Samsung ES5500 (UE-46ES5500) LED LCD TV Review
We've seen Samsung's high-end displays, now it's time to check out their bread and butter
TV reviewSRP: £950.00
IntroductionWe’ve just had our first taste of what Samsung has to offer in 2012 in our recent reviews of the ES8000 3D LEC TV and E8000 3D Plasma TV, that left us impressed and very impressed, respectively. They were flagship models, however, and represent the pinnacle of technologies developed by Samsung for this year’s assault on the market. The Samsung 46ES5500 inhabits the gap between the mid and entry level ranges, yet still offers an extensive suite of Smart functions and features although, slightly surprisingly, there’s no facility for 3D pictures.
Samsung’s 5 Series TVs have traditionally been amongst their most successful and have often offered performance outweighing their price-tags, although current pricing for the ES5000 makes it one the more costly TVs in this sector of the market. The Samsung 46ES5500 is sure to be a big seller but will it offer enough to justify its popularity?
Design and ConnectionsOne could hardly mistake the ES5500 as being a Samsung product, save for the fact that a number of other manufacturers have been ‘borrowing’ design ideas from the Korean giant recently. The gloss black bezel falls in to the ultra-thin category, measuring just 1.5cm all around and it’s set off by the familiar transparent strip very nicely. In fact the strip seems even more transparent than in years gone by and if you have any lighting behind the TV, it will do an excellent job of recreating a kind of ‘ambi-light’ feature seen in some of the Philips TVs. We’re pleased to see Samsung haven’t tried anything ‘artistic’ with the plain, rectangular base-stand but it’s disappointing that it doesn’t swivel.
The remote control is more or less a replica of those we saw with the ES8000 and E8000 and is a slimmed down iteration of those of recent years. We were pleased to note the aspect ratio button (P.Size) button is retained in the ES5500 as it was missing in the Flagship TV versions, although it means the lower tiered models get no backlight. Overall, it’s a highly effective design with button lay-out sensibly deployed and is easily operated comfortably with just the one hand. No complaints here.
The Samsung ES5500 is quite a slim TV – measuring 5cm at its deepest point – but prospective wall-mounters should be warned that 2 of the 3 HDMI ports are outward facing from the rear. The other, side mounted, HDMI input isn’t too close to the edge of the bezel, at 14cm, so that might be the answer for those routing through an AV Receiver or processor. The other outward facing connections number Scart, component and composite video with accompanying L/R audio jacks; a service port and LAN connection. There are also three audio connections – a headphones socket; S/PDIF digital audio out and a jack to compliment a DVI-HDMI connection. Completing the side facing connections we have 2 USB ports and CAM slot for premium (paid for) digital terrestrial services.
MenusThe Menu system is split in to 6 sections - Picture, Sound, Channel, Network, System andSupport and are informative, with a brief description of what the currently highlighted selection does (or is supposed to do) appearing to the right. The Picture Menu houses the Picture Mode options of Standard, Dynamic and Movie but if you’re looking for a Game mode, you’ll need to navigate to the System tab and then to the General sub-menu. All the standard Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Sharpness controls are found toward the top of the Picture Menu as well as a Tint (Hue) slider and Screen Adjustment option that should be set to ‘Screen Fit’ for high def sources.
Under the Advanced Settings, we have the Black Tone and Dynamic Contrast options that we left off and a Shadow Detail slider that goes from -2 to +2. We found with this set to anything other than zero, low end gamma was adversely affected so we left it in its neutral state. The Gamma selection itself, works on the same basis as the Shadow Detail control only with a +3/-3 range but, obviously, affects the curve throughout. The advanced menu also gives access to an RGB only mode, useful for a quick colour luminance calibration without need for measuring equipment; choices for Auto or Native Colour Space and further options – Flesh Tone, Edge Enhancement and Motion Lighting – that had no real perceivable beneficial effects on image quality. The UE-46E65500 comes with 2 point White Balance sliders but there’s no Colour Management System to play with, unlike the higher end ranges.
Contained in the Picture Options sub-menu we have the Film Mode that has Auto1, Auto2 and Off options which we’ll test in the Video Processing section. There are also a couple of noise filters (Digital Noise and MPEG) that didn’t really do anything with our test material but could be useful with particularly low quality content – we know some of you even watch YouTube on the big screen. With the (most accurate) Picture Mode of Movie selected the Colour Tone (read Colour Temperature) of Warm 2 is automatically selected, which usually provides pictures closest to industry standards. Finally, under the Picture Options, there’s a choice of settings for HDMI Black Level that should be at Normal for Video content and Low for PC levels.
Test ResultsAfter our thankfully brief time watching the factory defaulted picture we were relieved to switch in to the Movie mode, which took care of most of the problems. We quickly set the Brightness, Sharpness and Contrast controls using the appropriate patterns and took these measurements. Already we can see major improvements before we’ve even touched any of the more advanced calibration controls and our pictures are far more believable. We still have an excess of blue in the greyscale but nowhere near to the extent of the untouched picture mode. Gamma tracking is much better also and colours have undergone a major transformation with crucial luminance errors negligible and over-saturation errors minimised. We can still do better with some careful manipulation of the White Balance controls but we’re much closer to where we want to be!
