The Samsung UA46 ES6200R series 6 3D LED SmartTV is an early attempt to redefining what TV, that has had a long, slow and sluggish 100 year history should be. The TV gives you access to content from a wide range of sources including terrestrial TV broadcasters, Satellite providers, web content and your own local library while giving you the best sound and picture quality for the best home viewing experience.
What’s impressive about the SmartTV is the connectivity options that enable it connect to your smartphone, tablet and PC coupled with TV Apps that enhance the whole TV experience.
With a stiff price of about Ug Shs 8M (About $3000), the SmartTV will pass as a luxury for most families. Text-based Apps on the TV present a very frustrating user-experience for a device we’ve all come to know as a stress reliever.
Unboxing the SmartTV was very exciting. In the box, one finds two pairs of 3D glasses (with batteries) to enjoy 3D movies. A TV stand which we found easy to mount. The stand can actually swivel from right to left so you can adjust viewing angles for your comfort. In the box is also a TV remote (with batteries) and a TV manual to help you set up your smartTV
Setting up the TV for the first time could be a little bit of an uphill and uncertain task for normal users as it requires creating a Samsung account, connecting to a wireless network(which requires a wireless router) which can be skipped, but then again, you wouldn’t enjoy the SmartTV experience without these initial settings. The TV also doesn’t ship with its own analogue TV antennae, hence don’t expect the usual plug and play experience that conventional TV sets offer.
Design:Slim with a Solid build
The SmartTV is sleek and beautifully crafted to grace a sizeable living room. The 46 Inch screen is black in color 276.6mm in diameter, 1.139 metres in width and 0.7metres in height. The slim design and size that isn’t too big or too small make a perfect viewing experience best for family or commercial purposes. It comes with a quad stand on which the TV swivels from the left to the right to change viewing angles if you need to.
Weighing just 16.3 kg with the stand installed the TV looks stable, solid and not delicate like it might break any second. Better Still The TV is designed to be easily mounted to a wall should you want to.
Display: Stunning Images in HD and 3D
The S6200R’s 46 inch display is both 3D and HD capable with a 1920×1080 resolution, a 2D – 3D converter and a digital noise filter inbuilt that altogether create an awesome viewing experience. However the 2D – 3D converter doesn’t render beautiful images if the movie wasn’t originally in 3D. The LED display technology gives an almost 180 degrees viewing angle making picture viewing pleasurable for all living room viewers irrespective of their positioning. Its important to note that even though the smartTV is HD and 3D capable the quality of the image is very much dependent on the source. We experienced poor image quality with a GOTV terrestrial decoder due to poor signal in the area we were situated compared to the DSTV Satellite Decoder that rendered lovely images.
Connectivity is a big plus when it comes to the Smart TV and Samsung did not spare technology when it came to connectivity options. They managed to fit in 3 HDMI ports, three 2.0 USB ports, the Usual Composite/Component ports, an Ethernet port, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct™ , a digital Audio output and a 3.5mm Mini phone Stereo audio output which we found unnecessary or wrongly placed.
We also found Wi-Fi Direct™ connection option a plus as it allows the user to directly connect their other devices to the SmartTV via Wi-Fi without using a Wi-Fi router which unfortunately aren’t yet household devices in Africa just yet. In essence, you can think of Wi-Fi Direct™ as Bluetooth, but with faster speeds. The downside is that not so many devices (Smartphones, Laptops) are Wi-Fi Direct™ certified.
We were a little surprised the VGA port(that port that connects your PC to a projector or 2nd monitor) wasn’t included since it’s available on almost every PC. The HDMI port can suffice for TV to PC connectivity with a good HDMI cable in addition to Wi-Fi.
What this means is that you can connect almost any of your devices and directly watch your content on large screen via HDMI, Wi-Fi or connect your external hard drive via USB directly to the TV.
For the most part, we found it convenient to connect USB flash disk directly to the back of the TV USB hubs to access and watch content on the big screen.
Samsung’s “AllShare” makes pushing content to the TV easy
The new “Smart” also means that whatever device has this word appended to its name has to be able to connect and communicate with other devices, otherwise it ain’t smart!
