Perhaps we just expect more from Samsung
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15,502Although Samsung had their usual stand at CES 2016, the world's largest TV manufacturer took a sightly different approach this year.They actually had a special launch the evening before CES officially started at a location away from the normal show venues. The event gave journalists a first look at their flagship TV and some of the manufacturer's new technologies and key features. The launch actually caused a degree of confusion because the model revealed was referred to as the KS9500 despite using LED edge lighting. This was due to the use of the US model number which equates to the KS9000 here in the UK. There will be a flagship KS9500 on this side of the pond that uses a full array backlight but that has yet to be announced. However backlight aside the majority of features and technology presented will be relevant to all their higher-end models.
Samsung wanted to stress that over the last ten years the TV market has changed significantly and that if they wished to retain their number one position in the market they needed to listen to consumers, evolve as a company and deliver the best picture quality. They plan to do this through a combination of innovative design and engineering. They did mention that they were continuing to develop OLED but they felt that aside from the absolute blacks the technology didn't offer enough advantages to justify the current expense. As a result this year they would concentrate on their SUHD technology that they launched last year, with a range of TVs that are designed to meet the demands of modern life.The KS9000 that Samsung revealed at the launch features an all-new slimmer 360 degree design that is intended to make the TV appear attractive whatever your viewing angle. The design of the KS9000 appears to be more of an evolution of last year's SUHD models and the same could be said for all Samsung's new TVs, which appeared to lack the usual 'wow' factor we expect from them. However we still get the bezel-less curved screen, the metallic finish, the one connect box and a redesigned smart controller that can be used to control other connected devices. Samsung also mentioned that according to their research 85% of people watch TV in a room with ambient light, so their new TVs now include Ultra Black technology that is designed to reduce reflections and improve black performance.
Samsung recognise that the TV industry is fundamentally changing and their latest range of SUHD TVs reflect that with the emphasise on wider dynamic ranges and colour gamuts. Samsung are now using quantum dot technology again, as opposed to the nano crystal technology that they were using last year, because they feel there was greater consumer recognition for quantum dot. The new 10-bit panels will be able to deliver 98% of DCI-P3 and can deliver over 1,000 nits of peak brightness, with support for HDR10. They are also certified Premium UHD by the Ultra HD Alliance, which means that these TVs address the changing TV standards and should be able to deliver a superior performance for the foreseeable future.
Samsung's new TVs include the third generation version of their Peak Illuminator technology that is designed to draw on unused power in the darker parts of the image and instead apply it to the brighter parts in order to boost the specular highlights. As a result Samsung can deliver 20-30% more brightness with 30% less power consumption, whilst ensuring their TVs can deliver at least 1,000 nits of peak brightness. The local dimming has also been upgraded and now includes pixel compensation to reduce light leakage in dark areas. The native black level of the panel itself has also been improved to increase the native contrast ratio. The decision to use quantum dot this year largely stems from advances made in Samsung's nano crystal technology which allows for a much thinner filter, thus allowing more light through, with a wider colour space.
Aside from picture quality, Samsung's new range also embraces the Internet of Things with a new Smart Hub that allows the TV to connect with compatible devices. All Samsung's 2016 TVs will be Internet of Things ready, allowing your TV to be controlled as another object connected to home appliances and mobile devices. Samsung want to return the TV to the centre of the home and the Smart Hub allows your new TV to control every compatible connected device and vice versa. There is also automatic device detection which means you can immediately start controlling the connected device using Samsung's Smart controller. There is a list of all the devices that can be automatically detected and Samsung have tried to cover all the top tier products.
The smart platform itself has a new user interface that is designed to provide everything from a single launcher bar, making it easier for users to find content. There is also a new recommendation feature that will incorporate more content sources including 4K content from Netflix, Amazon Instant and YouTube. Samsung are also introducing console-less gaming on their new TVs and they had demonstrations of Assassin's Creed III, Batman Arkham Origins and The Lego Movie game. Samsung were also showing MediaSquare, a new feature that enables multiple users to connect with the TV using their mobile devices and share content. MediaSquare will allow consumers to line-up music tracks, DJ for their friends and even vote on what they want to listen to next.
Samsung were also demonstrating an ultra-thin prototype that has clearly been designed to offset the appeal of OLED's incredibly thin panels. The display uses a separate box to move the majority of connections and electronics away from the panel itself and, judging by the depth of the chassis at the bottom, the speakers must be incredibly small. The TV wasn't producing any sound, so we couldn't tell how good the audio was with speakers that small but it will certainly require some very clever acoustical solutions. The LEDs are positioned at the bottom and in general the image appeared very good when you consider the incredible thinness of the panel. However on closer inspection, the limitations of the technology became clear with the kind of haloing and columns of light that plagued the ultra-thin TVs that both Sony and LG launched last year.
In terms of other products, pride of place went to Samsung's UBD-K8500 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The K8500 uses a slightly curved front panel and includes twin HDMI outputs, one for video and one for audio. This is important because many people will have AV receivers that don't support HDMI 2.0a or HDCP2.2. Aside from that, the player has a few basic controls, a display and a disc tray. Around the back, along with the HDMI outputs, you'll find a digital optical output and an Ethernet port; although the K8500 also has built-in WiFi. As an Ultra HD Blu-ray player the K8500 supports 10-bit video, Rec.2020 and high dynamic range, specifically HDR10 although it doesn't support Dolby Vision. The build quality looked a bit on the plastic side but then Samsung is aiming the K8500 at a price point of around £300. However it was certainly good to see an actual UHD Blu-ray player playing real 4K Blu-ray discs on an Ultra HD TV at last.
The exact line-up that Samsung will release in the UK has yet to be announced but at CES, along with the KS9000, we also saw the KS8000 and the KS7500. The KS8000 was particularly interesting because it will be the first SUHD TV to use a flat screen. Although the models that Samsung were showing at CES were impressive, the line-up seemed to be missing some of the flair and innovation that we associate with the Korean manufacturer. Perhaps they are a victim of their own success, after all the SUHD TVs launched last year were amongst the most advanced available; but this year's models definitely felt more like a case of evolution rather than revolution.
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