- Review Date: 05/29/2012
- Bottom line: With the Samsung ES6500F series you get spot-on colors, two sets of 3D glasses, and a nice catalog of web apps, but this slender LED-backlit HDTV doesn't get very bright or very black.
- Pros: Very accurate colors. Attractive, slim cabinet. Generous selection of web apps.
- Cons: Mediocre blacks. Not very bright. Only three HDMI ports.
The Samsung UN46ES6500F ($1,729.99 list) is a smart-looking 46-inch HDTV with 3D capabilities, loads of interactive web services, and built-in Wi-Fi. It delivers very accurate colors and a crisp, clean HD picture, but the LED backlit panel could be brighter. You won't get dark inky blacks with this model either, and it only has three HDMI ports. However, it does offers some neat features, including two sets of active shutter 3D glasses and Samsung's Smart Hub menu system that makes it easy to launch apps, play multimedia files and movies, surf the web, and connect to other devices.
Design and Features
Style-wise, the UN46ES6500F is easy on the eyes. The panel, which actually measures 45.9 inches, is framed by an ultra-slim (0.5-inch) matte black bezel and sits in a slender 1.25 inch cabinet (the bottom juts out to 1.9 inches to accommodate the down-firing speakers). The bezels are decorated with beveled clear trim, giving the set a pleasing angular look. A shiny Samsung badge protrudes downward from the center of the bottom bezel. The sturdy four-legged stand is piano black and can swivel smoothly.
There are no function buttons on the UN46ES6500F. Instead, there's a small joystick control mounted on the lower right side of the back panel that lets you access and navigate the various menu pages. It's easier to use the remote to adjust settings and launch apps. The 9-inch wand is backlit and has all the usual player, volume, and channel controls. The number buttons are a tad small and the backlighting is slightly dim, but the remote is lightweight and fits comfortably in the hand. In the center of the remote is a colorful Smart Hub key.
Samsung's Smart Hub provides a single point of access for launching Web apps, streaming content from the Web and compatible DLNA devices over an Ethernet connection or the UN46ES6500F's built-in Wi-Fi, playing movies, and accessing USB based content. The icon-driven menu is colorful and easy to navigate. It includes the cloud-based Family Story app, which lets families share photos and videos and schedule events, an interactive Fitness app for body sculpting, fat burning, and weight monitoring, and a Kids portal featuring several Canimals episodes, WordWorld, and other kid oriented apps.
Samsung's Web app catalog is extensive, offering more than 70 information channels including Save Our Planet, The History Of America, and Home Safety. Streaming movie apps include Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, CinemaNow, and Blockbuster, and there are over 90 free and paid games available. Education services include Today In History, the Periodic Tables, and Guitar Chords, and you get about a dozen sports apps including MLB, NBA, and ESPN. You can also access most social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Picasa) and surf the Web with the built-in browser.
The UN46ES6500F provides plenty of picture settings to help you get the best possible picture for your lighting environment. There are four picture modes (Standard, Dynamic, Movie, and Natural) with optimized settings for their respective function. Movie mode offers the best all-around picture, especially if you're in a dimly lit room. You get all the basic settings, including backlight, brightness, contrast, sharpness, color, and tint controls, as well as a handful of advanced settings such as 10-point white balance, gamma, flesh tone, black tone, and dynamic contrast ratio. Picture options include AutoMotion Plus with judder and blur reduction for eliminating motion artifacts, film mode (for content shot at 24 fps), and LED Motion Plus, which uses backlight strobe to help reduce motion blur.
The UN46ES6500F's performance was a mixed bag. While seated at dead center it provided a realistic 3D picture with very little crosstalk while watching Sharks 3D. Crosstalk was more prominent when seated at an extreme angle but the 3D effect was still enjoyable. The set comes with two pairs of lightweight active shutter glasses which are fairly comfortable but not very stylish. They also let too much light in from the sides.
Using images from the DisplayMate suite of HDTV diagnostic tests, a Chroma Meter, and SpectraCal's Calman software, the panel produced a peak brightness reading of 101.81 cd/m2 after a basic darkroom calibration. That's not very bright for an LED backlit HDTV, especially when compared to other LED sets like the Vizio M3D550KD ($1,429.99, 4 stars) (364.75 cd/m2) and LG 55LM6700 ($2,299.99, 4 stars) (256.68 cd/m2). Moreover, the UN46ES6500F's black level (0.06 cd/m2) can't touch that of the Vizio (0.02 cd/m2) or the LG (0.03 cd/m2), and its measured contrast ratio of 1696:1 is mediocre at best.
On the plus side the UN46ES6500F delivers very accurate colors out of the box, as shown in the CIE Chromaticity Chart below (the red, green, and blue boxes represent the CIE standard for each color and the circles represent the panel's actual reading). It also has a wide off-angle viewing range; there was hardly any color shifting when viewed from an extreme side angle and the panel did not lose luminance.
Scenes from Piranha on Blu-ray were crisp with natural looking skin tones, but shadow detail suffered a bit as a result of the panel's inability to display dark blacks, and you don't get the kind of punchy picture that you get from a panel with a high contrast ratio. Still, the UN46ES6500F delivers a very sharp, noise-free picture.
The UN46ES6500F is easy on power but not quite as eco-friendly as the larger LG 55LM6700. During my testing it used 93 watts of power with power saving disabled and 53 watts with power saving set to low, while the LG used 67 watts and 48 watts, respectively. You can cut the UN46ES6500F's power consumption even more by setting power saving to medium (41 watts) or high (28 watts), but both settings are much too dim.
The Samsung UN46ES6500F is a capable 46-inch HDTV that is tastefully designed and offers a nice feature set, including two sets of 3D glasses, lots of interactive apps, and a cloud-based family portal. Its color quality is top notch, but its peak brightness and black level performance hold it back. All told, you'll get better performance from our recent budget Editors' Choice, the Vizio M3D550KD, and you'll get more screen and save a few hundred dollars while you're at it.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.