Samsung meets our criteria with its proprietary “AllShare” technology (Powered by DLNA standard) similar to Intel’s Intel® WiDi or Apple’s Airplay which includes a Smartphone and desktop App that enables you push content wirelessly on the big screen TV via Wi-Fi
The AllShare App comes pre-installed on high end Samsung smartphones and tablets. With AllShare on the Samsung S smartphone, we used it to play videos, music and displayed a couple of photos on the big screen from the Phone.
All you’ve to do is connect the same SmartTV on the same Wi-Fi network or hotspot (perhaps using a home wireless router like the Huawei B683 3G wireless gateway) as your smartphone or laptop. The TV will automatically detect your devices and shared folders.
However, we were disappointed that the App only works with Samsung smartphones and not other brands. Fortunately there were “AllShare” app alternatives on the Android Play Store like iMediaShare that did what Samsung’s Allshare did or even better.
Samsung SmartTV Apps: Apps customized specifically for your TV
The SmartTV has an app store called the “Samsung Apps” where you can download a couple of apps that are custom developed for the SmartTV. The Apps user interface is customized for navigation and interaction using the TV remote and they also take advantage of the widescreen to deliver an experience only unique to TVs.
Surprisingly the App sizes are really small compared to what we had expected. Most of them are as small as the Apps for your Smartphone.
We downloaded several Apps from the Samsung Apps store among which included Skype, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Red Karaoke, TuneIn, Vimeo. We also found useful pre installed apps like the “Fitness” app that could help you exercise or at least make it fun and the “Kids” app that streams edutainment programming for Children. Apps like Red Karaoke were fun to use, or at least for Karaoke lovers; while the Social TV app lets you watch TV as you tweet or Facebook about what you are watching or whatever else. Unfortunately we didn’t think that enjoying a movie and tweeting go hand in hand but it was worth a shot.
We discovered that Apps that emulated the TV experience like YouTube, Vimeo, Red Karaoke were absolutely fun to use on the screen. These apps are highly visual as they display video content streamed from the internet to the user. In essence you can still experience these apps with the lean-back experience that TV viewers have accustomed themselves to.
The downside is that unlike content from traditional broadcasters, these Apps will leave you with a hefty data bill at the end of the month especially here in Africa.
TV is just another App on the TV!
Confused? Think about the “phone” part of your Smartphone. It’s just one App among a myriad of Apps that your smartphone supports which is a radical shift from how the old feature phones were — they were just phones, period. The SmartTV takes the same direction as smartphones with a TV app on the SmartTV main menu.
The SmartTV comes with a DTV Tuner and an Analog Tuner hence, we could access our usual free-to-air terrestrial TV station with the help of an external antenna such as NTV, WBS, and digital TV through a GOtv decoder without trouble.
As such, with a data connection which is your gateway to unlimited online video content, the right Apps or your own collection of content, you can comfortably do away with TV(satellite or terrestrial) as we used to know it!
Browser, Twitter, Facebook on TV? A Big “NO PLEASE!”
On the other hand, apps like Twitter, Facebook and the inbuilt browser that need some kind of typing at some point were frustrating to use — essentially because of the input device (the TV remote which doesn’t have a QWERTY keyboard) is not designed for entering of long alphanumeric characters.
You have to use the virtual onscreen keyboard and select characters using the remote up-down-left-right buttons. You can imagine how frustrating it was to go back and forth until all the characters are entered.
We also found that including these Apps that run on personal accounts on the smartTV was an attempt to turn the TV which we all have come to know as public device into a personal computer which it isn’t. Besides one had to enter passwords to sign in to the Social Media services which if done in the presence of others would no longer be a password
Multimedia: Movies and Music
Because the SmartTV allows you to play your content through its different connectivity options, then it should also have multiple codecs that should enable the user play various popular media formats. The SmartTV supports mp3, ogg, mp4, avi, divx, wma, aac media formats enabling you to enjoy your music and videos without installing third party Apps. With the traditional TV, you would need an external media streaming device such as a DVD player, Roku, Boxee box, Apple TV connected to it in order to enjoy your personal library.
Rather than be constrained by the limitation of your personal media library, with an unlimited data plan, the SmartTV is your door to an unlimited repository of online media content from distributors such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, Vimeo among others.
