Samsung UE46ES8000 review

Samsung's new flagship 46-inch TV pretty much rocks

Samsung UE46ES8000
Samsung's flagship smart TV comes with two remotes and an ultra-slim bezel

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Any TV design as attractive as that wrapped around the Samsung UE46ES8000 has to class as a feature in itself. We have little doubt that its ultra-slim silver bezel and distinctive new arch stand design will be all the temptation many people need to scrape together the asking price of £1,900 in the UK or $3,000 in the US, where it's called the UN46ES8000.

So slender is the bezel around the screen, in fact, that the only way Samsung has been able to fit in its integrated Skype/gesture control camera and its own logo is by adding little protrusions in the centre of the set's top and bottom edges.

Samsung UE46ES8000 review

The Samsung UE46ES8000's rear end isn't quite as slender as those witnessed on one or two of Samsung's previous Edge LED TV models, but it's still slender enough to perfectly suit wall hanging - if you can resist using the spectacular stand, that is.

Wall hanging is further supported by the Samsung UE46ES8000's connections, which are all mounted for side access. They're prodigious in number too, including four HDMIs, a trio of USBs, and both LAN and Wi-Fi network options.

The USB can be used for playing back a fairly prodigious amount of photo, video and music file formats, or you could use one for setting up a USB HDD for recording from the set's built-in Freeview HD tuner.

The same expanse of files can be delivered from a DLNA PC via the network connections too. Or, of course, these jacks could be used to get the TV jacked in to Samsung's latest online Smart Hub platform.

Smart TV

With most brands seeming to agree that 2012 is the year of smart TV, it's no surprise to find Samsung trying very hard to keep its online platform ahead of the rest.

Two significant improvements hit you as soon as you press the cool new Smart Hub button on the remote controls (and yes, we did mean "controls" plural - more on this presently).

Samsung UE46ES8000 review

First, Samsung has increased the resolution of its Smart Hub home screen, so that it a) looks much prettier and b) can accommodate more content link icons than before, without looking cluttered.

Second, Samsung has added three seemingly significant new sections of content, highlighted by their appearance in a strip of five large icons running across the centre of the screen.

The first and clearly most important of these three new zones is dubbed Family Zone. This enables you to set up a closed, password-protected network for sharing photos and messages between family members - and, we guess, close friends - no matter where in the world they might be.

Your other family members don't need to have a new Samsung TV to join your network, either; PCs can be added to the network, and Samsung is also due to launch in the coming months a Family Zone Android app for phones and tablets.

The Family Zone interface works very nicely in a TV context, and aside from some faffing about when first setting up a network, it does an effective job of taking the confusion out of connecting people across the potentially complex and insecure world of the internet.

This simplicity is, of course, crucial if the feature is to appeal to mainstream users rather than just tech freaks and geeks.

The second new area of content is the Fitness zone. Opening this up gives you the option to set up accounts for multiple users in your home, so that different individuals can track their own weight loss and exercise regimes.

Various graphs and charts are provided to feed your health addiction, but the main 'event' of the fitness section is a surprisingly long roster of exercise videos for you to follow. Running from around five minutes to half an hour, these videos come with calories-burned figures attached to them, so that you and the TV have some sort of numerical way of tracking your activities.

Obviously the system is limited by the TV not knowing what you're eating or being able to weigh you directly, meaning you'll have to apply a little discipline and effort of your own to make the Fitness Zone really effective.

With this in mind, we await with interest Panasonic's Viera Connect fitness system, with its treadmill and scales accessories. But for now, Samsung's Fitness Zone is comfortably the most extensive fitness tool on any smart TV.

The final new zone is for kids, and is for the most part a simple aggregation exercise, where kid-friendly videos are collected together. There is also, though, a fun if basic reward system, where you can reward good behaviour with virtual stickers to go into a pretty little virtual book.

At the time of writing, the Kid's Zone is rather low on content, but the idea behind it is sound if Samsung can nurture it along in the coming months.

Alongside these new sections are more genuinely useful online features, mostly built around video streaming services. All the big names are there: Acetrax, LoveFilm, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and so on, as well as a stable and content-rich 3D channel to provide an instant 3D hit for people who buy a Samsung UE46ES8000 but don't have any 3D media at home.

There is also, it must be said, a rather extensive supply of small-scale and generally useless apps too. However, you should be able to avoid having to trawl through these too often, unless you really want to.

3D processing

Shifting our focus to the Samsung UE46ES8000's 3D abilities, they're active, with two pairs of glasses provided free with the TV. Samsung also claims to have introduced a number of new processing and response time measures designed to reduce the problems with 3D crosstalk ghosting noise that showed up on Samsung's 2011 3D LCD TVs.

The processing inside the Samsung UE46ES8000 is, significantly, produced via a dual-core processing engine, enabling the TV to handle more algorithms in real time.

This is particularly important when it comes to the accuracy with which the TV can analyse incoming images, enabling the engine to work on more segments of the image than has been possible before, so that the set's automatic lighting adjustments can deliver more accurate results.

The UE46ES8000 also enjoys Samsung's most powerful 800CMR motion reproduction processing engine, and as usual it's good to find that most of the key elements of all the TV's processing tools can be adjusted to different levels via the on-screen menus.

Samsung still doesn't seek the endorsement of the Imaging Science Foundation, but that doesn't stop the Samsung UE46ES8000 from being decently equipped with colour and gamma adjustments.

The only niggles with the set up tools are that the backlight adjustment could do with a few more settings to give you more fine-tuning options, and that all of the picture presets are more or less useless. Their bizarre preference for high contrast and backlight settings means that if you stick with any of them, you'll be selling the set's panel short.

John Archer
AV Technology Contributor

John has been writing about home entertainment technology for more than two decades - an especially impressive feat considering he still claims to only be 35 years old (yeah, right). In that time he’s reviewed hundreds if not thousands of TVs, projectors and speakers, and spent frankly far too long sitting by himself in a dark room.