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Polaroid announce a sub-$1000 4K TV

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Old-timey camera makers Polaroid are backing a new horse - after giving up on, umm, Polaroid Cameras a few years ago, they're now trying their hand at making TVs - and have announced what is probably the cheapest 4K TV yet.

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4K televisions - also known as "Ultra HD" have long seemed like a distant dream for many consumers, with early versions retailing for many thousands of pounds. Take this Panasonic for example, which would cost around 5 grand.

This new Polaroid model looks set to retail below the psychologically important $1000 (about £600 or so) - making the photo-realism accessible to many more people. Okay, so it's not exactly a price that will mean that we can solve the world energy crisis by burning cheap 4K TVs for fuel - but it does mean that the market for 4K tellies won't be just Russian Oligarchs looking for something to put in their yacht.

The new 50" TV will have a resolution of 3840x2160 - or "2160p", as we'll be seeing all of the time over the next few years. This is four times larger than a HD TV today - and having seen one running in the flesh, I can confirm it looks pretty damn spectacular.

Of course, the issue at the moment is the lack of things to watch in 4K... not many people are making TV shows in such a large format. But hopefully Polaroid and inevitably other manufacturers getting in on this lower price-point will create the critical mass of 4K users to turn the tide.

Polaroid have bigger ambitions too - whilst this 4K TV is the headline grabber, they've also revealed plans to produce regular (1080p) HDTVs in everything from 32" to 69". Apparently at next week's CES they'll also be showing off a 50" smart TV, with built in Roku functionality.

Do we really need Smart TVs?

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As you may have seen, yesterday I got a chance to try out one of Samsung's newer Smart TVs. And very good it was too - in addition to simply watching TV, it was connected to the internet, and with it a whole host of exciting options opened up: YouTube, Netflix, Skype - and there was even a web browser. And whilst this is exciting, it did make me think: do we really need Smart TVs?

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Hear me out - I'm not anti-technology (I edit TechDigest, for a start) - but I can't help but wonder if TVs aren't particularly well placed for the relentless pace of technological change.

Growing up, during the 21 years that I lived with my parents, we went through three TVs - that's averaging a new TV once every nine years. By contrast - we're now of the habit of changing our phones every eighteen months for the latest version that can do seemingly many more things than the previous version. The iPhone 5S is so many times more powerful than the original iPhone that apps designed for the new phone won't run on the first few iPhones. But this is easily replaceable.

What I can't quite get my head around is why I'd want to get rid of my TV. After all - the massive screen still works great, and will display whatever HDMI device I plug into it. Until we reach a point when 4K becomes plausible, I can't see any reason why I'd want to switch out the massive screen I've already spent upwards of £600 on. Apart from the expense, there's all of the hassle in getting rid of something so large.

What's much more preferable is the option of switching out the clever box beneath it - my Xbox 360 will become a PS4 or Xbox One, and my Freesat box could easily become a Sky+ HD DVR, at a much lower price than replacing the whole massive screen. I want a dumb screen and a clever, replaceable box.

Where Smart TVs become important is this is when you think about what happens over time. At the moment you'll be able to get your Netflix and all of the services you require - but eventually as most technology moves along, services may drop support for aging equipment. Like how if you were stuck with an original iPhone now you'd be unable to run iOS7, unable to download the latest versions of Facebook and Twitter. And given that we're likely to hang on to TVs for longer than other gadgets... are our smart TVs destined to become a wasteland of apps that no longer function?

There's another factor at play here too. Unlike Xbox or iOS, there isn't a unifying Smart TV standard or platform. Netflix know that if they want to work on games consoles then all they have to do is make an app for Xbox and Playstation (and maybe Wii U...) - so that's only two (or three!) platforms to develop for. Similarly if they want Netflix to be available on mobile then it's just iOS and Android they need to worry about.

On the other hand, there are tonnes of different Smart TV makers, all with different platforms and different standards: Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba and many others. Given how fractured the TV market is, at some point it's going to become uneconomic to develop apps for the TVs that only a handful of people are using. And I don't know about you, but I'd feel much better throwing away my £40 Roku box or Chromecast dongle and getting a new one than my £600 TV if I wanted something to watch Netflix on.

So I'm not so sure Smart TVs are such a great idea - a splintered platform and software redundancy long before we want to get rid of the hardware is surely not an appetising offer?

So do we need Smart TVs? Or should we just have dumb TVs with clever things plugged into them? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Hands-on with the Samsung F5500 Smart TV

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Yesterday I got the chance to try out one of Samsung's newest smart TVs - the 51" beast known as the Samsung F5500. It's got tonnes of different features, can talk to a number of other household gadgets, access the internet... and apparently it even works as a television too.

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On first switching on the Samsung, you have to go through the standard tuning setup - there's a built in Freeview tuner, along so a now redundant analogue one. After this though is the more important step: setting up the internet connection. There's an ethernet port on the back, or you can use wifi. Once this is setup - it's just a case of hitting the "Smart TV" button on one of the two remotes and you can play with the exciting stuff.

The TV itself has a large selection of sockets and ports: 3x HDMI, Component & Composite In, Scart, digital audio out, and even infrared out... which you might want to use, for some reason, right? This is in addition to the ethernet socket and two USB ports - so you can plug in a thumb-drive or digital camera to view the pictures/videos.

