If you're in the market for your next TV, you'll be inevitably tossing up between standard HD and the far superior 4K/Ultra High-Definition (UHD) format. You'll also have to choose between flat and curved panels now. Samsung's new TV line-up will give you the best of both worlds: a curved 4K/UHD TV for less than $5000, and so much more. Here's everything you need to know.
Samsung is still committed to the curved push, and is dumping loads of new models on the market at various price points for consumers to buy.
Previously, Samsung has only had one such TV in market: the curved OLED from last year, which we quite enjoyed.
The new curved line-up sees the introduction of not one, but three new models, starting from $4999 for the 55-inch HU9000, and working through to the $6999 65-inch HU9000, and the wince-inducing $16,999 78-inch HU9000.
The most important distinction between the old model and the new model, however, isn't size or price: it's resolution.
All three of the new curved TVs from Samsung in 2014 are 4K/Ultra-High Definition (UHD) panels. That means they're four times the resolution of your standard high-definition 1080p panel.
The only real sacrifice you make is that the new TVs aren't OLED, they're just standard backlit LED. They still look gorgeous, but for purists who love their blacks, it won't be exactly the same.
So why go curved? Well, Samsung says it has developed new tech for its 2014 curved UHD TVs called Image Depth Enhancer, which pretty much serves to do everything it says on the tin. The Image Depth Enhancer identifies the background, middle-ground and foreground of an image, splits them, and then dynamically adjusts contrast, brightness and colour for the optimal viewing experience. It supposedly draws you into the image in a way a flatscreen just can't do.
Samsung also says that the curved design on its own, without any additional tech enhancement, improves the viewing experience across the whole 120-degree viewing angle to make it more immersive, no matter where you sit in front of the TV. We’re inclined to agree with that, too. Wherever you sit in front of this thing, you’re drawn into the image. More than you would be if it were flat.
The new Curved UHD TVs will also have new codec support for 4K content, including support for HEVC, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, MHL 3.0 and potentially future Samsung software upgradability with the new Samsung UHD One Connect Box. We'll get to that one in a second.
If you don't want a 4K/UHD display but still want a curved TV, you're in luck, as two more Full HD 1080p curved models will be added to the line-up. You can get a 55-inch Curved HD LED for $3799, or a 65-inch Curved HD LED for $5699.
If you don't want to curve up your living room, Samsung will still offer you a handsome flatscreen experience through its new series of UHD/4K flatscreens.
There will be three flagship UHD LED TVs, starting from $2999 for the 48-inch TV, going up to $3999 for the 55-inch model, and right up to the 65-inch model for $5699.
The new flatscreens also support new high-definition codecs, too, including support for HEVC, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, MHL 3.0 and potentially future Samsung software upgradability with the new Samsung UHD One Connect Box.
Smart Hub, Gaming and Multi-Link
Samsung's Smart Hub UI got a dramatic overhaul last year, introducing the idea of a cubed experience. Each side of the cube features a new section of content across four panels:
• Apps • Social • Photos, Videos and Music • On TV
All of these tabs are pretty self-explanatory, but what’s worth noting is that the Photos, Videos and Music tab will now let you import your content from cloud-based services — such as Dropbox, Sugarsync or Skydrive — and registered devices — like laptops or tablets.
Samsung will tweak the Smart Hub for 2014, by adding in a new Gaming tab, with exclusive content from the likes of EA.
The Smart Hub will also now support a new feature called Multi-Link, which puts multitasking and multi-windowed applications on your TV.
Say for example you're watching a film or a footy match. With Multi-Link, you can slide the content you're watching to the right and populate the new area of the screen with another YouTube video or even a web browser to look up stuff from IMDB and so on.
The Multi-Link won't just be limited to one additional window, however: Multi-Link will allow for five separate panels to give you a deep multi-window experience.
The Smart Hub will now also recognise finger gestures as well as voice gestures to control the navigation.
Instead of waggling your hand about like you might have done on an old Nintendo Wii, the camera tracks your finger from the couch and allows you to change the channel, scroll around, play/pause, adjust the volume, search and select from available items on the screen.
Samsung claims that it will be able to continue to support any change in the future of connections, standards and codecs with the new Evolution Kit.
That Evolution Kit is almost the same as the last few generations, but it now takes the form of a "one-connect" box, which means that instead of pulling a panel off the back and installing it in the slot, you'll be sticking it onto your home entertainment unit as a second box.
The good thing about that, however, is that you'll be able to connect everything back to your TV: from HDMI inputs through to networking ports and other inputs using one cable back to your TV.
As we've already talked about how 4K TVs are great, but the lack of content is troubling. Samsung is hoping to fill the content gap by giving customers content freebies in 4K/UHD.
Any customer that buys a Samsung 4K/UHD TV in Australia in 2014 will get a Video Kit. Basically, it’s a hard drive pre-loaded with five 4K movies and three 4K documentaries.
For 12 months, Samsung will build on that library of yours until you end up with 20 4K movies and 30 4K short films and documentaries.
Samsung doesn’t know exactly how it will deliver that additional 4K content to consumers just yet, but is toying with the idea of either making the service available online or just mailing new hard drives to customers.
In order to send the content over the internet, there’s going to have to be some crazy compression services at work to condense a 4K movie file which stretches into the tens of gigabytes. If only we had a national super-fast fibre network that could help with that...
Samsung is also gearing up for this year's Soccer World Cup, by inventing a new feature called Soccer Mode. It analyses the action, paying attention to the commentators and scoreboard. Automatically records highlights so you can go back and rewatch them. That's pretty nifty.
Rather than launch just one sound system as it did last year, Samsung is blowing out the line-up to include three new sound offerings, including two multi-room speaker set-ups and one premium soundbar package.
The Wireless Audio Multiroom Speaker comes in two models — the M5 and the M7.
Both models allow you to expand the single speaker into an array of speakers that can span across your whole house. You can pair two M7s together to create a mini soundbar, or combine the whole five-speaker system to create a surround sound set-up.
Alternatively you can stick sound into five different rooms around your house and play from one source.
The new Series 7 Soundbar, meanwhile, features valve amplification as last year's model did, and supports a new feature called Sound Connect which will allow you to stream TV audio via Bluetooth to save on extra cable nonsense.
Pricing and Availability
• Samsung Series 9 Curved UHD LED TV 78”+ (HU9000) – RRP $16,999, available in June 2014 • Samsung Series 9 Curved UHD LED TV 65”+ (HU9000) – RRP $6,999, available in April 2014 • Samsung Series 9 Curved UHD LED TV 55”+ (HU9000) – RRP $4,999, available in April 2014 • Samsung Series 8 UHD LED TV 48”+ (HU8500) – RRP $2,999, available in May 2014 • Samsung Series 8 UHD LED TV 55”+ (HU8500) – RRP $3,999, available in May 2014 • Samsung Series 8 UHD LED TV 65”+ (HU8500) – RRP $5,699, available in May 2014 • Samsung Series 8 Curved HD LED TV 65”+ (H8000) – RRP $5,699, available in April 2014 • Samsung Series 8 Curved HD LED TV 55”+ (H8000) – RRP $3,799, available in April 2014 • Samsung Series 7 Home Theatre System (HT-H7750) – RRP $1,099, available in May 2014 • Samsung Wireless Audio Multiroom M7 speaker – RRP $499, available in May 2014 • Samsung Wireless Audio Multiroom M5 speaker – RRP $399, available in May 2014 • Samsung Series 7 Soundbar (HW-H751) – RRP $899, available in May 2014
What do you think of the new Samsung Smart TVs? Would you part with cash for one?