If run-of-the-mill TVs aren't your thing, check out Samsung's 2013 lineup: At CES today, the company announced a 55-inch OLED model, an 85-inch Ultra HD set with a unique stand, and what the company is calling a "super" plasma TV that offers unparalleled picture quality.
Beyond these new technologies, the company also found time to tweak the smart TV platform found on its more conventional sets, as well as improve hand and voice controls, and develop a new remote control. It's also rolling out a mirroring capability that lets TVs display content stored on portable devices.
While competitors such as LG and Vizio introduced 84-inch Ultra HD sets, Samsung is raising the bar an inch with its own 85-inch Ultra HD model, which will also be joined by Ultra HD TVs in two smaller screen sizes. The company will also have a 110-inch model, a size also announced by Westinghouse.
In a brief demo we received of the 84-inch set, the Ultra HD was situated on a unique vertical stand that allowed the TV to be moved up and down inside the frame.
As far as OLED, the company is showing its 55-inch model that uses RGB OLED technology. The 3D-capable set has a unique Multi-View feature that lets two viewers watch different content simultaneously when wearing special 3D glasses, which have built-in speakers so the sound matches the program being viewed.
Samsung is also showing what it boasts is the new industry standard for plasma TVs, the F8500, which will be offered in 51-, 60-, and 64-inch screen sizes. Samsung claims it can produce the same brightness as an LED-lit LCD TV while maintaining plasma-like black levels. The F8500 sets have a unique design with a dark "titan metal" color, curved lines, an ultra-slim frame, and a unique square-shaped stand.
We tested Samsung's Smart Interaction TV controls last year, and found that while innovative, they were a bit too hard to use in most instances. This year Samsung is improving its hand-movement controls so you can use more natural hand gestures, such as "flipping" or "slapping" movements to navigate through menus. The company is also beefing up its voice control with what it calls "more contextual language recognition," another term for the ability to use more natural language rather than robotic commands.
The user interface has also been updated, using intuitive, colorful "panels" for five different types of content, ranging from TV shows and movies to apps. The new sets now have a recommendation feature that uses past viewing habits to make recommendations for TV shows, video-on-demand content, and apps. And users now have a single sign-on for the various social media content on Samsung's smart TVs.
The new smart TVs now have a mirroring feature and a greater ability to move content from mobile devices, such as compatible Samsung smart phones and tablets, to the TV.
And finally, to address privacy concerns that arose with the company's first sets with embedded webcams, 2013 models now have pop-up cameras that retract when they're not being used.
—James K. Willcox