- Aggressively excellent 2D and 3D pictures
- Very pretty design
- Rich online services
- Occasional backlight consistency problems
- Unhelpful presets
- Gesture control system not quite there yet
- Review Price: £1699.00
- 46in LCD with edge LED lighting
- active 3D playback
- Samsung Smart TV online service
- ‘800Hz’ processing
- Two pairs of 3D glasses included
On the price front the £1699 UE46ES7000 is £200 less than the equivalent ES8000 model. If you look back at our review of the Samsung UE46ES8000 you might be confused by this, as at the time we wrote that review we found a price for the set of under £1500. Now, though, you’ll struggle to find the UE46ES8000 going for less than £1899 unless you stumble upon a voucher or special short-term discount.
Obviously our first job needs to be finding out just what that £200 saving costs you in specification and feature terms. There’s an immediate aesthetic impact, as the UE46ES7000 replaces the metallic glimmer of the ES8000’s bezel with a black finish that isn’t quite as knock-your-socks-off glamorous as the silver of the ES8000s, and joins with a transparent outer trim in making the overall look feel a bit fussier. The UE46ES7000‘s ‘cross’ stand isn’t as dashing as the startling ‘Arch Flow’ of the ES8000s either.
But this all says more about the gorgeousness of the ES8000‘s design than it does about any actual ugliness in the UE46ES7000. In fact, by any normal measure the UE46ES7000 is a highly attractive TV.
The only other difference between the UE46ES7000 and the ES8000 series that stood out to us is the use by the cheaper model of a slightly lower level of micro-dimming processing; it only’ gets Micro Dimming Pro rather than the ES8000 series’ Micro Dimming Ultimate. This might not sound a big deal, but actually the ES8000s ability to assess and respond to incoming pictures faster and on a more localised level has the potential to have quite a profound impact on picture quality.
Unlike the cheaper UE46ES6800, the UE46ES7000 has a little bulge in its top edge containing a built-in camera – like you get with the ES8000 series. You also get the same accessories as the ES8000s, namely a second touchpad remote control; an IR blaster so the TV can change the channel of any Sky/Freeview/etc boxes you might have; and two pairs of 3D glasses.
The built-in camera, second remote and IR blaster all point towards the UE46ES7000 leaning more towards the ES8000 series than the ES6800. For they immediately indicate that the UES7000 features the same revolutionary alternative control systems – gesture, voice and touchpad – that made their debut on the ES8000 series.
We’ve covered these alternative controls in some depth before, so we won’t do so again here beyond saying that while waving and talking to their TV won’t appeal to everyone, both options can be genuinely helpful at times. For instance, the voice recognition system allows you to simply speak words into Web search fields, which is a vast improvement on trying to type stuff in via the TV’s remote. As for the gesture control, while concerns remain about its accuracy and potential for fatigue, it does enable you to use the TV without needing any physical remote control at all. Handy if you’re forever losing remotes down the sofa.
The trackpad remote isn’t entirely without its foibles, but at the same time it’s a far superior way of browsing web pages and Smart TV menus to a normal remote control.
The sense of just how close the UE46ES7000 is to the ES8000 series continues with its use of the same Ultra Clear Panel. This was not sported by the cheaper UE46ES6800, and we suspect this is the single biggest reason for that model’s pictures falling quite a bit short of the standards set by the ES8000 models.
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.
Thankfully it isn’t a massively hard job at all to get pictures looking far better. Essentially you just need to ramp the backlight right down – we go as low as six, especially for watching films in a dark room – while also making sure the contrast is no higher than 80, or a bit lower if you can take it.
We also strongly recommend that you turn off all noise reduction circuitry when watching HD, and handle Samsung’s motion processing with care, only using it on either its Clear setting or, preferably, its Manual mode with judder and blur reduction set to around their ‘three’ level.
Change it up
We’d also recommend a warm colour temperature setting and nudging the colour saturation setting a point or two lower than its default – though these latter two changes are much more ‘optional’ than the others.
We don’t usually like to dictate settings on TVs like we have here, as we generally believe you should have the choice to use whatever settings suit your individual tastes the most. But the UE46ES7000’s presets really leave us no choice! Hopefully Samsung will address this actually very easily fixed issue with at least a couple of the presets on its 2013 TVs.
Anyway, the good news is that with the preset problems addressed, the UE46ES7000’s pictures are mostly great. For instance, colours contain much more nuancing without losing anywhere near as much dynamism and vibrancy as you might have expected from taking so much heat out of the backlight.
Post calibration black levels are excellent by edge LED standards too, with less of the grey mist effect than you usually see with such technology. Yet dark scenes also contain more colour punch, white brightness and shadow detail than LCD TVs with good black levels tend to produce.
Motion is handled very ably too. Even without any motion processing in play there’s minimal blur or resolution loss over moving objects – less, certainly, than we saw with the ES6800 model. But you can activate the lower reaches of Samsung’s motion processing too to reduce judder and boost clarity even more without it making pictures look messy or over-processed.
It’s great to see, as well, that the UE46ES7000’s pictures still look decently sharp when showing all the but most low-quality of standard definition sources, and that unlike many rival LCD TVs, colours tend to retain their vibrancy during the switch from HD to standard def.
Happily the UE46ES7000’s mostly excellent 2D pictures are joined by a very tasty 3D performance too. Particularly impressive is how well the set handles the dreaded crosstalk ghosting problem associated with active 3D technology. Once a significant issue with Samsung 3D TVs, and actually quite a problem on the UE46ES6800 model we tested, it only appears in any really noticeable way on the UE46ES7000 on extremely rare occasions.
This is despite the UE46ES7000’s 3D pictures looking much brighter and more richly saturated than those of the vast majority of rival active 3Ds – a handy fact which also helps the TV deliver a more potent sense of depth, and helps underline just how detailed and ‘HD’ feeds from 3D Blu-rays look.
The only significant problem is that the need for the screen to work harder to overcome the dimming effect of the shuttering 3D glasses means you can sometimes see jets of backlight consistency in the image’s corners when watching dark scenes. Keep the backlight to around its 14 setting, though, and you can greatly reduce the impact of this problem.
If you’re a gamer, you’ll be pleased to hear that as well as producing your HD games with excellent contrast and sharpness, the UE46ES7000 only suffers around 34ms of input lag – provided you manage to track down the Game picture preset hidden away in the TV’s system menu.
Sonically the UE46ES7000 is more or less average. Precious few TVs with so little bodywork to play with manage to deliver much bass or a really dynamic mid range, and Samsung’s set is no different. It does handle voices quite cleanly though, injects quite a bit of treble life into proceedings, and seldom sounds harsh or ‘boxed in’.
The UE46ES7000 is overall a finely judged step-down model from the ES8000 series, in that it still gives you a huge feature list and some often outstanding picture quality while leaving the equivalent ES8000 model with enough picture quality wiggle room to justify its extra cost.
Sony has provided some seductive competition this year with the outstanding picture quality of its 46HX853, but the UE46ES7000’s more cutting edge design and features will still undoubtedly – and deservedly – find it a large fanbase.
Score in detail
3D Quality 9
2D Quality 9
Sound Quality 7
|Max. Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Full HD 1080p||Yes|
|Refresh Rate (Hertz)||800 (CMR)Hz|
|Digital Audio Out||1 (optical)|