If you can't be bothered with 3D, but still want a feature-rich TV with plenty of style then the 46-inch UE46ES5500 is the model in Samsung's current range that fits the bill.
At around £680, it's pricier than the budget UE46EH5300 we looked at yesterday, but not by all that much. For the extra outlay you get a much slimmer and more stylish looking set with slightly better picture quality and the same excellent smart TV features.
User interface and EPG
The ES5500 may lack the voice and motion control features of the ES8000 and ES7000 ranges, but as I didn't find them all that useful when I tested them, I don't think this is much of a loss. In pretty much all other respects, the user interface is exactly the same as what you get on those TVs, which is all the more surprising when you take into account just how much cheaper it is.
There's no doubt about it -- the menu system used here looks absolutely gorgeous. It's bursting at the seams with colourful graphics, cute icons and neat animations.
The core of the menu system is the homescreen, which gives you control over most of the TV's settings and features. It's the place to go when you want to adjust picture controls, change inputs, access the media player and launch apps.
The classy presentation makes it pretty easy to use, but it can still take a while to get your head around all the features it puts at your disposal -- mainly because there are just so many of them. It might have been better to split some of them off into sub-menus though.
The EPG is also very impressive. Its bright and cheery layout makes it a pleasure to browse. An integrated thumbnail video window in the top left-hand corner lets you keep track of what you're watching, while also checking what's coming up soon on other channels.
Once small issue I wish Samsung would fix is that when you hit the 'Info' button on the remote to call up the programme description, it only shows you one line of the summary -- if you want to read the whole summary you have to open the full EPG.
Design and connections
Whereas the EH5300 was shockingly fat, the ES5500 is much slimmer and more in line with what we'd expect to see from a Samsung LED set. Its chassis is quite slim at just 30mm deep and the bezel around the screen is narrow too at 17mm.
The chassis is mostly made from glossy black plastic, but at the edge of the bezel there's a transparent lip. This may be something of an old Samsung design signature, but it still looks quite attractive to the eye, so I'm not complaining. The stand is fixed, so you can't just swivel the TV around on its base to adjust the viewing angle -- you have to physically move the whole set.
I do like the TV's remote, though. It's long and slender, but the slightly rubberised buttons feel comfortable under your fingertips and the layout is good too, so all the key features are within easy reach.
Unfortunately, when it comes to connections the ES5500 follows the lead of the high-end models in Samsung's range and only comes with three HDMI ports. This is slightly annoying, as pretty much every other brand on the market offers four HDMI ports on their larger screened TVs.
Another issue is that the TV doesn't have Wi-Fi built in. If you want to add Wi-Fi you'll have to purchase the USB dongle, which is overpriced at around £30 to £40. By all means reduce the price of the TV by not including Wi-Fi, but there's no need to rip people off if they want to add the feature later, especially as a PC Wi-Fi dongle now costs around £10.
Nevertheless, the TV does have two USB ports and one of these outputs 1A of power so you can run most USB drives off it without having to use an additional external power supply. The TV also has a set of component inputs as well as a full sized Scart socket and an optical digital audio output, so you can feed surround sound from the Freeview HD tuner to an external amp.