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Samsung Plans Slate Of DTV Set-top Boxes To Fill Demand

Citing the growing number of hours of high-definition television programming, Samsung is preparing the release of three next-generation ATSC decoder boxes to support its family of DTV monitors.

Chris Cudina, Samsung Digital Strategy Group senior marketing manager, said his company would first release a next-generation stand-alone over-the-air ATSC receiver in June. It will carry a $399 suggested retail price, and will offer broadband analog component video outputs for connection to HDTV monitors, and a range of interlaced outputs (including S-video, RF and composite video) for connection to standard NTSC television sets.

Samsung elected to omit one set of HD component video outputs (the current SIR-T150 has two) and a throughput connection in order to reduce unit pricing.

“We want to start going after the general consumer, now,” Cudina said. “As DTV monitor prices have come down, they have started reaching a more mainstream audience, so we felt we needed to have a set-top box that was more affordable to meet that segment.”

For audio, the box will include optical and coaxial outputs for undecoded Dolby Digital surround sound tracks.

Also to be offered are selectable multiple format outputs. The SIR-T151 will up- or downconvert signals to meet the display characteristics of any TV set or monitor (analog or digital capable).

In June, Samsung will offer its first over-the-air digital set-top converter box incorporating a full digital interface for connection to similarly configured DTV display monitors. Model SIR-T165 will offer all of the features of the SIR-T151 and will add a Digital Visual Interface (DVI) connector, which will be protected with the HDCP copy-protection system and an IEEE-1394 interface with DTCP protection.

The box, which will carry a $699 suggested retail price, will also include tuners for NTSC and cable TV signals (QAM) in addition to the digital ATSC tuner/decoder.

Following that, in July or August, Samsung plans to ship its SIR-TS160, the company’s first DTV set-top box to include standard and high-definition signal reception from the DirecTV satellite system. The box will package most of the features as the SIR-T165. However, the satellite-box will offer only the DVI digital interface with HDCP and not the 1394 interface included in the SIR-T165 model. Broadband analog outputs include both HD component video and RGB via 15-pin D-sub connector.

The SIR-TS160 will carry the same $699 suggested retail price as the SIR-T165.

Frank Romeo, Samsung digital set-top box group director, said Samsung has opted to go with an ATSC (8-VSB) demodulation chip produced by Broadcom, instead of the proprietary chip offered in Samsung’s first generation products. Romeo said Samsung “marries the Broadcom chip to a decoder/converter chip from Terralogic,” to achieve what it considers to be exceptional reception results.

“Our engineering team did a lot of work to marry [the chips] to increase the reception capability,” Romeo said.