Samsung UE46EH5300 review

Pros

  • Mostly enjoyable pictures
  • Smart Hub
  • User interface

Cons

  • No built-in Wi-Fi or 3D
  • Poor dark scene definition & SD pictures
  • Chunky back-end

The UE46EH5300 is a budget 46in LED set that comes equipped with a decent range of features but holds back on the jaw-dropping designs and cutting-edge tricks of Samsung’s premium sets. For that reason you can find it for as little as £630 online.

Key to the UE46EH5300’s appeal is the inclusion of Smart Hub, Samsung’s online content portal, which is a pleasing discovery on such a reasonably priced set. There’s no 3D though.

Design and features

Design-wise, this is not Samsung’s finest hour. The chunky back end is a far cry from the wafer-thin dimensions of the 8000 series, and makes it look more like a pre-LED CCFL set, while the gloss black finish is attractive but unlikely to set your heart a flutter.

The narrow gloss-black bezel is plasticky and there’s a hollow shudder on the back end when you tap it. This isn’t surprising for a budget set, but nonetheless it’s a reminder that this is not Samsung firing on all cylinders.

The rectangular gloss black stand is unadventurous – none of this ‘looks like it’s floating’ malarkey – but it does complement the screen nicely.

On the back is a little panel of outward-facing sockets, including two HDMI inputs, with a third on the side. That’s not bad for a budget set, but it’s really the bare minimum you should expect these days.

There’s also the familiar trio of component inputs (the Y socket also doubles as a composite video input), a SCART input, optical digital audio output and an Ethernet port. On the side are two USB ports for media playback and a common interface slot.

Thankfully the UE46EH5300 is not the feature vacuum you might have expected for the money. There’s Smart Hub, DLNA file streaming (via AllShare Play), Skype and USB media playback, plus a Freeview HD tuner. That’s pretty much the meat ‘n’ veg of most modern midrange TVs.

Trouble is, to access the network functionality you’ll need to connect to your router using a LAN cable or buy an optional LAN adapter and park it in one of the two USB ports. The other gaping hole in the spec sheet is 3D, but that might be a good thing depending on your attitude towards the technology.

Connect to the web and you can access Smart Hub and its excellent range of apps. The selection includes BBC iPlayer and ITV Player (which isn’t found on any other 2012 TV), as well as on-demand movies from LoveFilm and Netflix, plus free video streaming from YouTube and Vimeo.

There’s loads more lurking in the Samsung Apps menu, covering everything from social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Skype) to games and puzzles. It’s quite possibly the best Smart TV selection around, and if not then it certainly runs Sony a close second.

What sets Smart Hub apart from its rivals, however, are bonus services like Fitness (workout videos and progress monitoring tools), Kids (cartoons and educational videos) and Family Story, a proprietary service for sharing photos with other Smart Hub users. These are presented in gloriously stylish and colourful menus that add a sense of sophistication and fun.

The AllShare Play menu allows you to play video, music and photo files from connected USB devices or stream them from DLNA media servers over a network. I like the way all the content is grouped together into one convenient menu, rather than spreading it across a range of separate sections. Pleasingly, the set played all of my test files with no hassle from a USB key, but as we found with other Samsung TVs it wouldn’t stream MKV over a network – that’s USB only. But everything else was fair game.

The set also offers Samsung’s 100 Clear Motion Rate picture technology, which sees the chipset, panel and backlight working together to get rid of pesky motion blur and judder. Also on board is Samsung’s Wide Colour Enhancer Plus system.

In the setup menu you’ll find a decent array of image adjustments. Aside from the run-of-the-mill stuff (brightness, backlight, contrast) there’s an Advanced Settings menu where you can change Dynamic Contrast modes, Black and Flesh Tone levels, White Balance, Gamma and Motion Lighting. The Picture Options menu houses Colour Tone, noise filters and LED Motion Plus settings, though we’re not sure why these couldn’t be included in the Advanced Settings menu.

Operation

Although there’s no dual-core processing, the UE46EH5300 operates with the sort of alacrity some sets can only dream of. Skipping around the menu system is a joy thanks to the fast, responsive cursor and everything seems to load up as soon as you hit the button, be it web apps, TV channels or setup menus.

The onscreen menus are also a pleasure to peruse. There’s no Home dashboard (the one with large animated icons found on Samsung’s high-end sets) – instead everything is packed into the Smart Hub interface.

