Review: test driving Samsung’s spectacular 88-inch SUHD TVs

IMG_20150621_201442-3Did you know that Samsung has been the No. 1 manufacturer of TV’s sold worldwide for nine consecutive years?

That’s just one of the things I learned after an overnight test drive of the new Samsung curved, 4K UHD TV.

The test occurred two weekends ago at a swanky, Hollywood-style pad tucked into the tony Toronto neighbourhood of Yorkville. Some rich cat just rents his place out for events and parties and TV test runs. Works for me.

I was allowed three guests and invited son Dan and a couple of his Ryerson pals to join me in what was billed as “The More Room.” There were more than the one More Room at this place but I guess that refers to the back-draped screening room one elevator ride up from the entrance.

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The targeted remote is way cool

That’s where the 88-inch Samsung awaited inspection, one of seven beauties in this house. The first thing you notice is that the screen is more curved than the blade of Phil Kessel’s hockey stick. Jeff Ingram, the man from Samsung Canada, explained that was to enhance the viewing experience. “The TV appears to be bigger,” he says.

The screen is equipped to deliver a picture with full, 4K resolution. A demo reel, consisting mainly of clips from two recent Hollywood movies (including “Exodus Gods & Kings”), demonstrated the incredible clarity, brightness and colour range. According to Jeff, there are 64 times the number colours than found on conventional HDTVs–over a billion. Where it shows up, he says, is in the reds. The set is also two-and-a-half times brighter.

I’m guessing the folks buying these sets are way more than two-and-a-half times richer. The 88-inch beauty costs 30 grand. It does not come with a car. The 78-inch model however, shown above, is a steal at $13,000. Smaller sets are priced accordingly.

Some consumers simply want the latest and greatest. Take my former neighbour George. He dropped by this week and reminded me he bought a 3D TV set a couple of years ago. George is not likely to purchase an UHD TV until more shows are broadcast in 4K.

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My crack Ryerson team of SUHD TV testers

So far, broadcasters have not been in any rush to get to the 4K level. Netflix is leading the way and have shot the third season of House of Cards in 4K. Some soccer matches in Europe have also been shot with 4K cameras. North American sports broadcasts, including the recent Stanley Cup finals, are still only available in standard Hi-def.

Still, standard hi-def looks pretty amazing on these screens. The U.S. Open was on during our test weekend and you could see every brown, parched blade of grass. The Fox golf coverage, with those goofy red jet streams tailing every drive, looked pretty cool.

One of the movies we watched was The Grand Budapest Hotel, a smart choice in that there is so much rich detail in each and every shot of that movie. The brightness of the set helped showcase the great set design, although you also get a little too much information about Willem Dafoe’s teeth.

IMG_7310The big TV sets are sold at most electronics retailers including Best Buy and Bay Bloor Radio in Toronto. That’s where you can also pick up these cool, egg-shaped, omni-directional Samsung speakers (right). The ring shape bounces the sound waves, we were told. Starting at $350. each, they’re a relative bargain.

The young dudes in my testing posse gave Samsung’s aim and shoot targeted remote a big thumbs up. Another very forward-thinking feature of the UHD TVs is that the box that connects to your cables is separate from the TV itself. You know how they keep upgrading the cables every few years? This way, your monitor stays relevant and all you have to upgrade is the little silver connector box below.

The season premiere of HBO’s True Detective was screened in the More Room on the 88-inch monster. In some ways it was a good show to use as a test. The dark, film noir images could get lost on smaller, conventional screens but looked rich and nuanced on the Samsung. The fact little was happening was off set by the fact you could count every greasy hair on Colin Farrell’s noggin.

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The office at the TV mansion has a perfect spot to write while on deadline

We flipped around upstairs on the 78-incher, sampling Tina Fey’s Netflix comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. They colours looked great but the special TV did not make the show any funnier. The dazzling colours did shine through though.

A few notes about the house. Whoever owns this joint must like to play ball hockey indoors or roller skate around the house because every floor surface is kinda concrete. The outdoor patio area is very LA, complete with infinity pool and hot tub. The view of the new Four Seasons hotel and even the CN Tower was darn downtown.

The place had saunas and showers galore and even a weird cold water dump tank straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The tub upstairs is filled from a stream pouring in from a hole in the ceiling, just like mine at home, except at this place it’s on purpose.

To get more information about Samsung’s SUHD TV’s follow this link.

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Looking down on the 78-inch screen. Nice curves!

 

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