There are other problems with the Samsung UE46ES5500 that we had less success getting round, though. First and worst, motion looks a little blurry and low on resolution, despite the 100Hz system. This is - as usual with LCD TVs - at its worst whenever you fire the TV up from cold, but even when the screen was warmed up, no amount of playing with any of the provided processing tools got motion looking quite as crisp as we’d like.
This resolution loss with moving objects is the most likely reason why HD sharpness levels are only fair to middling rather than as outstanding as they tend to be with higher-specced Samsung TVs.
Another issue is a lack of subtlety in the Samsung UE46ES5500’s portrayal of skin tones. This leaves faces looking a bit too smooth, so that people can appear slightly robot-like during closeups. We also noticed during dark scenes that skin tones didn’t seem entirely natural. For instance, during dark scenes in the admittedly tricky Prometheus Blu-ray, skin tones tend to look a little orangey or over-pink, despite our best efforts with the provided colour adjustments.
Or actually, the issue might be that dark areas of the picture tend to look slightly cool, even if you use the provided Warm colour presets, so that skin tones seem to exist in a separate colour space.
The final area where the Samsung UE46ES5500 didn’t totally impress was with standard definition sources. It holds up well enough with high quality DVDs and broadcasts, but with rougher broadcasts of the sort all too common with Freeview, pictures tend to look rather soft and noisy, as well as exhibiting a ‘compressed’ colour range.
At this point it occurs to us that we’re sounding pretty down on the Samsung UE46ES5500. Which is actually not fair. So let’s move on to an important redeeming plus point: contrast. We felt consistently impressed by both the depth of black level the Samsung UE46ES5500 can achieve and the uniformity of its lighting. In this latter respect, in particular, this relatively budget model is arguably more successful than Samsung’s (otherwise impressive) flagship TVs.
We noted earlier that there’s a slightly cool, blue undertone to the Samsung UE46ES5500’s presentation of black colours, and the set also has a habit of distractingly turning off the screen’s lighting during fades to black if you’re using the dynamic contrast system. But still, overall the Samsung UE46ES5500’s contrast performance is impressive - a fact which helps it deliver much more all-important shadow detail than we’d generally expect to see on such a cheap TV.
There’s one more bit of positive picture-related news to report as well. For our measurements recorded an image input lag figure of under 35ms when using the Samsung UE46ES5500’s Game picture preset with all noise reduction elements deactivated. This is a strong result that means gamers can’t blame the TV if they’re performing badly.
The Samsung UE46ES5500‘s sound is better than expected too. It’s capable of quite high volume levels without becoming excessively distorted or uncontrolled. There’s also a solid amount of bass; trebles are a little harsh but not excessively so; and voices remain clear even during action scenes. The mid-range sounds a bit overloaded in loud sequences, causing detail and clarity to take a hit, and bass sometimes appears slightly forced. But it's a fair effort overall.
When push comes to shove there are just enough issues with the Samsung UE46ES5500’s pictures to stop us giving it a Trusted Recommends badge. But it’s still a cracking option for anyone with a maximum budget of £700 who didn’t expect they’d be able to combine very respectable 46-inch pictures with an advanced Smart TV service for so little money.