Samsung UE46ES6300 £1149.99
5th Nov 2012 | 16:48
This Edge LED TV has bitten off more than it can chew
Lusting after flatscreen TVs is nothing new, but Edge LED TVs such as the Samsung 9000 Series, the Philips 9000 Series and Sony's HX853 Series, and the luscious Panasonic VT50 Series of plasmas, are beyond the reach of most of us. However, if you're after smart TV with Full HD resolution and 3D compatibility, you could do worse than take a step or two down the ladder of Samsung's Edge LED TVs until you arrive at the Samsung UE46ES6300.
A 46-inch Edge LED TV, the Samsung UE46ES6300's slim bezel of merely 12mm (0.5 inches) squeezes in both Freesat HD and Freeview HD TV tuners. Smart TV is delivered via Wi-Fi and includes apps exclusive to Samsung, the star of which is the ITV Player.
Design-wise, the Samsung UE46ES6300 features a clear plastic rim that adds another 8mm (0.3 inches) or so to the width of that bezel, although that transparent edge increases to just over a centimetre on the undercarriage, with a panel depth of 46.9mm (1.8 inches) par for the course at this price.
There are other hints that the UE46ES6300 is not Samsung's poshest effort, priced as it is at £1,149.99 (around AU$1,778/US$1,844). Its 200Hz Clear Motion Rate puts it a rung below the Samsung ES6800 Series, and there's no sign of a touchpanel remote or any voice/gesture controls, either, though we didn't expect any of that on a TV of that price.
We're just happy that two pairs of active shutter 3D glasses are supplied, even more so because they're the SSG-4100GB model, Samsung's own watch battery-powered specs that come flat-packed. Each slender - and suspiciously snap-able - arm has to be slotted into the lens surround, though we're hardly in Airfix territory.
They weigh an astonishing 107g (236lbs) and claim to work for 150 hours (though rechargeable models are also available that run for two hours on just a minute's charging in one of the Samsung UE46ES6300's USB slots).
Built around Samsung's X10+ chassis, the Samsung UE46ES6300 is not a dual core TV, and nor is there any of the micro dimming tech that we've appreciated on Samsung's higher-end TVs.
What the Samsung UE46ES6300 does have is SoundShare, which uses its Bluetooth 3.0. skills to wirelessly link up to a Samsung-made sound dock, such as the DA-750, which we were supplied with for this review.
It's a neat, though expensive (at around £550) way of increasing the audio prowess of flatscreen TVs, which regularly disappoint.
Samsung's 6300 Series is about as extensive as it gets in the flat TV market. First up in the range is the 32-inch UE32ES6300 and the 37-inch UE37ES6300, which go for £649.99 and £799.99 respectively, though neither of these small screen sets are 3D-ready.
Only at the 40-inch size do we get 3D glasses (two of them) - the 40-inch UE40ES6300 sells for £879.99, while up the pecking order from our review sample are the 50-inch UE50ES6300 (£1,299), 55-inch UE55ES6300 (£1,599.99) and the mammoth 60-inch UE60ES6300 (£2,499.99).
However, it's worth checking out the latest prices; although it has a list price of £1,150, we found the Samsung UE46ES6300 online for a paltry £849, which is about right in our judgement.
Samsung's Smart Hub certainly has the widest selection of video-centric catch-up and on-demand video apps. Movie services include KnowHow, PictureBox, Lovefilm, Netflix, Curzon On Demand, Acetrax and Blinkbox.
Video apps include YouTube, Viewster, Dailymotion, Vimeo, HuffPostLive, FluxPlayer and the not-to-be-missed Fishing TV, while catch-up TV apps comprise BBC iPlayer and ITV Player. The latter is exclusive to the Smart Hub - at least for now.
Luvvies will lap-up the brand new Digital Theatre app, which presents on-demand stage recordings including Much Ado About Nothing (starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate), Lovesong, Billy the Kid and A Doll's House, complete with trailers.
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Nice idea, and although the choice is somewhat limited, the red and black interface is clean and simple to use.
Although it's largely a load of tosh in terms of content, this is one well executed app. It clearly takes its lead from the BBC iPlayer, with its simple carousel of programmes centered, as a default, on the most popular programmes under the heading of 'Don't' Miss', which dynamically unfurls a tab underneath of a further carousel of thumbnails and programme titles.
Go into any one of them and the entire series is often available. The colour scheme of black and blue works well, and there's an info box at the bottom containing data such as programme length, and how many more days it's available for. The only problem is that everything starts with an advert.
Another new app that might pique the interest of movie-goers is Curzon On Demand, an app that seeks to complement more mainstream offerings from the likes of Netflix and Lovefilm with some hard-to-find titles right out of left-field.
