Type: 3D Full HD TV with web connected features
Specifications: Click here for full specs
Price as reviewed: Around £1,000
Samsung's ES6800 series screen rolls back the kookier features found in the top-end ES8000 range, instead focussing on delivering solid image quality. Its stripped back feature list matches its mid-range price tag, but does it rob the ES6800 of all that made the ES8000 so appealing? Read on to find out!
NOTE: We tested the 46-inch ES6800 model. However, with the specifications between this model and the 32, 40 and 55-inch models 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 a different sized model.
The UE46ES6800 is a relatively slim set at 46.9mm thick, but doesn't quite match Samsung's own top end super-slim TV trend, being a good third thicker than the 46-inch ES8000 model equivalent. There's still barely any bezel at all surrounding the screen however, finished in a thin sliver trim, though the actual display itself has a significant black border surrounding the image. It's not necessarily to its detriment though; Samsung's higher-end models may offer almost edge-to-edge visuals, but the border here acts as a subtle frame to the picture rather than a distraction. Lacking the ES8000's top-mounted integrated webcam, it's a perfect oblong too, whereas the ES8000 had a noticeable bump on its top edge to accommodate its camera. Along the lower edge is an illuminated Samsung logo which thankfully can be switched off through the menus.
The stand used is Samsung's go-to four-pronged silver foot rather than the company's newer loop-style base. We're still fans of the foot, which looks like some sort of metallic alien appendage, but 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'll want a pal on hand to help you put both parts of the TV together if you don't want to risk breaking it.
We'd have liked to have seen more than just 3 HDMI inputs on the set, but Samsung's offering here is a wide and useful collection of ports and connections. The inclusion of both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners will be a welcome one for those trying to save having to buy a separate set top box to cover both options.
2D Picture Quality:
Offering a 1080x1920 Full HD 1080p resolution, the Samsung UE46ES6800 looks garish when switched on for the first time. Its image presets are massively over-saturated and overly bright for most home viewing scenarios. Thankfully, there are ample image tweaking controls tucked away in the menus which can be used to settle the image for more pleasing results. Just expect your jaw to drop for all the wrong reasons to begin with.
Once you've messed around with the image settings, the ES6800 performs well within its price bracket. Colours look natural, with LED output balanced and complementing the evenly distributed backlighting. Even its motion features come recommended if used in moderation; cranking them to the default maximum settings makes images look watery, but the "Clear" setting smooths motion in fast-moving action scenes attractively. It's a pin-sharp display too, pulling out superb detail from HD sources.
There are areas where the ES6800 falls down when put up against its more expensive stablemates though. Skin tones lack subtlety, even with HD sources, giving everyone on screen a slightly Photoshopped look, while so-so contrast levels lead to greyish, washed-out blacks in the darkest scenes. The micro-dimming system of the ES8000 model may have helped in this respect, especially when differentiating between deep blacks and shadow details, but it's a high-end feature you wont find at this sets mid-range price.
The UE46ES6800 of course look its best when playing with Full HD content, but the screen handles standard definition content respectably too. SD content is upscaled well enough to make the noise reduction processing option unnecessary.
Gamers too will be pleased with the relatively low input lag average of 35ms when applying the Game Mode preset. This removes many of the more advanced image processing techniques employed by the set, though is frustratingly hidden deep within the system settings menu. A dedicated remote shortcut would have been useful here.
3D Picture Quality:
Moving on to the third-dimension, 3D films look very good on the TV. Using active shutter 3D tech, 3D Blu-ray movies retain their sharpness and offer great depth. The lightweight glasses let in a little too much external light, but manage to keep brightness reduction and reduced colour vibrancy to a minimum. There's barely any sign of crosstalk, too, a massive improvement over Samsung's similarly priced sets this time last year. 2D to 3D conversion isn't great, but no other screen from any other manufacturer has pulled off the processing technique successfully either yet, so that's not too much of a problem.
Flat screen TV's notoriously struggle when it comes to delivering satisfying audio as there's little room for decent speakers to be housed. The ES6800 is no different. There's a definite lack of bass and a poor mid-range, resulting in a tinny, harsh sound. EQ options can help you improve the sound a little by boosting the low and mid ranges and dialling back the treble ever so slightly, and there's certainly no problem hearing voices in your favourite shows. But you'll want to invest in a soundbar or home cinema surround speaker set if you want a truly bombastic experience when watching Hollywood blockbusters.
Web Connected Smart TV Features:
Packing in both Wi-Fi connectivity and an Ethernet connection, it's easy to get the UE46ES6800 hooked up to the net, giving you access to a robust offering of Smart TV content and apps.
You'll get a very useable web browser, a solid selection of video services including Netflix, LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer and iTV Player (as well as Samsung's own 3D channels) and more. DLNA connectivity via AllShare is also possible, as is rudimentary Twitter and Facebook access.
You can add more apps through the Samsung Apps Store, including TV-optimised versions of popular mobile apps like Angry Birds and Spotify music streaming. There's Skype on offer too, though unlike the ES8000 models you'll need to buy a supplementary webcam in order to enjoy it.
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 hear there are extensive pin-protected parental controls available through the TV too.
The UE46ES6800 comes with Samsung's standard, thin and long remote, complete with backlighting. Slightly raised details help identify the divisions between the flat "membrane" buttons, which include shortcut keys for accessing Smart TV features, as well as playback controls for videos and ARC-connected HDMI devices. It's comfortable to hold 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, and we'd hope to see the positioning of media playback buttons raised a little higher in future revisions of the remote. It feels robust though, and thanks to its near-flush buttons can be easily wiped clean of any dirt or grubby marks.
Though a little more rough around the edges than the ES8000 series, the ES6800 represents good value for money. Image quality is strong for the price range, and there's a superb selection of Smart TV content on offer. Some will argue that the ES8000's motion controls and webcam are extraneous features, and their omission here will be sensible penny-pinching measures for many. However, the image quality is slightly less impressive than the higher end models from Samsung, so if you've got the cash available consider at the very least stumping up the extra money for one of the ES7000 models. If that's out of your price range, don't worry too much; the ES6800 will get the job done.