FlatpanelsHD was part of a small group that got an exclusive first look at Samsung’s 2013 LED, plasma and Ultra HD TVs behind closed door. We share our hands-on impressions and our talk with Samsung’s Korean engineers.
Hands-on with Samsung's 2013 LED
We obviously saw all of the new TVs during CES but the noisy show floors that are swarming with people are not exactly helping. Therefore we had arranged a closer look at Samsung’s new 2013 TVs behind closed doors, in the company of some of the Korean engineers that have been involved in the development of the TVs. We were not allowed to take pictures in the room so what you see here is from the CES show floors.
Samsung’s F8000 LED-model
Samsung calls it ”Cinema Black” and it improved the light homogeneity of the black bars during the demo
We started with Samsung’s new 8 series LED model. The TV largely resembles last year’s model in its appearance but Samsung’s engineers outlined some of the improvements that have been made to the actual panel. One of the focus areas has been to reduce clouding / backlight bleeding.
LED models are extremely thin today which makes it difficult to distribute light 100 % evenly across the panel. Consumers generally prefer the ultra-minimalistic TVs but they also seek perfect picture quality, so Samsung has made it a priority to work on the issue. Bleeding or clouding often occurs during dark sequences in movies and is more visible when you sit in a dimly lit room. For theatrical movies shot in the extra wide cinemascope format (2,35:1 or sometimes called 21:9) the black bars at the top and bottom can be especially problematic.
Samsung’s F8000 LED model automatically dims the black bars at the bottom and top of a movie
Samsung has tried to eliminate backlight bleeding during movie watching by incorporating “LED zones” behind the panel in the areas where the black bars show up. In these zones Samsung can dim the backlight individually without affecting the rest of the image. Samsung calls it ”Cinema Black” and it eliminated bleeding issues in the black bars completely in the demonstration we saw. Samsung still uses global dimming when the entire image switches to black, for example during movie cut scenes.
Hands-on with Samsung's 2013 plasma
Samsung continues its research in plasma technology and although they had fewer plasma TVs than ever to show off at CES, the engineers are still working on improving the shortcomings of the panels. We talked to the engineers about the work and they had a fun unofficial story to tell: one of the unofficial, internal goals of the plasma group is to surpass Pioneer’s Kuro.
Samsung’s F8000 plasma TV is better suited for brightly-lit living rooms as it has a brighter panel with fewer reflections
But there has arisen new challenges with the introduction of for example 3D that has required a new type of phosphor, as well as the increasingly strict power consumption requirements in Europe. Yet, Samsung believes that they have taken a few pretty big steps this year. One of the major improvements is the increase in brightness that improves performance of Samsung’s F8500 plasma TV in brightly lit living rooms. Samsung demonstrated how big an improvement it is compared to last year’s E8000 plasma TV. And it did look very promising.
”The unofficial goal of Samsung’s plasma group is to surpass the performance of TVs that once started with a ”K”, says the engineers
At the same time, Samsung has managed to improve black depth; partly by lowering the actual black level; partly be incorporating a better filter. Samsung’s engineers are not afraid to admit that plasma TVs still provide better absolute black depth compared to its LED models but it is still a major focus for both technologies.
The improvements are only found in the new 8 series, F8500. Samsung will not release new 7 or 6 series plasma TVs in 2013 but an inexpensive 4 plasma series will be available.
Hands-on with Samsung's Ultra HD TV
Samsung’s Ultra HD TV was also on display and we had a talk about the new format and how Samsung had approached it. We saw tons of Ultra HD TVs at the show floors at CES but what we did not experience was the sound system. Samsung’s new Ultra HD TVs come with a complete 2.2 sound system; a stereo system with two subwoofers.
Samsung’s first Ultra HD TV delivers impressive pictures and sound
With the limitations taken into consideration, we suggest that early adopters think twice
Picture quality is amazing. Nothing less. And the 120 W sound system is actually more than decent. The combination of the fantastic picture quality and the sound system provided a pretty immersive experience as a viewer.
We asked a bit about the technology and we were told all connectors are placed in a separate media box that connects to the TV via a single cable. In addition, the TV needs a power cable. Samsung aimed to create an elegant solution and they went with this setup as they believe it eliminates clutter.
We also asked if the TV supported 2D 4K at higher frame rates (for example 48 frames per second as used to film The Hobbit) as well as 4K in 3D. None of these scenarios are supported, said Samsung.
Samsung’s Ultra HD TV has a 2.2 sound system incorporated into the frame
Samsung's Ultra HD TV is most certainly impressive – but the same is true for its price. To buy the smallest 85-inch version you will have to bleed 38,000 USD. Prices will obviously come down over time but with the limitations taken into consideration, we suggest that early adopters think twice before running out to buy an Ultra HD TV.
OLED? Samsung did not talk much about it but we did have some time with the 55-inch OLED-TV in the demonstration room. We saw how Samsung can present two different images simultaneously be utilizing active 3D glasses with built-in speakers. Samsung expects that the OLED-TV will arrive in most markets this year but cannot promise anything. That is probably wise after last year’s delays.