2012 Samsung LED HDTV Lineup
a complete review
An extensive lineup of LED TV sets but...
Which are the best Samsung LED HDTVs at the different categories?
Samsung TV lineups have always been characterized by one of the largest range of models available from a single brand. This year lineup is no exception, with forty-three different LED TVs, making Samsung the largest TV maker in the world.
This means that if you are in the market for an HDTV, there is surely a Samsung LED TV for you, whether that being an expensive feature-rich set capable of the best picture quality, or an entry-level budget-class television; there is one problem: TV choice! Yet, despite the vast range on offer, only a few models from this TV maker make it to the 'Best Value HDTV' list for 2012.
We review the new Samsung lineup to see what is on offer from this major TV maker. We then pick those that in our opinion are the best Samsung LED TVs at the different categories. Note that you may join this discussion by using the submission form at the end of this article.
Samsung UN60F8000 60-Inch 1080p 240Hz 3D Ultra Slim Smart LED HDTV
This high-end feature rich LED HDTV comes with Samsung's Micro dimming Ultimate LED backlight technology - among the best in its class for black level performance. It is also the TV with the best feature set.
2012 Samsung LED HDTVs: Stylish design and extensive features, but what exactly is on offer?
Like Sony, Samsung HDTVs are among the most awaited by those looking for the best TV picture. If Sony is not your brand, and you want the best LED TV, probably Samsung is your brand of choice. Samsung LED HDTVs don't offer jut extensive features and a solid picture, but often come at a price that delivers better overall value, making Samsung HDTVs well within reach of the average household budget.
If Samsung is your preferred TV brand, finding an LED TV with the right specs within the available budget should not be an issue. Contrary to Sony, which has only 13 sets three of which being re-proposals from 2011, Samsung has a vast lineup of new HDTVs at all price brackets.
These range from cheap bare-bones sets such as the EH5000 series whose 50-inch is selling at the same price as an equivalent plasma TV, to interesting value options like the feature rich mid-tier ES6500 Samsung LED HDTVs, and the ES8000 flagship series — the most featured HDTV for 2012.
One important difference for 2012 is the use of direct LED backlights at the lower budget-class HDTV category. Direct LED represents a cheaper form of LED lighting that uses a full array of LEDs placed directly behind the LCD display instead of the more common edge LED backlight. These systems do not use any form of local dimming and employ a reduced number of LEDs in comparison to full array systems with local dimming, thus explaining why these are cheaper to implement. However, these also lead to a thicker LED TV with a panel depth that is often thicker than equivalent CCFL LCD TVs!
So... do not expect all LED TVs to come thin this year. Before 2012, LED TVs were advertised as being inch-thick TVs; this is no longer the case. Samsung's 55-inch LED TVs with direct LED are close to 4-inch deep without the stand! One main difference here between Samsung and LG is that LG reserves this cheaper LED backlight to its cheapest series only. Instead, Samsung is employing direct LED on a much wider scale - with all its 21 entry-level LED TVs using direct LED.
2012 Samsung LED HDTV Lineup in detail
EH Entry-level Series: Delivering the best bang for your buck!
Samsung entry-level HDTVs — denoted by the label EH — come with a rather thick 3.7" profile. It is as if TV makers are simply replacing CCFL backlights with LEDs placed just behind the LCD panel, hence the term 'direct LED' referred to in our introduction. Samsung does not use the term 'direct led' but just LED in what is a clear attempt to mislead consumers by providing ambiguous information. Mind you, this simple LED backlight arrangement should theoretically lead to better screen uniformity, but getting an almost 4" deep TV is not what most expect of the latest LED TVs, irrespective of whether these are entry-level or expensive models.
To enjoy 1-inch slim LED TVs - referred to by Samsung as 'Slim LED', you have to jump onto the upper-tier ES-Series Samsung LED HDTVs.
Samsung 40-inch UN40EH5300 Smart TV
The EH5300 represents an inexpensive Smart TV option for general home entertainment. It makes use of the same Smart TV suite found on the more expensive Samsung LED HDTV series and includes Samsung Apps and TV Web browser. Missing instead is Skype support.
These inexpensive LED TVs come with extensive connectivity, including 3HDMI and 2 USB ports with ConnectShare Movie, built-in Wi-Fi and Allshare DLNA-certified network connectivity. The latter is most welcome by those who download loads of multi-media content on their PC as it enables to view media content straight from networked PCs on your TV without the need for an additional media player.
