting across the room if you want to make use of the TV’s third control innovation: voice recognition.

You can use your voice with the Samsung UE46ES7000 in two main ways. First, after initiating the system by saying a trigger phrase (‘Hi TV’ by default), you can issue a surprisingly wide variety of verbal commands to the TV rather than reaching for the remote.

Second – and in our opinion much more usefully – you can speak phrases into internet search fields rather than having to type them in using the cumbersome on-screen keyboard. This works really well, with the TV’s phrase and word recognition system proving surprisingly accurate.

Turning to picture quality technology, the UE46ES7000 employs Samsung’s Micro Dimming Pro system, driven by dual-core processing.

This doesn’t use a local dimming system like many premium Edge LED TVs do, but rather it analyses the content of a large number of sections of the image in order to calculate as accurately as possible the best illumination levels.

The Samsung UE46ES7000 doesn’t boast endorsements by either THX or the ISF, unlike a growing number of its rivals.

But it nonetheless has a pretty full suite of picture adjustments, including colour and gamma management, extensive noise reduction controls, and so many different settings for its motion controls that it’s a bit bewildering.

The only major bones of contention we’d have with the Samsung UE46ES7000′s picture adjustments are that there are only 20 stages of backlight adjustment when we’d really like more, and that for reasons discussed in the Picture Quality section of this review, none of the TV’s provided picture presets are really suitable for serious movie viewing.

The Samsung UE46ES7000′s connections are good. Three USB ports provide plenty of flexibility for people wanting to play multimedia files from USB flash drives or record from the TV’s HD tuner to USB HDDs.

Plus, there’s built-in Wi-Fi and LAN connectivity for accessing the Smart TV services or streaming content from a DLNA PC.

The only disappointment is that you only get three HDMIs when we’d expect a TV at the Samsung UE46ES7000′s level to have four.

Picture quality

The first time you settle down to watch the Samsung UE46ES7000, you might very well think you’ve died and gone to TV heaven.

Because, as with so many high-end Samsung televisions before it, this 46-inch HD TV shows an uncanny knack for delivering truly crowd-pleasing images with the sort of bright, colourful fare that makes up the majority of broadcast TV fodder.

Colours, for instance, are exceptionally dynamic, blasting off the screen with an intensity rarely – if ever – seen elsewhere in the flatscreen TV world. This helps pictures look extremely punchy and eye-catching, even if you’re watching in a very bright room environment.

This will immediately make it seem like a very appealing option for a typical family room, where dimming the lights for serious TV viewing is seldom an option.

It’s important to stress too that despite their richness, colours look very natural indeed, thanks to a winning combination of a good balance that finds no tone dominating over others; tones that all seem calibrated to look their best with video rather than PC content; and some brilliant subtlety when it comes to portraying even the most marginal of colour tone shifts and blends. Gorgeous.

Also quite outstanding is the sharpness of the Samsung UE46ES7000′s HD pictures, as the screen’s generally very high brightness output levels combine with superb detail reproduction to ensure that your eyes are constantly being treated to the maximum impact possible from good quality HD sources.

Also playing a significant part in the Samsung UE46ES7000′s terrific HD sharpness is its great motion handling.

Even with none of the provided motion processing systems in play, objects pass across the screen fluidly and without significant signs of the sort of blurring and resolution loss associated with lower-rent LCD technology.

Samsung’s motion processing is, however, of a high enough quality to warrant at least a few trial runs to see if you like it. Though if you do try it out, we’d suggest that you only use its ‘Clear’ setting or, if you’re feeling adventurous, the Custom setting with its adjustable judder and blur elements set down to their two or three level.

We’ve talked a lot about HD so far, but this isn’t to say that the Samsung UE46ES7000 isn’t also very accomplished with standard definition.

In fact, it upscales standard definition to the screen’s Full HD resolution extremely well, adding detail without making pictures look noisy or brittle. So much so, in fact, that you will probably prefer to leave the set’s noise reduction processing off (as you definitely should while watching HD).

It’s also impressive to note while watching standard definition TV that colours don’t lose their richness or naturalism – something that happens to some extent quite commonly with LCD technology.

Under normal daylight viewing conditions with typical broadcast fare, the Samsung UE46ES7000 even provides some impressive black levels alongside the rich colours and crisp whites, without sacrificing the brightness of those colours and whites in the process.

