New Samsung UHD TVs offer more 4K content and lower starting prices

The 2014 sets range from 50 to 105 inches, and some are curved

Published: March 21, 2014 01:45 PM
Samsung's 105-inch curved UHD TV will debut near the end of 2014.

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Samsung has revealed some details of its 2014 Ultra HD (UHD) lineup. The TVs range from 50 to 105 inches and include both flat-screen and curved-screen models. Prices start as low as $2,500 for a flat-screen 50-inch model.

This year, Samsung has four new UHD series. All of the 2014 UHD sets will have built-in decoding for the new, more efficient HEVC (H.265) video format that will likely be used by streaming services for 4K content and HDMI 2.0 inputs that can accept 60-frame-per-second UHD signals. The new UHD sets will be compatible with the new HDCP digital-rights-management technology standard (version 2.2) that is used to protect copyrighted content and all have MHL-enabled HDMI inputs that can be used to mirror content from smart phones and tablets. Several also come with the company's One Connect Box, an external module that houses the brains of the TV, plus its inputs. You'll upgrade these sets to new hardware and features simply by replacing the box. A

To provide access to more 4K content, Samsung is also introducing a new UHD video pack, essentially a 1TB hard drive preloaded with 4K feature films and documentaries. Titles include "Night at the Museum," "The Counselor," and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," and "World War Z". The $300 box, due in April, will work only with Samsung UHD TVs. A second UHD Video Pack with more UHD content is promised for the back half of this year.The company also said that it's working with several streaming video providers, including Amazon and Netflix, to find the best ways to deliver UHD content to customers.

The attention-grabber of the new lineup is the company's 105-inch curved TV (shown above), which boasts a cinemalike 21:9 aspect ratio, wider than the 16:9 screens on regular 1080p sets. That means the TV's screen has a resolution of 5120x2160, with more than 11 million total pixels. By comparison, a regular 1080p set has about 2 million pixels, and a UHD set has close to 8 million pixels. The 105-inch TV won't debut until the end of the year, when we expect to finally get a price—which we assume will be north of $100,000.

The HU9000-series sets are flagship models.

If you're looking for a set with more realistic dimensions (and pricing), you might consider one of the models in Samsung's flagship HU9000 series, which have curved screens and several of the company's higher-end features, such as Auto Depth Enhancer, which automatically adjusts contrast for a greater sense of depth, and a color enhancement called PurColor.

This year Samsung says its curved-screen sets can be wall-mounted using regular VESA-compatible mounts The HU9000-series sets, available this month, carry prices of $4,000 for a 55-inch model and $5,000 for the 65-incher. The company says it will offer a 78-inch model later this year for $8,000.

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Later this spring Samsung will also offer 55- and 65-inch models in a lower-priced curved-screen HU87000 UHD series, but prices haven't yet been finalized. These sets are just 1.2 inches deep with ultrathin bezels, and they'll include LED backlights with software-based local dimming. Like the UH9000-series sets, the HU8700 models come with the One Connect box.

If curved screens aren't your thing, then Samsung’s HU8550-series UHD TVs may be your ticket. They're also less expensive. The first sets will arrive this month, with a 55-inch model priced at $3,000 and a 65-inch set for $4,000. A 50-inch TV ($2,500), 60-inch set ($3,500), and 75-inch model ($6,000) are slated to hit in May. Like the other Samsung UHD sets, HU8550-series models have Samsung's version of local dimming, as well as Samsung's smart TV platform with built-in Wi-Fi, quad-core processors, and access to a lot of online streaming services and apps. 

As mentioned above, Samsung is offering a $300 UHD Video Pack

In addition to the new UHD sets, Samsung is carrying over the S9 UHD series. That line, which features an eye-catching, easel-style "frame design" stand, includes an 85-inch model that sells for $40,000, plus a budget-crushing 110-inch version that sells for about $150,000. Both accept the One Connect box.

As usual, we're looking forward to getting some of the new Samsung UHD TVs into our labs for testing.

—James K. Willcox

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