At the bottom are two rows of icons, which can be moved around or put in folders. Here you’ll find all the options normally found on the Home menu, including AllShare Play, the EPG and channel list, Schedule Manager, source selection and the web browser (which looks good but is rather cumbersome).

The regular setup menu is easy to follow thanks to its left-to-right layout, large text and icons.

As for the EPG, it’s still one of the best guides I’ve encountered thanks to the way it packs all the info into a single screen while leaving room for a box showing live TV. You don’t even have to hit ‘i’ to view the synopsis – it’s right there next to the live TV thumbnail. The trade off is that it only lists six channels in the timeline grid, but with the ability to page up and down quickly it’s no biggie.

Elsewhere the Tools menu provides onscreen assistance depending on what you’re watching, while the thorough Freeview info banner shows you what’s on any channel up to a week ahead, although annoyingly you have to additionally press the red ‘A’ button to see the full synopsis.

When connected to a network you can control the TV with an Android or iOS device running Samsung’s Remote App. But those who keep it old school with the actual remote won’t be disappointed. It’s a terrific zapper, blessed with a button layout that makes navigation intuitive. All of the buttons are large, pleasing to press and clearly labelled. It’s not bad looking either, with a fetching brushed black effect and an eye-catching Smart Hub button bang in the centre.

Performance

For the most part, the UE46EH5300 delivers impressive picture quality, bringing bright hi-def Blu-ray scenes and Freeview HD programmes to life with its superb detail handling and natural-looking colours.

Predictably it can’t touch the gob-smacking lucidity of Samsung’s premium sets, looking a touch softer than they do – particularly when there’s a lot of fast movement, which also isn’t surprising considering it lacks their nuclear-powered picture tech – but by budget standards this is a jolly good show.

The image is gratifyingly bright and punchy without looking garish or bleached, although be prepared to tinker with the picture settings to achieve this, as all of the presets are ‘in-yer-face’ with cranked up contrast levels.

And try though we might, we couldn’t detect any excessive backlight clouding in the picture, even with a completely black screen during film credits. The screen appears to be lit uniformly right the way across, which is a real boost for dark scene visibility.

Or at least it should be, but when watching the gloomy action of The Dark Knight Rises it’s hard to pick out objects among the shadows, with different areas of black merging with one another. For example, during Batman’s fight with Bane in the sewer, you lose a little of the muscle shading on the body of his suit, plus you don’t get a proper sense of depth or three-dimensionality from their cavernous surroundings.

The other downer is standard-definition performance. Freeview colours look a little pallid compared with the HD palette and the image lacks sharpness, which is cruelly highlighted when you flick over from an HD channel. Rolling news tickers shimmer a little at the edges and there’s a fair amount of noise going on. It’s far from a disaster, but we’ve certainly seen better SD pictures.

Sound

Maybe it’s the extra cabinet volume or simply the quality of the speakers, but for some reason the UE46EH5300 actually sounds pretty good. Overall volume is loud and commanding without distortion, and there’s a reasonable amount of bass. It could do with being a little more open and cleaner in the high frequencies though, and busy action scenes do feel congested. To coax the best sound out of the set’s speakers, there’s a selection of presets and a couple of SRS modes to play around with.

Verdict

Its picture shortcomings will have hardcore home cinema fans running for the hills, but those of you after an affordable LED TV for day-to-day Blu-ray and TV viewing will find the UE46EH5300 a very likeable and competent set, with Smart Hub and DLNA support as the stars of the show.

Specifications

Manufacturer and model

Samsung UE46EH5300

Screen size (inches)

46

Resolution

1,920 x 1,080

Panel technology

LCD

Backlight technology

Edge LED

Picture engine

N/A

Digital tuner

Freeview HD

3D ready

No

3D technology

N/A

3D glasses supplied

N/A

2D-to-3D conversion

N/A

Wi-Fi

No

Online content

Smart Hub

DLNA streaming

Yes

Smartphone control

Yes

Contrast ratio

Not given

Brightness

Not given

Refresh rate

100 Clear Motion Rate

Speaker power

20W (2 x 10W)

Energy efficiency class

A+

Dimensions (with stand, W x H x D)

1059.8 x 680.7 x 247.8mm

Dimensions (without stand, W x H x D)

1059.8 x 625.6 x 94.3mm

HDMI

3

Component

1

Composite

1

SCART

1

Digital audio output

1 (optical)

PC input

Yes (via HDMI)

USB

2

SD card slot

No

Ethernet

Yes

CI slot

Yes