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Samsung UE40ES6800 review

Samsung's LED TV is a good mid-ranger

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Design wise, the Samsung UE40ES6800 is surprisingly 'normal' looking. In place of the insanely slender bezels of the ES7000 and ES8000 series TVs, you get a markedly wider grey bezel, given added panache (or made to look a little over-fussy, depending on your point of view) by a few millimetres of transparent outer trim.

The set is still quite trim around the rear, though again, it's not nearly as skinny as Samsung's slimmest efforts.

The set is illuminated, as you would expect, by Edge LED lighting, and the lights are driven by Samsung's micro dimming system, which breaks the image down into segments as the TV goes about calculating the optimum output levels for the LED array. However, the Samsung UE40ES6800's micro dimming doesn't operate on the same level of subtlety and localised accuracy as the system sported by the ES7000 and ES8000 models.

The Samsung UE40ES6800 also runs with a '400CMR' engine designed to improve motion clarity. If you're wondering why it's 400CMR (Clear Motion Rate) rather than the more common 400Hz, this is because Samsung - quite rightly, actually - believes that it's misleading to describe a TV as having 400Hz when the TV's panel isn't actually refreshing its contents 400 times a second as the Hz terminology would lead you to expect.

Samsung UE40ES6800 review

This is why you'll also find rival LG now talking in terms of a 'Motion Clarity Index' (MCI) when quoting the motion handling properties of its TVs.

Despite its relative affordability versus Samsung's ES7000 and ES8000 models, the Samsung UE40ES6800 still boasts both active 3D playback and the latest version of Samsung's Smart TV platform.

The 3D playback is supported by the inclusion of two pairs of active shutter 3D glasses, while the smart TV engine benefits from Samsung's latest full HD Smart Hub on-screen menu system and all of Samsung's latest content additions.

Conspicuous by their absence, though, are the alternative control systems of Samsung's flagship TVs. So there's no touchpad remote, and no support for either gesture or voice controls. We have to admit that we didn't find ourselves missing the gesture and voice controls as much as might have been expected, but the touchpad remote is a definite loss. Unless, that is, you sort yourself out with Samsung's TV control app for your Android smartphone or tablet or the iPhone app.

Samsung UE40ES6800 review

The level of content Samsung has got onto its Smart TV platform this year is very high. Among the most interesting findings are: a new Fitness zone that enables multiple users to set up health/weight profiles and then join in with a wide range of calorie-rated exercise routines; a new Family zone that enables you to establish a private network of friend and family connections for sharing messages and photos; and a Kids zone that collects child-friendly video content and provides a digital 'sticker book' for rewarding good behaviour.

Also very important is the set's increasingly strong focus on providing video content - the sort of online content that, unsurprisingly, seems best suited to a TV environment. Highlights now include Netflix, LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport, Samsung's own 3D 'channel', YouTube, PictureBox, Vimeo and AOL HD.

There's also plenty of social media support from the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Skype (via an optional extra camera) and Picasa, as well as more gaming, information and education apps than you can shake a Californian Redwood-sized stick at.

Unfortunately many of these 'second-rung' apps are pretty pointless, and arguably just clutter the Smart TV experience up rather than contributing anything useful to your life. But at least the menus do a reasonable job of shielding you from the second-rate stuff, unless you really want to seek it out. Which you won't.

Samsung UE40ES6800 review

Samsung provides a pretty healthy roster of picture adjustments on the UE40ES6800, despite not currently pursuing the endorsement of either the THX or Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) groups.

You'll need to spend a little time with at least some of the adjustments provided, because the UE40ES6800 follows Samsung's usual trend of shipping with a small selection of unhelpful presets that all leave pictures looking much too aggressive for comfort.

Particularly crazy is the way most of the settings use the backlight at its maximum 20 level, when we've found that you get much better colour, black level and backlight consistency results out of the panel if you set the backlight down as low as its six or seven level.

Also useful is the way Samsung enables you to adjust most aspects of its video processing tools. This proves especially handy when trying to get the best results out of Samsung's motion processing systems.

The last aspect of the Samsung UE40ES6800's features to cover is its connectivity. This is fairly strong, aside from the fact that you only get three HDMIs when most TVs these days offer four. Multimedia support comprises a healthy three USB ports, a LAN jack, and built-in Wi-Fi, and you can access files stored on a DLNA PC via both the wired and wireless connections.

The level of file support is pretty strong, and one final nice touch of the Samsung UE40ES6800's connectivity is that it supports Freesat HD via an LNB jack, as well as the expected Freeview HD tuner.