Another nice feature is support for Samsung screen mirroring - so if you've got a compatible Samsung phone, you can throw it up on the big screen so that you can bore the whole family at once with Candy Crush.

The selection of built-in apps is pretty much the array of services that have become ubiquitous across all devices: iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube and Skype - amongst tonnes of other lesser-known services. I still find the fact you can run Skype on a TV - and have incoming call notifications pop up over the TV show you're watching a little space-age.

Sadly the TV doesn't have a built in camera (unlike this expensive 4K telly from Panasonic) - but the TV is apparently compatible with a couple of plug-in cameras that are available separately (the Samsung VG-STC2000 and VG-STC3000).

One nice addition too was that of radio streaming service TuneIn, which gives you access to thousands of radio stations from around the world.

Like everything these days, there's also a Samsung app store, where you can download more apps to expand the experience.

It can even run games - albeit of the sort of you'd usually expect to find on a mobile phone from five years ago. Maybe it was just poor luck in picking the game, but the ropey Pool game I downloaded was a pain to play - both sluggish to react to what I was doing on the remote and slow too.

The other big push Samsung are making is with "Samsung accounts" - the TV has a built in on-demand film service that requires account creation with Samsung, which seems to have a better selection of films that Netflix, in my entirely subjective opinion. Similarly there's even social functionality - where you can see what your friends have been watching... but I can't help but wonder if we need a world where I can curate a friends list on my TV, to let them know I've been watching Newsnight.

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Similarly amusingly is the "What's Hot" videos section of the main navigation, which is driven by YouTube. You're given a selection of the most popular videos on YouTube - along with, bizarrely, an interface for viewing the YouTube comments on the video. That's right - Samsung think that you might actually want to read the comments on a YouTube video.

There's also a built in web browser, that whilst slow worked surprisingly well. I tried loading up one of my favourite gaming shows, Zero Punctuation, and not only did it load up the graphically heavy website, but it played the flash video fine - and even in full screen, giving it the full TV experience. I wouldn't want to use the browser to replace a laptop or a tablet, but it was a nice-to-have for the few things that the TV doesn't support natively. It can even do tabbed browsing.

samsungapp.pngThe biggest challenge faced by the TV is perhaps the perennial: input devices. The telly comes with two different remotes: the traditional one with numbered buttons, ideal for your gran to use, and another containing a touchpad. The touchpad isn't bad for navigating around the web browser, or generally on the on-screen menus. The trouble is with text entry - which is annoyingly common on smart TVs when you have to login to various accounts and the like. Swishing around the on-screen keyboard is... about as fun as it sounds, but is slow to make progress. There's an attempt at predictive text, but this isn't particularly useful either. Frankly, it'd probably be quicker if old-fashioned "T9" style predictive text worked with the number pad on the other remote. Remember how fast we got at typing on our old Nokia 3210s?

Samsung have recognised that it's a pain in the arse though - and like Panasonic have included an attempt at Siri-style voice controls - with the mic being in the remote. (Annoyingly, this mic can't be used for Skype). Simply hold the voice command button on the remote, and you should be able to dictate controls or text. When I tried this out it wasn't a great experience - often the voice command interface overlayed on the screen and didn't listen to me - and then wouldn't disappear from the screen after. It started working better a little later, though I remain to be convinced it's the future.

The one good solution seems to be app-based. Panasonic, in their smart TV range have an app available for both iPhone and Android that can not only control the TV - including use as a keyboard for text input - but also take voice commands, and even allow sharing of content on the phone direct to the screen (you can "flick" an image upwards to send it to TV). Sadly, the Samsung equivalent app is... utterly terrible. It replicates the functionality of the granny remote and unless I'm missing something... that's it.

Still - for all of these flaws, they can be fixed by software updates - and I've no doubt Samsung are working on making them better. And don't get me wrong - though I've complained about some things, the TV is very accomplished. If you're looking for something that will support nearly every streaming service you could want, and show content from your phone or camera, and - oh yeah - let you watch TV, then it works great. I watched a bit of Doctor Who on the built in iPlayer yesterday and it worked great. It's only on the "non-core" functionality that some work might be needed. And there's a lot of good even in that - Skype turning TV into the videophone we've wanted since The Jetsons, and the web browser's flash support for non-YouTube videos is a big plus in my book.

So take a look! The 51" version I tried will set you back around £880.

Panasonic's first 4K TV launched in the UK a couple of weeks ago - the snappily named TC-L65WT600 is 65" of massive telly - and might impressive it looks too. Whilst this certainly can't be considered a review, I have seen the TV up close - and it's got some really interesting features inside.

What can plug into it?

There's 4 HDMI slots - one HDMI 2.0, which can support 4K pictures at up to 60 frames-per-second (fps), and three on the older HDMI 1.4 standard (30fps).

There's also support for DisplayPort 1.2A - which at the moment is the only computing standard that can output 4K. That said - not many computers support it, but one of the big ones that do is the new Mac Pro, which was unveiled earlier this week by Apple.

Also inside is two Freesat and two Freeview tuners - which means you can not only do picture-in-picture, but also use the TV as a DLNA server to pump the picture to other devices (such as your mobile or tablet).

And of course, there's built in wifi for connecting to the internet, to take advantage of all of the advanced features of the telly.

What's the picture quality like?

