What in the HD World?
Dick De Jong
March 21, 2013
Yesterday, to introduce its 2013 line of TVs, Samsung invited a press contingent down to Wall Street with the promise that they would be WOWed.
That's a mighty tall order when you're trying to impress a gaggle of grizzled veterans who believe that they have seen it all - and in fact had seen most of these TVs when they were previewed at CES in January.
To hedge their bets, Samsung executives rolled out a trio of celebrities to assist in telling the story about the TVs' new interactive features. Indeed, it was fascinating to see which personality would generate the most Wow from the predominately male audience.
The first to be rotated to the stage was swimsuit super model Kate Upton and the crowd noticeably perked up. Then out comes Eli Manning and the New York natives, especially the Giants fans, responded as he confirmed that his brother, Peyton (a Sony spokesperson) didn't have a TV with the same cool features.
Finally, rapper Flo Rida (shod in bedazzling loafers) shared the stage with Samsung VP, Joe Stinziano, and a new Samsung 2.2 speaker kit (appropriately titled a Giga Sound System) that looked as if it would make my ears cry just a little if it were cranked to 11.
Sports Illustrated cover girl, Super Bowl MVP, and chart topping rap artist - now what was I talking about? Oh yeah, TVs.
The Three I's
For 2013, Samsung's main goal for their redesigned TV interface is that it be even more intelligent, intuitive and interconnected.
To that end, the software engineers have developed menus that can learn from your choices and begin to make calculated recommendations on content you may want to watch.
They have also separated their Smart Hub into five more intuitive divisions, On TV, Movies & TV Shows, Music, Photos & Clips, Social, and Smart TV Apps. (You can read about the details in the Samsung press release.)
In addition, they want to interconnect all your digital devices so they can share data easily.
And to facilitate all these features, Samsung has updated their motion and voice controls. Clearly, Samsung is trying to get the jump on Apple and their long anticipated entry into the TV arena.
How well all these features will integrate is impossible to judge until I receive one of these new 2013 models in for review.
My hope is that the interface is like a good waiter, he's there when you need him and the rest of the time, he's unobtrusive.
(Samsung also announced three new apps will be available on their TVs, Blu-ray players and home entertainment systems. You can read this second press release for more details.)
P is for Performance
And P is for Plasma.
To their credit, Samsung not only continues to make plasma TVs, they also persist in pushing the envelope on picture quality.
From what I have seen, Samsung's top of the line plasma, the F8500 delivers the depth of blacks and rich colors that makes one wistfully recall the gone but not forgotten Pioneer KUROs. Ah, a 64" F8500 would be 2013's version of videophile heaven.
You could spot the TV reviewers in the crowd because they were all huddled around the F8500 as the Samsung reps highlighted a few performance settings.
Not to give short shrift to the LED TVs, the flagship F8000 with its Micro Dimming technology was no slouch in creating beautiful high contrast images. And it will be available in 46, 55, 60, 65 and a whopping 75-inch size.
But you pay a premium for that extra ten inches. The 65-inch F8000 will cost around $3500. The 75-inch tops out at $8000.
Of note, all of the Samsung 2013 LCD TVs are LED backlit, no more CCFLs.
The Not Quite $64,000 Question
Samsung also announced that their 85-inch UHD (4K) TV will be available for pre-order at the end of March. Perhaps an unintended Wow was echoing around the room when its price was announced, $39,999. Yes, you can say it, Wow!
Considering Sony is already selling their 84-inch UHD TV for $25,000 and LG for under $20,000, the $15,000 question being asked was what makes Samsung's S9 series worth the extra KIA Soul price tag.
The S9's innovative design includes a quad core processor Smart Evolution Kit with integrated connectors. Ultra HD is still a bit of a moving target since standards have not been finalized. When they are, the kit can be upgraded to a faster processor and compatible connectors.
But after heralding the future proof design and highlighting the S9's full array LED direct backlit panel with local dimming, the Samsung reps quickly ran out of reasons for the price disparity.
And now that the word is out, the blogosphere is atwitter with righteous indignation.
As much as anyone, I have been nurtured on constantly dropping prices for ever bigger and better TVs. The 64-inch F8500 plasma at $3700 is a prime example. A few short years ago, that sized plasma would have cost around $25,000.
But let's take a deep breath, because these huge UHD TVs occupy rarified air and it's easy to hyperventilate when pondering their MSRPs. And if you can seriously afford one, then the competitive marketplace will give you some good choices.
Conspicuous by Its Absence
Finally, never was the term OLED uttered during the presentation. As I reported earlier, Samsung was exhibiting a couple of versions of OLED TVs at CES last January, but not a peep about if or when at this event.
But with Eli, Flo, Kate, a $40,000 UHD TV, and that gorgeous F8500 plasma, the shindig supplied enough Wow for one day.
As always, stay tuned.