EH4000 and EH5000/5300 Series 60Hz HDTVs
Entry-level series include the 720p EH4000 and 1080p EH5000 bare bones HDTVs, and the EH5300 series. The latter provides Smart TV on a budget by adding the Samsung's excellent Smart TV suite complete with TV web browsing and Samsung Signature services to the EH5000 feature set for a minimal premium of $80.
Samsung Smart TV suite comes with one of the most complete content lineups albeit a cluttered interface and missing Amazon Instant. Samsung's TV apps store is also one of the biggest. Related with Samsung Smart TV are the new Signature Services like Family Story for a quick way to upload and share family photos, and Kids Story which combines kids' entertainment and education.
Included as part of the basic feature set on both EH5000 and EH5300 series HDTVs is Samsung ConnectShare Movie that enables you watch videos, play music, and view photos from a USB drive.
Overall, these Samsung LED HDTVs represent excellent 'cheap LED TV' options that are still capable of a relatively good picture at this price level. The popular 40-inch UN40EH5300 Smart TV featured above is selling at just $650 while the more popular 40-inch UN40EH5000 is selling at $570! However, it is the 32-inch UN32EH5030 the best-selling Samsung LED HDTV at this category - providing a most inexpensive Smart TV option for general home entertainment.
EH6000/6030/6070 120Hz Step-up Series
Next in line is the EH6000 series together with its EH6030 and EH6070 variants. EH6030 and the EH6070 are 3D versions of the EH6000 2D series. These are basic no-frills entry-level 1080p HDTV with 120Hz refresh rate technology; Samsung uses the term 'Clear Motion Rate of 240' but this is just designed to confuse by presenting higher numbers! (Check our LCD TV response guide for details.)
But being 120Hz HDTVs means these Samsung LED HDTVs come with Samsung's dejudder processing - that for 2012 remains one of the best dejudder implementations thanks to the use of separate blur and judder reduction controls and that work as expected.
Series 6 Samsung LED HDTVs are mainly designed to provide a relatively solid TV picture at the cheapest price, but nothing else. These even miss the Smart TV feature found on the EH5300 series. Connectivity is also minimal with just two HDMI and one USB apart from the traditional component and composite video analog inputs.
As stated, EH6030 and EH6070 series add 3D TV to the EH6000; these are basically the same 3D TV except that the EH6070 includes a 3D Blu-ray player together with the two pairs of 3D glasses bundled with the TV. At present, the EH6030 is available only in 40-inch while the EH6070 with the 3D Blu-ray player bundle come in 46-inch and 55-inch.
Jumping onto the 3D EH6030 version costs close to $120 at the 40-inch over the EH6000 equivalent, which at under $750 makes for a relatively cheap 3D LED TV. Yet, irrespective of this cheap 3D TV pricing, it is the EH6000 2D TV series the one that represents the best value at the budget TV category, with sets such as the 46-inch UN46EH6000 and the 55-inch UN55EH6000 selling online at $800 and $1,050 respectively. The latter represents a rather cheap 55-inch option thanks to a pricing structure that is more in line with plasma than LED TVs. The same cheap pricing applies to the 60-inch UN60EH6000, which at under $1,300 is selling at the same price as an equivalent entry-level 60-inch plasma TV.
EH6000 Series Performance: Despite the cheap price, Samsung EH6000 series HDTVs deliver a good picture with relatively accurate color, clean video processing and better screen uniformity that most edge-lit LED TVs. Bright room performance of these LED TVs is also very good thanks to the matte screen finish.
As with most budget class LED HDTVs, picture quality suffers from lighter blacks levels while shadow detail often lacks the necessary subtle detail in the darker parts of the image. The EH6000 matte screen does not help with side viewing, leading to a faster deterioration in contrast and color saturation then on sets with a shiny screen. One other annoying problem is the occasional on and off flashing of the LED backlight when displaying predominantly very dark content.
However, considering the cheap price of these LED TVs, we still believe this is the Samsung series that deliver the best 'cheap LED TV' option for 2012 at all available TV sizes.
Best selling sets within the EH6000 is the 46-inch UN46EH6000, but even the 60-inch version is proving to be an interesting option at the larger screen size.
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Upper-tier Samsung LED HDTVs with Slim LED backlight technology
While EH Samsung entry-level HDTVs provide among the cheapest LED TV options for budget home entertainment, it is Samsung's upper tier series that represent the best-value options from Samsung for 2012. These deliver extensive features, stylish slim designs that better fit most room decor, and relatively solid overall performance at a price that in most instances equates to value options at the mainstream and hi-end markets.
