Avi Greengart is an expert on the
convergence of technology and entertainment: video,
audio, computing, and wireless, how these are coming together, and
what's likely to survive long enough to make a difference in your life.
Column #37 (7/26/02)
Samsung’s Summer Product Lineup
Samsung rented a room in midtown Manhattan this week to
introduce a whole slew of new gizmos. They showed several new HDTV set top
boxes with extensive connectivity options, announced their entry into the HTIB
(Home Theater In a Box) and portable DVD markets with unique values, and
displayed their latest DVD, camcorder, and portable audio products.
Samsung’s Top Set Top Boxes
In the set top box market, Samsung has every variation
covered. Just want DirecTV? Try the bare bones SIR-70 (MSRP $99) or step up to
the SIR-S75 (MSRP $199) with component video and Dolby Digital outs.
|Want to add over-the-air HDTV to your HDTV-ready
set? The SIR-T151 can output the usual 1080i, 480p, and 480i display modes,
along with 720p (perfect for devices based on 1280x720p DLP chips, including
several front projectors and Samsung’s own upcoming rear projection
televisions), selectable output configurations (15 pin D-Sub or Y, Pb, Pr
component), full aspect ratio control – all for an MSRP of just $499.
Samsung SIR-T165 Set Top Box with both Firewire and DVI
For those willing to spend a little more, the SIR-T165 adds DVI for
compatible projectors and monitors, and Firewire (IEEE1394) for connection
to DVHS decks. The T165 should be available in August at an MSRP of $799.
Want a little of everything? The SIR-TS160 combines a
DirecTV receiver with an analog NTSC (standard TV) tuner and an HDTV (ATSC)
tuner for over-the-air HDTV. Perfect for plasma displays that lack internal
tuners of any kind, it also includes DVI with HDCP, selectable output formats,
and component video inputs and video switching capabilities to serve
displays with a single high definition input. To make sense of it all, the
7-day Advanced Program Guide™ combines listings from both satellite and
over-the-air programming. The SIR-TS160 is scheduled to ship this month for an
MSRP of $699.
Samsung Tries To Fit Home Theater In A Box
|At the high end of the HTIB market, Samsung
introduced the HT-SK6 ($1199 MSRP, $999 MAP), which includes Klipsch Quintet
speakers and powered sub, integrated DVD with progressive output, nice
styling, decent amplifier power, and video inputs/switching capabilities for
additional progressive sources.
Most of the expected bells and whistles are included (3-2 pulldown
processing for the progressive output, Dolby Digital, DTS, and Dolby
Pro-Logic II processing, MP3 playback, 30 AM/FM presets), and the combo
sounded quite good – with the expected crisp high end that horn-loaded
speakers are known for – and decent bass.
This is a very nice system for
the masses, and an excellent bedroom system for the enthusiast. Note that
the component and speakers are in a matching gunmetal/silvery finish;
speakers in white (or other wall colors) are not available. You’ll be able
to find these units at specialty chains (Tweeter, Good Guys, etc.).
Klipsch Quintet Speaker System (Samsung HT-SK6
integrated receiver/DVD player not shown)
At the very low end of the HTIB market (only $399 MSRP,
$349 MAP), Samsung brings us the HT-DM150. It’s got the same nice styling,
integrated progressive scan DVD, and audio/video processing features, only this
time with lower amplifier specifications and a set of house brand speakers.
When I audition well-integrated home theater speaker
systems, even miniature, impossibly inexpensive ones, I’m often surprised by how
good they sound. Not this time. The center channel sound was boxy and colored,
the bass from the passive sub was not all that powerful or well integrated.
Still, for under $400, you simply won’t find anything else on the market with
this feature set or style, and I expect them to fly off the shelves of the mass
market retailers who will be stocking them.
DVD, DVD Everywhere
|Let’s get the cool gadget out of the way first:
the DVDL100 portable DVD player has the largest screen on the market (10”
widescreen TFT-LCD), decent battery life, and an impressively slim form
Like the other Samsung DVD players on display, it plays MP3 CDs and memory
sticks – and includes a genuinely useable interface for dealing with the
audio and/or video files. The DVDL100 also comes with progressive scan
processing and an impossibly small infrared remote control, so you could
theoretically use it at home as well as on the road. But let’s face it:
portable players have always been expensive indulgences, and at $999 this is
Samsung also showed it’s DVD-P721M (MSRP $249), a
single-disc home player with the same progressive scan and memory stick
capabilities, and the DVD-V2500 (MSRP $349) which adds a built-in HiFi VCR.
Memory Stick Invasion
|Memory sticks also showed up in a pair of Mini
DV (Digital Video) camcorders, the SC-D590 and SC-D86. Quoting the press
release, “Samsung’s SC-D590 is the smallest upright Mini DV available in the
world, at a teeny-tiny 1.60” (W), 3.74” (H) and 3.70” (D).”
||I played with it. It’s really small. The
SC-D86 is a more conventional horizontal chassis, but isn’t exactly huge,
Both units include 680,000 pixel CCDs, 10x optical zoom, Nite Pix
for shooting in low light, image stabilizer modes, and both Firewire and USB
connectivity for transferring your work to a PC for editing.
The SC-D590 (MSRP $1,199) and SC-D86 (MSRP $699) are
SC-D590 - Actual Size?
Surprisingly, given the explosion of Memory Stick slots,
the Hi8 analog camcorders and portable digital audio products Samsung displayed
didn’t have them.
The SC-L700 (MSRP $299) offers playback options in NTSC or
PAL, and the SC-L770 (MSRP $399) adds USB connectivity (relatively rare for an
analog camcorder). They are otherwise unremarkable.
If you think the SC-D590 Mini DV camcorder is small, you
need to see Samsung’s latest solid-state portable digital audio player, the
YP-30SH. It’s about the size of a pack of matches, and should be a good gift
for joggers. Samsung also offers several CD-based portable MP3 players, but
currently has no firm plans for hard drive-based units.
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