Jeff Berman is one of a rare breed of AV industry writers who focuses on the business side of the market. In addition to a rich history of working in retail, he has written for M&E Daily, Smart Content News, Smart Screen News, and CDSA Cyber Security News, and also worked for six years as a contributing editor for the Consumer Technology Association's annual Digital America publication.
There were a few firsts from Samsung when the company held its spring product launch event for reporters in New York last week. First, for those who might have thought the company was ending its 2016 TV product introductions with the premium 65-inch KS9500 SUHD TV unveiled at CES (see our show report), Samsung went further than that, taking the wraps off a new flagship KS9800 SUHD TV series with even more enhanced features, including a full-array LED backlight with local dimming (the KS9500 uses edge LED lighting).
TVs in the new flagship series also offer cadmium-free 10-bit Quantum Dot technology and support for HDR, with a maximum light output of more than 1,000 nits, said Brandt Varner, senior director of TV product marketing at Samsung Electronics America. The KS9800 TVs start at $4,499 for a 65-inch model and top out at a whopping $19,999 for the 88-inch version that Samsung showed off during its presentation to reporters. Start saving those pennies now, kids. They will both ship in early June. Samsung is also fielding a 78-inch model at $9,999 that will arrive first, in early May.
Like all of Samsung's smart TVs this year, sets in the KS9800 line also do away with the need for universal remote controls, said Varner. As soon as any set-top box is plugged into one of the TV's HDMI inputs, the TV will automatically identify the set-top box, connect to it, and set up the TV remote to operate that box. That's the case whether it's a box from a cable, satellite or fiber-optic TV service provider like Comcast, DirecTV, or Verizon Fios, a streaming set-top box from a company like Roku, or a videogame console from Microsoft or Sony Computer Entertainment. However, it wasn't immediately clear if every single set-top box on the market is already compatible. For example, Samsung couldn't guarantee the TVs are compatible with Cablevision Optimum cable TV set-top boxes, such as the ones used by yours truly.
Samsung has also expanded further on its videogame integration this year by making more than 500 games available from PlayStation and GameFly directly on its 2016 smart TVs, said Varner. The games can be controlled via existing videogame controllers.
Samsung has also expanded on the capabilities of the smart-home product line it introduced as part of its acquisition of SmartThings in August 2014. Every model in the company's 7, 8, and 9 Series of smart TVs for 2016 acts as a SmartThings Hub by connecting a free "Extend" USB adapter to the TV, said Varner. The adapter enables TV users to monitor and control ZigBee and Z-Wave devices.
While the picture quality of the KS9800 TVs shown at the event was indeed impressive, the same could be said for the immersive sound quality of the HW-K950, introduced at CES, which is Samsung's first soundbar to feature Dolby Atmos. It also comes with two rear wireless speakers and ships early this summer at $1,499. The company also introduced the HW-K850 soundbar that features Atmos but omits the rear speakers. It will ship in the same time frame, at a somewhat more affordable $899. Consumers can use existing Samsung surround speakers with the K850.
There is now "only one way to access 4K HDR content in its purest form," and that's via UHD Blu-ray, said Dave Das, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics America. Samsung is currently the only manufacturer fielding a UHD Blu-ray player in the U.S., he pointed out. (However, Panasonic and Philips have said they plan to ship players in the U.S. also.) Samsung has been "overwhelmed by how strongly customers are craving" the company's UBD-K8500 UHD Blu-ray player, said Das. "This is one of the strongest product introductions we've had, and demand is greatly outpacing supply," he said. Das didn't elaborate on that during the event, and Samsung declined to provide additional details, including specific sales numbers. After its debut, the player was out of stock for weeks through Amazon and Best Buy, but it is available now to order online. While many Best Buy stores also had it in stock, availability was spotty at other Best Buy locations, according to the retailer's website. It is also still available from retail websites like Sears.com.
In addition to product firsts, Tuesday also marked the first time that the company used its new Samsung 837 facility in New York's Meatpacking District for a product launch event. The three-floor, state-of-the-art facility is also being used by Samsung to show off its product line to the public.
Here is the official press release on Samsung's 2016 SUHD TV line:
Samsung Electronics America, Inc. has announced the availability and pricing for its 2016 lineup, including an entirely new Flagship model series--the KS9800, bringing a new meaning to Smart TV.
"Samsung has always been about the ultimate experience in Picture Quality. This year is no different. Our new SUHD models provide the brightest, most realistic color and clarity for every viewing environment," said Dave Das, Senior Vice President, Samsung Electronics America. "What is new this year is our redefined Smart TV experience. We listened to our customers and made enjoying content the easiest it's ever been."
Experience the Excellence
Whether it's SUHD, UHD or LED, Samsung delivers the brightest, most stunning picture quality, with richer colors and more dynamic audio than ever before.
Samsung's SUHD TVs feature the world's only cadmium-free 10 bit Quantum Dot Display, setting the quality standard of 1,000-nit HDR with the best and most vibrant color and contrast available for true-to-life picture and experience. The Ultra Black feature reduces reflections by absorbing light to help provide for deeper, richer blacks. This year's Samsung SUHD line up meets the UHD-A's Premium UHD certification program, which ensures consumers are getting the most premium experience from their UHD TV.
From curved and slim to the new boundless design edge, Samsung offers stunning design with optimum viewing. The new KS9500 features an immersive '360' design that is elegant and looks beautiful from every angle.
Smart Just Got a Whole Lot Smarter
Samsung's 2016 Smart Hub Interface takes simplicity to the next level. The new Smart Hub Interface eliminates a lengthy setup process by automatically integrating set top boxes from cable providers like Time Warner, Comcast (coming soon), and satellite services such as DIRECTV (coming in June), as well as game consoles. Users can simply plug the STB into any HDMI port, and the TV will recognize the box and provider, as well as automatically set up the remote control to access and control the STB features--not just channel up and down, but DVR controls and other commonly used controls--without the user ever having to program or "teach" the remote. It's the ultimate in simplicity.