From what I saw on Panasonic's demo... pretty spectacular! The only proper 4K video we got to see was essentially demo footage - some lovely nature footage, and the camera slowly moving around an art gallery.

As a display though what's pretty speculator is using the built-in web browser to display images - we were able to see a Google Maps image of London that was something like 8000 pictures across, and throughout the image was sharp and clear. There's also different modes - so that if you're using the screen as a monitor (say, if you're a pro photographer or a graphic designer), you can tweak it to sharpen the straight lines.

As you might imagine - upscaled 1080p content also looks great. Like, for example, if you're playing a standard Blu-Ray.

What else can the telly do?

A surprisingly large amount - Panasonic have really gone to town on adding clever additional features. Like every gadget these days, there's a comprehensive selection of apps available - with more available for download. So you've got your basics like the BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Netflix - as well as much more.

My favourite feature is built in Skype. There's a camera on top that will pop-out of the TV when required (you can even summon it via voice command!). Not only can you use it to make calls through the TV - and this is my favourite bit - sign in, have Skype sit in the background so whilst you're watching TV, if someone calls you, get notifications and take calls right there through the TV. Finally realising the dream of video-phones, like sci-fi has always dreamed of.

There's other apps too - including a Panasonic-branded 4K channel designed to showcase 4K content. After all - there isn't much else out there. Most of the content you'd ever want seems to be in there somewhere. The only thing really missing is Spotify. If you're going to stream 4K though, be warned - you're going to need a good internet connection. Panasonic recommend a 30Mb connection - so if you live in the Scottish highlands, you may be out of luck.

As mentioned before - there's also voice control. This can either be triggered with the (presumably bluetooth) remote or using the Panasonic app. This gives another navigation option when jumping around - rather than using the remote.

Speaking of which - there's also a Panasonic remote app that can control the TV. Once downloaded to Android or iPhone, it can not only do basic functions like change channel, but also aid text input (so you don't have to use a fiddly and tedious remote). This is also the app to use if you want to tune into the stream from the TV on your phone. Great for continuing viewing in a different room.

Panasonic have clearly taken inspiration for many of the features from a number of different sources. We've already seen the Apple app store and Siri's influence - but there's also the home screen options, which are reminiscent of Xbox with Kinect. Different users of the TV can build their own home screen - with shortcuts to apps or channels they use the most. Cleverly, the TV will figure out who is watching by using facial recognition via the camera.

More functionally, there's also support for 3D content on the Active 3D standard - which given that 3D enthusiasm seems to have peaked, this TV could well out-live the standard, but it's nice to have it just in case.

So, umm, this sounds great but how much does it cost?

Ah. If you're a Russian commodities oligarch, or a Middle Eastern sheik, or basically someone rich enough to have someone killed without consequence, then keep reading. If you're anyone else - you might have to wait a few years before 4K TVs (not to mention GIGANTIC TVs) come down to something normal people might be able to afford.

It's apparently set to retail at £5500 - but frankly, if you have to ask the price then you probably can't afford it.

When will the internet kill Sky?

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SkyFor two decades now Sky have been one of the biggest forces in British broadcasting - not only do they control most of the largest satellite TV channels but they have another trump card: they own the platform too. Being the people who control the satellite dishes is Sky's - and indeed Rupert Murdoch's - cash cow. Regardless of what you watch (and thus, what adverts you'll tune into), Sky are still getting your monthly subscription fee.

With ten million subscribers in the UK, they are a force to be reckoned with - but could Sky's dominance be challenged by the our rapidly changing new media landscape?

For the past few years we've seen services like Netflix, LoveFilm Instant and YouTube - amongst many others - take our eyeballs away from old fashioned 'linear' telly (where you can only watch what is on at the moment), and instead we now spend huge amounts of time watching stuff on demand.

Sky aren't stupid - they haven't just let this erode their influence. Seeing these new challenges Sky have launched their own on-demand platforms and apps - making programmes available on apps for everything from iPhone and Android to Xbox and PS3 - and have started the slow process of getting Sky boxes online so they can supply on-demand programming via the internet, and not just leave customers to the mercy of linear TV delivered via satellite.

What's interesting about this is that bit-by-bit, a big shift is taking place in who has the power. Whereas a few years ago, if you wanted more TV, you had to get a satellite dish (or cable), as that's the only way it could be delivered. Now content can be delivered over the internet, Sky risk becoming just another content provider like Netflix. Sky is no longer the conduit to all of your television - but now merely a choice amongst many.

This is important because it gives consumers less of a reason to stick with Sky - if times are tight or they fancy a change, then losing Sky isn't such a big deal. Could the cash cow be heading towards the abattoir? It explains why Sky have been so aggressive in growing their broadband users (currently around 4 million) - so they can be relevant again.

It's not all doom and gloom for them though - what keeps Sky relevant is sheer force. They do, after all, have ten million TV subscribers giving them lots of money to try and plan for a multiplatform future. This cash also means that Sky have been able to continue to secure the best content deals for themselves - it's why all of the vast majority of football matches are on Sky Sports, and why Game of Thrones is on Sky Atlantic. Sky also have big exclusive deals with all of the major film companies - which explains why apart from a few gems, Netflix's film catalogue is more Try Hard than Die Hard.

It'll be interesting to see what happens when these deals expire and have to be renegotiated. With Netflix, LoveFilm, and even Blinkbox vying for the big deals, it's going to mean the film companies can charge a much higher price. Look at how BT - another new on-demand player - were able to snatch football rights away from Sky.

