Samsung 2012 TV lineup reveals new features, ways to control the TV, and prices

Consumer Reports News: March 07, 2012 01:38 PM

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Samsung has released the pricing on its line of new 2012 LCD and plasma TVs, many of which boast an enhanced Smart TV suite of apps and services and some new ways to control the TV, as well as 3D. In addition, many step-up models will also get a performance boost thanks to new dual-core processors that allow the TV to multitask: For example, you can toggle back and forth between a movie and an app that can run simultaneously. And the entire line of Internet-capable sets now get built-in Wi-Fi and full Web browsers.

As we reported during CES, a key new TV feature called Smart Interaction lets you interact with the TV in a variety of ways, including gestures and voice control. For example, you can control onscreen navigation or scroll through Web pages with a wave of your hand, and items can be selected by making a grabbing gesture with your hand. Samsung’s gesture control is built into the TV itself rather than the remote, but both the TV and the remote control will have built-in microphones for voice control.

Some sets will also have a built-in camera and face-recognition technology, so the TV will be able to recognize up to five different users and provide each with their own customized screen along with their respective services and apps. (The camera can also be used to make Skype phone calls.)

Samsung has developed a software developers kit (SDK) that to enable developers to create specialized apps and games that take advantage of the gesture, voice, and face-recognition technologies. Step-up TVs will come with a new touchpad remote control, though the company isn't offering the dual-sided remote with a QWERTY keyboard on one side it had last year. Instead, a wireless Bluetooth keyboard with a track pad will be sold as a $99 option. The TVs will come with an IR blaster in the box to allow control of other home-theater gear using the TV remote.

Also new this year are some proprietary programs, offered under the umbrella heading of Signature Services. The apps will include Family Story, a closed, cloud-based service for sharing photos and family memories; Fitness, programs that let you monitor training and sync to a wireless scale; and Kids, a suite of kid-friendly edutainment. Step-up models also get AllShare Play, which lets you access content from any compatible device—and thanks to cloud-based storage, you can do this even when you're not in your home.

Samsung provided some additional information about an upgrade feature called Smart Evolution that will become available in 2013. Starting this year, TVs will have a proprietary slot for Smart Evolution modules that can add features or boost performance, so owners will be able to update their sets to the latest technology. Samsung didn't discuss pricing, but it did say that 2012 models can be updated through 2016.

Samsung's flagship ES8000 series LCD sets have an ultra-slim bezel, and sit atop a unique-looking U-shape stand. This set also gets Micro Dimming Ultimate contrast-enhancement technology, while the ES7500 line gets Micro Dimming Pro. Models in the ES6600 and ES7100 series get Micro Dimming.

Samsung says that half of its 2012 sets will include 3D, and all 3D sets will come with at least two sets of 3D glasses; the flagship ES8000 LCD TVs and E8000 plasmas will come with four sets. Additional 3D glasses will now be available for only $20 per set.

The company also has a new EH series of LCD TVs that use "direct-lit" LED backlights, which cost less than traditional edge LED backlights while providing getter energy efficiency than CCFL backlights. The EH-series sets are available in screen sizes ranging from 26 to 65 inches.

Here's the complete 2012 TV lineup, with sizes, estimated selling prices, and release dates.

LCD TVs (with LED backlights)

ES800 Series
65 inches $5,100 NA
60 inches $4,400 March
55 inches $3,750 March
46 inches $3,000 March

ES7500 Series
60 inches $4,000 March
55 inches $3,380 March
50 inches $2,930 March
46 inches $2,600 March

ES7100 Series
60 inches $3,800 NA
55 inches $3,150 May
46 inches $2,400 May

ES6600 Series
60 inches $3,380 NA
55 inches $2,720 March
46 inches $1,930 March

ES6500 Series
65 inches $3,900 NA
60 inches $3,180 March
55 inches $2,520 March
50 inches $2,080 May
46 inches $1,730 March
40 inches $1,500 March
32 inches $1,000 NA

ES6100 series
ES6100 60 $2,900 April
ES6100 55 $2,200 March
ES6100 50 $1,730 June
ES6100 46 $1,400 March
ES6100 40 $1,200 March

EH6000 Series
65 inches $2,650 NA
60 inches $2,100 Now
55 inches $1,550 Now
50 inches $1,250 June
46 inches $1,080 Now
40 inches $850 Now

EG5300 Series
50 inches $1,200 June
46 inches $1,020 March
40 inches $800 March
32 inches $580 March

EH5000 Series
50 inches $1,150 June
46 inches $980 Now
40 inches $750 Now
37 inches $650 Now
32 inches $550 Now

EH4000 Series
32 inches $420 Now
26 inches $330 Now

Plasma TVs

PN8000 Series
64 inch $3,950 March
60 inch $3,080 March
51 inch $2,200 March

PNE7000 Series
64 inch $3,400 March
60 inch $2,530 March
51 inch $1,650 March

PNE6500 Series
60 inch $2,200 March
51 inch $1,520 March

PNE550 Series
64 inch $2,530 March
60 inch $1,920 March
51 inch $1,200 March

PNE530 Series
60 inch $1,650 March
51 inch $1,000 March

There is also a PNE490-series model, a 51-inch set that is selling for $800, plus two E450-series plasmas: a 51-inch set for $720 and a 43-inch set for $550.

James K. Willcox

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