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Bigger sizes for home theaters during COVID-19


Mike Snider
 
| USA TODAY

Samsung kicked off the 2021 CES trade show Wednesday with a showcase of new televisions meant to address changes in home life brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Seoul, South Korea-headquartered tech gian livestreamed the event Wednesday, leapfrogging the actual beginning of the annual consumer electronics confab by a few days – the all-online conference officially begins Monday, Jan. 11.

For TV makers, home is where the action is – as many of us work and attend school there – and Samsung’s newest sets address how our displays have become hubs of home activity. 

TV sales grew during the pandemic. Despite workplace issues including layoffs and furloughs, Americans bought 20% more TVs in 2020 through mid-December than in 2019, according to the NPD Group. Samsung is dominant with the largest chunk of global TV sales, about 23% of shipments in the third quarter of 2020, according to Strategy Analytics.

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Nearly six out of 10 consumers (57%) exercise or work out in their living room, according to the tech giant’s internal consumer research. The same amount say they watch more shows and films on streaming services, according to research firm GlobalWebIndex.

As more life has revolved around the home, consumers have “rediscovered the value of TV,” said Mike Kadish, director of TV marketing for Samsung, who previewed upcoming products for media.

Samsung is focusing on bigger TVs – with more functionality – that allow you to create a home theater in your house.

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Since locked-down consumers couldn’t go to movie theaters under the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and recommendations, “they started buying bigger and bigger screens to re-create that experience,” said Grace Dolan, vice president of home entertainment marketing at Samsung. “And with bigger screens comes a need for better quality screens to have that experience.”

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Yes, TVs at home can get bigger

Remember “The Wall,” that 146-inch TV Samsung released in 2018? That same technology is used to deliver smaller, consumer-targeted 4K TV models in 110-inch, 99-inch and 88-inch sizes that do not require professional installation, as the original did. That mammoth-sized display – and an even larger version at 292 inches – came in modules that had to be connected and calibrated.

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Samsung’s 146-inch ‘Wall TV’ is coming to a store near you

At CES Samsung debuted a real humdinger of a product: a 146-inch modular TV called “The Wall.”

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The goal, Dolan said, is to make microLED – it uses self-emissive pixels for improved picture quality – “more accessible, easier for the average consumer. You just pull it from the box. It’s one single unit now, so you don’t need the complicated install.”

Samsung did not release pricing or product availability on the new sets. Some online news sites have put the price of the 110-inch model at about $159,000. 

The 110-inch model, which will come to market first, could be a hot product with consumers, said Tom Campbell, chief technologist for Video & Audio Center stores in Los Angeles.  The retailer said the first 110-inch model it’ll get is already spoken for. 

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“I told him we didn’t have an official price, but he said, ‘I want it,’” Campbell said. “Because of COVID, people are buying bigger and bigger screens and paying the price for it.”

Also coming are Neo QLED TV models of up to 85 inches (no prices or availability announced), which encase tiny LEDs more compactly without the need of a lens. “There are so many more LEDs in there, like thousands more,” Dolan said. “You get much better contrast, you get a just crisper picture.”

TVs get even smarter

Most of the new models will have a Multi-View feature, which lets you divide your screen in up to 12 sections to display TV channels, games, web pages and other content simultaneously. The screens also let you display a Google Duo video chat onscreen.

Available on most new displays: The Samsung Health Smart Trainer transforms your living room – or whatever room your TV is in – into a gym. An artificial intelligence-driven program displays a trainer on the left side of the screen and an image of you on the right, so you can monitor your posture.

“Almost like a personal trainer, you can monitor your form even as you are watching the content to make sure you are doing it appropriately because not everyone is in the gym any more,” Dolan said.

The trainer program will track how many calories you’ve burned, and you can sync Galaxy smartphones and watches.

Many of the new models have a special Super Ultrawide Gameview mode that caters to video game players, letting them create an extended widescreen with aspect ratios of 21:9 and 32:9 (the traditional widescreen ratio is a rectangular 16:9). The Game Bar brings a menu of vital options to the bottom of the screen, letting you quickly change aspect ratios and sound settings.

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Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.





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