The Samsung UE46ES6540 is much more comfortable with normal, bright, colourful day-to-day TV footage, than moody movie scenes, serving up a generally excellent image in typical living room light conditions. The UE46ES6540‘s Standard mode seems rather neatly designed to suit typical family TV conditions, meaning that if you buy this TV we’d strongly recommend that you regularly switch between the Standard preset and a recalibrated Movie preset depending on what you’re watching and the circumstances you’re watching it in.
The set’s colour performance with bright pictures is very strong, as natural tones join forces with plenty of punch and an impressively expansive colour range for a non-flagship TV.
Motion is quite well handled too, only losing marginal resolution and not suffering badly with judder. We’d recommend using the motion processing on its Clear mode rather than anything stronger, or even turning it off altogether, as blurring still isn’t a big problem even without the processing in play.
Standard definition looks surprisingly good on the Samsung UE46ES6540 meanwhile, with both sharpness and colour reproduction holding up well without the picture exhibiting heavy amounts of source noise. Samsung’s upscaling of standard definition has long been a real strength for the brand, and the UE46ES6540 continues the trend.
The UE46ES6540 is also a very impressive 3D performer. For starters, 3D images retain more brightness, colour richness and dynamism once you’ve donned a pair of Samsung’s surprisingly lightweight 3D glasses than you get with any other active 3D TV we can think of.
Motion is handled well, too, in 3D mode, plus depth levels are well judged and natural and best of all, the amount of detail in 3D Blu-rays is outstanding, providing a salutary reminder of why (aside from refusing to follow LG) Samsung is sticking exclusively with active 3D technology rather than offering anything passive.
Regarding the thorny issue of 3D crosstalk, it must be said that the Samsung UE46ES6540 isn’t wholly immune to it. You can see three lanterns where there should only be one during the famously tricky lantern festival sequence in Tangled, and there’s some very slight shading around the edges of dark objects when they appear against bright backgrounds too.
However, the extent and aggressiveness of the crosstalk is actually very limited compared with many active 3D TVs, and seldom prevents you from being immersed in what’s a truly superior 3D effort.
Tracking down the Samsung UE46ES6540’s Game preset (bizarrely tucked away in a System sub-menu) and turning off the set’s noise reduction systems (which the Game mode doesn’t do automatically), we took a few input lag measurements to test the screen’s gaming prowess. And rather surprisingly we consistently came up with around 67ms, which is round twice as high as the figures usually recorded from Samsung TVs. This is potentially high enough to slightly damage your gaming experience.
Wrapping up the UE46ES6540’s test phase with its audio - it’s not bad, actually. As usual with very slim TVs there’s a noticeable shortage of bass, and the soundstage doesn’t have much ‘expansion space’ when you want it to open up to handle a raucous action movie sequence. But the mid-range is clean and detailed, you can hit pretty high volumes without distortion kicking in, and both male and female vocals are believable and clear.
The Samsung UE46ES6540 is yet another hugely appealing mid-range TV from Samsung, combining a terrific feature count with many excellent picture performance attributes.
For all that, though, two things stop it from earning a Recommended badge. First, at the time of writing the UE46ES6540 actually costs more - as much as £300 more - than it’s more highly specified, better-built sibling, the UE46ES6800. This clearly doesn’t make much sense.
This quirk is, presumably, down to the Samsung UE46ES6540 only getting a limited release rather than being made available to any website that wants to sell it. But knowing the reason behind it doesn’t make the price issue any easier to swallow.
The other issue, as we’ve found ourselves saying many times this TV season, is that the UE46ES6540 suffers at the hands of Sony’s similarly priced 46HX853. This Sony set might lack some of the online sophistication and operating system cleverness of the Samsung, but its ground-breakingly good contrast performance could well turn many buyers’ heads - especially if they like their movies.