If you've looked longingly at the smart TV features on Samsung's top-of-the-range sets, but balked at their high asking prices, then the 46-inch UE46EH5300 might pique your interest. It can be bought online for the modest price of £610, but includes the same smart TV apps -- like iPlayer -- as you'll find on the company's pricier models.
Corners have been cut to keep the price down though, so it doesn't have the voice and motion controls of the ES7000 and ES8000 models, and also lacks 3D support. For many the absence of these features won't be much of a loss.
User interface and EPG
The 46EH5300 may be a cut-price TV, but the good news is that it has pretty much the same menu system and EPG as the top of the range models in Samsung's current lineup. That's a real plus point because Samsung's menu system is the best in the business. It's bright and cheery, and looks very modern thanks to its use of big, colourful icons and neat graphical effects.
Like the menu system on LG's TVs, it's based around a central hub from which you can control most of the set's main features as well as access its smart apps. Samsung's system has less of the repetition that you find on LG's sets, however, and so is a little easier to get your head around initially. It could still do with further simplification, as it perhaps presents you with too many features at one time, but you soon get the hang of it.
The EPG is also one of the best you'll find on any of the current TVs on sale in the UK. It's smartly presented with colourful graphics, and uses a large font for the text, so it's easy to read even if you're sitting quite a distance away from the telly. Thankfully, when you call up the EPG it also retains a thumbnail video window of the channel you're currently tuned to, so you don’t lose track of the show you're watching if someone's just bugging you to find out what's coming up next on another channel.
As I've pointed out in reviews of other recent Samsung sets though, there is a flaw in the EPG. When you press the info button on the remote it only shows you a single line from the programme description and the only way to view the full description is to actually open the full EPG.
Design and connections
Samsung's pricier models are all about high-end style with their cool, futuristic stands, narrow bezels and waif-like girth. Forget about all that with the UE46EH5300 though, as it's clearly been designed and built in accordance with its more affordable price.
Taking it out of the box I wasn't sure whether it was an LED model at all, as the centre of the chassis is so thick at 95mm deep that it looks like one of the older, fatter LCD models. It does taper at the edges to just 26mm, but the fact remains that it's remarkably bulbous for an LED TV, even by budget standards. The chassis is very plasticky too and the stand is fixed, so if you want to swivel the TV around you have to pick it up and turn it.
Nevertheless, when you're viewing the set from the front -- which, let's face it, is what matters -- the overall look of the design isn’t too bad, as the bezel around the screen is reasonably narrow at 17mm and there's a nice cutaway effect where the bezel meets the stand.
As with other sets I've seen from Samsung this year -- even its most expensive models -- this set makes do with three HDMI ports, rather than the four that you now get pretty much as standard on other manufacturer's TVs. You do get a full sized Scart and component sockets, as well as an optical digital audio output for feeding audio from the Freeview HD tuner to an external surround sound amp. This model also has two USB ports. Although Ethernet is built-in however, it doesn’t have integrated Wi-Fi. If you want it you'll need to invest in the optional Wi-Fi adaptor which connects up to one of the USB ports. It's pretty pricey too, setting you back around £30 to £40 online.
The best thing about this set is undoubtedly its stellar line up of smart TV apps. Samsung's smart TV system is arguably the best there is at the moment and what you get on this model is identical to what you'll find on Samsung's top of the range TVs. Hit the Smart TV button on the remote and you'll find apps for the usual services such as BBC iPlayer, Lovefilm and Netflix. Samsung also has an app for ITV Player, something that isn’t available on other brands' TVs at the moment.