By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Samsung continues to push the envelope of TV design behind the just-introduced Touch of Color (ToC) LCD and plasma TV design collection, which was showcased at the company's press review here last month.
In addition to introducing a red accent stripes in gloss-black bezel designs, the series also introduces the ability to access specially delivered Internet content, such as news, sports and weathered postings, on the TV screen, without the need for a PC.
Samsung also demonstrated some of the industry's first HD plasma sets capable of supporting 3-D content, which is slowly ramping up in the form of PC software, video games and digital movie file sources.
The ToC flat-panel models are placed in Samsung's Series 6 and Series 7 model lines and received most of the attention at the event. This underscored Samsung's spring multimedia advertising and marketing campaign, which focuses on the design collection.
The campaign, which uses national broadcast TV and cable spots, newspaper ads, consumer shelter and A/V enthusiast print publications, and Web sites, has a budget that is roughly double that of last year's efforts, Samsung said. The campaign is timed to back the rollout of the first models, which arrived in retail stores about a month ago, and will continue through May as additional SKUs come online.
John Revie, Samsung visual display marketing senior VP, called ToC an evolutionary step from the code-named "Bordeaux" design collection that started an industry trend several years ago, using high-gloss-black bezels and curved edges.
The new style features gloss-black cabinets, floating glass frames in some SKUs and narrow accent borders in red around the edges of the bezel frames. The accents are added using a special dual-injection fabrication process that places the color into the plastic of the frame.
Depending on the model line, the red accent stripe is designed to stand out when backlit, or in other models, when lighted head on. Depending on the viewing angle, the accent takes on a crystalline appearance.
"ToC is just the latest step in our company's commitment to constantly introduce innovative designs along with innovative technologies," Revie said. "Developed from years of research and design, specifically in the design-conscious automotive and fashion industries, we hope our Touch of Color design can redefine the role HDTVs play in the home by holding both entertainment and artistic value."
The Series 6 and 7 LCD TVs are being distributed to Samsung's big-box and A/V specialty dealers, but will not be offered through mass merchants or discount chains, said Jonas Tanenbaum, LCD TV marketing VP.
"In addition to the unique design styling, the ToC LCD TVs are some of the first to include interactive Internet TV that is easy to use," he said.
Samsung's InfoLink RSS service delivers news, weather, stock reports, sports and other content from USA Today directly to the TV screen using a networked broadband connection. Users will also have access to digital media from their PCs via USB 2.0 with WiseLink.
Series 6 650, which began shipping in March, and Series 7 750 LCD HDTVs feature 1080p picture resolution, up to a 50,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, Samsung's Auto Motion Plus 120Hz frame rate and Ultra Clear Panel technologies. Models include the aforementioned InfoLink RSS function.
Series 6 650 models, which began shipping in March, feature screen sizes of: 19 ($479 suggested retail), 22 ($649), 31.5 ($1,299), 39.9 ($2,299), 45.9 ($2,899) and 52.2 ($3,199) inches.
Models in the Series 7 750 LCD line will all ship in May and include the 39.9- ($2,599) , 45.9- ($3,199) and 52-inch ($3,499) screen sizes.
In plasma, the company is offering Series 6 650 models in the 50- ($2,599), 58- ($3,999) and 63-inch ($4,999) screen sizes. All will include ToC design styling with invisible speaker placement, 1080p resolution, a 1,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, and Digital Natural Image Engine (DNIe) Pro 18-bit Natural True Color video processing. Features include Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC) interoperability, WiseLink (USB 2.0) JPEG and MP3 support and four HDMI 1.3 inputs.
Samsung said its Series 4 720p plasma displays will have the ability to present 3-D content, when viewed with an optional emitter and glasses. Samsung will begin distributing the glasses under its own brand as an accessory item this year.
In DLP rear-projection TV, Samsung will also offer Series 6 and 7 series models, but instead of ToC styling, the sets stress very thin bezel frames around the screen and narrower cabinet depths.
Series 6 650 models are offered in the 50- ($1,299), 56- ($1,499), 61- ($1,799) and 72-inch ($2,999) screen sizes. All models began shipping in March except the 72-inch unit, which ships in June.
Series 7 750 models are offered in the 61- ($2,099) and 67-inch ($2,499) screen sizes and add Cinema Pure LED 120Hz backlighting. The 61-inch began shipping in March and the 67-inch unit ships in June.
To support the sets with content, Samsung showed its latest generation Blu-ray Disc player, model BD-P1500 (shipping in June at a $399.99 suggested retail), which features BD Profile 1.1 specs capable of supporting picture-in-picture running commentaries and will be upgradeable to accept BD Live Web-based extra content. The later will require a firmware update and add-on memory via a 1GB or larger USB thumb drive. The player will also up-convert standard DVDs to 720p, 1080i and 1080p resolutions.
Audio format support includes: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD and DTS-HD high resolution (scheduled to available later this year via firmware update).
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