Launches & Lunches – Samsung’s Big Bling
The centerpiece of Samsung’s new product range was its $50K, 85-inch ultra-high definition panel. There was other stuff, too.
IT WAS A cold mid-week night in Auckland. The invitation was to “an exclusive evening of technology and entertainment.”
“Join us,” it said, “as we unveil New Zealand’s most elite television – the all-new Samsung Ulra HD S9 Smart TV.”
Taking place on the display space on the first floor of Giltrap Audi in Great North Rd, the launch included a DJ doing his funky thing, an endless supply of top grog (the pinot noir was divine) and canapés that I’m sure for the carnivores amongst us must have gone down a treat. Unfortunately, both of the attending Witchdoctor representatives do not partake of the animal flesh.
Other Samsung products lined the edges of the display space, but the Ultra S9 Smart TV was the centre of attention, and the mercifully short speeches by Samsung representatives focused on that televisual wonder. Other Samsung employees were lingering, and quick to engage attendees in conversations in which they could display their product knowledge.
The Ultra S9 Smart TV was indeed impressive, although I was disappointed when a Samsung spokesman made the point that it would be to diminish the set by attaching it to a wall – it’s really designed to go with its stand, the idea being that it’s like a piece of artwork.
I did make the point that artworks are usually affixed to walls, not display contraptions, although it could be seen as a kind of easel, I suppose. My problem with the display stand is that the TV is supposed to take pride of place in a large room, where my ideal placement of this remarkable 85-inches would be almost the entire circumference of the wall of my smallish lounge; that way, it would be immersive to watch, but not overwhelming or in the way.
To me, the display stand is just too bragging, but I guess the market demographic for a $50,000 television may want to own the bragging rights. There’s also a some pragmatic reasons for the stand, which incorporates the television’s sound system and hides its wiring. The Samsung team assured us that its sound system is awesome, although of course, we weren’t able to get a demonstration of its abilities on the night. The blurb says, however, that it has “a subwoofer and 10 individual built-in speakers so the audio is concert quality.”
It does seem weird that Samsung’s top-flying TV should reject the notion of surround sound, but I guess that just goes to show how tired people are of the hassle that inevitably goes with installing and maintaining surround systems. Certainly, Samsung’s own surround systems are much too budget-oriented to suit the Ultra S9 Smart TV.
It’s certainly an impressive edifice, and the picture is, of course, crystal clear, although what’s unclear as to whether the two inches that divides this panel and its 83-inch competitors at LG, Sony and Panasonic is really worthy around twice the price.
When asked this question, the Samsung expert on hand muttered something about the TV having ‘next generation’ components that will allow it to be almost infinitely upgraded, and he maintained that the other brands were already in the stone-age compared to the Ultra S9. I would like to see some hard evidence of this. What he could have been talking about is the ‘smart evolution kit’ that “slots into the back of the TV and enables owners to update their TVs with the latest technologies and features, removing the need to purchase a new set every time there’s an upgrade. This ensures their product stays up to date with future developments and standards of ultra-high definition broadcasting.”
Apart from the rather dominating 85-inch wonder, the 2013 Samsung television lineup includes the LED 8000 series, and the plasma 8500 series, and the big draw really is the “improved smart TV experience that simplifies how consumers search for and discover their preferred content.”
The company has redesigned its Smart Hub, and its TVs include “Quad-core CPU, enabling quick app launching, web browsing and multitasking”. Then there are features similar to that of other major manufacturers, like Smart View, where viewers can watch TV on their smartphone, gesture and voice control of the television, and of course, more-more-more.
Samsung also claims better screens than their previous models – blacker blacks, brighter colours and better contrast, but that’s for the eye of the beholder, I guess.
There are new AV systems and audio systems, but we’ll check those out later.
Ultimately, the Samsung launch was all about the Ultra S9 Smart TV, which really places the company in the realm of companies like B&O, who avoid having to compete in the cut-throat panel market by creating a category that’s all about luxury and aspiration.
It would have been nice to hang around, drink more top quality plonk and perv at the new gear. Who knows, there might have been naked dancing girls later on. But we got hungry, and left as soon as it was seemly to do so. GARY STEEL
Ratings – Samsung Television & Home Audio Launch Event
Product ‘Wow’ Factor = 5/5
General Pizzazz = 4/5
Canapés = no rating; vegetarian-unfriendly
Drinks = 5/5
Venue = 4/5