Many of the picture talents just described make the Samsung UE46ES7000 a strong screen for HD console gaming. So it’s a relief to find that it doesn’t fall at the input lag hurdle, measuring on average only around 34ms – a low enough figure to leave your gaming skills more or less unaffected.

Donning a pair of Samsung’s remarkably lightweight 3D glasses finds the Samsung UE46ES7000 producing an outstanding effort. There’s only a tiny amount of crosstalk ghosting noise, which means you can fully appreciate the Full HD resolution and impeccable sense of depth in evidence with 3D Blu-rays.

The Samsung UE46ES7000′s 3D images are also notable for their brightness and rich colour saturations versus of those of most active 3D rivals.

The Samsung UE46ES7000′s pictures do have an Achilles’ Heel, though: backlight inconsistency. This is seldom evident during normal TV viewing conditions, but if you dim the lights low and find yourself watching a dark scene using any of the picture presets provided by Samsung – including the Movie one – you’ll become very aware of a number of areas in the picture that look unnaturally brighter than others. This is caused by the screen failing to evenly disperse the light coming in from its edges.

The good news is that you can pretty much eliminate these inconsistency problems by massively knocking back the TV’s backlight level. Personally we found that the best results were obtained by taking the backlight all the way down to its four (out of 20) point, though you might be able to get away with level six or seven if there’s still a bit of ambient light in your room.

There is, of course, a problem with knocking the backlight down so low to combat backlight inconsistencies. Namely that the image’s overall brightness takes a major hit in the process.

This becomes particularly obvious if you sit the Samsung UE46ES7000 alongside one of the outstanding new Sony HX853 LED TVs, which use a superb local dimming implementation to produce both deeper blacks and much more brightness while showing the same dark scenes that cause the Samsung UE46ES7000 some trouble.

A couple of other smaller issues with the Samsung UE46ES7000′s pictures are a slightly bluish tone to very dark parts of the picture unless you keep the backlight lower than its six setting, and a pretty limited horizontal viewing angle.

To wrap this section up, it’s worth quickly comparing the Samsung UE46ES7000′s pictures with those of the flagship Samsung ES8000 models. The short verdict is that they’re not quite as good, since the more sophisticated micro dimming engine in the flagship set delivers more shadow detail, a slightly better contrast balance and slightly more colour finesse.

This doesn’t alter the fact, though, that for most of the time, so long as you take the time to set up your own settings for watching films, the Samsung UE46ES7000′s pictures are very good indeed.

Usability

On paper, the Samsung UE46ES7000 should be one of the easiest TVs to use ever. After all, it’s not every day that you get a TV that offers a touchpad remote, gesture control and voice recognition to help you explore web pages and Samsung’s exceptionally sophisticated on-screen menus.

Not everything about the new control systems is firing on all cylinders, though. The gesture control system in particular needs refinement to make it less fiddly and tiring to use – though we do appreciate the way it means you don’t actually need a physical handset in order to use the TV.

We didn’t feel entirely comfortable barking out instructions at the TV vocally either, and the response to our voice commands was a touch sluggish at times.

However, we certainly did appreciate being able to enter text into search fields by speaking the words into the mic on the touchpad remote.

This remote is good too – definitely the best of the touchpad remotes offered by a few TV manufacturers this year. Its pad is responsive but not overly so, its button layout is good, and it feels really comfortable to hold.

The addition of the voice mic is a very welcome touch, too. The only problem with this remote is that you have to press the touchpad in to select an option – something that occasionally causes you to slide off the part of the screen you wanted to select.

There’s also a strong argument to be made that even the touchpad remote control doesn’t offer such intuitive controls as the Samsung control app you can get for Android and iOS devices.

We can’t help but think that one day these sorts of apps will be the most commonly used means of interfacing with Smart TVs – especially as more and more of these apps are starting to enable you to share video and multimedia between the TV and your portable device’s screen.

While the control innovations aren’t all unmitigated successes, though, there’s not much to moan about where Samsung’s main ‘Smart Hub’ on-screen menus are concerned. These look gorgeous, yet also provide one-press access to a huge array of different sources.

As well as making navigation easier, this focus on putting so many things on the screen at once equalises the weight apportioned to all the different source types, be they multimedia or broadcast, which seems to fit perfectly with the way more and more of us consume our AV content at home.

It’s a little disappointing, perhaps, that the main TV set up menus don’t follow the gorgeous looks of the Smart Hub, but they’re reasonably effectively organised.

