As reported here and elsewhere, January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas saw the introduction of real (not prototype) 3D HDTVs. At the Samsung booth, the firm showed a range of 3D models, including numerous LED edge-lit LCD flat panel models as well as additional 3D plasma sets.
The first of the 3D LED models has just now hit the market, and in addition to 3D Blu-ray playback functionality (which will of course require a 3D-compatible Blu-ray player) Samsung has tossed in a huge bonus in the form of—get this—a built-in, user selectable 2D-to-3D conversion feature that lets viewers watch anything in 3D. As we see it, that crucial feature could put Samsung well ahead of other 3D HDTV setmakers.
Consider this HDTV if: you hunger for 3D HDTV now. Even though at launch there’s only a single true 3D Blu-ray title available (Dreamworks SKG Animation’s Monsters vs Aliens, and that’s only from Samsung as part of their 3D promotional kit). Note, however, that all of the 2010 3D Samsung sets (LCD and plasma models) feature 2D-3D conversion, meaning you won’t have to wait for true 3D content to begin enjoying 3D TV in the here and now.
Look elsewhere if: you’d like the richness and deep blacks of plasma, as Samsung’s 3D plasma sets follow their LCD siblings into the market later this month. If you wait, you’ll be rewarded with a superior picture (thanks to plasma’s ultra-wide viewing angle and better deep blacks), as well as lower cost, as their 3D plasma models are priced less on a comparable screen size basis compared to their LCD equivalents.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced LCD HDTVs):
As with last year’s range, this year’s Samsung’s 8000 series represents their nearest-to-the-top range models. On deck is their 9000 series of models, which differ from the 8000 range in terms of thinness (the 8000 units feature a depth of just under one inch, while the 9000 models go even more anorexic with a cabinet depth of about a third of an inch), and the 9000 range comes with a way-cool two-way remote that features a color LCD touchscreen that doubles as a second monitor. But, from a feature and performance standpoint, the 8000 series is the top of the heap, as it features a kind of local dimming function made possible by modulating the brightness of individual LEDs on the top and bottom of the LCD imaging panel. As it turns out, the 9000 doesn't have this feature, which aims to provide the deepest blacks possible.
The main differentiator between earlier sets is, of course, the 3D capability, which was announced with great fanfare at the January CES show in tandem with Dreamworks SKG Animation, whose commitment to 3D releases has been well documented, and Technicolor, a major Blu-ray disc replicator. What wasn’t announced at the time was that the new Samsung 3D HDTVs would carry a 2D-to-3D upconversion feature, providing viewers the ability to watch any content they wished in 3D (the press conference only lightly made mention of it, and there was a decidedly muted effort to promote the feature at Samsung’s CES booth).
Our 46” 8000 series sample is as loaded with features as last year’s 8000 models, and is aimed at the well-heeled video enthusiast that wants to be the first on the block with the latest and the mostest. With LED edge-lit backlighting (which last year’s comparable models had), this new range adds a new kind of local dimming to the mix, a first for LED edge-lit LCD sets, where the top and bottom rows of white LEDs feature variable modulation intensity according to the picture content at any given moment. This allows for darker picture areas to have less backlighting, with brighter areas to a have some extra luminance “pop.” And, as was the case with last year’s 8000 models, this series continues with 240 Hz screen refresh, which helps sharpen up 2D content while smoothing out 24 fps film-originated judder.