So for the time being Sky are still dominant and powerful - but are they sitting on a ticking time bomb in an industry that is changing so fast?

Ultimate Room with a View.jpgHow about this for a room with a view? It's a pod on the London Eye which has been decked out with Samsung's latest curved OLED screen, the S9C.

Samsung claims it is the first TV to feature Multi View capabilities meaning two people can watch completely different full-screen Full-HD content, even in 3D, on the same display. This Multi View feature is like having two TVs in one and is enabled by Samsung's 3D Active glasses.

Sadly the living room set up is only on the London Eye for one day only. Though it's probably just as well, otherwise you'd spend all your time watching the telly rather than admiring the view!


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lg-uhd-77-oled.jpgLG's IFA 2013 centrepiece is a 77-inch ultra high definition OLED TV. The sizeable LG 55EA9800 continues the (perhaps misguided) trend towards curved sets, delivering a super-sharp 4K image.

The screen also uses LG's WRGB OLED tech for convincing and lifelike colour reporduction, though were still unconvinced on whether or not the curved design has any benefit for anyone other than the person sitting directly centrally in front of it.

"LG was proud to be the first company to commercially launch an OLED TV and we are once again setting our sights high with the Ultra HD Curved OLED TV," said Havis Kwon, president and CEO of LG home entertainment company.

"This 77-inch TV is proof that we will never stop pushing the boundaries and exploring new possibilities."

No word on pricing or release date yet, though previous similar LG IFA launches have seen more concrete details released by the following year's CES show in January.

samsung-uhd-tv.jpgSamsung are rolling out the big home cinema guns ahead of their IFA 2013 showcase, today annoucning the release of two ultra high definition display.

First up is a 98-inch UHD large format display (LFD) screen. The giant set hits near-4K quality resolutions four times as sharp as a standard full HD 1080p display. The company are planning a jaw-dropping line up of three of the screens side by side at the IFA conference to make what's essentially a 171-inch display.

Secondly, the Samsung have announced a more manageable 31.5-inch UHD monitor - the sharpest Samsung have ever made. Packing in 8.3 million pixels (a standard full HD screen sports just 2.07 million), it's aimed at the pros, coming complete with a range of calibration options including a 25 section split for colour balancing, supporting 99% of the Adobe RGB colour space.

No pricing announced yet, but expect each to cost a pretty penny as their aimed at commercial buyers.

samsung-curved-OLED-UK.jpgSamsung has annoucned that its curvaceous 55-inch OLED TV will hit UK stores on September 5th, coinciding with the company's IFA 2013 showcase.

The S9C is set to offer the sort of vibrant colours and contrast depth that only OLED technology can allow for, while its curved screen design theoretically negates picture distortion by making the extremes of the screen an equal distance from your eyes as the centre point. That, of course, is dependent on you being sat front and centre before the screen.

"Like bringing home an IMAX theatre that you can enjoy every day," Guy Kinnell, Head of TV and AV, Samsung UK and Ireland, the screen is also Samsung's first to use Multi View technology, allowing two 3D-spec wearing viewers to watch two different video sources on the same full screen, at the same time.

No word yet on what the official pricing will be, but if you're the sort of person who can afford the inevitably-high asking price, you probably don't need to ask anyway.

philips-UHD-TV-65PLF9708.jpgThough they've yet to officially reveal it, Philips' first UHD TV set is already winning gongs, with the 65PFL9708 set having been outed publically by the European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) awards.

A 65-inch set, its been revealed to use passive 3D glasses tech, edge LED lighting, strong upscaling capabilities and the brand's signature Ambilight room-illuminating tech.

"With Ultra HD content the Philips 65PFL9708 offers astonishing depth and clarity and its upscaling talents improve the quality of Blu-ray, DVD and direct broadcast sources. Passive 3D images on this 65-inch TV also look razor-sharp thanks to the screen's greater resolution," said the EISA judges.

"Other picture quality highlights include a robust edge LED system and superb brightness, contrast and motion performance, while Ambilight XL illumination makes the whole experience more immersive."

While Philips promise to reveal more during their IFA 2013 press conference at the start of September, they have teased a relatively affordable price point for the set, telling would-be buyers to expect to pay "significantly lower" than what's currently offered by rivals. With the Samsung UE65F9000 priced at £5,999, we'd say to brace yourself for a price tag somewhere around the £5,998 mark.

1-apple-TV_630.jpgIt may be just one of Apple's "hobby" product pursuits, but the company's freshly-inked acquisition of video recommendations site Matcha.tv suggests Apple are still ploughing away at a smart TV.

Thought to have been bought up by Apple for between $1 million and $1.5 million, Matcha.tv aggregates video content from across service, including Netflix, iTunes and Amazon, putting cross-platform recommendations at your fingertips and giving viewers a wide selection of viewing options.

Working as a second-screen iOS application (pulled from the App Store back in May, foreshadowing this confirmation of the purchase), it's likely that Apple are looking into integrating the service into a potential remote or navigation app for future Apple TV or iTV devices.

lg-classic-tv.jpgWant to deck your pad out like you're Mad Men's Don Draper, but don't want to have to sacrifice your HD TV thrills for the sake of the retro aesthetic? Then check out the LG Classic TV, which combines a chic retro design with all the mod-cons of a modern HD LCD screen.

