Let’s turn next to the 46S8030-T’s promised Smart TV features – slightly disturbingly dubbed ‘Feeling Home’ on the online system’s home screen. It’s clear very quickly that content levels don’t rival the online services of the latest Smart TVs from the likes of Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Sony. That said, there is a bit more going on than we might have expected. There are 27 services available in total, which include BBC iPlayer, YouTube, ITN, Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, European Football, iConcerts, Viewster, eBay, and tunin.fm.
No subscription video services
It’s a shame, of course, that there’s no Lovefilm, Netflix, Acetrax or Blinkbox streaming support, but arguably any sort of video streaming content is a bonus at the 46S8030-T’s price level.
We started our picture quality tests with standard definition feeds from the built-in tuner, and were presented with a classic mixed bag of results. On the upside, first impressions suggest that the set has somewhat better black level response than might have been expected for its money, and pictures are both bright and richly coloured. Also surprisingly decent for a budget TV is the 46S8030-T’s motion handling, which suffers much less with blurring and smearing than might have been expected.
Kicking off the downsides, pictures look rather noisy as the TV’s upscaling processing exaggerates source noise – especially MPEG blocking and shimmer – rather than attempting to reduce it in any significant way. Also, colours tend to look rather primitive, in that a lack of subtlety when it comes to reproducing blends and a seemingly rather limited palette can leave some colour areas looking a bit blocky, stripey or patchy.
With HD, pictures actually look more than respectable for the 46S8030-T’s price point. So long as you’re careful with its settings, at any rate. In particular we strongly advise you not to use the set’s Dynamic picture preset, as this can cause some pretty depressing amounts of backlight inconsistency/clouding during very dark scenes. The Cinema setting undoubtedly serves as your best starting point for movie viewing, though you can try the Natural preset for normal TV fare.
Also best switched off is the set’s Auto Backlight setting, since this can lead to some distractingly slow and over-aggressive shifts in the picture’s overall brightness as the source image shifts from light to dark content and vice versa. Instead we’d recommend the Medium backlight level for TV viewing, and Low for movies.
We’d also recommend turning the set’s colour down a touch from its factory settings, to stop skin tones looking a bit ‘peaky’, and that with HD you leave noise reduction switched off to prevent the picture looking soft.