There’s a new word in high-definition TV, but it’s not one you’ll find in a dictionary. That’s because Samsung just invented SUHD to describe its new line-up of curved TVs. Many instinctively assumed it stood for Super UHD which, in turn, is a standard term for Ultra High-Definition TV.
Not so, says Samsung: it’s a composite initial for “sensational picture, seamless interaction and stylish design”. The intentional showiness of the term worked well in the world capital of showiness, Las Vegas, when it was launched there during the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in January. It may not be as convincing in the more mundane surrounds of retail electronics outlets.
However, an event in Turkey last week was a useful halfway mark both in hype and in the technology’s journey to South Africa.
The Samsung Africa Forum, strangely held in the seaside city of Antalya in the heart of Turkey’s winter, hosted the official launch of SUHD TVs into the African market. Three series – the JS9500, JS9000 and JS8000 ⎯ range from 48-inch to 88-inch curved screens. The smallest unit, with around a R13 000 price tag, is expected to make a major impact. A 55-inch unit will come in at R17 000 – about where standard LED TVs were just three or four years ago.
“The curved shape draws you into the picture and gives you a more immersive experience because you’re almost surrounded by the screen, particularly in larger screen sizes,” said Matthew Thackrah, deputy managing director of Samsung Africa, speaking at the event.
However, from a distance of, say, across a room, the surround impact is lost. So it could easily be argued that the curve is more about aesthetic appeal than viewing experience. Thackrah didn’t entirely disagree.
“Over the last ten years design has been a hugely important aspect of purchasing any appliance, because the home is becoming more open plan,” he said. “Whether a TV or a refrigerator, design is now one of the major influencing factors.”
Particularly at the higher end of the market, with its lower price sensitivity, the devices are expected to be a hit. Last year, said Thackrah. 20 per cent of Samsung’s “premium sets” sold in South Africa were curved. That’s expected to rise to a third of its premium sales this year.
Ironically, it’s not the stand-out feature – the curve – that truly defines the new sets, but rather their display technology and image processing.
According to the product description: “The SUHD TV’s nano-crystal transmits different colours of light depending on their size to produce the highest color purity and light efficiency available today. This technology produces a wide range of more accurate colours, providing viewers with 64 times more colour expression than conventional TVs.”
That’s when SUHD enters the picture. Not only is it intended to enhance the picture, but is also claimed to be more eco-friendly than conventional displays:
“The intelligent SUHD re-mastering engine optimises all content to match the colour and brightness reproduction of the SUHD TV. It automatically analyses the brightness of images to minimise additional power consumption, while also producing ultimate contrast levels, showcasing images with much darker blacks and an elevated level of brightness that’s more than 2.5 times brighter than conventional TVs.”
Thackrah pointed out, however, that it was not a reinvention of TV display technology.
“We’re launching not so much a different technology, as improving certain aspects of the technology through better colour rendition and faster response rates compared to competing products. That’s why we made the choice of the SUHD label: we had to differentiate ourselves from the rest.”