All upper tier Samsung LED HDTV series take the ES label and come with the new Slim LED design using edge-lit backlight technology. Step-up series employ standard edge-lit LED backlight technology with no form of local dimming while mid-range, premium and flagship series use Samsung's micro-dimming LED technology.
ES6100 and ES6500 Samsung Step-Up Series
With the ES6100 Samsung LED HDTV series, we step into the first of Samsung's slim designs. The ES6100 is a 2D 120Hz series. It is the EH6000 in a slim package but with a few extras including Smart TV, Skype support, Your Video and the convenience of built-in Wi-Fi. We did not review the ES6100 but we expect picture quality on the ES6100 to be very much in line with the ES6500 since both make use of the same display technology.
Jumping onto the ES6100 calls for a premium that can vary from less than $100 at the 40 and 50-inch to almost $300 at the 55-inch and 60-inch sizes; the latter price difference renders the smaller 40-inch UN40ES6100 ($800) more of valid step-up TV options than the larger TV sizes in the series. The reason is that for approximately $100 more, you can get a 50-inch or even a 55-inch ES6500 series Samsung LED TV.
Samsung UN55ES6500 55-inch
These Samsung LED HDTVs come with the Slim-LED TV design and extensive features, including Smart TV, active 3D complete with two pairs of free active 3D glasses, Wide Color enhancer plus for accurate color, and extensive connectivity complete with built-in Wi-Fi and DLNA-certified network support, 3 HDMI and 3 USB2.0 ports.
At under $1,500, the ES6500 is Samsung best-value option LED TV for 2012, offering solid overall 2D and 3D picture quality.
The ES6500 Series: Samsung Best-Value HDTVs
ES6500 Samsung LED HDTVs give you not only the full feature set of the ES6100 2D Smart TV series but also 3D and improved clear motion rate of 480, whatever that implies.
We say so because the ES6500 still makes use of a 120Hz display panel like the cheaper ES6000 and 6100 series but then employs a higher scanning backlight frequency to achieve better motion resolution. You still would not be able to see the improvement brought about with CMR480 over CMR240 based Samsung LED HDTVs with normal program content; rather, the difference would be perceived only with the use of special test patterns.
ES6500 HDTVs also support the compatible Samsung wireless keyboard for a more practical Internet browsing experience with the built-in TV browser. The Samsung TV browser is a truly functioning browser, with pages that load fast but that like other TV browsers, is slow to operate and suitable only for occasional use. One final upgrade over the less expensive series is that presence of a universal TV remote on ES6500 Samsung LED HDTVs.
ES6500 Picture Performance: The ES6500 is a solid performer capable of excellent 2D picture with superb shadow detail, good saturation and highly accurate color, and relatively deep blacks once calibrated. Blacks however are somewhat lighter (even after calibration) than one would expect at this price bracket, with Samsung following on the disappointing trend we have come across 2012 LED HDTVs from other brands. Calibrating these Samsung LED TVs for the best picture is relatively easy thanks to a most extensive suite of advanced picture controls; these include a 10-point white balance setting and full color management with individual luminance settings for each color.
Disappointing is the lack of screen uniformity — mainly at the corners, but overall picture quality is very close to that of premium LED TVs from the same lineup while the not so glossy screen on the ES6500 helps deliver excellent bright room performance.
3D performance of ES6500 Samsung LED HDTVs is good with minimal 3D crosstalk and excellent 3D image depth when watching 3D movie content; with converted 3D content using the ES6500 built-in 2D-to-3D feature, there is some crosstalk but the 3D effect is still pleasing though more subtle. Picture quality in 3D is very good as long as you watch the TV straight from the front.
Overall, the ES6500 is the 2012 Samsung LED HDTV series that gets our best rating for overall value. At just less than $1,500 for the 55-inch UN55ES6500 and $1,100 for the 46-inch UN46ES6500, this mid-tier Samsung LED TV series represents excellent value at the most popular TV screen sizes in home entertainment. These Samsung HDTVs deliver more than enough features and a solid TV picture that while not in line with that of premium and flagship series, is still very good for the price - doing just about the same in picture quality as the Sony HX750, Sharp LC-LE745U, and LG's LM9600 series LED TVs.
ES7100, ES7500, and the ES8000 Premium and Flagship Series
The remaining trio of Samsung LED HDTV series — the ES7100, ES7500, and ES8000, all come with what Samsung is referring to as Micro-dimming, an advanced form of zone dimming technology applied to the edge-lit LED backlight for improved localized control of the backlight. Each of these series comes with its unique version of micro-dimming: 'Standard' on the ES7100, 'Pro' on the ES75000 series and 'Ultimate' on the flagship ES8000 series.