The Classic TV (model number 32LN630R) is a 32-inch set with a full HD 1080p (1920x1080 resolution) IPS panel, embedded in a design that wouldn't look out of place in a 1950s "nuclear home". Standing on four feet, it uses a Scandinavian-style wood frame to set it apart from today's standard black flatscreens, and comes complete with rotary dial controls for volume and channel switching.

Its IPS panel allows for a wide viewing angle of 178-degrees, while there's also a USB connection for playing back media from a storage drive, as well as an MHL video connection for smartphones and tablets.

In South Korean stores now priced at 840,000 won (£480 roughly) there's no word yet on a UK release.

Apple iTV teased with new patent filing

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Apple_TV_fused_glass_patent_top.jpgA newly uncovered Apple patent suggests that the Cupertino iPhone makers still haven't forgotten about their living room aspirations, revealing a design that looks very much like the oft-rumoured Apple iTV.

Spotted by trademark spotters Patently Apple, the filing describes a fused glass back process for housing screen tech, not unlike that already employed in the iPhone 4S, and expected to feature again in future iPhone and iPod models.

Here though, the reference is specifically made to a television set.

Jony Ive and his team are listed as the patents creators, suggesting the hardware whizz is spreading his wings to living room devices as well as those that sit in your pocket or on your desk.

It's interesting to see Apple seemingly rolling back to a design used in an earlier iPhone handset rather than the iPhone 5 however (or whatever the iPhone 5S turns out to be) suggesting that this may now be an outdated patent. Though a glass-backed screen sounds attractive, experience with the design in iPhone handsets suggests its also weak and prone to smashing. Though a static device like TV shouldn't be as prone to drops and bumps as an on-the-go mobile, we'd hope that Apple have given the glass a bit of a toughening up before popping it into any possible TV set, especially considering how expensive it's likely to be.

As either, there's no official word from Apple regarding the patent, but we'll keep you posted should Apple ever get round to lifting the lid on their TV aspirations.

AppleTV_Mockup.jpgAh, the Apple iTV: how we love to dream you're anything more than just a rumour! A fresh batch of whispers from the supply chain suggests that Apple's smart, potentially iOS-based TV is alive and kicking, with the Cupertino company looking to pop a 4K panel into the television to keep it bang up to date with the latest home entertainment tech trends.

According to DigiTimes, that panel will be supplied by LG Display, and will be between 55 and 65-inches, likely in multiple sizes to suit differing bank balances.

DigiTimes (a source that gets as much wrong as it does right, so treat all this with a little skepticism) also believe that Sharp are in talks with Apple to be a potential secondary supplier.

The source also claims that Sony too are tapping up LG for 4K panels, continuing the partnership established with the Sony KD-84X9005 84-inch television, as Sony prepare to scale up production of the 4K 55- and 65-inch X900 series TVs.

As you'd expect, there's been no official word from Apple on the news, and likely won't be until any rumoured device ever sees the light of day.

In the meantime, check out our most-wanted features from an Apple iOS TV.

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Apple iTV rumours and specs: What we want from an iOS telly

samsung-uhd-4k-tv-july-2013-thumb.jpgSamsung have announced that their next wave of ultra-high definition 4K TVs, the 55 and 65-inch members of the F9000 family, will hit UK stores in July.

Hot on the heels of the UK launch of the 85-inch S9 UHD 4K TV in April this year, the screens are four times as sharp as full HD 1080p screens when displaying native 4K content.

Each set uses Samsung's Quadmatic Picture Engine, which aims to deliver superb brightness and contrast levels along with pin-sharp detail, while micro-dimming technology results in richer blacks and brighter whites.

With 4K content a little thin on the ground, 4-step upscaling techniques will squeeze the most out of 1080p content, and even standard definition materials.

Samsung's Smart TV interface also features, with voice activated controls and the S Recommendation system helping you find TV shows tailored to your tastes. The Smart Evolution feature will also allow owners to upgrade the processor and software of the television further down the line through sold-separately modules, keeping the set up to date even many years later.

Considering the screen size and 4K tech packed in here, both sets are quite reasonably priced. You're looking at an RRP of £3999.99 for the UE55F9000, with the UE65F9000 sitting at an RRP of £5999.99.

LG-55EA9800-currys-7.JPGA pint-sized IMAX in your living room? That's the plan behind LG's 55EA9800 Curved OLED TV. Hitting British shores for the first time at yesterday's Currys / PC World showcase, we went eye on with a screen quite unlike any we've ever seen before.

