The LED leader is back with their new lineup of LED-backlit LCD TVs for 2010. Samsung's 2009 LED lineup was a big hit with consumers and this year's lineup looks all set to expand on that success. The high-end models get even slicker features than last year's heavy-hitters, like 3D capability and local dimming, in slimmer bodies and at lower prices. And the low-end models...well, there actually are low-end models this year. Read on for more:
Quick Refresher: Why LED?
So called LED TVs are actually LCD TVs that use one or more LED backlights to illuminate the picture, rather than a fluorescent backlight. LEDs are advantageous because they produce a more vibrant picture with better contrast than their fluorescent counterparts. They also draw less power and contain fewer toxic chemicals, so they're better for the environment and lighten the load on your energy bill (you'll appreciate it after paying an extra few hundy for the TV itself).
LEDs are Shrinking: 4 and 5 Series
Last year, LED backlighting was a top-shelf luxury feature, so Samsung only included it on luxury-sized models – 40 inchers and up. This year, the smallest model is the 19-inch UN19C4000 (note the 'C' designation in the model number – that's the easiest way to distinguish this year's models from last year's 'B' lineup). The specs on the C4000s, also available in 22, 26, and 32-inch models, are pretty bare bones: 1080p, 60Hz, no internet connectivity, but hey, they're LEDs.
Stepping up the lineup, we have the 5 Series (C5000) in 32, 40, and 46-inch models. These sparkle with a sharper contrast ratio (darkness of the color black compared to brightness of the color white) than the 4 Series and pack the powerful HyperReal picture engine, though otherwise they're still just pedestrian, unconnected 60Hz models.
Middle of the Road: 6 Series
In the 6 Series we start to see some additional high-end features to
complement the LED backlighting. According to Samsung's website, there
are actually three sub-series within the 6 series this year. The basic
C6300 boasts a smooth 120 Hz refresh rate and sharper contrast ratio
than the 5 Series. The C6500 adds internet connectivity (Samsung Apps),
has a yet sharper contrast ratio, packaged into a slimmer, 1.1-inch
profile. And then there's the C6800, available in May, which adds local
LED dimming, an even higher contrast ratio, and – here's my favorite
part – a wooden grain touch of color, for that 1973 Volvo stationwagon
look. Out of the bunch, the C6800 certainly looks to be the most
The Next Dimension: 7 and 8 Series
Here's the really fun stuff -- if you don't mind wearing goofy glasses in your own living room all the time. The 7 Series has already made a name for itself as the first-ever 3D LED TV. These C7000s come at a price, on top of which you'll have add a few extra hundred dollars for a “starter pack” of the requisite glasses, 3D Blu-ray player (Playstation 3 will work fine after a firmware update, however), and a new library of movies. And in many ways, it's actually inferior to the C6800: There's no local dimming and the contrast ratio is smaller, but it does have a refresh rate of 240 Hz (you'll need maximum smoothness to make those expensive 3D Blu-ray discs pop). Of course, the flashy 3D tech counts for a lot, and it'll still be a solid 2D TV, but it feels a bit like this was a rush job to get the jump on the 3D market.
But that's why, of course, Samsung has the 8 Series (C8000), the one to rule them all (at least until the mysterious C9000 gets an official street date, something more solid than "around November"). Name a top-notch, spec, this has it. 240Hz refresh rate, 3D capability, internet connectivity, local dimming, all in a body less than one inch thick. It's available in sizes up to a whopping 65 inch screen as well.
So, What To Buy?
we'd feel iffy about recommending for purchase the most expensive TVs –
yes, they obviously have more features, but they might not be worth the
extra cash. Bang for the buck, you
know. That's why we picked last year's B7000 over the more expensive
B8000. But this year, Samsung stacked their deck well. For 2D-only TVs,
the C6800 is the way to go, and in the 3D corner, the C8000. Why? Both
have local dimming LEDs. The pictures are that much more nuanced, as
are the energy savings. Happy shopping.