One other important upgrade over the almost $400 cheaper ES6500 LED TV series is dual-core processing. But as with 2012 Samsung plasma TVs, main beneficiary here is the Smart TV feature, not the TV picture. Premium and flagship series also get Samsung Smart Interaction, a feature that unfortunately is half-baked and does not work well. However, Samsung Smart Interaction also brings with it the convenience of a touchpad remote with built-in mic for voice control.
One final difference at the upper tier level is the styling on the flagship; the ES8000 makes use of the same panel design characterized by an extremely thin bezel as other ES series. However, it also includes a U-shape stand (with no swivel action) instead of the four-legged stand found on the less expensive series. The overall result is an extremely stylish TV, though we still prefer the ribbon stand design on upper tier LG LED TVs.
Performance: All three series are capable of great 2D and 3D picture quality with excellent color accuracy, deep inky blacks, superb contrast detail, and impressive 3D performance. Yet while ES7500 and ES8000 Samsung LED HDTVs share a very similar picture performance, E7100 HDTVs suffer from a slight lack of background uniformity, one that becomes mainly visible when viewing large areas of dark content in a darkened environment. This is mainly due to what appears as light leaking around the screen corners.
ES7500 and ES8000 Samsung LED HDTVs do not have such issues; in particular, the picture on the ES8000 flagship compares favorably with that of the best plasma TVs, though it still falls behind that of the remarkable Panasonic ST50 and Samsung PNE6500/PNE7000 plasma TVs due to the latter better shadow detail in the darker parts of the image.
Yet overall, the ES8000 is still capable of superb performance in particular with HD content, delivering a picture characterized by exceptionally deep blacks, accurate color, and excellent picture uniformity for an LED TV.
The real problem with the upper trio of Samsung LED TV series is not one of picture quality but an expensive price - one that does not always equate to an equal improvement in user experience and picture performance over the more affordable ES6500 series. Suffice to note that even the cheapest series of the trio, the ES7100 costs some $500 more than an equivalent 55-inch ES6500 HDTV, reaching almost $1,000 more in the case of the ES8000 series!
But... Despite the somewhat more affordable price of the ES7100 over the other two, ES7100 series HDTVs are hardly making the grade in TV sales. In a similar manner, the ES7500 is managing to sell mainly at the 46-inch. Instead, it is the ES8000 Samsung LED HDTVs that despite their very expensive price, are having the upper hand in TV sales over Series 7 HDTVs at all screen sizes. In fact, the best-selling model at this category is the 55-inch UN55ES8000, this despite that at $2,500, it is selling at close to $300 to $500 more than a Series 7 Samsung LED HDTV equivalent.
The bottom line: These Samsung LED TVs come with an expensive price, but if enjoying the latest advanced features is your priority and picture quality is your main concern, then the whole equation may change completely.
Best LG LED TVs for 2012
Despite the vast selection on offer, only just a few models make it to top as best LED TVs for overall value at the different categories. Pricing here plays an equally important factor inasmuch as features and performance.
At the cheap LED TV category, it is the UNEH5300 series with its 32-inch UN32EH5030 that delivers the best value HDTV. At $480, this Samsung LED HDTV offers a full Smart TV suite and a picture that is in line with what one expects at this price bracket. The 46-inch UN46EH6000 is another 'best' within the cheap LED TV category; it is a 120Hz entry-level 1080p LED TV with no frills, not even the Smart TV suite, but at $800, this 46-inch represents an interesting big screen TV option.
Neither the EH5300 and the EH6000 are slim TVs; if slim is important to you, a suitable alternate option — this time with Smart TV and Skype support — is the ES6100 with its 40-inch UN40ES6100 ($800) LED TVs.
At the upper end category, our selection falls on the ES6500 and the ES8000. If picture quality is a priority, nothing beats the ES8000 series with its micro-dimming ultimate LED backlight technology; best selling model here is the 55-inch UN55ES8000. As expected, the ES8000 does not come cheap, but despite the expensive price, the Samsung flagship is still a few hundred dollars cheaper than an equivalent Sony HX929 flagship LED TV!
Yet top in our list for the best overall value Samsung LED HDTV is not the ES8000 but the ES6500. This is not at the pinnacle of picture quality yet it has a surprisingly solid picture, apart from a most stylish design and extensive features. In this respect, it is the 55-inch UN55ES6500 and the 46-inch UN46ES6500 the best value option Samsung LED HDTVs for 2012.
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Buying Options for Samsung LED TVs
Amazon.com offers an extensive range of Samsung LED HDTVs often at significantly reduced prices.