Type: 3D Full HD TV with web connected features, motion controls and voice activated controls.
Specifications: Click here for full specs
Price as reviewed: Around £1,500
A feature-rich 3D TV with web connected features, motion controls and voice-activated commands, Samsung's ES7000 series ticks plenty of boxes. But are its unique hardware features just gimmicks, and can its picture quality match Samsung's top-tier offerings? Read on to find out!
NOTE: We tested the 46-inch ES7000 model. However, with the specifications between this model and the 40-inch model almost identical, we're confident that our tests with the 46-inch model will reflect a very similar experience were you looking to pick up the smaller television instead.
The UE46ES7000 continues Samsung's super-slim TV trend, with the panel measuring a mere 29.7mm thick. There's barely any bezel at all surrounding the screen, and as this bezel is finished in black rather than the silver look Samsung employ in their premium 8000 series sets, it leads to the closest we've seen a screen come to having the illusion of an edge-to-edge display. The bezel only protrudes a little more in the centre of its top edge, where the television's integrated webcam and microphone sit. Along the lower edge is an illuminated Samsung logo which thankfully can be switched off through the menus.
The stand opts for the older four-pronged silver foot look than Samsung's newer loop-style base, but it's still a fun, space-age look that we're fond of. However, connecting the base to to the screen itself is still a bit of a chore, especially when trying to line up all the screws to hold it into place. You're going to need a pal to help you put this sizeable screen together if you don't want to risk damaging it.
Though 3 HDMI inputs is a little on the stingy side, its a wide and useful offering of ports and connections on the UE46ES7000. The inclusion of both Freeview HD and Freesat tuners are welcome.
2D Picture Quality:
Running at a now-standard 1080x1920 Full HD 1080p resolution, the Samsung UE46ES7000 is a luxurious LED screen to watch. Dynamic colours burst off the screen, with colours remaining natural and lifelike and needing little calibration to get the most from the display. Images are sharp too without becoming unsightly or overly grainy, while the contrast ratio delivers crisp whites and deep blacks.
Though motion processing techniques sometimes get our goat here at Tech Digest, they prove subtle and attractive on the UE46ES7000. They offer fluidity to motion without veering into that strange watery look that over processed images can on some motion-tech packing sets. Of course, you've got the option to crank it up to ridiculous levels using custom settings, but stick with the default Clear option and fast-paced action scenes will look judder free without looking ghostly and strange.
It's not totally perfect though. The main issue lies with an inconsistent backlight. Crank it up to any higher than a quarter of its maximum intensity and we quickly found it be patchy, bleeding into darker areas of the screen, and being particularly prevalent in the top left hand corner of our review model. The lack of the 8000 series' micro dimming technology here is one of the UE46ES7000's few failings over its more expensive stablemate. You can drop the backlight down to alleviate this issue, but brightness of course takes a significant hit as a result.
Things of course look there best when playing with Full HD content, but the UE46ES7000 plays very nicely with standard definition content too, upscaling SD content so effectively as to make the inclusion of a noise reduction processing option obsolete. Gamers will also find the TV suitable to their needs, with a Game Mode option pushing input lag to a reasonably low 34ms average.
3D Picture Quality:
3D films look great on the TV. Using active shutter 3D tech, they are sharp and offer great depth, and maintain good brightness levels and colour saturation despite the inevitable darkness the tinted 3D glasses cast across a picture. There's barely any sign of crosstalk, meaning you can watch a 3D film without any distractions. 2D to 3D conversion isn't great, but this isn't a black mark against the set's name considering no other screen has successfully managed it yet either.
The glasses themselves need to be put together yourself out of the box, but they snap together easily. They're a little bit bulkier than other active shutter 3D glasses we've tried, though that does have the unexpected bonus of making them slip over regular prescription glasses easier than usual. Two pairs come with the set.
Flat screen TV's always struggle in the audio department, and this offering from Samsung is no different. There's a lack of bass and a limited mid-range, leading to a tinny, harsh sound. EQ options can help you soften the sound a little, and there's certainly no problem hearing voices in your favourite soaps. But if you're looking for sound quality to match the impressive picture on offer, you're going to have to invest in a soundbar or surround sound system to accompany the display.
Motion and Voice Activated Controls:
Ever wished you didn't have to hunt around for the remote control to change settings and channels on your TV? That's very nearly the reality with the UE46ES7000, thanks to its built in voice activated and motion sensing controls.
The voice controls are the more accurate and useful of the two methods. After saying a trigger phrase (the default is "Hi TV"), you're presented with a list of onscreen voice commands. A simple set up process sets up the voice recognition, and from turning up the volume to accessing Smart TV apps, it works very consistently. It's particularly useful when using text entry boxes in apps, where the alternative would be to painstakingly tap into an onscreen software keyboard with the remote (though it is possible to hook up a wireless QWERTY keyboard too).
Motion controls are more hit-and-miss. Though it lets you navigate web pages through the TV in an arguably more natural way by waving your hands gently around in front of the screen, it has a painstaking set up process and often fails to respond to your inputs the way you'd hope it would.
Packing in both Wi-Fi connectivity and an Ethernet connection, it's easy to get the UE46ES7000 hooked up to your home network, letting you access a wide variety of Smart TV content and apps.
As well as the aforementioned web browser (which is among the best we've tried on a TV), there's a great selection of video services on offer including Netflix, LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer and iTV Player, as well as Samsung's own 3D channels. DLNA connectivity via AllShare is also possible, as is rudimentary Twitter and Facebook access.
A surprisingly robust app store lets you add more apps to the main Smart TV hub, including TV-optimised versions of popular mobile apps like Angry Birds and Spotify music streaming. Best of all though is Skype, which thanks to the televisions built in webcam lets you easily make free full-screen video calls from the comfort of your sofa to friends anywhere around the world.
Samsung have also introduced a handful of new "zones" to the Smart TV hub, which pools together similar content in one place. The Fitness Zone offers a substantial selection of videos aiming to help you get into shape, while the Kid Zone collects child-safe videos, games and a virtual sticker books for the little ones to play with. Those worried about what their children may be able to access with a web-connected TV will be pleased to here there are extensive pin-protected parental controls available through the TV too.
All in, it's a very impressive array of web connected features that often makes the most of the unique hardware on offer in the UE46ES7000.
The UE46ES7000 comes with not one, but two remote controls.
One is a standard, thin and long remote with backlit rubber buttons, including shortcut keys for accessing Smart TV features, as well as playback controls for videos and ARC-connected HDMI devices. It's comfortable and sensibly laid out, though the decision to swap out the dedicated aspect ratio button for a "Family Story" shortcut isn't a good one.
The second remote control is smaller and more squat, and features far less physical buttons in favour of a touch panel. It works surprisingly well, particularly when using it like a laptop trackpad for browsing the TV's web connected features. It also features a built-in microphone, meaning you can use the TV's voice-activated controls without shouting across the room, or over the volume of the set itself. However, it's not as instantly familiar an experience to use as the standard remote, and we still found ourselves using the regular remote more often than the touch-enabled one.
Looking great both in terms of design and picture quality, it's easy to recommend the UE46ES7000 from Samsung. Though not all of its bells and whistles work flawlessly, even the more gimmicky aspects of the screen's design have their uses. Both 2D and 3D picture quality are top notch, while the extensive web connected offerings are among the best we've seen. We'd have liked an extra HDMI port and a more consistent backlight, but all in it's an impressive set that, if used to its full potential, can bring a lot of fresh content and extra functionality to your TV living room space..