Yesterday Samsung invited a trio of celebrities to help introduce some of the new features of the company’s 2013 TV lineup and also finally announced the price if its flagship 85-inch 4K Ultra HD LED TV.
That TV, the S9 (which has to be the smallest TV product number in the industry—and what happened to the other 8 S models?) will be available for pre-order at the end of March for $39,999. The S9 is based on Samsung’s own panel, and is a true full-array backlit LED LCD with local dimming (a Samsung rep said it includes hundreds of dimming zones), unlike LG’s and Sony’s edge-lit modes which show some light leakage and banding from the edge-based light channels. It also includes a proprietary upscaling engine for viewing standard HD on the UHD display.
The S9 TV looked stunning with 4K content from a server.
As we saw at CES, the S9 is built into a unique easel-like aluminum frame which holds an array of speakers with 120-watts of power.
The S9 includes all the smart TV features of Samsung’s other premium models, which is what yesterday’s event was mostly meant to highlight. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Kate Upton, Superbowl winner Eli Manning (check out an EH exclusive look inside Manning’s home here) and recording artist Flo Rida were present to help distract, er call attention to the TV’s highlights.
Eli Manning helped show off Samsung’s Smart Recommendation feature, that offers program suggestions based on viewing habits and time of day.
What’s most significant about Samsung’s new smart TV platform is that is basically takes over the TV. With the new line of products, gone is the time when the smart menu and streaming media options where something that the user had to hunt around with a remote to find. The new Smart Hub makes the TV function more like a smart phone. When users turn the TV, on they’re brought straight to the Smart Hub screen where all the user’s viewing options are available. The idea is to make all the TV’s features (including a program suggestion engine that recommends TV shows based on your viewing habits) more readily available. If, say, social apps, streaming media apps and networked content are integrated and easier to use, people will be more likely to use them. So far the system looks quite nice. We’ll give you a more hands-on perspective when Electronic House gets one in for review.
Kate Upton enjoyed finding sports content with the Samsung Smart Hub.
Flo Rida checked out Samsung’s audio system upgrades.
Gesture and voice control, which Samsung calls Smart Interaction and introduced in some 2012 models, is also present and improved on 2013 TVs.
Also highlighted was the Smart Evolution Kit, a small box that attaches onto 2012 TV models to upgrade them with all the 2013 features. Since many of the new features rely on hardware—specifically processing power and memory—more than just software, a simple firmware download isn’t enough to move last year’s models up to this year’s functionality. The Smart Evolution Kit is available for $299.
Plasma fans will be happy to know that Samsung is committed to that display technology and showed off impressive new performance in the 2013 F8500 series. The core structure of the panel has been updated, specifically the panel’s subpixel wall is thinner now, which allows more area to emit light, making the TV brighter. An improved filter reduces reflections and enhances contrast.
The company says the new plasma series offers the deepest blacks of any plasma and includes an “Intelligent View” mode that automatically adjusts for different content types.
The new plasma and LED TVs will be rolled out over the next three months.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.