Samsung ES6540 (UE-46ES6540) 3D LED LCD Smart TV Review
Mark delves in to the upper mid-tier of Samsung's LED TV range
IntroductionThe model under review is the Samsung UE46ES6540 46 inch Full HD LED LCD TV with a Freeview HD tuner and full UK specifications. Also available is the Samsung UE32ES6540 32 inch Full HD LED LCD TV, the Samsung UE40ES6540 40 inch Full HD LED LCD TV and the Samsung UE37ES6540 37 inch Full HD LED LCD TV, which have not been reviewed here, although they offer the same features and a similar performance. The Samsung UE46ES6540 isn’t the easiest TV to track down, it doesn’t even appear on the Manufacturer’s own website. In fact the ES6540 is a special model produced for John Lewis and other select retailers, perhaps as a measure to prevent too many customers taking advantage of price match offers, although we’re speculating there! Feature-set and specs wise, the ES6540 actually appears to be the doppelganger of the ES6300 but we have no clear indication if it’s a simple re-badge job. In any case, whatever the minutiae, Samsung’s 6 Series represents their upper mid-tier offering, packing almost all of the comprehensive feature set, 3D capability and excellent calibration controls of the higher end 7 and 8 series so, as ever, there is much to explore.
Design and ConnectionsThe Samsung UE46ES6540 looks a steroidal version of the recently reviewed ES7000 with its slightly thicker-set bezel and chassis. It’s by no means bloated looking however and it’s still a very sleek design; in fact some may prefer it to the almost bezel-less properties of both the 7 and 8 Series’ LED TVs. The remote control is more or less a replica of those we saw with the flagship Samsung’s 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 ES6540 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 layout sensibly deployed and is easily operated comfortably with just the one hand.
At the back of the ES6540 there’s a joystick type controller with which owners can perform basic controls and it also acts as the power on/off switch. Also at the rear and on the right-hand side are the connections, which include three sideways facing HDMI inputs. There is a 3.5mm audio in jack next to HDMI1 for passing the audio if you are using a DVI cable. HDMI2 is allocated as the ARC (Audio Return Channel). There are also three USB ports, with one of them allocated for use with an external HDD. Other sideways facing connections include an optical digital audio output, a RGB input with provided Scart adapter and a headphone socket. Facing downwards there are connections to an external aerial and a satellite dish, inputs for composite and component video and stereo analogue audio. There is also an Ethernet port, although the 46ES6540 does feature built-in WiFi. Finally, on the left-hand side there is the power cable socket, which uses a detachable 1.5m long two-pin cord.
MenusThe Picture Menu contains 4 Viewing Modes - Standard, Natural, Dynamic and Movie – with the latter offering the most accurate out-of-the-box alternative. There are also all the usual front panel controls of Contrast, Brightness and Colour plus Backlight and Sharpness sliders and a largely unnecessary Tint control. From the Picture menu, you can also access sub menus for Screen Adjustment, 3D, Advanced Settings and Picture Options. The Screen Adjustment menu allows access to the Picture Size options with Screen Fit the go-to choice for high quality HD material. Within the Options sub-menu, you can choose the Colour Tone (read colour temperature) which gives you a choice of Cool, Normal, Warm1 and Warm2. There is also a Digital Noise Filter and an MPEG Noise Filter, both of which we would recommend turning off. In this sub-menu, you will also find HDMI Black Level for choosing between PC and Video levels and the Film Mode option for cadence detection. Finally there are options for both Motion Plus and LED Motion Plus both of which we will address later in the review.
Within the Advanced Settings sub-menu there is Dynamic Contrast, Black Tone, Flesh Tone, RGB Only, Expert Pattern which provides a series of test patterns and Black Enhancer. Within Advanced Settings there are all the key calibration controls – Gamma; a choice of a two or ten point White Balance controls and Colour Space which gives you a choice between Auto, Native and Custom; Custom allows access to a full Colour Management System (CMS).
Test ResultsA swift change in to the Movie Picture Mode with a colour temperature of Warm 2 instantly yielded far, far better results and after altering Contrast and Brightness for optimisation in our test room, we got the measurements below. Greyscale tracking is now excellent, with Delta Errors all coming under 3, across the scale, making the ES6540 pleasantly achromatic and with a fairly flat gamma response averaging around 2.3 already well set up for a dimly lit room. Colour performance was also hugely improved with the Auto Colour Space setting that Movie Mode defaults to and there’s only an over-saturated green causing a delta error over the acceptable limit of 3. With both 2 and 10 point White Balance controls to manipulate in addition to an excellent CMS, we should be able to improve things even more.
