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Samsung Shines with LED and Plasma Series

Apr 6, 2009 9:52 AM, By Rebecca Day

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Samsung 8000 series of LED TVs

Samsung took the wraps off its 2009 TV lineup last week at a product introduction at the Samsung Experience store in New York, highlighting its LED-based LCD TV and a renewing its commitment to plasma TV.

Where Pioneer left off at the high end, Samsung hopes to fill in. The company took the wraps off its 2009 TV lineup last week at a product introduction at the Samsung Experience store in New York, highlighting its LED-based LCD TV and a renewing its commitment to plasma TV.

Underscoring picture quality, energy efficiency, and thin depth, Samsung showed its flagship 8000 series of LED TVs comprising 55in. and 46in. screens, along with seven additional models in the 7000 and 6000 series. Suggested retail prices are $3,999 and $3,299 for the top-end 55in. and 46in. models, slated to ship in May. The top-flight series is distinguished by Samsung's Auto Motion Plus, 240Hz refresh-rate technology that promises to reduce motion blur and judder.

Following the top line is the series 7000 LEDs with 40in., 46in., and 55in. TVs priced at $2,499, $2,999, and $3,799, respectively. The 40in. ships this month, joining the larger size models that arrived in stores in March. The starter 6000 series LED sets include 32in., 40in., 46in., and 55in. models priced at $1,599, $2,299, $2,799, and $3,599. All are available now except for the 32in. model that ships in June. The Energy Star v3.0 LED TVs use up to 40 percent less power than comparably sized LCD models from the 2008 line.

Having tested the Internet connectivity market last year with the company's Infolink services, Samsung is expanding the offerings this year. The company cited data indicating that access to Internet content is on some consumers' wish lists. According to a survey released this year by Parks Associates, a third of respondents said they would be interested in buying a widget-enabled TV at a premium. That compares to a 2007 survey by iSuppli that reported that two-thirds of U.S. consumers wanted their televisions to link to the Internet.

Both the 7000 and 8000 series offer Samsung's Internet@TV service, which delivers web-based content to the TV using the Yahoo Widget Engine. Samsung is first out of the gate with the widget-based content, with other TV makers soon to follow. At launch, four widgets are available, offering content from USA Today, Yahoo, and Flickr, along with games such as sudoku. Samsung expects viewers to have access to 100 widgets by year end.

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Consumers can assign eight user profiles per TV, and each profile will be able to store 15 widgets at a time. Widgets will be stored on a gallery that users can access from the TV menu, and they can swap out widgets as more come available.

Samsung's Internet@TV service operates over wired or wireless home networks. The company sells an $80 dongle for wireless access that communicates over all the common Wi-Fi bands, including N and dual-N. Samsung also supports DLNA in its TV line to enable wireless streaming of music, video, and photos from any networked PC. And to complete the convergence package, Samsung TVs are outfitted with USB ports for connection of thumbdrives or external hard drives with multimedia content.

In plasma TVs, Samsung comes to market this year with nine models. The company hopes to fill the void left by Pioneer, according to Paul Zakrzewski, senior manager of plasma HDTV in the visual display marketing group. While the departure of Pioneer and Vizio reduce visibility overall for the plasma category, Samsung believes the specialty market and videophiles will continue to buoy plasma sales—even as the company makes a strong push into the LED LCD category.

Plasma will continue to hold the fort in the larger screen sizes—at 50in. and 58in.—and Samsung has also made strides to minimize the downsides of plasma technology. Its new line measures just more than 1in. deep—with the ATSC tuner built in—making it competitive with the super-thin LEDs. Power consumption of the plasma line, while not meeting the latest Energy Star standards, is listed as high efficiency.

The Series 860 line of plasma TVs, to be funneled to regional dealers and custom integrators, arrives in stores in June. List prices are $2,399 for the 50in. and $3,499 for the 58in. model. Step-up features for the line include Internet@TV, antiglare screen, 24fps compatibility, four HDMI 1.3 inputs, and a custom-calibration mode.

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