Measuring 55-inches across, the screen has a gentle concave curve when viewed from the front, similar to that seen in IMAX cinema screens. The design intention is to make viewing the television more immersive - sit within the screen's central sweetspot and your eyes are equidistant from each edge of the set. It feels like being enveloped by the action on screen (though that's a feeling that may be diminished the further away from the set you go - the Currys demo room had us sitting little more than a metre from the screen).LG-55EA9800-currys-5.JPGThe effect is bolstered by the use of OLED tech in the screen. We've written extensively about OLED TVs in the past, and LG (though taking their sweet time with it) are well in line to leading the charge with AV enthusiasts' successor to the plasma throne. Though only a 1080p display, and lacking the supreme detail of 4K sets, LG's screen delivered stunning black levels, while still managing to keep colour accuracy impressively lifelike, with both colour and contrast levels aided by the introduction of a white sub-pixel alongside the standard RGB array.LG-55EA9800-currys-4.JPGThe screen's use of OLED also has the added benefit of offering very a very wide viewing angle. Though the curved effect introduces a pronounced sweetspot (everyone will want to sit front and centre in front of this TV), those setting to extreme left and rights of the screen will not have their viewing experience suffer from any colour wash out. The speedy response times of OLED technology also offer the most comfortable 3D viewing experience possible, with the lightweight passive glasses delivering truly eye-popping visuals thanks to OLED's speedy response time, for better or worse depending on your stance on 3D.LG-55EA9800-currys-6.JPGOLED technology also allows the screen to be impossibly thin, with a carbon fibre finish to the casing that's as sturdy as it is stylish. Pencil-thin, this is very much a showpiece set, though those looking to wall mount the screen may have some problems due to the curvature.LG-55EA9800-currys-3.JPGAs one would expect from a flagship LG set, smart connectivity is also included, with the full raft of web apps and catch up TV services offered through LG's Smart TV interface. A Wii-remote like Magic Remote control makes controlling the set a breeze, with motion controls and onscreen cursor making light work of even entering text in search boxes.

Sound quality, while still no match for a dedicated home cinema system, is disarmingly impressive for a screen so svelte. Housed within a clear perspex strip below the screen (making the display itself look as though it's floating above its mount), the front-facing stereo array, paired with a down-firing subwoofer in the bottom-rear of the set, offers a warmer sound than similarly thin sets from rivals.LG-55EA9800-currys-2.JPGDue in stores by Christmas, we're still waiting on an official price for the curvalicious set. With the regular flat OLED TVs from LG already commanding a price tag of above £10,000, expect to have to sell an organ to be able to afford one.

sony-4k-media-player.jpgOne of the lucky (flushed-with-cash) few who have bought a Sony 4K television, but have no Ultra HD content to view on it? Sony have you covered with their new 4K Ultra HD Media Player.

Set to cost $699 (£460) when it touches down in the US from 15 July, the biscuit tin-shaped hub works with Sony's new KD-65X9005A 65-inch 4K TV and comes pre-loaded with 10 4K movies, as well as giving access to Sony's new Video Unlimited 4K service once it launches later in the year.

The 10 pre-loaded movies include The Amazing Spider-Man, The Karate Kid, Bad Teacher, The Other Guys, Battle: Los Angeles, That's My Boy, Salt, Total Recall 2012, Taxi Driver, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. Housing 2TB of storage, you'll be able to attach your own hard drive to expand the number of films that can be stored on the the player, and you'll likely need it; 4K movies are set to be huge files taking up lots of storage space, and will be difficult to effectively stream at most standard current broadband speeds.

Sony have also popped in a number of short demo films which can be used to showcase the supreme clarity of the new TV tech.

Once launched, the Sony Video Unlimited 4K service will offer a catalogue of regularly updated full length films in 4K resolution which you can rent or buy from (most likely populated with just Sony Pictures movies). It'll cost $29.99 to buy the films, or $7.99 to rent them for 24 hours.

It's good to see Sony providing for the early adopters in this way, but you have to wonder how quickly this $700 machine will be made obsolete. With streaming technology improving all the time and broadband speeds similarly speeding up, I imagine it won't be long until the likes of Netflix can deliver 4K content as part of their package. It may take a year or two, but it's definitely on the horizon.

kogan-smart-tv-may-2013.jpgWho said Smart TV's had to be pricey? Certainly not Aussie tech manufacturer-slash-retailers Kogan, who've just dropped their 32-inch Agora 32 Smart TV in at £259.

Interestingly running Google's Android platform (Ice Cream Sandwich version) rather than a bespoke Smart TV offering, the TV will give access to the full raft of Google Play Store apps as well as letting you catch up on the latest episodes of Eastenders.

With Wi-Fi built in alongside a USB port for media playback, the set gives access to Android app versions of popular services such as iPlayer, Facebook and Twitter, as well as numerous gaming apps.

At this price point concessions have to be made, so you'll find the Agora 32 running a 720p display rather than a full HD 1080p panel, though edge-lit LED lighting should at least give contrast and colours some punch.

On sale now, you can grab an even cheaper 19-inch LED set from Kogan for just £79 at the moment.

samsung_uhd_tv-580x385.jpgSamsung's 85-inch S-Series UHD 4K TV was a showstopper at CES 2013, with its giant high-resolution display and easel-like frame housing its speakers. However, it unsurprisingly came with a whopping price tag, set to cost $39,999 when they launch in June. And don't even ask how much the 110-inch version costs.

Noting that its out of the price range of practically everyone on the face of the planet, it's now transpired that Samsung will be revealing 55- and 65-inch versions, ready to hit the Korean market in June ahead of a likely worldwide release.

With so little native 4K content available at the moment, $39,999 is a massive punt to take on a new screen, the benefits of which won't be seen for some years. And though pricing for the smaller sets can only be speculated at at the moment, it's got to be a fair sight more affordable than the giant screens.

Confirming that the screens will support Samsung's Evolution Kits (upgradable modules that will let Samsung offer faster processors and other improved specifications to the screens over time). the smaller sets will also feature micro-dimming technology for improved brightness and contrast levels, as well as upscaling of regular HD content.

