Despite being three or four steps below the top of Samsung’s latest TV ‘ladder’, the Samsung UE46ES6540’s headline 3D capabilities are joined by a full iteration of Samsung’s Smart TV system. Just press the colourful Smart Hub button on the remote, and you’re introduced to a spectacularly attractive HD interface from which you can readily access anything from Samsung’s extensive collection of online video streaming, gaming and information apps to all the TV’s other sources, both multimedia and AV.
As we’ve noted in other reviews, equalising the importance of multimedia and AV sources in this way is a great reflection of the way more and more of us consume our AV content, and also ensures that nobody can miss all the source flexibility on offer.
Regarding the key video streaming aspects of Samsung’s Smart TV platform, there’s a very welcome new addition to report: the ITV Player. This joins the BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm, Netflix, BBC Sport, Samsung’s 3D channel and Picture Box in what’s now a very expansive video streaming service. Other app highlights include Skype, Facebook and Twitter. There’s a huge range of other apps too, though most of these are of much less quality and interest than those we’ve already mentioned.
Picture set up
When it comes to setting the Samsung UE46ES6540 up, it has a pretty extensive suite of picture tools. They’re not especially helpfully organised, but there’s enough colour, gamma and white balance flexibility to keep all but the most extreme picture tweakers happy.
The only problem with the UE46ES6540’s settings is the range of presets. For while the Standard setting works OK for normal TV viewing, the Movie one you’d expect to deliver the best results for serious film watching is way off, thanks to setting its backlight and contrast to their maximum values.
This leads the TV to push colours and contrast too aggressively, as well as grossly exaggerating shortcomings of the edge LED lighting system. In other words, with the backlight on maximum and contrast set so high, you can see during dark shots clear evidence of backlight clouding, where some areas of the image look artificially lighter than others. This can be very distracting, and appears to be the single greatest cause of disgruntlement among AV enthusiasts with Samsung’s TVs.
Another issue with the Movie preset in its out of the box state is that blacks tend to look a bit bluish, which can make other colours in dark areas look slightly odd too.
A simple fix
Thankfully there is a relatively simple solution to these dark scene concerns, which is to reduce the backlight all the way down to its four or five (out of 20) setting, and reduce the contrast to somewhere between 80 and 85 (out of 100). At this point the clouding becomes much tougher to spot, blacks look blacker, and colours take on a much more consistently believable tone.
There is a downside to all this, though. By reducing the backlight so much, the image’s brightness takes a severe hit. This isn’t as problematic as it sounds if you’re watching in a fairly dark environment – precisely the sort of curtains-drawn, lights dimmed scenario, in fact, that you’ll likely have chosen if you’re watching the sort of contrast-rich movie that causes the TV the most trouble.
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Light not so fantastic
But obviously reducing the luminance so much can leave images looking muted in light conditions. Plus there’s no avoiding comparisons with the similarly priced Sony 46HX853, which delivers deeper blacks without compromising brightness so much thanks to its excellent local dimming system.
So far we’ve sounded pretty down on the Samsung UE46ES6540, But in reality we’ve mostly just been discussing a weakness with the TV’s presets when watching dark films. For the vast majority of the time its pictures are actually extremely good for a mid-range TV.