Samsung’s TVs look great in the TV adverts with their flashy designs and cutting-edge tech. But they’re usually showing you the expensive range-topping models, which are beyond the budgets of most buyers.
But at just over a grand, the UE40ES6800 brings Samsung’s edge LED expertise to a more affordable price bracket than the flagship UE40ES8000 (£1,499) and the £1,299 UE40ES7000.
It’s from Samsung’s midrange 6 series, also home to a couple of cheaper 40in sets (the £879 UE40ES6300 and £979 UE40ES6710) plus the step up UE40ES6900.
This model comes complete with all the Smart TV trappings of its flagship sets – delivered via built-in Wi-Fi – with dual-core processing, LED Micro Dimming and 400 Clear Motion Rate for smooth onscreen movement.
Design and connections
Although the UE40ES6800’s design is slightly less luxurious than the 7 and 8 series sets, that doesn’t mean it’s been hit with the ugly stick. The look is glamorous thanks to the shiny silver frame surrounding the black bezel (which is thicker than on the step-up sets) and a lip at the bottom sporting the Samsung logo.
The silver table stand is the four-pronged ‘Quad’ version as opposed to the curvy stand used by the UE40ES8000, but it has more panache in one prong than some 40in sets have in their entire bodywork. On the whole the ES6800 is a remarkably slim and beautifully built set.
On the back is a decent selection of sockets, although you only get three HDMI inputs when some similarly-priced rivals offer four at this price. They support 3D and one of them also offers Audio Return Channel functionality.
There are three USB ports, which let you connect a few flash memory devices or external hard-disk drives – useful for media playback or recording from the built-in Freeview tuner using the set’s PVR function.
Elsewhere there are AV inputs (component, composite and analogue stereo), Scart input (using an adapter cable), Ethernet and optical digital audio output for sending sound to an external system. Additionally you get headphones output, RF in/loop, PC in (via HDMI) and a common interface slot.
Surprisingly the set also provides a Freesat HD tuner, and for that reason you’ll find an LNB socket on the back. All of the jacks either face downwards or sideways, making life easier when wall mounting.
Samsung has stripped away many of the futuristic features of the series 7 and 8 sets, such as motion control, face recognition and voice control, plus the on-board motion processing is 400 Clear Motion Rate as opposed to the ES8000’s 800 mode.
But despite that, the spec is still amazing for the money. There’s a glut of connected technology, including Samsung’s Smart Hub web portal and AllShare DLNA media sharing – all courtesy of the built-in Wi-Fi connection (or via Ethernet if you prefer).
Smart Hub’s line-up of apps is getting better all the time – even more so given that it’s the only smart TV portal that offers ITV Player.
And, aware that video content is what most people want from a smart TV service, Samsung throws in a healthy range of other video apps, including BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport, Netflix, LoveFilm, YouTube, PictureBox, Dailymotion, Vimeo and more.
You can also install games, puzzles, sports, lifestyle and educational apps – the vast selection is still among the most generous on the market – although most of these aren’t worth bothering with. Social networking is covered by Facebook, Twitter and Skype. New content can be downloaded from the Samsung Apps store.
In addition, you can access specific zones – Fitness and Kids – as well as Family Story, a way of sharing photos with a network of other Samsung owners. Fitness offers workout videos and tools for monitoring your progress, while Kids includes an assortment of cartoons and educational aids. There’s also a web browser and Your Video feature that provides details about Smart Hub’s movie content.
The UE40ES6800 is fully 3D compatible, and as a bonus you get two pairs of active shutter specs free. The set will convert 2D material to 3D, which means you’re not only restricted to watching 3D Blu-ray discs. You can also download Samsung’s ‘Explore 3D’ app within Smart Hub and enjoy a range of extra content.
AllShare DLNA functionality lets you stream music, video and photos from servers on your home network (PCs, NAS drives). I tried it out and the Samsung supports a decent range of video formats including DivX HD, AVI and WMV HD, although it wouldn’t play my AVCHD or 1080p MKV files, plus the network connection dropped out after trying to play them. Not good. On the music side, the set will play MP3, FLAC, WMA, and AAC but not WAV.
Playback from USB devices is a lot less problematic – both MKV and AVCHD played smoothly.
Go beyond the standard picture adjustments (backlight, contrast, brightness, sharpness, colour and tint) and you’ll find a range of advanced settings, including Black Tone, Flesh Tone, Colour Space, White Balance, and Gamma. A separate menu handles all the processing modes, such as LED Motion Plus, noise filters and colour tone, while another menu handles all the 3D settings. It’s a comprehensive suite of image tools that let you get the best out of this set’s LED panel.
