When Kate Upton rolled onstage yesterday to to show off Samsung’s new Smart Hub smart TV enhancements during an event at the Museum of American Finance, my friend and colleague Grant Clauser leaned over and whispered, “She’s taller than I imagined.”
When the next spokesmodel came out to tout the TVs’ new S-Recommendations feature—which allows you to easily find content that might interest you, whether it’s on broadcast TV, premium channels, or even video-on-demand—I leaned back and whispered, “Who’s that?” It was Eli Manning. He plays sportsball of some sort, apparently, which may explain why he needed no introduction for most of the crowd.
Rapper Flo Rida followed, not only to demonstrate the Smart View second-screen and music streaming capabilities of the new Smart Hub, but also to show off Samsung’s new Giga Sound Systems—2.2-channel, 15-inch-subwoofer-equipped DJ-esque home audio systems with 2300 watts and 2560 watts power and $999 and $1499 price tags, respectively. Big Picture Big Sound’s Chris Boylan leaned over to me and said, “I always though his name was pronounced ‘Florida’.”
The point is, gather a group of tech geeks together and we don’t really care about celebrity appearances; we want to know more about the technology itself. (Okay, to be fair, the Y-chromosome-inflicted amongst us all had nice things to say about Upton’s appearance, and if Neil deGrasse Tyson had been on the celebrity panel, I would have had an absolute nerdgasm.)
Thankfully, after the polished, professional presentation was over, we got to wander around and learn about the tech to our geeky little hearts’ content. I snagged Senior CE Products Test Manager Mike Wood to ask what was new with the company’s 2013 slate of TVs, and he pulled out of his pocket an actual working Evolution Kit—the new add-on box that upgrades the processor and Smart Hub features of last year’s TVs to this year’s spec.
One interesting new tidbit about the Evolution Kit is that it’s capable of upgrading more than just the internal electronics. We strolled past the company’s behemoth new 85-inch, $39,999 S9 TV, and Mike revealed that future Evolution Kits will be able to upgrade the inputs 4K monster—which currently relies on an HDMI connection—to include DisplayPort, as well, and also add new tuners when/if a 4K broadcast standard comes along.
Despite how impressive the S9 is—and make no doubt about it, even at twice the price of the similarly sized competition, the TV’s gorgeous presentation is sure to make it popular with those who can afford it and have the space—I was more interested in learning about Samsung’s new flagship F8500 plasma. As Mike explained, one of the reasons that the F8500 is so bright is a new pixel structure, which increases the size of sub-pixel elements and reduces the “screen door” space between pixels. A new black filter for ambient light reduction and a new method of scaling white clipping between 235 and 255 depending on room brightness also give the F8500 its incredible LED-like brightness and Stygian blacks.
We also got a bit more info on Samsung’s new Intelligent Viewing feature, which has been hinted at before—and was teased in the official presentation—but to be honest, until Mike explained how it works, it sounded like the sort of feature I would instantly turn off when setting up a new TV. Intelligent Viewing has been described as a feature that processes video differently depending on the source, which sounds a little vague and voodoo-y. Basically, though, the way Mike described it, if you’re viewing Netflix or some other streaming source from a Blu-ray player, normal video processing would look at the incoming signal, see it as 1080p, and pretty much leave it alone. Intelligent Viewing digs a little deeper, looking at parameters like actual video bandwidth to suss out whether a video signal is genuine HD or low-res streaming being passed to the display as 1080p, and applies things like noise- and moiré-reduction when needed.
This year’s slate of LED TVs are also getting some nice enhancements, like a new spacing of the LED edge lights to ensure that black bars in letterboxed cinemascope material really are black.
All in all, a very informative after-event, and I came away even more excited to get some hands-on time with the new flagship plasma.
Full pricing and availability for Samsung’s new Plasma and LED lineup are as follows:
2013 Samsung plasma lineup
2013 Samsung LED TV lineup