The price of thin: Samsung reveals its edge-lit LED-based LCDs

CNET previews Samsung's new lineup of edge-lit LED-based LCD displays, which are finally starting to appear on store shelves.

Samsung's edge-lit LED-based LCD costs about $700 more than its non-LED counterpart. But it's really thin. Samsung

Samsung announced its new lineup of "LED TVs" at CES in January, and gave CNET editors a walk-through today to preview the technology. The company also set prices, and as expected, it'll cost you a fortune to take one of these thin models home.

The name "LED TV" sounds simple enough, but it's important to remember that these inch-thin sets are actually otherwise normal LCD (liquid-crystal display) TVs that use LEDs (light-emitting diodes) instead of the standard fluorescent backlights. But it gets even more confusing. We've reviewed LED-based LCD displays before, most recently the Sony KDL-55XBR8 and Samsung LN46A950--the two best-performing LCD TVs we've ever tested. A lot of the credit for those TVs' excellent picture quality can be attributed to their local dimming technology; groups of LEDs behind the screen can be dimmed or turned off to achieve those deep, inky blacks we all love so much.

The 2009 Samsung LED TVs we're previewing here do not utilize local dimming, so we don't expect them to match the picture quality of the local dimming sets. Of course, we'll know more once we can review one. In the meantime, we'll refer to the new displays as "edge-lit LED-based LCDs." More complex, we know, but also quite a bit more accurate.

The slideshow above goes into the nitty-gritty behind, or along the edge of, the technology. The short story is that the LEDs themselves are arranged along all four edges of the screen, and a special "light guide" sends light toward the middle. The result, according to the company, is similar uniformity characteristics to standard backlit LCD displays.

Edge-lit LED-based displays are also 40 percent more energy-efficient than standard Energy Star -certified LCD sets, and measure just 1.2 inches thick.

1.2 inches thin looks great from the side. Samsung

The downside is that they're extremely expensive. The cheapest model, the 32-inch UN32A6000 ($1,599), will cost more than twice as much as the company's standard 1080p 32-incher, model LN32B530 ($749) does. The 46-inch UN46B6000 ($2,799) pictured at the top commands a $700 premium over the equivalent standard 120Hz set, model LN46B650 ($2099). The step-up LED-based LCDs cost more for extra features like Yahoo widgets and a 240Hz refresh rate , but should offer similar picture quality to the entry-level 6000 series. When the question concerns the price of thin, Samsung's answer appears to be "$700 and up."

According to Samsung, a UN46B7000 is on its way to CNET for review. Until then, here are the sets' estimated street pricing and availability.

  • UNB6000 series, entry-level LED TV
    • 32-inch UN32B6000 (available June, $1,699)
    • 40-inch UN40B6000 (now, $2,299)
    • 46-inch UN46B6000 (now, $2,799)
    • 55-inch UN55B6000 (now, $3,599)
  • UNB7000 series, step-up adds Yahoo! widgets
    • 40-inch UN40B7000 (April, $2,499)
    • 46-inch UN46B7000 (now, $2,999)
    • 55-inch UN55B7000 (now, $3,799)
  • UNB8000 series, step-up adds 240Hz refresh rate
    • 46-inch UN46B8000 (May, $3,299)
    • 55-inch UN55B8000 (May, $3,999)
 

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