LAS VEGAS -- Samsung says curved TVs are the future. Coming from the company that wrote the book on selling LED LCDs by the boatload -- not to mention setting trends like slim cabinets, hairline bezels and voice and gesture control--that's a statement to take seriously.
Billed as "the world's first curved UHD TV," the company's second-most-expensive LED LCD TV for 2014 is the UNHU9000 series. It's available in 78-, 65-, and 55-inch sizes this April, and pricing has not been announced. We know it won't cost as much as the S9, but given the high price of the only 2013 curved LED TV, Sony's non-4K KDL-65S990A (65 inches, $4,000), the Samsung HU9000 won't be cheap.
Samsung says the curve provides a "new viewing experience" that's "more uniform from the TV viewer's point." It claims to have "optimized [the] curvature considering viewing distance and size," citing a 10.5-foot average viewing distance (a bit further than the standard 9 feet, but who's counting?). The company even mentions an "image maximization effect," saying that the curve creates a wider field of view for people unfortunate enough to not be sitting in the sweet spot directly in front of the screen.
Despite those claims, the one curved TV I got to extensively test in person, Samsung's OLED, didn't benefit from its concavity. I found myself wishing it was flat.
As you'd expect from a high-end LED LCD at CES 2014, the HU9000 also has UHD/4K resolution. Samsung says it has improved the upscaling to make 1080p and other non-4K content look better, and it also touts a color-improving thingy called "PurColor."
More important from a picture quality perspective in my book is the presence of the same kind of actual, hardware-based local dimming found on the 2013 UNF9000 series, one of the best-performing LED LCDs last year.
Of course the HU9000 gets all the Smart TV bells and whistles, including a "Multi-Link Screen" that can divide the screen into four separate windows, each showing different content (live TV, You Tube, a web page and another app, for example). Lesser 2014 Samsungs get a mere two split-screen windows.
There's also the same promise of upgradability found on the F9000 in the form of a One Connect box. In the future, you'll be able to swap in a new box to enable whatever upgrades, including, potentially, new input schemes, Samsung devises. For 2014 the set supports HEVC, HDMI 2.0, and HDCP 2.2.
In a first for curved TVs we know about, Samsung says the set will ship with an adapter that allows it to work with standard wall-mounting kits.
For buyers who want to keep their TVs unbent, Samsung offers the UNHU8550 series. It has a larger variety of sizes but mostly similar features. Check out the Samsung TV roundup for more.