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Samsung's 55- and 65-inch F9000-series Ultra HD TVs arrive in August, cost $5,500 and $7,500

Consumer Reports News: July 11, 2013 09:53 AM

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Perhaps thinking that a $40,000 85-inch Ultra HD TV wasn't in everyone's budget, Samsung is readying smaller and less expensive Ultra HD TVs in its new F9000 series. Pre-orders for the 55- and 65-inch TVs, which will sell for $5,500 and $7,500, respectively, will begin July 21st.

The company will continue to offer the $40,000 85-inch S9 Ultra HD TV--an elegant-looking model with a unique easel-style stand--primarily through custom installers.

Of course, the issue for all Ultra HD TVs is the lack of Ultra HD content. Sony, which owns a motion picture studio, is now selling an $800 media player that comes preloaded with movies and videos, but it only works with Sony Ultra HD TVs. Blu-ray doesn't currently support Ultra HD, and probably won't until sometime next year. Ultra HD TVs can play regular high-definition movies and programs, but the extra detail is more noticeable with true Ultra HD content.

In addition to its higher 3840x2160 screen resolution--with four times the number of pixels as a regular 1080p TV--the new F9000-series Ultra HD TVs will include Samsung's top-of-the-line features, including its smart TV platform with the Smart Hub interface, which organizes entertainment into five content panels, plus Smart Interaction, which allows some features of the TV to be controlled by voice commands or hand gestures. Like Samsung's flagship 1080p TVs, the set has a quad-core processor, built-in Wi-Fi, and a popup camera that can be used for both gesture control and Skype video calls with friends. The Ultra HD TVs sport an ultra-slim-bezel "edgeless" design, and sit atop a distinctive-looking arc stand.

Find the right model for your needs and budget in our TV buying guide and Ratings.

The F9000 sets will also be able to accept the company's Evolution Kit, a module that plugs into a proprietary slot in the back of the TV that allows the set to be upgraded to both new hardware--such as a faster processor--and new software. This could be especially important for an Ultra HD TV, since the current HDMI inputs don't support 60Hz Ultra HD (4K) signals, and the next generation of HDMI--HDMI 2.0--is still in development. It's not clear whether current Ultra HD TVs already on the market will be able to accept 60Hz 4K signals when HDMI 2.0 is released.

Like other Ultra HD TVs, Samsung's models will upconvert all non Ultra HD signals to the sets' higher native resolution. Samsung's upscaling uses a proprietary process it calls Quadmatic Picture Engine, which involves a four-step process that analyzes the signal, reduces noise, upscales the standard high-definition (or even standard-definition) content, and then enhances picture detail. The TV also boasts a more powerful 2.2-channel, 70-watt sound system, which will likely be an improvement over the sound quality we've heard on some of its other 2013 sets, which have been only fair. (For complete testing details on more than 140 TVs, visit our TV Ratings, which are available to subscribers.)

If you're considering an Ulra HD TV this year, Samsung says these new models can be pre-ordered starting July 21st from select authorized retailers, with the 55-inch set priced at $5,500 and the 65-incher at $7,500. The sets are expected to arrive in early August.

So far we've taken First Looks at several larger-sized Ultra HD TVs--including the $17,000 LG 84LM9600 and Sony--and we've fully tested the $1,400 Seiki and the $5,000 Sony Bravia XBR-55X900A (which will be in our next TV Ratings, due in the next few days). And Sharp and Toshiba are also expected to launch Ultra HD TVs this summer. We're hoping to get our hands on several of these new TVs and see how they compare.

James K. Willcox

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