'All films' leads to another screen where an A-Z list can be inspected, as well as innovative collections by country, decade, genre and language, as well as a section for new releases and best sellers.
Indie hit 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days, along with the likes of Carravaggio and Hidden, cost £2 each. However, this is a classy, upscale app for serious film buffs, where some titles cost as much as £10 each.
Other new apps include Yabazam 3D (where you can watch - sometimes for free, sometimes for three-five US dollars - 3D shorts such as Elephant's Dream), S[edition] (contemporary art in digital), a full suite of Your Fitness apps (Your Yoga, Your Squat and, err, Your Side Bend…eh?), Krb (a fireplace…that's it), African Cooking Recipes and Funny Sounds (Meow!).
There are dozens of others, and it's worth exploring, since little is natively loaded up on Smart Hub out-of-the-box. It was another app squirreled away in Smart Hub that ought to cause a stir - Spotify.
Sadly we couldn't get it to load, instead getting a message telling us that 'the device firmware does not support this application', despite the firmware being totally up-to-date.
Music fans should know that apps for Absolute Radio and the fabulous TuneIn are also featured, both of which work quickly and simply.
AllShare Play is Samsung's latest name for DLNA networking, though home networking and USB playback now extends to linking with the brand's phones.
Picture-wise, it's down to the mid-powered 3D HyperReal Engine to supply the fireworks. On top of a Full HD resolution, this adds Wide Colour Enhancer Plus, 200Hz Clear Motion Rate, and Motion Plus.
The latter frame interpolation tech is hidden away in the Picture Options menu, with Clear, Standard and Smooth settings, each with different levels of judder and blur reductions.
The accompanying Advanced Settings menu contains white balance, 10p white balance, flesh tone, colour space and gamma sliders. We did notice than when engaging Smart Hub the Samsung UE46ES6300 often switches from default to custom picture settings, and back again, for no apparent reason.
Connectivity comprises three HDMI, three USB, component video, composite video, LAN, an optical digital audio output, and a headphones slot. Unusually, all of this is on the right-hand side as you look at the TV, which is the opposite to most models.
We're straight into some 3D, courtesy of the Samsung Explore 3D app's Machu Picchu 3D. After syncing quickly with the 3D specs, the Samsung UE46ES6300 renders the Peruvian 'sky village' wonderfully, with only the odd shimmer visible on the edges of swooping camera shots.
Contrast through the 3D specs appears wide, and we're briefly transported to another world where crosstalk is yet to be invented.
Next up, a short of 3D Sun from Yabazam! 3D immediately impresses with a sequence of a solar wind rushing across a satellite - and not a trace of crosstalk.
The next shot, of a tent below sweeping aurora, is more troublesome; our eyes were unable to decipher exactly how the background and foreground related to each other.
Perhaps that's the source material, because elsewhere the Samsung UE46ES6300 deals with 3D very, very well.
To get the full benefit of active shutter 3D, we engaged Prometheus - cue a fabulously rendered prologue of panoramic Isle of Skye landscapes. Arguably it's when the cameras get in close - to a waterfall, and rushing above a gushing river, that the Samsung UE46ES6300 can show off its 3D depth, detail and clarity to the fullest.
That said, black areas of shots aren't as 3D as they could be, with shadow detail rolled-over by forced black. We've seen better contrast, and though colours appear somewhat muted, that's generally a positive for most movies.
Back in 2D, but still in Prometheus, we immediately noticed more problems with contrast. As well as black appearing less convincing and even more crushed, black levels and bold colours visibly fade if the Samsung UE46ES6300 is watched off-axis. Stray from the centre and grey begins to dominate.
If you watch in a total blackout you will notice these details, as well as some blotchy light output from the Edge-mounted LEDs, though for most people, these issues won't be deal-breaker.
Colour is excellent (though steer clear of Movie Mode, which tends to remove too much lustre) and detail is high, though slightly affected by motion.
Motion Plus is an acquired taste, though it's not as powerful as on some TVs, and can be comfortably left on its Standard setting without creating much in the way of video nasties.
Standard definition is handled well, too, with a sheen of slight softness applied to everything. It's like a warm blanket to dodgy quality video, though it can't prevent a fizz around the edge of some moving, low-res objects.
Usability, sound and value
It's a great interface in terms of looks and content, but on the Samsung UE46ES6300, the Smart Hub is far from the finished article. At its worst it's slow, nor can it be sufficiently customised.
It's not that it's an ugly interface, but we do have a problem with the top line, which includes icons for the five most popular apps. It's hard to argue that easily found links to ITV player, BBC iPlayer, Lovefilm, Netflix and YouTube is a bad idea per se, but we don't like to be told what we should be using; we'd rather be able to choose for ourselves.
