OK, we admit it: we’re getting really quite confused by Samsung’s 2012 TV range. The array of often only slightly varied model numbers is enough to make your head spin. In fact, it seems as if Samsung itself might be getting in a muddle, for at the time of writing the TV we’re looking at today - the Samsung 46ES6540 - doesn’t even appear on Samsung’s own website, despite being out in stores for a while now.
After a little delving around, though, together with a quick Q&A with Samsung’s technical people, the basic deal appears to be this. The Samsung UE46ES6540 is distributed "through selected channels" (chiefly John Lewis, so far as we can tell) and designed to offer a slightly cheaper alternative to the already-reviewed UE46ES6800. It achieves its cost savings by taking out the more expensive model’s dual-core processing, and using a less extravagant design and build quality.
The Samsung UE46ES6540’s step down to a more plasticky finish for both the bezel and its cross-shaped stand certainly does create a cheaper impression than that of Samsung’s higher TVs, even if viewed from a distance. And the fact that its bezel is nearly an inch wide makes it look instantly less futuristic. But this does not mean that the TV is actually unattractive - not by a long chalk. In fact, the combination of a see-through outer trim and the jet black of the inner bezel is quite elegant, as is the way the bezel gets slightly wider as it moves from front to back.
Well-suited to wall-hanging
The set is very slim round the back too, as well as being very light, making it a great option for wall hanging. With this in mind it’s good to find that its key connections are positioned for side access.
The connections are, impressively, up there with Samsung’s higher-end sets - including the flagship ES8000s. Highlights of the configuration are three USBs, built-in Wi-Fi (with DLNA and online support), a D-Sub PC port, and impressively both Freesat and Freeview HD tuner inputs. Freesat isn’t perhaps as compelling an option as it used to be now that Freeview HD is more widely available, but it’s still a choice we appreciate a TV giving us.
HDMI con and pro
The only surprising limitation of the Samsung UE46ES6540’s connections is that (as with all top-end Samsung’s TVs this year) you only get three HDMIs when most relatively high-spec TVs these days deliver four. At least these three HDMIs are built to the v1.4 standard, though, in keeping with the fact that this TV supports active 3D playback.
Samsung has even managed to include two pairs of free active shutter 3D glasses with the UE46ES6540 despite the TV’s relative affordability. Rival, stingier brands take note.
Turning to the TV’s screen and picture spec, it’s a full HD affair (inevitably), and it’s driven by the same 400CMR (400Hz-like) processing system sported by the ES6800 models. This should deliver reasonably crisp motion, though the motion processing is only around half as powerful as that of the Samsung’s flagship models.
The Samsung UE46ES6540 also enjoys Samsung’s Micro Dimming system, where incoming images are broken down into segments which are assessed on the fly to try and calculate the continual optimum light output of the LED lights arrayed around the TV’s edges. Please note that as with all of Samsung’s new TVs for 2012, the UE46ES6540 doesn’t use any localised LED dimming of the sort used to great effect on Sony’s HX853 series.