There can come a time when you’re continuing to use the calibration controls just for the sake of making the graphs look pretty and we’ll freely admit we reached that point a fair time before eventually calling it a day with the ES6540. We didn’t really need the 10 point white balance finessing as we were able to achieve delta E’s of less than one with the 2 point version but OCD is prone to strike in these situations. The CMS allowed us to drag all the colours to their boxes – in terms of hue and saturation - for the Rev.709 standard and gain almost perfect luminance’s throughout. To be fair the controls are so good, they deserved our full attention.
The numbers here are very good, with the ES6540 able to achieve an averaged black level of 0.055 cd/m2 with the ANSI checkerboard pattern, for an ANSI Contrast figure of around 1980:1, which is fairly respectable. The scattergun nature of the panels’ uniformity is reflected in the checkerboard figures, however, and our reading for full screen black 0.068cd/m2 only further underlines the fact.The Samsung 46ES6540 performed slightly differently to the 5, 7 and 8 series’ here and is the first Samsung LED TV, this year, that was able to detect and lock on to a 2:2 film cadence. Scaling of 576i, SD signals was not quite as strong however, although perfectly respectable. It is also capable of excellent video deinterlacing and motion adaptive deinterlacing, with only very slight jaggies appearing on the bottom most extreme of the three moving bars in the HQV test. The ES6540 also had no problems displaying film material with scrolling video text when Film Mode was set to Auto2. Blu-ray 1080p24 material was portrayed correctly with no frame skipping or unwarranted judder, which is refreshing considering some of the displays we’ve seen lately.
We gave some criticism to the motion handling of the ES7000 and ES8000 and the ES6540 seems to share Samsung’s Clear Motion Rate (CMR) processing technology which sometimes stutters and pauses it way through the action. The actual interpolation of the Motion Plus engine is quite pleasing for sporting action, when set to Clear or a conservative User setting and the ‘black frame insertion’ technique of the LED Motion plus can be particularly effective with film. The undefeatable Noise Reduction, which can remove film grain and other high frequency detail in pictures seems to be mercifully absent in the ES6540 but for anyone that doesn’t like the grain effect, a Low setting of the Noise Reduction control in the Picture Menu, is remarkably effective in removing it.
This is the first Samsung of 2012 where we have found a lag benefit in renaming the HDMI input. In Game Mode with input label unaltered, we measured a latency of around 62 milliseconds to controller input. With the HDMI1 input relabelled as PC or DVI PC, lag was instantly reduced to a far more palatable 45 milliseconds – or thereabouts – putting it pretty much dead average with those we have measured this year. 3D gaming is more responsive than any other we’ve tested so far, however, breaking the tape in just under 62 milliseconds.
- Standby: 0.0W
- Out of the Box – Standard Mode: 82.5W
- Calibrated – Movie Mode: 82W
- 3D Movie Mode – 117.4W
Picture Quality - 2DDespite the Samsung ES6540’s impressive results in the Black Level and Contrast tests, they don’t really tell the whole story and both are seriously hampered by poor screen uniformity, which generally ruins the immersion in darker scenes. The review sample was noticeably brighter in two large bands on either side of the panel and had large patches of light pooling dotted across the screen. Contrast didn’t hold up as well as expected in brighter viewing environments, either, and it would seem that both the 7 and 8 Series Samsung LED TVs hold a serious advantage over the 6540 in the quality of light rejecting filters deployed. The uniformity issues weren’t limited to darker scenes unfortunately and on solid patches of (almost any) colour it was easy to spot the panel array behind the picture, manifesting as alternating strips of varying light intensity right across the screen; meaning content with a lot of grass, sea or sky etc displayed a good deal of panel banding.
It’s a pity that we’ve had to so greatly highlight these issues with the ES6540, both the ES7000 and ES8000 we reviewed were far better in this regard; and that’s forgetting the eminently less expensive 46ES5500, which was also possessed of far better uniformity. If you can look past or, better still, can’t see these issues then the Samsung 46ES6540 offers some very absorbing pictures thanks to some excellent video processing and spot-on colour reproduction. Viewing angles aren’t particularly generous - although the stand swivels to the extent where that’s unlikely to cause an issue. We noted motion resolution didn't get much above 250 lines for 1080p content, which means those prone to noticing LCD blur won’t be particularly satisfied but the ES6540 puts out crisp, detailed and lifelike pictures when on-screen action isn’t too frantic. As ever, we’ll be honest, we were expecting better from this 6 Series and Samsung needs to maintain the uniformity standards set by the higher-tier TVs throughout the ranges.