Unlike some of the higher-end Samsungs, the ES5500 only features 2 point white balance controls, rather than 10, but as the errors were fairly linear we didn’t have much problem in dialling them out altogether. With delta errors all below 2 – and mostly below 1 – a greyscale ramp pattern reveals perfect neutrality and by adjusting the global gamma control to -1, we are able to have it track to our 2.2 target throughout the greyscale save for a dip at 10% stimulus. It’s a fantastic result for a mid-range TV and the, already impressive, colour performance improved further with the improvements to the greyscale and a notch or two down on the Colour control.
We still have some hue errors in green, blue and yellow but they’re only perceptible to the most trained of eyes and luminance performance is improved again. The graph above demonstrates colour performance at 100% saturation levels at a 75% luminance but it’s also now possible to show you how a display copes at different levels over saturation. For instance, typical Northern European skin tones will be heavily reliant on the red primary tracking well between 20-30 stimulus and, as the multi-saturation graph below demonstrates, the ES5500 tracks colours very well throughout the saturation points with pale blue and dark(ish) pink (magenta) the only shades not particularly well represented.The Samsung UE46ES5500 pulled off some excellent results in this area of testing. We first of all measured the panel’s On/Off contrast ratio by measuring a full black screen against a 100% white pattern. It was immediately obvious the ES5500 blanks the video output when full screen black is displayed but by having a small on screen icon appearing in the top corner of the screen we were able to get a reading of 0.058 cd/m2 against a white measurement of 110 cd/m2, this giving an On/Off contrast of 1897:1. That’s quite an impressive result, in itself, but a better real world chack is how a display performs when mixed content is on the screen, i.e. the intra-frame contrast. The ES5500 performed even better here, returning the best set of results since we adopted this test, with an average black level of 0.03cd/m2 whilst maintaining a peak white output of 113 cd/m2 gives a very impressive ANSI contrast of 3630:1. Not half bad for a lower mid-range display!Beginning with the SMPTE 133 pattern, the ES5500 was able to cleanly scale a 576i signal without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The 46ES5500 also performed well with video deinterlacing duties, with jaggies only appearing when the line was at an acute angle in the first test on the HQV disc. In the second test the motion adaptive deinterlacing was also good with slight jaggies only appearing on the bottom bar of the three moving bars.
The 5500, quite surprisingly, couldn’t lock on to the 2:2 (PAL - European) film cadence and nor could it handle the most common NTSC 2:3 cadence and this was with the Film Mode in either Auto1 or Auto2. There were no such cadence problems handling film material with both horizontal and vertical scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without any blurring or shredding.
With our Blu-ray player set to 1080i the display correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests (provided the aspect ratio is set to Screen Fit) and showed good scaling and filtering performance as well as good resolution enhancement. The Samsung ES5500 also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems.
Using the S&M disc we checked the headroom performance of the 5500 from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) with it able to reach peak white without discolouration, provide the Contrast control was dialled down. The Samsung also correctly showed detail down to a video level 17 and reference black below that to video level 0, as long as you had Black level set to Normal. If you used the Low setting the blacks will appear darker but you will be crushing them and you will lose shadow detail.
We had yet to see a TV break the 30 millisecond barrier, for input lag, since we started using our new dedicated testing device but that it was a Samsung 5 series TV that was the first to do it came as no great surprise. Our measurements were flitting about quite a lot – which must indicate varying levels of processing occurring at a given time – but they were always in the 27-30 millisecond range; meaning less than a frame behind a 30 frames per second video game. Impressive stuff! Contrary to what we have read elsewhere, the Game mode must be selected to achieve low latency; for example Movie Mode lags by around 68 milliseconds.
- Standby: 0.0w
- Out of the Box – Standard Mode: 77.1W
- Calibrated – Movie Mode: 61W
Picture QualityIn many ways the Samsung ES5500 reminded us greatly of one of its forerunners, the D5520, with its two greatest weaknesses being a certain ‘smeariness’ with rapid motion and poor viewing angles. You could get round the latter with the correct placement of the TV in the room but the former is there to stay as the ES5500 features no motion ‘enhancing’ frame interpolation technology on-board, not that we’d necessarily recommend its use in any case. Depending on your tolerances, you may find the blur forgivable in exchange for the ES5500’s obvious strengths.
Credit where credit is due. Regular visitors to our Reviews pages will be no strangers to the fact we’re intolerant of screen uniformity issues and the Samsung ES5500 suffered little in the way of these irritations. We did notice a touch of panel banding, which manifests as alternating strips of varying light intensity running vertically across the screen, but it wasn’t in evidence a great deal and we managed to get through all the events at London, so far, without real cause for complaint.