It doesn't end there. Now users can see and access their favorite content along the Smart Hub menu bar--not just the content provider's logo, but actual programming. Scrolling across will bring up customized sources including streaming, Blu-ray, gaming, cable, and more, allowing users to "surf content" as though they were channel surfing. In most cases it doesn't even require a login. If a user pauses a streaming program and exits to check the news, when they go back, the program is still right where they left off--no need to log-in and go deep into the app anymore. It's smart and seamless.
The purest UHD content with HDR available today
Samsung is the leader in providing customers with access to the most premium content. Whether it's via streaming services, download services or over the air, it's content at its best. Now Samsung is uniquely positioned to offer UHD HDR content in its purest form--Ultra HD Blu-ray. Customers can connect the K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray to any SUHD via HDMI and enjoy the latest UHD HDR content from Hollywood Studios such as Fox and Warner Brothers.
The UBD-K8500 supports backwards compatibility, upscaling existing 3D Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray to near-UHD quality. The player can also handle the next generation of home audio formats, including immersive, object-based sound formats like Dolby Atmos and multi-channel systems.
The 2016 Line
For 2016, Samsung offers breathtaking design and unparalleled excellence with its new line of TVs, including a series of five Curved SUHD TVs and a series of five UHD TVs that vary in display size from 49" to 88." Ranging from the popular curved form to the traditional flat panel, Samsung provides consumers with sleek appeal, the most exceptional picture quality and smartest TVs.
Samsung's KS9800 SUHD TV--Delivers unparalleled and improved picture quality, spectacular color, as well as increased brightness and contrast. With the world's only cadmium-free, 10-bit Quantum Dot display, the new SUHD TV can serve up to one billion colors in detail, delivering the most incredible color expression for the ultimate viewing experience. The smart experience just got smarter with the KS9800--featuring Samsung's new Smart Hub, discovering content has become easier and more intuitive than ever with a new simple and fast interface to quickly access everything from live TV to online video, all in one place. The new 2016 Smart Hub allows users to see their favorite content options at a glance by integrating set-top-box and VOD content experiences directly into the TV user interface. The Samsung KS9800 SUHD TV will be available in early June in a 65" model for $4,499 and an 88" model for $19,999. A 78" model will be available in early May for $9,999.
Samsung's KS9500 Curved SUHD TV--Featuring a modern 360-degree design that is stunning from every angle, the KS9500 is the world's first bezel-less curved SUHD TV offering an unparalleled blend of form and function. Its Quantum Dot Color and Supreme UHD Dimming dramatically improve color and contrast, enveloping the viewer as its Supreme Motion Rate 240 captures action. The 4K SUHD unlocks up to a billion colors with Quantum Dot technology, so every image appears stunningly authentic for the ultimate viewing experience. Additionally, its revolutionary HDR1000 High Dynamic Range combines vibrant color, powerful brightness, and wider contrast in both the foreground and background to unveil never-before-visible details. The smartest of the Smart TVs makes switching from cable to streaming to any other input as easy as changing the channel. Its universal remote can also control your other devices, and with its built-in IoT Hub connected to the SmartThings platform, consumers can control everything from living room lighting to home security without ever leaving the couch. The Samsung KS9500 Curved SUHD TV is available now in a 55" model for $2,499 and a 65" model for $3,699. A 78" model will be available in early June for $7,999.
Samsung's KS9000 SUHD Flat TV--Discover a viewing experience as breathtaking as it is exhilarating with Quantum Dot Color offering the most lifelike picture yet. The KS9000 SUHD TV's Supreme UHD Dimming elevates color and contrast, while its Supreme Motion Rate 240 captures action that will leave your heart pounding. And, it's more than just the Smartest TV with the most innovative and easy-to-use seamless capabilities--its sleek 360 design looks beautiful from back to front, making it a true work of art. Samsung's KS9000 4K SUHD TV is available now in a 55" model for $2,299 and a 65" model for $3,499. A 75" model will be available in early June for $6,499.
Samsung's KS8500 SUHD Curved TV--At the summit of television technology is the KS8500 4K SUHD Curved TV with Quantum Dot Color, creating our best picture yet. Its breakthrough HDR1000 High Dynamic Range reveals details the viewer has never before seen, while its Peak Illuminator Pro makes every scene come alive by making shades of color pop. This 4K SUHD has a curved screen with an ultra-slim, minimum bezel, and sleek 360 design that impresses from back to front. Plus, its enhanced seamless Smart TV capabilities make it easy to use as it is beautiful to admire. Samsung's KS8500 4K SUHD Curved TV is now available now in a 55" model for $1,999 and 65" model for $2,999. A 49" model will be available in May for $1,699.
Samsung's KS8000 SUHD Flat T--Smart never looked so good. The Samsung KS8000 features Quantum Dot Color, HDR1000 High Dynamic Range and Peak Illuminator Pro to provide the best home entertainment viewing experience. Plus, its Motion Rate 240 puts the viewer on the pulse of every action sequence, while its flat, virtually bezel-less 360 design exudes elegance from every angle. Its smart capabilities are enhanced with the latest innovations and auto-sensing universal control, so its insides are as extraordinary as its outsides. The Samsung KS8000 is now available in a 55" model for $1, 799 and in a 65" model for $2,799. Starting in May, it will be available in a 49" model for $1,499 and a 60" model for $2,299.
• Samsung Shows Off Flagship KS9500 SUHD TV at CES at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Samsung to Debut Atmos-Capable Soundbar with Wireless Surrounds at HomeTheaterReview.com.