FIRST LOOK: New Samsung 3D Skype TV Very Impressive

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Samsung Australia is set to be the first TV vendor to deliver 3D TV, with retailers like Harvey Norman set to mount an “onslaught” marketing campaign in an effort to attract consumers into a new generation of T’s. A big attraction is Samsung’s new Skype service, which allows households to make cheap video and voice calls.

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The local subsidiary of the Korean giant has confirmed that it will be the first vendor to give away the hit movie Monsters vs Aliens with its new TV range in Australia, as reported by SmartHouse earlier this week.

The high end of the new Samsung range includes both plasma and LED models that are 3D enabled. They also have Internet connectivity and Skype technology built into an embedded processor, which allows families to communicate via live video feeds. They are also Internet-enabled with an array of widgets that deliver a variety of content from the likes of YouTube and other content providers.

At an exclusive briefing, Samsung Australia has shown SmartHouse what is coming and it’s impressive. Their new 7000 series LED 3D TV, which goes on sale early in April, delivered crystal clear 3D images. We were also able to connect to Skype by simply logging into an account. Housed in a wafer-thin display, the new range is stylish, especially when you sit them right next to last year’s models.

The Skype FreeTalk camera, which sits discreetly on the top of the Samsung TV, can be purchased directly from Skype via a link that appears on the screen when you first log in. In the demonstration that we saw we were able to receive voice calls and high-quality video calls that were significantly better than what we have been able to achieve via a notebook.

The voice calls access Skype’s SILK audio codec, which enable super-wideband audio quality from a family sitting in front of a TV talking to someone who could well be sitting in front of a notebook.

 

Using the TV’s remote control, we were able to open our free Skype accounts, log into an existing account and navigate via a simple Skype interface accessible on the televisions’ screens.

Skype video calls are free, as will be voice calls between Skype users. Using Skype to call traditional landline and mobile phones will cost just cents per minute. For example, I recently purchased $50 worth of Skype calls while I was in the US covering the CES. After some 124 calls, of which several were between the US and Australia and my daughter in France, I still have $10 worth of credit left. In comparison, I yesterday got a $119 Telstra bill for just one month of local mobile calls.

Mark Leathan, the head of consumer electronics marketing at Samsung, said, “This is really exciting times. We will shortly have our new range of TVs on sale in Australia. These new TVs deliver a brand new experience for consumers because we have moved on from the TV being just a viewing device. We now have 3D that enhances the viewing experience; we have Skype that will cut call costs for a lot of people while allowing people to communicate with friends up the road or family overseas. We have Internet IP capability as well as widgets built into the screen that allow views to access YouTube and their social network pages.”

Leathan admits that initially 3D content will primarily come from pure 3D Blu-ray discs or movies that have been up-scaled from 2D to 3D. In a demonstration of a UK Premier League Soccer game that had been up-scaled from 2D to 3D, we were able to watch an impressive demonstration of a sporting event that actually delivered clearer pictures of the action.

“Sport will be an important part of the 3D experience going forward, with several overseas sporting events set to be shot on 3D. I am confident that we will see NRL or AFL shot in 3D in 2011 in one form or another and this will be exciting,” Mr Leathan said.

Samsung said it was in an exclusive 3D content deal with Dreamworks Animation and was talking to other studios, broadcasters and game developers for similar deals to boost offerings of 3D content.

 

“We have also developed technology that converts 2D content into 3D, and that will enable consumers to experience watching TV with an extra visual dimension even when 3D content is somewhat less available,” said Yoon Boo-keun, president of the visual display division.

The models exclusively shown to SmartHouse are less than 3 centimetres thick, premium versions of its hot-selling LED-backlit LCD TVs with a 3D function that can be switched on and off.

Samsung is offering a 46-inch high definition LED-LCD TV and a 55-inch model along with a line up of 26 new LED, Plasma and LCD TVs in Australia.

It plans to introduce super-slim 10 millimetre sets in the first half of this year and boost line-ups to support all displays including plasma display panels.

“Digital 3D TVs, which use double layered images and special glasses to give viewers the sensation of seeing the depth of three dimensions, are set to become a magnet for the major retail vendors who now want consumers to start upgrading the flat panel TV they purchased three to four years ago,” said an industry Analyst.

Samsung aims to sell 35 million LCD TVs this year, including 10 million TVs using LED backlights.

We can also reveal that LG, which plans to unveil a full line-up of 3D TV models with new technology improvement in the second half, will also launch a 15-inch OLED TV in Australia.

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