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Samsung expands lineup of 3D TV, home theater models

Samsung today announced several new 3D-compatible products, including HDTVs, home theater-in-a-box systems, and Blu-ray players.

Samsung PN50C490
Samsung's PN50C490: The most affordable 3D TV to date.

Samsung reaffirmed its commitment to 3D video today, highlighting a range of new 3D-compatible home theater, TV, and Blu-ray products at a press event in Manhattan. The company also demonstrated the growing array of interactive onscreen apps available on many of its current and newly announced Internet-connected products.

The minor mid-year refresh to Samsung's mammoth home theater lineup includes many products that had already leaked on retail sites such as Amazon in the days and weeks leading up to the announcement. The full recap is as follows:

HDTVs: Two new series of 3D plasmas join Samsung's lineup. The 50-inch PN50C490 (which was widely leaked yesterday) is notable for being the first 3D plasma TV to break the $1,000 price point. It's joined by the PNC680 series (the $1,600 50-inch PN50C680 and the $2,300 58-inch PN58C680). Samsung also highlighted the availability of the $6,000 UN65C8000, a massive 65-inch LED edge-lit 3D LCD TV. (CNET has already reviewed the 55-inch version.)

Samsung BD-C8000

Blu-ray players: The company "officially" unveiled three new 3D Blu-ray players that had already been spotted online as early as July 13. The BD-C5900, BD-C6800, and BD-C7900 are basically just 3D-enabled upgrades of existing models in the Samsung line. In addition, the company took the wraps off the portable BD-C8000 ($500). It's billed as the first portable 3D Blu-ray player, though 3D video is only available when the unit is connected to an external 3D-compatible TV--the built-in 10.1-inch screen is 2D only. Still, it brings competition to the portable Blu-ray market, which has heretofore been a Panasonic-only arena.

Home theater systems: Three new (or new-ish, anyway) home-theater-in-a-box systems are either now available or coming soon, each with built-in Blu-ray, 3D output support, Wi-Fi, and Samsung Apps. The HT-C6600 ($600, available now) is basically a 3D version of the HT-C6500 (which garnered 4 stars in a recent CNET review). The HT-C6900W ($700, available now) takes the 6600 and adds wireless rear speakers and a two-way center channel speaker to the mix. Rounding things out is the HT-C9950W ($1,800, available in October, pictured below), a "high-style" 7.1-channel home theater system with four floor-standing speakers, a metallic finish, and a slot-loading disc player.

Samsung HT-C9950W

Samsung Apps: As we've noted in reviews of the company's 2010 TVs, Blu-ray players, and home theater systems, Samsung has a better-than-average app platform on its Internet-connected video devices. In addition to such standbys as Netflix, Vudu, Pandora, Twitter, and Facebook, Samsung currently offers exclusive access to Hulu Plus and ESPN's Next Level app. (Hulu Plus will be on devices from rival manufacturers before the end of 2010, and even more in 2011.) Before the end of the year, ESPN and Samsung also plan to offer a ScoreCenter app (similar to the one available on many smartphones). Samsung will also debut a 3D Video-on-Demand app later this year, which is designed to offer previews of upcoming 3D movies.

Free the TV Challenge: Separately, Samsung announced its "Free the TV Challenge," an app-development contest that promotes the availability of the company's new software development kit. The contest runs from now through November 11, with cash and prize rewards valued at $500,000. Winners will be announced at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Go to www.freethetvchallenge.com for details.