The only issues we had with them were that there are two advanced picture menus when probably one would have done, and that the Game preset is buried within a General sub-menu of the main System menu, rather than just being included in the picture presets.

One final serious gripe, as noted earlier, is the lack of a really sensible picture preset for watching films.

All of Samsung’s presets are set way too bright to deliver a comfortable viewing experience free of backlight uniformity problems, requiring you to slash back the backlight to between 4 and 6 before you get a really satisfying movie image. Here’s hoping Samsung addresses this issue for next year.

Sound

Although Samsung has clearly put some work into improving the audio of its very thin TVs in recent times, the Samsung UE46ES7000 still sounds a bit average, to be honest. The main culprit is, predictably, a lack of bass, which leaves action scenes sounding a bit thin and one-dimensional.

Also problematic but entirely expected given the Samsung UE46ES7000′s slimness is a fairly limited mid-range, which doesn’t really have the power or dynamic space to expand to meet the challenge of a potent action sequence.

On the upside, trebles are generally rendered cleanly without sounding harsh, and the TV sounds absolutely fine with normal, undemanding broadcast fodder.

Value

With a full price of £1699.99 (around $2,655) and available for around £1,360 online at the time of writing, the Samsung UE46ES7000 is hardly the cheapest 46-inch TV in town.

However, it’s still decent value when you consider how much it has to offer: 3D with two pairs of glasses, an HD tuner, lots of set up flexibility, multiple ground-breaking control innovations and the most advanced and beautifully presented online service the TV world currently has to offer.

Plus pictures that look outstanding with bright footage and can be made to look decent too – with a bit of work – during dark scenes.

Final thoughts

The Samsung UE46ES7000 might be one step down from the top of Samsung’s 2012 TV range, but it’s got more going on than the majority of flagship sets.

For starters, it looks lovely with its impeccably slender bezel and profile. It’s also got all the hottest features in town, including 3D support, expansive multimedia playback from either USB flash drives or networked PCs plus, of course, full access to Samsung’s beautifully presented and content-rich Smart TV online service.

The Samsung UE46ES7000 is also frequently a spectacular picture performer, serving up glorious amounts of brightness, colour richness and HD detailing, and looking much more vibrant and clear with 3D than most active 3D sets.

Pictures can be problematic during dark scenes with your lights dimmed – though so long as you’re prepared to sacrifice a lot of the screen’s brightness, you can still end up with something very enjoyable.

We liked

The Samsung UE46ES7000′s ultra-slim design looks attractive and futuristic, as do its winningly content-rich Smart TV service and its main interface. The introduction of voice recognition and gesture control opens up some intriguing control possibilities too, and pictures generally look excellent after a little calibration work.

We disliked

None of the picture presets do a good job of supporting dark-room viewing, with their excessive brightness highlighting the screen’s backlight consistency issues. The set’s sound isn’t powerful enough to do much justice to powerful action mixes, and some aspects of the new control systems need refinement.

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Pros

  • Gorgeous design
  • Terrific pictures mostly
  • Excellent online service
  • Control innovations

Cons

  • Backlight inconsistencies
  • Unhelpful presets
  • Gesture control needs work
  • A bit expensive

Verdict

Although Samsung’s UE46ES7000 has undoubtedly been hurt in picture quality terms by the outstanding performance of Sony’s new HX853 series, it’s still got enough advantages of its own in terms of its design, features and pictures with bright material to make it a hugely attractive proposition.

Serious film fans might not like the amount of brightness they have to take out of the Samsung UE46ES7000′s pictures in order to get an evenly lit picture during very dark scenes. But for more mainstream users, the Samsung UE46ES7000 really is an excellent all-rounder.

Also consider…

Sony’s HX853 TVs have moved the LCD TV picture performance goal posts this year. There’s no doubt that the 46HX853 outperforms the Samsung television with dark scenes, delivering both richer black colours and more brightness for the light parts of predominantly dark pictures.

The Samsung UE46ES7000 is more prettily designed than the Sony, though, and has more advanced features and operating systems.

Another option to consider if you’re a serious film fan who likes to dim the lights for your movie viewing sessions would be Panasonic’s GT50 plasma series, which aren’t the brightest TVs around but deliver peerless black levels and bags of detail.

Finally, if you prefer the passive 3D approach, you could consider LG’s 47LM660T set. This also has an excellent online service, though like the Samsung, you have to work hard to get rid of the LG’s backlight consistency problems.

Samsung UE46ES7000 46

 


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