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If you just stick with the various picture presets Samsung provides on the UE46ES8000, you'll likely feel disappointed - at least in the long term. Because while the way all the presets push contrast, backlight brightness or both makes pictures eye-catching, it also leaves colours looking overcooked, dark scenes looking a little grey, and backlight consistency levels looking average.
Thankfully you can massively improve the way pictures look via no more complicated adjustments than just knocking back the backlight to somewhere between its six and nine settings (depending on the brightness of your room), and making sure the contrast setting never strays higher than its 75 level.
With these simple setting adjustments in place, the Samsung UE46ES8000's pictures go from average to excellent. Particularly impressive is the contrast performance, since the screen combines punchy, luminous colours and pure whites with one of the deepest black level performances yet seen from an Edge LED TV.
There are times when it perhaps feels as if the deepest black level from the Samsung UE46ES8000 isn't quite as profound as that of last year's Samsung sets. But instead you get a much more sensible balance between black level depth and shadow detail retention, which makes the Samsung UE46ES8000's rendition of dark scenes noticeably superior overall.
Colours seem to enjoy even more tonal subtleties than last year, without the TV's wide colour range being diminished. We're used to LED-driven LCD TVs looking bright and punchy, of course, but the Samsung UE46ES8000's images really are particularly eye-catching - even after you've toned down the crazily high backlight preset values.
Another strength of the Samsung UE46ES8000's pictures is their sharpness. HD material looks dazzlingly detailed and ruthlessly sharp, but also pretty much devoid of noise.
To see this effect at its best you have to be careful with some of the set's processing elements; for instance, the motion processing should be run at a relatively low level if at all, and all noise reduction settings are better deactivated for HD viewing.
But follow these very simple precautions, and the Samsung UE46ES8000 is unusually capable of giving you the maximum impact from HD material.
While the Samsung UE46ES8000 clearly revels in showing HD movies and TV shows, it's a talented standard definition performer too. The power and speed of its dual-core processor enables it to upscale SD sources exceptionally well, in fact, adding detail and sharpness while simultaneously removing source noise.
The good news continues once you don a pair of Samsung's impressively lightweight new 3D glasses.
The Samsung UE46ES8000 serves up arguably the finest active 3D images we've seen from a TV - certainly an LCD one. Samsung's latest panel design and processing systems have hugely reduced the amount of crosstalk double ghosting noise you see while watching 3D sources.
You can see tiny traces of it over very bright objects in the far distance if they appear against dark backdrops. But so infrequent and so minor are these crosstalk appearances that they're barely worth mentioning.
The Samsung UE46ES8000's 3D pictures also impress with their brightness. Putting on the 3D glasses results in considerably less brightness reduction than you usually get with active 3D TV systems. This enables colours to retain plenty of vibrancy and dark scenes to contain more shadow detail than you tend to see with the 3D images of, say, Panasonic's (also excellent) 3D plasma TVs.
There is one issue with the Samsung UE46ES8000's 3D pictures, though. While the set sensibly automatically shifts its backlight output up a few gears when it detects that you're watching 3D, this means that during dark scenes you can be aware of a couple of areas of backlight inconsistency down each side of the screen.
The final picture performance aspect of the Samsung UE46ES8000 to consider is its input lag - a potentially critical issue for gamers. Happily Samsung's set only takes around 35ms to produce its pictures if you use the provided Game preset, which shouldn't significantly damage your gaming skills.
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.