Perhaps more annoyingly, Samsung insists on using almost a third of the screen's real estate for four of its own services; Your Video, Family Story, Fitness and Kids (as well as Social TV, which is hidden off-screen).
Although we like Your Video - an easy way of finding content regardless of which app it's provided by - the other three are, to us, totally irrelevant. It lends the entire Smart Hub experience a feeling of being imposed, rather than its apps opening up a world of possibilities, which is surely the whole point of anything web-related.
All we ask is that we are allowed to decide for ourselves whether a Samsung app is for us or not, and either delete, promote or relegate it in the hierarchy, accordingly.
At least apps on the bottom two rungs of the main home screen can be customised, even by different users if household members create different accounts (the Samsung UE46ES6300 then automatically signs in to all associated social media and email accounts, too).
Too often the Smart Hub is slow to load apps; frequent "Starting..." or "Loading..." messages that regularly stall the TV for around a minute got quite annoying, despite our internet connection being faster than Usain Bolt.
If you've got a Samsung phone to hand, firing up the native AllShare Play app will fully integrate your handset with the Samsung UE46ES6300.
Unusually this service integrates a cloud storage service - Sugarsync - though you will have to register an account to play files stored there. Do so and it pops up as a source just as a USB flash drive or networked PC does.
From those devices we managed to play AVC HD, AVI, MKV, MPEG, MOV, MP4, WMV and WMV HD videos, JPEG photos and MP3, M4A, WMA, OGG and FLAC music, though loading up video and skipping around AllShare functions appears to involve a lot of five-second delays.
Meanwhile, the electronic programme guides (EPGs) for Freesat and Freeview are excellent; two hours of schedules for six channels are shown on a single screen below a thumbnail of live TV that happily plays with sound, too.
It's probably the best EPG we've ever seen, working quickly and rendered in black and blue, nuanced Full HD graphics.
What's more, that live TV thumbnail is in exactly the same place in both the EPG and the Smart Hub screen; swap between the two and the picture flickers only slightly - though the sound remains uninterrupted. It's the icing on a nicely thought through - though slightly underpowered - user interface.
Sonically speaking, the Samsung UE46ES6300 lacks low frequency, so it's perhaps no surprise that Samsung now offers its SoundShare mode. Linking the DA-750 2.1-channel speaker to the Samsung UE46ES6300 via Bluetooth proved a cinch, with the latter's remote then commanding the volume.
After pairing, the DA-750 just works - a relief, since most Bluetooth gadgets, in our experience, too often fall over.
Sporting a digital power amp beside vacuum tubes to reach 100W rather than a regular TV's 10W, the DA-750 is like a breath of fresh air to the ears.
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Using the DA-750 2.1-channel speaker with the Samsung UE46ES6300 to boost audio does add a much-needed dollop of wallop, and it goes pretty loud without distortion, too. But it's still not a patch on a real home cinema system - which costs about the same, or cheaper. Besides, a soundbar of similar dimensions costs a lot less than £550.
Elsewhere, the Samsung UE46ES6300 is what it is; a middle-ranking, though capable Edge LED panel crammed with perhaps more features than it can competently cope with.
However, the premium features on board - particularly Freesat HD - as well as the all-round picture prowess, makes this a reasonably priced television.
This is essentially the lowest-spec Edge LED TV Samsung offers that features the Smart Hub and Wi-Fi. But even when it's knocking about for around £850 (around AU$1,315/US$1,363) online, the Samsung UE46ES6300 is not exactly a cheap-as-chips option.
So while there are some definite must-have features for anyone remotely interested in catch-up TV and movie apps, it's not the slickest TV in town.
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The Smart Hub boasts plenty of apps, and the EPG is one of the best around. The presence of Freesat HD as well as Freeview HD is a nice extra, as is the pricey SoundShare option, though 3D and 2D Blu-ray impress, too.
It's smart, but only in theory, since the lack of dual-core processing makes the Samsung UE46ES6300 feel underpowered. It can't always cope with the plethora of apps and services it offers, and apps take too long to load - sometimes over a minute during our test.
Elsewhere the built-in sound is average, the contrast average, and the viewing angle tighter than we'd like.
It's the Samsung UE46ES6300's sterling 3D performance that stands out most of all on a set that boasts a good value all-round treatment of disparate sources.
ITV Player and other new apps lend the Samsung UE46ES6300 an exclusive feel, though that doesn't last much beyond the discovery that the lack of dual-core processing means time wasted waiting for apps to load.
A close competitor to the Samsung UE46ES6300, the Panasonic TX-L47ET50B excels with smart TV apps and active shutter 3D, but doesn't include any glasses.
However, the biggest rival is the Sony KDL-46HX853, which pairs an elegant design and awesome 2D picture quality with a collection of smart TV apps equal to this Samsung, though it does feature a little crosstalk during 3D material.