2013 Samsung smart TVs get a new interface, some older sets get an ‘Evolution’ facelift
Have you been laying around your living room thinking that your smart TV isn’t smart enough? Samsung’s 2013 TV lineup includes an updated smart TV platform that features a redesigned Smart Hub interface, new ways to search and discover content, plus improvements to its gesture and voice control.
At a press event this morning, the company also provided more details about its Smart Evolution Kit, a $300 module that can upgrade higher-end 2012 smart TVs to current-model standards.
At the heart of Samsung’s new smart TV platform is a redesigned Smart Hub interface, which now uses five “panels” to organize content, so that users can find and manage similar content from a single location. The five panels are:
On TV, which shows what’s currently playing, plus some recommended shows and a program guide;
Movies & TV Shows, which lists all the available movie and TV services, including Internet-based ones, from various content providers;
Music, Photos & Clips, for accessing personal content, such as photos, videos and music, stored on the TV or a USB drive;
Social, which provides access to social-media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Skype;
- and Smart TV Apps, the home for all the downloaded Samsung apps and recommendations.
Also new this year on some models is a recommendation engine called S-Recommendation that sends you suggestions about movies and TV shows. The feature monitors and analyzes your viewing habits over a period of six months to “learn” your preferences, and then recommends similar content—both broadcast TV and streaming services—it thinks you’ll enjoy.
Voice, gesture get a makeover. Last year Samsung pushed the envelope for new ways to control your TV using voice and gestures; frankly, we weren’t impressed. This year, though, the company has updated these features (called Advanced Smart Interaction), moving to more natural-language voice commands and adding more casual hand movement such as swiping to navigate through screens. The company also has a feature called Smart View, which lets you move content back and forth from a mobile device to the TV using its DLNA-based AllShare technology.
Find the right model for your needs and budget: Check out our TV buying guide and Ratings.
The new Smart Evolution Kit, available in May for $300, will work with higher-end 2012 sets, including 7500- and 8000-series LCD TVs, and 7000- and 8000-series plasma models. The kit, which includes a quad-core processor, a faster graphics processor, and more memory, fits into an evolution slot on the back of the TV. It also comes with a Smart Touch remote control. Once connected, the TV will be updated with many of the features found on newer models, including the new Smart Hub interface. All 2013 F7500-series and above LCD TVs, plus F8500-series plasma sets, will include a Smart Evolution slot for future upgrades.
In recent years Samsung TVs have done very well in our TV Ratings, so we’re looking forward to getting some of the newer step-up models into our labs so we can evaluate some of the new features.