Samsung ES6800 (UE46ES6800) 3D LED LCD Smart TV Review
Samsung's not quite top tier LED TV goes under the AVForums microscope
IntroductionThe Samsung UE46ES6800 sits nestled just below their top-tier ES8000 and ES7000 in its range of 3D LED TVs and as such features a slightly diminished checklist of specs and features. There’s no built-in camera and therefore no gesture controls – that’s probably a positive – but it does feature micro-dimming technology, albeit not in the Ultimate or Pro varieties, and most of the Smart TV features of the flagship TVs, including their excellent suite of calibration controls. As well as the 46 inch version reviewed here, there’s also the UE32ES6800, the UE40ES6800 and UE55ES6800 to provide options for a suitably sized display for your room which should perform very similarly to the unit covered here.
Design and ConnectionsThe ES6800 is a bit of a composite design from Samsung, featuring both black, silver and transparent trim to the elegantly slimline bezel and we’re not sure it entirely works but there’s no doubt it still possesses sufficient swagger to impress most visitors. We’ve seen a few TVs this year that have been a bit slimmer but, at 5cm in depth, the ES6800 is hardly portly although it loses points, for us, with the inclusion of the ‘quad’ (chicken foot) stand that, in its defence, swivels generously.
Other than the exclusion of the ‘Smart Upgrade’ slot, connections on the ES6800 follow that of the ES8000, with only 3 HDMI ports allotted - each to the side – and none supporting MHL (mobile high definition link). We’re getting a bit cheesed off with manufacturers cutting back on HDMI inputs this year and we hope that all see sense and reinstate the previous 4 port standard, in their 2013 mid and top ranges. 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. On the down-facing connections plate there’s the terminal for the external aerial and a satellite dish, inputs for composite and component video and stereo analogue audio. There is also an Ethernet port, although the 46ES6800 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.
The supplied remote control took us by surprise, we’re not afraid to admit, and is something of a departure from what we’ve seen, so far, from the Korean’s in 2012. There are no rubberised buttons, instead the controls are actioned by a ‘clickable’ facia. We’ve slightly mixed feelings about that; it’s easier to locate proper buttons in the dark but then Samsung has provided a backlight and it does look quite cool so it’s probably a score draw, for us. Button placement is typically well thought with plenty of space in between and there’s a groove on the back in which you can place the index figure to give it nice balance, making it easily operable with but one hand.
MenusMenus are split in to 6 sections - Picture, Sound, Channel, Network, System and Supportand are quite 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-46ES6800 comes with both 2 and 10 point White Balance sliders and there’s also Samsung’s excellent Colour Management System to play with, so we should be able to extract very accurate performance from it.
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). 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 ResultsA quick switch in to Movie mode brings instant dividends but there’s still too much blue in the greyscale although Delta Errors are far more tolerable than before but still a long way from the magic 3 mark, where any inaccuracies should be near indistinguishable to the eye. Gamma tracking isn’t as flat as we’d like but, again, an improvement. Colour performance is also greatly improved but still generally a little too bright. Let’s see what the calibration controls can do.
Samsung’s calibration controls are usually very reliable but although we managed to achieve excellent results, for some reason the 10 point white balance ceased to function at 80% stimulus and beyond. No matter how much we played with the contrast control or the bias and gain controls in the 2 point white balance, we couldn’t fine tune near white. In all honesty, errors are so low as to be insignificant but it does rather spoil the look of the charts. We encountered no such problems with the CMS where we able to hit perfection, or thereabouts, at full saturation levels.
