Underlining still further the increasingly obvious fact that the ES7000 sits much closer to the ES8000 range than it does the ES6800 range is the fact that both the ES7000 and ES8000 models enjoy Samsung’s ‘800CMR’ system, which combines a native 200Hz panel with a scanning backlight and frame interpolation technology to deliver an ‘800Hz-like’ effect.
Both TVs deliver full HD active 3D too, both models support Skype via the integrated camera, both models enjoy the same extensive suite of online features (more on these presently) and both models also support the intriguing new feature whereby you can upgrade the TVs’ chipsets as new features come online over the coming years.
Even the UE46ES7000‘s Smart TV online system is identical to that of the ES8000s, meaning you get the same strong compilation of video sources (including AceTrax, Netflix, Samsung’s 3D channel and, soon, the BBC iPlayer and LoveFilm), the same super-pretty and thoughtful ‘smart hub’ onscreen interface, and the same new trio of content sections focussed at family/friend networking, fitness and entertaining your kids.
It has to be said that there’s also quite a lot of distinctly ‘b-list’ content on the long list of available apps. But the onscreen menus mostly do a sensible job of highlighting the most important, most-used stuff, so you don’t usually feel overwhelmed by the second-rate options.
The UE46ES7000 is predictably well-equipped for handling your own in-house multimedia sources too. Alongside a trio of HDMIs you’ll find USBs for playing back a strong mix of video, photo and multimedia files, and the set sports both a LAN and built-in Wi-Fi for accessing files stored on a networked DLNA PC.
Comparing the UE46ES7000’s pictures with those of the ES8000 series, it holds up well overall without hitting quite the same heights.
Getting the bad news out of the way first, there are two main places where we felt the UE46ES7000 felt slightly short of its flagship brethren. First, pictures don’t look quite as dynamic and extreme in contrast, on account, most likely, of the set’s slightly less potent micro dimming system. Second, it also felt to us as if the UE46ES7000’s upscaling of standard definition sources wasn’t quite as immaculate as the excellent efforts of the ES8000 series.
It must be stressed, though, that we’re not saying that the UE46ES7000 is actually short of dynamism or that its standard def pictures aren’t still very watchable indeed. We’re just explaining why the set costs £200 less than the UE46ES8000.
In fact, by the standards of most rival TVs the UE46ES7000’s pictures are excellent - so long, at any rate, as you put in a little effort to move them away from the extremely unhelpful presets Samsung persists in using with its TVs.
The biggest single problem with these presets - aside from there not being as many of them as we’d like - is that they all to a man leave contrast and especially backlight levels much too high. This has numerous unfortunate repercussions, such as making colours look a little cartoony and short of finesse, highlighting video noise, and worst of all, creating distracting backlight inconsistency ‘clouds’ during dark scenes.
Method behind the madness?
There is, of course, method in this apparent preset madness from Samsung, as there’s no doubt that the aggressive settings the Korean brand has opted for help pictures look almost preternaturally rich, vibrant and sharp when you’re watching typical bright, daytime TV fodder. It also means images look punchy even in very bright living rooms, as if Samsung wants to underline this key advantage of LED versus rival plasma technology.
But the fact remains that for many ‘serious’ TV users, especially those looking for a TV for watching lots of films on, Samsung’s presets actually sell the inherent qualities of its LCD panel and edge LED light engine short.