June 7, 2014 7:53 pm

New Samsung curve ULTRA HD TV technology impresses

*Steve Makris is a technology expert who does a weekly Tech Talk segment during Edmonton’s Sunday Morning News. You can watch his segment above.

Good morning folks, today I showed the newest cutting edge TV technology and how sweet it is…especially for folks wanting the ultimate TV viewing experience.

Samsung Curve ULTRA HD TV features better corner to corner viewing

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Samsung Canada’s recent release of its much-touted curve TV displays is finally in stores. This morning I brought one on the Sunday Morning News to go through the pros and cons.

What? There is something negative about the best TV experience sold today?

Yes, but more on that later.

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At first sight, Samsung’s ULTRA 4K curved 3D TV, $5,400 for the 65” and $4,300 for the 55” model, are impressive. They should be. They have Samsung’s top tier technology – part of the 9000 series which are pricey even on Samsung flat screen models – meaning they have the best picture, speed and smarts, not mention looks and thinness. Like an expensive car.

What impresses? The quality of the TV image, especially when showing ULTRA or 4K quality TV. That is like having four HD quality TV screens across your viewing area. The best way I can describe the 4K viewing experience is like comparing a real football field with grass, only four times thinner. This means more detail, and not being able to see the TV pixels, which are visible in large traditional HD screens.

What impresses more? The curve TV experience. Samsung folks will talk about a more movie theatre-like experience. Well, almost.  To get the same visual movie theatre curve presence you would have to be about 1.5 metres from the screen – way too close for being fixated on a bright electronic screen. Despite today’s recommended TV screen watching distance, which for a 65” flat or curved TV is three to four metres, any movie director’s optimal viewing distance advice for a movie theatre is still centre and the diagonal of the screen away. That is to capture the director’s intent on what the visual story is about, averaging between the wide and telephoto lenses used in the making of the movie.

Neuroscientist and curve design expert Dr Oshin Vartanian believes curves make people feel better

Steve Makris

I buy more into neuroscientist and curve design expert Dr Oshin Vartanian, whose research and knowledge shows humans prefer and have measurable positive experience from curved objects, than straight-lined sharp cornered ones. Vartanian, on hand at the recent launch of Samsung Canada’s curved TV’s at the also curved Art Gallery of Ontario, brought up fascinating measurable tests on human reaction to curves.

“MRI scans found that when viewing curved objects, more blood flows in the part of the brain that is responsible for pleasurable sensations compared to rectilinear objects which increase blood flow to the amygdala part of the brain, the core area which responds to threat,” said Vartanian, who is currently working as a defence scientist at Defence Research and Development Canada at the Toronto Research Centre.

Hmm, ancient Greek temple builders knew that already, using the slightly curved columns and base lines to make structures appear more pleasing, the Parthenon being the most famous example.

OK, back to today. For me, as a visually-fussy fella, I like the Samsung curve TV best for its more consistent blacks, what makes for great TV pictures, across the screen when viewed from afar. Similar to folks who use several monitors across their desk, angling in the two end ones, curve TVs offer a similar experience, improving on LCD (including LED-lit ones) screen’s inherently narrow best viewing angle. The curved screen also reduces sharp reflections by distorting them. I like the small but easy to use remote control with pointer and the user screen interface for navigating is easy. The controller is NFC capable, so tapping it with an NFC phones opens up a world of instant connectivity with your smartphone. The clever pop-up web cam on top of the very narrow bezel is clever.

Samsung Curve TV remote control is smart and NFC capable

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I found curved TVs offer a more plasma-like viewing experience and with the fastest image processing, even for impressive UHD up-scaling of lower quality images like DVDs and online video to look better. The TV uses UHD micro dimming which means making dark areas of a scene to look even darker, and bright areas to look brighter.

All in all, TV with the best technology to buy today.

Now the bad part. Should you buy?

If you have deep pockets and want the best, yes. For most folks, no. The Samsung ULTRA HD curved screen delivers in quality, but is lacking UHD content. Even Sony UHD buyers in Canada can’t get the free external drive, available in US stores, that offers dozens of UHD movie titles. Samsung, although I am told Canadians will soon have access to a similar optional small drive with UHD content, will be in a tougher spot to offer fresh UHD content compared to Sony’s huge movie titles lineup. Interestingly, the optional UHD content drives from Sony and Samsung available in the US, will only play with the same brand TV. Imagine, proprietary formats and it’s still like the old days of Sony Beta TV?

For now, Canadian UHD viewers of any TV brand can enjoy the well-received House of Cards series from Netflix and watch short but impressive UHD, also called 4K, snippets on YouTube.

Is it worth the price? The flat equivalent of the Samsung 65” ULTRA HD TV is about $1,000 cheaper, while a regular 65” HD curve version costs $1,600 less. First-time technology costs more and if it is truly worthy, will not go down fast. Samsung tends to put its new technology on already expensive models. Even Sony UHD flat models have maintained their current price after an initial noticeable drop shorty after last fall’s launch.

You will not be able to see the Samsung curve in every chain store, so check online for the nearest Best Buy, Future Shop or London Drugs (who carry the HD curve version only) and make sure you notice the price difference between the Samsung curved UHD and HD TV models. If you can, compare two side-by-side, insist the store arrange that for you, and view from at least 2.5 metres away. Look at HD and UHD content and compare. Middle-aged guys should bring a female shopping companion as women have a better sense of natural colour picture quality than guys with unknowingly early colour blindness do. Really!

Other than an expected price drop of a few hundred bucks on the top Samsung UHD model, the only thing that might drop Samsung curved TV prices even more, is LG’s curved TV Canadian store entry in July, with a better OLED screen and LG’s historically aggressive pricing strategy.

Those with deep pockets will not be disappointed buying a Samsung curve TV. In fact, if you can spare a bit more, check out Samsung’s 78” ULTRA HD curve TV, yours for $11,000.

http://www.samsung.com/ca/

© Shaw Media, 2014

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