The noteworthy screen uniformity served to make the excellent black levels that bit more rewarding and once we’d calibrated the slight blue cast out, colour reproduction was extremely convincing will all details preserved. The minor disappointment that the ES5500 was unable to pick up on PAL film cadences will mean your DVD collection might not be shown in the best light but that shouldn’t be a concern if you use any kind of scaling player.
Overall the Samsung UE46ES5500 gave us what we expected from one of their mid-tier products - strong dynamic range, pleasing colours, mostly excellent video processing – whilst managing to avoid our fears that it might all be spoiled by screen uniformity issues.
FeaturesAbout the only thing(s) missing from the Smart TV suite we saw in the Flagship LED and Plasma TVs are the voice and gesture control features and we can’t say we’re too bothered about that. What is on offer is about as complete a set of apps, games and video on demand content you could ever wish for. Add in USB PVR recording, interaction with smartphones and tablets plus the streaming of an extensive set of media files all housed in a customisable home page, and we probably have the market’s leading Smart offering. Perhaps LG edges it on the presentation front but in terms of ‘breadth on offer’, we don’t see a rival for Samsung at present.
Sitting towards the top of the Smart Hub is the 'Your Video' section that works as a recommendation engine, where your viewing habits are tracked and suggestions based on genre, subject matter, director, actor/actress are made for your further viewing. The engine will search for corresponding material from the various VoD services, including iPlayer and YouTube. Habits are tracked from EPG selections, searched for material through the Smart Hub and recordings scheduled using the PVR.
Too add to the omnipresence of the iPlayer and YouTube, there are also VoD services from Netlfix, LoveFilm, Vimeo and more+. Newly added are the ITV Player and, our current favourite, the BBC Sport App which, throughout the Olympics alone, is delivering around 2,500 hours of content and up to 24 simultaneous events including audio options, and medal tables. Social networkers are taken care of with dedicated Facebook and Twitter apps as well as the Social TV feature that allows you to enjoy programming with your friends even when you’re not with them, via a chat tab down the right hand side of the screen.
- Excellent blacks
- Impressive dynamic range
- Very responsive for gamers
- Lots of smart features
- Calibrated extremely well for mid-range TV
- Mostly solid video processing
- Very good uniformity for LED TV
- Smeared motion with fast paced action
- Poor viewing angles
- Stand doesn't swivel
- Lack of 2:2 cadence detection
Samsung ES5500 (UE-46ES5500) LED LCD TV Review
The UE46ES5500 looks quintessentially Samsung. The slender gloss black bezel is encased by the hallmark transparent surround that sits on a plain, rectangular stand that, alas, doesn’t swivel. The remote control is nice and slender, well planned and easy to operate with just one hand. Being that the ES5500 is a mid-tier TV, we weren’t disappointed by the lack of a fourth HDMI port nor the lack of built-in Wi-Fi. The Samsung menu system contains many, many picture controls, much of which are superfluous but at least they’re cleanly presented and offer helpful descriptions of the functions therein.
The Smart features on offer are about as complete a set of apps, games and video on demand content you could ever wish for. Add in USB PVR recording, interaction with smartphones and tablets plus the streaming of an extensive set of media files all housed in a customisable home page, and we probably have the market’s leading Smart offering. Perhaps LG edges it on the presentation front but in terms of ‘breadth on offer’, we don’t see a rival for Samsung at present.
Once we’d disabled all the unnecessary picture controls and selected the Movie Picture Mode, the Samsung ES5500 offered up a very reasonable picture performance indeed. Naturally, once calibrated even further, the images on offer were of an even higher standard and the accurate colours combined with excellent black levels to deliver pictures of real note. Video processing was generally very good but we were a little surprised the Samsung wasn’t able to cope with the most common 2:2 PAL cadence. The UE46ES5500 did suffer from a couple of customary LED/LCD TV flaws and both viewing angles and motion resolution are pretty much the bare minimum but if you can position the Samsung appropriately and get over the fact moving objects will sometimes smear, the ES5500 presents a great option for those that aren’t bothered about having 3D capabilities. That said, at the suggested retail price of £950, we’re surprised there isn’t 3D on board this TV.
We had yet to see a TV break the 30 millisecond barrier, for input lag, since we started using our new dedicated testing device but that it was a Samsung 5 series TV that was the first to do it came as no great surprise. Our measurements indicated a lag to controller input in the 27-30 millisecond range; meaning less than a frame behind a 30 frames per second video game making the Samsung ES5500 an excellent option for gamers.
There’s not much the Samsung UE46ES5500 doesn’t do well. From impressive contrast performance to truthful colour representation through solid picture processing and a whole bunch of Smart features, it rarely puts a foot wrong. Motion handling could be better, viewing angles more generous and – dare we say it – Samsung might just have included 3D at this price but once more Samsung has delivered another 5 series TV that belies its lower mid-tier status. Recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £950.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money7
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