Like most of Samsung’s 2012 products, a lot of love has gone into the onscreen menu system. The main Smart Hub menu (accessed by pressing the colourful logo in the middle of the remote) is pure eye candy, using crisp HD graphics with vibrant colours. When you enter zones like Fitness, the backgrounds are designed with pastel-drenched panache.
Despite its sophistication, the layout is beautifully simple and uncluttered, placing key apps along the top next to a small live TV screen, with other services like Family Story and Fitness running across the middle. The main functions, such as AllShare Play, the EPG, web browser and TV channels, are found at the bottom, each denoted by a cute icon. It’s fabulous.
The setup menu is drab by comparison, but we like the way it explains every option when you highlight it. A useful Tools menu provides contextual options for whatever you’re watching, while a Freeview info banner gives a detailed synopsis about every programme up to a week in advance – some banners limit you to now and next info.
The full EPG is designed with similar flair. It squeezes a live TV screen, synopsis and six-channel programme grid into a single screen without feeling cramped. It’s quick to respond, and puts some useful shortcuts along the bottom.
The web browser loads pages at super fast speed, but on the downside it’s really awkward to use with the remote. The arrow cursor is slow to move around the screen despite the dual-core processor at play, while the alternative link browsing method is long-winded. I gave up after five minutes in pure frustration.
But that’s not the fault of the remote. It’s a terrific zapper, blessed with a logical layout and surprisingly good build quality. The buttons are flush with the surface, and press down with a solid click. Almost all the major features have their own button, and everything is clearly labelled. The silver detailing and Smart Hub logo in the middle are pure class.
Should you, for some reason, not like this remote, then you can download Samsung’s remote app for smart phones and tablets.
The UE40ES6800’s picture performance is very impressive but doesn’t quite reach the world-beating standards of some rivals in its price class (like Sony’s 753 series) or step-up Samsung sets.
Don’t rely on the set’s Dynamic or Standards presets though – their excessively high contrast levels look garish and emphasise noise. Go into the picture menu, tweak the levels and the Samsung begins to deliver pictures you can really believe in.
With 2D Blu-ray discs and Freeview HD channels, the image is naturally vivid and punchy, which makes brightly-lit scenes look engaging.
Colours are also decent, reproducing strong tones with pleasing richness but avoiding garishness. That said, it lacks the tonal sensitivity of the best LED sets, making skin tones seem a little waxy.
Contrast wise, the Micro Dimming technology proves adept at making dark bits look fairly solid while simultaneously making light areas within the same scene look crisp.
We’re not talking about the blackest of blacks though – some tell-tale grey mist is visible during dark scenes, subtly reducing the density of the black areas and interfering with the clarity of shadow detail.
Motion handling is good with the ‘Clear’ mode selected within the Motion Plus menu, which eliminates judder and blur without making everything look unnatural or introducing excessive artefacts.
I tried out tricky test patterns from a professional calibration disc showing fast-moving trains and camera pans, and the Samsung copes brilliantly. That pays dividends when watching sport. Wheelchair basketball at the Paralympics on Channel 4 HD is displayed with impressive fluidity, keeping detail nice and crisp as the players glide around the court.
Despite suffering the same contrast and colour drawbacks as above, 3D images are still dazzling and absorbing. Layering is clear, detail is razor sharp and the overall image looks punchy through dimmed active specs. What little crosstalk there is doesn’t ruin your enjoyment either.
SD images from the Freeview tuner suffer from the same haziness and shimmering seen on most LED sets, a result of Freeview’s inherent noise being accentuated by the set’s picture processing. But it’s perfectly watchable, with strong colours and smooth movement.
I’m actually fairly impressed by the UE40ES6800’s sound quality. Many LED sets are too treble-heavy but that’s not the case here – the sound has a nice balance to it, with palpable bass backing up the authoritative midrange and crisp treble.
That means speech is consistently intelligible and music has reasonable depth. Movie action scenes are conveyed with an expansive, dynamic flavour, which is useful if you can’t be bothered to switch on the home cinema system.
Although the UE40ES6800 lacks the aesthetic razzle dazzle of Samsung’s pricier sets, and the picture prowess of Sony’s latest LED efforts, it makes up it with a superb range of smart features, good multimedia support and a wonderful operating system.
Manufacturer and model
Screen size (inches)
1,920 x 1,080
400 Clear Motion Rate
Freeview HD, Freesat HD
3D glasses supplied
Yes (2 pairs)
400 Clear Motion Rate
20W (2 x 10W)
Energy efficiency class
Dimensions (with stand, W x H x D)
936 x 623.5 x 241.3mm
Dimensions (without stand, W x H x D)
936 x 559.8 x 46.9mm
Digital audio output
SD card slot