The Smart TV packs a great sound output with built in subwoofers and different sound modes and effects with Dolby Digital surround technology. One can enjoy Movies and Music with crisp sound on the SmartTV without a home theater system.
The remote has the usual numeric keys, channel and volume seekers, the usual four-arrow navigation keys, playback controls, search, exit, return and a Samsung “Home” button.
We found the using the remote to send basic commands such as volume increase/decrease, channel search, App navigation with the TV easy and intuitive with an experience similar to traditional remote controls.
Since losing remotes is common, we found two options in case this happens: Download a remote control App from the Android Playstore that works and functions as the hard-button remote onto your smart phone or tablet. For it to function, you of course have to connect your smartphone and SmartTV on the same network via WI-FI or you could also use the Joy Stick remote placed behind the right hand corner of the TV that Samsung used to replace hard buttons on the TV. Using it was fun but again it defeats the purpose for which the remote was made
However, entering longer alpha numeric characters( for instance username, passwords, emails, urls) using the remote as the input device was extremely frustrating. We also expected the remote to have at least a Microphone and speaker to receive audio input for some TV Apps such as Skype, Karaoke that are heavily audio dependent. This in effect would help users receive Skype calls using their remote or input voice commands.
Skype on TV, now that would be cool
We also had a spin on Skype, because we thought that full video calling was finally coming to the family living room. Imagine calling a distant family member or relative and they’re able to see all the entire family in the comfort of the living room without cramming everyone to fit into some narrow viewing angle as is the case with PCs.
However, we quickly got disappointed that the TV didn’t have a front facing camera/webcam and there was no way for the TV to capture audio through a microphone. We expected an embedded microphone on the TV remote or the TV itself for instance. Samsung says you can use peripheral input devices(external Mic and camera) for a seamless Skype experience, but this is the same reason we don’t usually do Skype calls on the PC — peripherals.
The “SmartHub” is your entertainment hub
The SmartTV ships with what Samsung calls the “SmartHub” which provides “a single location for all of your favorite smart content, giving you easy and instant access to apps, photos, videos, web browsers and much more.”.
The SmartHub provides fitness apps, kids edutainment apps, videos and photos. We found the content to be rich served with enough choices to suit your taste and preferences.
In-built Power surge protector Keeps your Smart TV safe
Considering that electricity in Uganda/Africa flickers a lot, many people find their appliances destroyed by power surges leaving them frustrated and with repair costs to incur. This is something that Samsung clearly thought through as it embedded a surge protector in the SmartTV that protects your TV from electricity surges or incurring a separate cost of purchasing a surge protector.
Cost and Availability
The SmartTV is available in Samsung distributor channels like UgaSung and Transtel at about Ug Shs 8M ($3000)
Most of Africa will be transitioning from analogue TV broadcasting to digital with global deadline set for 2014. Currently there are a number of Digital TV service providers providing DTV tuners or decoders for users with digital ready TV sets. The Samsung SmartTV already has an inbuilt DTV tuner and has you covered.
It’s amazing the connectivity options that these next gen TVs are offering. From HDMI, to USB, to Wi-Fi, Ethernet LAN and of course for backward compatibility composite video. We’re even betting on the death of the good old DVD player that will be replaced by content streamed directed from the cloud, your local media library on your PC or external USB drive or your smartphone!
It’s not just connectivity that’s a complete new ball game, but also the TV user interface and experience which includes what we’re all used to — the TV remote. Now the remote is just an app on your smartphone(s) or device and it might also be your voice (voice control) or hand or body gestures (though not present in this particular TV).
We are also predicting the potential disruption of traditional TV broadcasters including the likes of DSTV who will face cut throat competition nearing annihilation from video on demand content providers like iTunes, HULU, Youtube, Vimeo and Netflix — who all work well with the Smart TVs — as long as you’ve a broadband connection but till broadband is readily accessible or affordable in Africa, this will once again be a long shot.
But also the current Smart TVs aren’t really smart when it comes choice of some applications and user input. For instance we found surfing, Tweeting or Facebooking on the SmartTV using a remote without a QWERTY keyboard ( and yes you can use the virtual onscreen QWERTY, but that won’t help as the screen is not touch) really not smart. If anything, frustrating and unnecessary.