REVIEW: Samsung UE32F6400 3D Smart TV

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UE32F6400-1.jpegreview-line.JPGName: Samsung UE32F6400 3D Smart TV

Type: 32-inch 3D Full HD TV with web connected Smart TV features

Specifications: Click here for full specs

Price as reviewed: Around £600

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We've seen the flagship 55-inch F8000 3D TV whopper from Samsung, and now we venture into more affordable territory with the 32-inch F6400. With many of the same connected Smart TV features of its big brother, can it impress in the same way? Read our full review to find out!

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NOTE: We tested the 32-inch F6400 model. However, with the specifications between this model and the 40 and 46, 55 and 65-inch models almost identical, we're confident that our tests with the 32-inch model will reflect a very similar experience were you looking to pick up one of the larger televisions instead.

Design:
UE32F6400-3.jpegWhile not quite as dazzling as the flagship F8000 models with their slimline bezels and low-clearance stands, the F6400 Samsung TVs still look very attractive.

At 49.5mm thick, it's a fairly plump set by today's super-slim standards, but not so much to make wall mounting unsightly or impractical. With the stand attached, that depth jumps to 264.8mm, but again that's not a depth that even a smaller TV cabinet couldn't handle. A black glossy bezel of a uniform size just over a centimetre sits around the screen, with the edges finished with a clear perspex for a reserved, stylish finish.

For the F6400, Samsung have reverted back to their four-pronged chrome stand, what we at Tech Digest affectionately call the alien foot. It still looks great, and it's more stable than the curved arc stand that ships with the flagship models even with it's ability to swivel a little, though admittedly is a bit more "in your face" than the mostly hidden arc stand.

Though 3 HDMI ports, 3USB ports and the antenna are mounted on the right hand side of the rear of the screen, composite, LAN and a fourth HDMI port, along with power supple, go directly into the back of the screen, which may cause a few cable tidying headaches if using all ports when wall mounting.

Connections:

It's good to see 4 HDMI inputs on a smaller set at an affordable price, alongside an array of USB ports. Freeview HD only here though, which may rile those hoping to get a Freesat HD tuner too.

  • Component In (Y / Pb / Pr) x 1
  • Composite In (AV) x 1 (Common Use for Component Y)
  • Digital Audio Out (Optical) x 1
  • Ethernet (LAN) x 1
  • HDMI x 4
  • RF In (Terrestrial / Cable Input) X 1
  • USB x 3
  • Headphone x 1
  • Scart x 1
  • CI Slot x 1
  • IR Out x 1
  • Built-in Wi-Fi

2D Picture Quality:
UE32F6400-2.jpegThe UE32F6400 has a standard 1080x1920 Full HD 1080p resolution, and performs above and beyond the picture quality we'd expect from a TV this price.

Out of the box the UE32F6400's Movie picture mode doesn't look half bad, and while it's still not at an enthusiast's level of picture perfection, ample image tweaking options (including white balance and green and red tint controls), will let you calibrate it just how you like it.

As with the F8000, Samsung's improved the backlight consistency for the F6400, and it makes a marked difference to the overall picture quality. With deep blacks and rich, detailed and accurate (once tweaked) colours, there's no problem with light leakage or image clouding with the latest models, with the blacklight and edge-lit algorithms working in tandem to really enhance the overall contrast of the image, and pull the most detail possible out of dark, shadowy scenes.

The screen's sharpness sees images really pop in high-definition, and firing up a Blu-ray disc lets the screen really let rip, offering up great detail for what these days (in the age of giant LCD living room panels) could be considered a second room or bedroom set.

Motion clarity on the presets is a little too aggressive for our liking, and you'll want to dial it back a bit with a custom setting unless you want to suffer from slightly watery movement. Once adjusted, fast action scenes move with little perceptible judder, and it's a very pleasant set to view movies and sport on as a result

As you'd expect, HD content looks the best on the F6400, but with the screen size here not gigantic, SD content looks perfectly fine too. The upscaling capabilities aren't quite as impressive as on the F8000, with some jagged edges appearing where they wouldn't on equivalent HD content. But with a screen this size a decent distance away, it's less noticeable anyway. Keep in mind that SD content on the larger F6400 models may suffer as a result.

3D Picture Quality:
samsung-f8000-3d.jpgThe F6400 uses active shutter 3D technology, and it performs well for a TV this size. Of course, with a 3D visuals, you're looking to bag as big a screen as possible to keep the 3D effect immersively encompassing your peripheral vision, but for a 3D gamer sat up close to the screen, the effect is still pretty good.

However, the forced motion processing which impressed so much on the F8000's 3D visuals doesn't work quite as well here, introducing significant motion interpolation that can hinder the depth effect. It's possibly a processing side-effect of the low-powered F6400, using a dual-core system rather than the F8000 quad-core array. Even with the Motion Plus setting set to off, it was still present, and was only defeated by switching on the Game Mode, itself introducing a lot of judder. Which looks better is up for debate, and neither is perfect.

Two pairs of 3D glasses come with the set (the same design that's a standard across all this year's 3D models from Samsung), and they're very light and comfortable, with the watch-battery that powers them sitting in a snap-down panel over the bridge of your nose. Ideally we'd prefer bigger lenses to help us from peeking out of the immersive 3D visuals, but the ones on offer here are large enough to sit relatively comfortably over a pair of prescription glasses.