Picture Quality - 3DDespite some of the obvious differences in the 2D processing, it would seem the ES6540 has been blessed with the same 3D chip found in the more costly ranges and instances of crosstalk were fairly rare although the seemingly inferior panel response did mean there was a touch more ghosting than with the ES700 and ES800. We’ve mixed feelings on the supplied 3D eye-wear in the box and whilst they're incredibly light, there’s little to no protection from ambient light entering. In turn this could cause unbearable flicker for some, even in good lighting conditions and can also cause reflections to hit the lenses and mar the immersion. Those not blighted with flicker or reflection issues will be treated to an image bright enough to make them (almost) forget they’re wearing any 3D eyewear and, provided they’re in Movie Mode, with colours and tones that are pretty convincing out of the box.
Audio and FeaturesThe ES6540 features 10 downward firing speakers with a claimed 2 x 10w output and SRS TheatreSound processing technology. In truth we’re rarely impressed by the pseudo-surround processing in any flat-panel and the ES6540 did nothing to change that. In its conventional stereo output, the Samsung provided passable audio but it was pretty toppy and lacked any authority in the lower frequencies. Situation normal, really, but at least there’s nothing offensive to report.
So packed are the Samsung TVs with features, we decided to write a separate review entirely devoted to them. You can find that here and it’s only the voice and gesture controls, of note, missing from the ES6540 feature bank.
- Fantastic accuracy
- Can go very bright
- Enormous feature set
- 3D is impressive
- Very good contrast performance, on paper
- Light pooling
- Panel banding
- Smeary motion without interpolation
- Weak viewing angles
- Quite expensive against performance capabilities
Samsung ES6540 (UE-46ES6540) 3D LED LCD Smart TV Review
The Samsung UE46ES6540 looks like a beefed up version of the ES7000 with a slightly chunkier bezel but it still fits in to the ‘sleek ‘n’ chic’ category. Control is provided by an equally sleek remote that sits comfortably in the hand thanks to the recess for the index figure to the rear. The menu systems that the remote helps slide around are reasonably well planned, if a little convoluted, but their general presentation is typically excellent. So packed are the Samsung TVs with features, we decided to write a separate review entirely devoted to them - you can find it here.
The out-of-the-box Movie mode provided very accurate pictures even before we’d set about the calibration, and afterwards the graphs were a picture of perfection thanks to the comprehensive and excellent controls on board. The ES6540 showed some different processing characteristics to those we’ve seen on other 2012 Samsung LED TVs and the ability to pick up on the 2:2 film cadence was a plus, even if the slightly inferior standard definition scaling detracted somewhat.
On paper, contrast performance and black levels are impressive but each was seriously let down by extremely poor screen uniformity. The review sample was noticeably brighter in two large bands on either side of the panel and had large patches of light pooling dotted across the screen, which completely ruined the immersion in darker scenes; whilst panel array banding undid much that the accurate colour palette provided when large patches of single colour were on screen; a situation that occurs probably more times than you think, especially for sports fans. Native motion resolution wasn’t particularly impressive, either, although some conservative use of the Motion Plus processing can come in handy with fast moving video. The anomalies with Samsung’s Clear Motion Rate (CMR) technology find their way down the ladder from the higher-end TVs, unfortunately, and we encountered quite frequent stuttering and pauses as a result.
The saving graces of the ES6540 lay in its ability to go very bright – whilst staying accurate – and in the very creditable 3D performance, although the fairly mediocre panel response does mean the odd bit of crosstalk can be seen. Those that like to game in 3D should be fairly impressed by an input lag of around 62 milliseconds and, in 2D, gamers should be reasonably well catered for with a latency of around 45 milliseconds; although this can only be achieved by renaming the HDMI 1 input to PC or DVI PC.
We won’t beat around the bush, the Samsung UE46ES6540 came as something of a disappointment after what has come before from the Koreans and serious uniformity problems, in particular, prevent it gaining our recommendation.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,049.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
3D Picture Quality7
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money5
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