Our calibration software sponsors, Calman, have now included the ability to measure – and more importantly here, represent graphically - at different colour saturation points - and here the ES6800 fares quite well. Red is generally a little oversaturated at lower stimulus but in the area affecting white skin tones, around 25%, it’s in good shape. Overall errors through the 25% incremented steps, are almost all below 3 for all six measured colours, bar blue and cyan that hover on or above at 25 and 50% stimulus. All in all, we’ve no complaints!The Samsung UE46ES6800 couldn’t quite match up to the performance of either the ES7000 or ES8000, we tested earlier in 2012, in terms of outright contrast but results were still respectable here. The ES6800 blanks a full screen black pattern with its auto-dimming but such tricks don’t work with an ANSI checkerboard pattern displayed on-screen. In calibrated Movie Mode black readings averaged at 0.056 cd/m2 against a peak white of just over 100 cd/m2, giving an ANSI contrast of 1800:1. It’s certainly not the largest figure we’ve seen returned but the ES6800 does possess a very effective filter which performs its duty of keeping ambient light at bay and it was only when the lights came down that we began to miss the inky blacks we’ve seen in the better plasma TVs in 2012.In most areas the Samsung 46ES6800 more than held its own in this area of testing although Samsung’s own test patterns revealed some very minor undefeatable noise reduction was present. We’d bet the farm that for the overwhelming number of potential customers out there, this would be a total non-issue but absolute purists be warned that some grain might be missing in those movies that choose to use the effect. Elsewhere, scaling of standard definition signals was very good; video deinterlacing was capably handled and the ES6800 was able to detect and display film shot material sent as video correctly with Film Mode set to Auto 2. Samsung’s interpolating feature – Motion Plus – works quite nicely when used in its Clear setting or with some very conservative User settings but we’d always recommend leaving it disengaged for Film content. We noticed quite a bit of stuttering and stalling with the ES7000 and ES8000’s motion handling that we’re attributing to the Clear Motion Rate processing that’s permanently engaged with those models but, thankfully, we didn’t really see anything of the sort with the ES6800. Whether that’s down to the fact backlight scanning ‘only’ reaches 400Hz against higher frequencies in the upper-tier TVs, we could only speculate, but the ‘motion smoothing’ is certainly less intrusive.
For the very first time since we began using our dedicated lag testing device, we found that the renaming of the HDMI input was necessary to achieve the lowest latency to controller input. Using Game Mode, we measure lag at around the 60 millisecond mark, which is disappointing and noticeable playing at World Class in FIFA 13. Editing the input name to ‘PC’ brought lag down to almost bang on 45 milliseconds, which is far more in line with our needs and expectations. We did note, however, an awful lot of blurriness when long balls were played – that was the CPU, of course, so we would never take the Sam Allardyce approach – that was quite distracting and possibly as a result of the CMR processing being disabled in this mode.
- Standby: 0.0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 67W
- Calibrated – Movie Mode: 66.5W
- 3D – Movie Mode: 99W
Picture Quality - 2DWith almost everything you’d want to provide great pictures in place – strong contrast, dependable video processing and accurate colours – the Samsung UE46ES6800 is in good shape to deliver and generally does, with a caveat (or two) in place. High Definition pictures are brimming with detail, pleasingly natural and imbued with decent dynamic range. As we noted on the Test results, there’s a very minor spot of high frequency filtering going on but we’d have been very hard pressed to have noticed without using dedicated testing material. Motion performance isn’t the greatest and there’s some ghosting with fast-paced content but, where video content is concerned, a little helping hand from the Motion Plus processing can certainly help. We don’t like any interpolation with film based material but engaging LED Motion Plus for movies certainly does no harm as it uses a kind of black frame insertion technique to smooth things out – or at least give that illusion – instead of the guesswork involved with faux frame creation.
Regular, or even semi-regular, readers will know that our biggest criticisms around LED technology generally stem from uniformity problems, so it’s no great surprise that our biggest issues with the ES6800 supplied for review was of that variety. On the plus side, there was little in the way of panel banding – alternating strips of uneven luminance – but there was certainly a fair share of light pooling that definitely diminished some of the good work in other areas. It wouldn’t have been so distracting if it was just a matter of affecting darker content when we dimmed the lights, as is often the case, but we actually noticed the pooling first when looking at the TiVo EPG – which is a bright red. The problem was not so much the amount but the intensity of the patches and although it could be mitigated somewhat by reducing the Backlight control, we could never completely get rid of it. Now you have to consider that we, as reviewers, are going to be looking out for such problems and that, in general day to day viewing, it wasn’t something that could be seen permanently but things like this tend to get under one's skin more as time goes by.