Sound:

The UE32F6400 suffers from the usual shoddy audio that the majority of flatscreen TVs seem afflicted with.

Though 3D sound options are available, the down-firing 10W stereo speakers sound hollow and tinny, lacking any real punch, though doing a good job of keeping voices to the fore.

As ever, our advice is to pair the screen up with a soundbar or home cinema surround unit, the sad price we have to pay since leaving the bulk of CRT screens behind us.

Web Connected Smart TV and EPG features:
UE32F6400-smart-interface.jpgPacking in both Wi-Fi connectivity and an Ethernet connection, the F6400 has access to many of the Smart TV bells and whistles of its pricer counterparts. Though there's no built-in webcam or mic, putting Skype video calling out of the question as well as the so-so motion controls, you can still use the microphone built into the second of the two supplied remotes to interact with the TV screen.

The F6400 shares the same radically overhauled Smart TV interface that we reviewed in the F8000, so aside from a few pertinent omissions, this next section is basically the same as when we reviewed the pricer set.

As well as connecting up with your household's other smart devices (which we'll talk about in the " Remote Controls and Smartphone Apps" section of this review), Samsung have given the interface a drastic makeover, increasing the homescreen count from one to five.

These homescreens each focus on different aspects of the TV's capabilities. The first is dedicated to live TV, offering a picture-in-picture view of the channel you're currently watching, as well as recommendations based on your viewing habits showing similar shows as thumbnails surrounding it. Access to the Guide, Timeline and Recorded TV (shows are stored on a connected USB device) sit on the bottom.

The second screen focuses on On Demand TV and movie streaming services, and again offers recommendations based on your viewing habits, improving over time. As it stands, it can be confusing figuring out which service the recommendation comes from (it's a pain to have the premium Acetrax service pop-up when we're only looking for Netflix content), and though a cool feature, it'd benefit from being able to limit the sources the Samsung guide trawls through.

A third screen offers social feeds, aggregating Twitter and Facebook accounts into one place, and giving priority to video content shared on each site that can be played back on the TV. Also present here (once you've accepted the option to install it) is a Skype app, though it's severely limited without a built-in webcam.

A fourth screen allows access to music, video and photos shared on your network or a locally connected device, displayed in all their glory on the big screen. Recorded TV shows can again be accessed from here too.

A final fifth screen offers a grid-like interface for accessing dedicated apps, covering everything from health and fitness videos to Spotify, a web browser (which is among the best we've tried on a TV), and a great selection of video services on offer including Netflix, LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer and iTV Player, as well as Samsung's own 3D channels. A surprisingly robust app store lets you add more apps to this hub, including TV-optimised versions of popular mobile apps like Angry Birds

It's an intuitive layout that can be controlled in a variety of ways, but the whole experience suffers from the use of a slower dual-core processor. While the F8000 has a quad-core processor, the F6400's dual-core means navigating the Smart TV menus (well, all menus on the screen in fact) seem a little sluggish by comparison. Without having tested the two TVs in such close proximity we perhaps wouldn't have noticed it at all, making it a minor grumble, but it's a point where the pricer set's premium value becomes clear.

Remote Controls, Voice Activated Controls and Smartphone Apps:ue32f6400-remotes.jpgAs seems Samsung's standard this year, the UE32F6400 comes with not one, but two remote controls.

One is a standard remote with rubber buttons, including shortcut keys for accessing Smart TV features, as well as playback controls for videos and ARC-connected HDMI devices. It's comfortable and sensibly laid out, and Samsung have sensibly removed the rarely-used "Family Story" shortcut button. It's a shame that there's no dedicated button for accessing aspect ratio, leading to a lengthy trawl through menus to get to it, and the same goes for the Game Mode. Also missing is the backlight, which featured in last year's flagship set's remote, though arguably it's battery draining excess anyway.

The second remote control is smaller and more squat, and is identical to that which comes with the F8000 except that it has a black finish compared to brushed silver finish of the more expensive TV's remote. It features far less physical buttons in favour of a touch panel. It works surprisingly well, particularly when using it like a laptop trackpad for browsing the TV's web connected features. It also features a built-in microphone, meaning you can use the TV's voice-activated controls without shouting across the room, or over the volume of the set itself. However, it's not as instantly familiar an experience to use as the standard remote, and, just like last year, we still found ourselves using the regular remote more often than the touch-enabled one.

While Samsung's motion control system isn't present here, Android and iOS apps can hook up the screen for some second screen functionality. With them you can stream video from the TV tuner to a tablet or smartphone, control the TV from an app or share content from the phone to the TV. Unfortunately, there's no single all-encompassing app yet that covers all features, meaning you've got to use a handful in order to get to all the features. iOS apps are still missing a few features, but Samsung promise to add more features as time goes on. All in, the tablet/smartphone controls are more useful than the gesture and voice counterparts at this stage.

review-line.JPGVerdict:

Samsung's 3D TV range scales nicely this year, with this inexpensive 3D Smart TV retaining many of the very cool features of its more expensive stablemates. 2D performance is excellent, and 3D performance fair. But the real star of the show here is the Smart TV platform, of an incredibly high quality and one that would have come with a massive premium just a few short years ago. If you're looking for a web-connected set that won't break the bank and let you dip into 3D thrills from time to time, this is a great value set to invest in.review-line.JPG

4/5

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