Samsung held a press event in NYC at the Guggenheim Museum on March 20th to show off some new models for 2014. Most of these have been seen at CES, but they did announce pricing as well as a couple of new products as well.
Why use the Guggenheim for a product launch? Well, the Guggenheim is famous for it’s continuously curved ramp which pairs well with Samsung’s new curved LED displays. The new model unveiled in NYC is the HU8700 line. Identical to the HU8550 line they announced at CES only it is curved. It is an UltraHD, edge-lit LED set that will be available in 55” and 65” sizes when it launches in late spring. The non-curved HU8550 will be available this month in 50″ ($2,499.99), 55″ ($2,999.99), 60″ ($3,499.99), 65″ ($3,999.99) and 75″ ($5,999.99) sizes.
The HU9000 is the high-end UltraHD model that comes in 55” ($3,999.99), 65” ($4,999.99) and 78” ($7,999.99) sizes and will be available this month. It also features an edge-lit LED system with the LEDs on the sides of the screen. It offers more zones of backlight control than the HU8550 and HU8700 lines as well as a faster processor.
Since UltraHD content is a very important thing for any UltraHD set, they played up their partnerships with 20th Century Fox and Paramount to deliver these to customers. Coming in April is their UHD Video Pack which is a 1 TB USB 3.0 hard drive that includes a few movies in UltraHD: GI Joe: Retaliation, World War Z, Night at the Museum, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and The Counselor. A set of documentaries and demo clips will also come on the USB hard drive.
Current UltraHD sets from Samsung can be upgraded with the UHD Evolution Kit in Late Spring for $399.99. The Evolution Kit will offer support for HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2, which is necessary for UltraHD content, as well as a Quad Core Plus Processor and updated Smart features. Their updated Smart features include the ability to continue to watch a program while you look up information online or view another input entirely.
The 105” curved UltraHD TV is on display and includes full array dimming with the backlight system. It will be available in the second half of the year with the price TBD.
Samsung also seems ready to take on Sonos with an expansion of their Shape home audio lineup. The M5 speaker is a smaller, $300 speaker that is closer to the PLAY:3 in size and price. Samsung has expanded their Shape lineup of streaming services to include Spotify Connect, Amazon Cloud Player, TuneIn, Rdio, Rhapsody, and more. Their Shape speakers can also directly connect to their 2014 TVs to support playback of your TV audio.
The new soundbars and home theater systems from Samsung are also Shape compatible, giving them a similar lineup to Sonos when it comes to hardware. The HW-H750 soundbar has the vacuum tube technology that they have used for a few years now. It also offers 24/96 audio support and can connect directly to your Samsung TV.
Samsung also provided good demonstrations of new technology built into their displays. This year there is a more advanced scanning backlight system built into the UltraHD sets than before. It allows the backlight be off for longer to provide better motion resolution than before. The demonstrations I saw did provide better motion resolution but at the expense of flicker that was introduced. Some people are more sensitive to this than others, so you should probably try it out in person.
Their color management system is updated from 27-points of calibration to a 192-point system. I would guess this is going from a 3x3x3 cube to a 6x6x6 cube, where those other points are interpolated to provide better saturation linearity but I will try to confirm with them. Unlike a cube in a Lumagen or other video processor, I’d assume the Samsung would not let you calibrate those points other than 100% individually.
Finally there is a demonstration of a 1080p set and a UltraHD set showing the same Snellen chart that I use for the 4K calculator. This provides an opportunity to see exactly how this looks on the two displays. Unfortunately it looks like the 1080p version of the chart was not sampled down correctly so it exhibited a lot of artifacts when viewed up close. However, at the point where I would usually sit on a TV (around 9-10’ away), myself and other press members could not tell the difference between the two sets. From 12” away the difference is obvious, but not once I moved back to a normal distance. With properly scaled 1080p content I imagine the difference is even smaller.
So this year seems to be a big one for the curve. I was more interested in the other updates to picture quality, like the improved color management system and extra lighting zones, since those are things we know usually provide a better picture. Hopefully I will spend some extended time with a curved model soon so I can see if it does make a real difference in day-to-day viewing.