As one expect for the technology, viewing angles aren’t generous but as the opposite can be said for the degree of ‘swivelability’ present in the stand, unless seating positions are extreme, it should be possible for everyone in the room to see a decent picture. In general, the Samsung UE46ES6800 brings plenty to the table, it’s just a shame it’s sometimes tripped up by such a familiar failing.
Picture Quality - 3DAlmost all LED TVs we’ve seen in 2012 have shown significant improvements in the 3D department, across the gamut of manufacturers, and Samsung’s 6 series doesn’t buck this trend with it being capable of producing wonderfully engaging added-dimension entertainment. Subjecting the Samsung to our crosstalk torture test that is Happy Feet 2 did reveal some ghosting and the observant might spot a touch of judder in motion, especially with Blu-ray based 3D content, but it’s never really enough to defeat the added level of immersion 3D can bring, when done right. This reviewer isn’t the biggest fan of the 3D eyewear supplied with the ES6800 but opinions are mixed and they are certainly very lightweight and comfortable to wear. For me, they let in far too much light which ups the flicker factor to intolerable levels.
Audio and FeaturesThe UE46ES68000 possesses two down-firing, full range speakers with a claimed 10W per channel output that were predictably thin in the lower frequencies but coped well with dialogue and capable of hitting reasonably high volumes before any noticeable distortion occurred. We were thankful to be reviewing a Samsung soundbar at the same time, however, and anybody that is even semi-serious about audio should be seeking a similar external solution.
Samsung’s suite of features is so extensive that we felt compelled to give them their own dedicated review and just about all that’s missing, from all that is covered there, are the voice and gesture controls as well as the Evolution Upgrade kit. In short, the ES6800 is stuffed to the gunwales with apps and services.
- Very accurate, post calibration
- Decent contrast
- Mostly excellent video processing
- Smarter than your average bear
- Nice remote control
- Poor uniformity
- Limited viewing angles
- Some very noticeable blur - particularly with games
- Very minor undefeatable high frequency detail reduction
Samsung ES6800 (UE46ES6800) 3D LED LCD Smart TV Review
We had mixed feelings about the silver/black design of the Samsung ES6800 but here's not doubting its totally contemporary although we'd actually prefer it to be in one camp, rather than two. The remote control is unusual for Samsung, and rather swish but, again, we're in two minds and we like to be able to feel our way around a controller but the provision of a backlight goes some way to mitigating this lack of tactility. Connections are more than adequate, save for the lack of a fourth HDMI port; we'll never turn our noses up a built in WiFi, however.
Menus are nearly as comprehensive as the feature-set but we were slightly dismayed that the 10 point white balance controls didn't quite function 100% as we'd like. That's not to say we couldn't achieve an excellent calibration but it left us with that nagging feeling we could have done better. Once calibration was complete, the sense of accuracy was palpable and a far cry from the over-lit and excessively blue tinted pictures out of the box, Standard mode provides.
To underpin the convincing colour palette, contrast performance was impressive but the deep blacks were undermined, somewhat, by some serious light pooling issues that weren't only evident in darker scenes. Video processing is mostly excellent and should you subject your ES6800 to the rigours of standard definition content, you'll find them handled with aplomb. Naturally these things are designed to show off the glories of HD and here we were rarely disappointed with bags of detail on display. Motion handling could be better and we were witness to some aggressive blur, at times, especially with fast moving video based content. The use of a touch of Motion Plus here, can reap some reward. We'd not recommend any such interpolation 'guessworkery' for movies, however, but the LED Motion Plus option is interesting with film based content and worth investigating. Similarly, 3D material displayed a few motion hitches, here and there, but it rarely took away from the sense of immersion and the bright, punchy images convince. Gamers will need to switch the name of an HDMI input to PC to get the most responsive experience and it's well worth doing.
If it weren't for the intrusive light pooling problems we encountered with the sample provided for review we'd certainly consider it worthy of a Recommendation and possibly more. As it is we've no alternative but to implore the manufacturers - and not just Samsung - to tackle the engineering challenges of LED technology and gives us at least something approaching respectable screen uniformity in exchange for our hard earned readies.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,399.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
3D Picture Quality7
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
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