Jeffery Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation CEO & the Samsung D8000

Last Thursday the folks from Samsung flew a bunch of media folks down to LA, took us to the DreamWorks Animation campus, and told us all about their 2011 line of Smart TVs. We saw the D8000 LED and Plasma sets in action, got an in-depth tour of the new SmartHub connected TV system, learned about the differences between active and passive 3D, and got a very technical talking to about the proper way to review a 3D TV set. Then we got a tour of DreamWorks’ facilities, learned about 3D animating techniques from a guy named “Captain 3D,” saw an advance screening of Kung Fu Panda 2, and got taken out to dinner. Consider yourself fully disclosed, FTC: No free products were given out, but I was totally wined and dined by Samsung PR. And, oh yeah, I got to listen to DreamWorks CEO Jeffery Katzenberg speak, which had a much bigger impression on me then I realized at the time.

The new Samsung “borderless” HDTVs are gorgeous. At least they are when they’re turned off. I’ve yet to get one in-house to review, but I’ve read mixed accounts of their performance when it comes to picture quality. What’s not in doubt is how sexy the new ultra-thin bezel design looks – the D8000s’ silver bezels are a mere 0.5cm wide, which both creates a dramatic “living work of art” feel and also maximizes the amount of screen space relative to the set’s footprint (the D7000, which was not on hand, also features the 0.5cm bezels). The panels are also only 1.5″ deep, which results in an overall effect that really stands out from the crowd, even in a world jam-packed with thin and light flat panel HDTVs.

I’ll leave the hardcore analysis of Samsung’s new picture technologies to the real TV geeks who attended last week’s events, but the company spent plenty of time touting the virtues of their beefed up refresh rates, LED “micro-dimming,” and active 3D glasses, all of which are meant to add up to a better viewing experience. I will say that the new ultralight active 3D glasses are very comfortable to wear – even over prescription specs – even if it’s a drag that you still have to fork over a few hundred dollars on top of the price of your HDTV if you want to outfit a family of four in them. For 2011, Sammy has also ditched IR in favor of Bluetooth as the communications protocol for their active glasses.

The top range D8000 and D7000 sets feature Wi-Fi connectivity with DLNA (Samsung calls it “AllShare”) for connecting to online content as well as streaming video between your TV and everything from cameras to Android tablets. With support for popular apps like YouTube, Skype (Webcams are an optional accessory), video on demand services including Hulu and Vudu, “overlay” apps that border your program with real-time info like sports scores from ESPN, and the requisite social functionality including Facebook, Twitter, and Samsung’s own “Social TV” recommendation engine, the 2011 panels further blur the line between “television” and “computer.” Apps and other Web-based functionality are wrangled by Samsung’s new “SmartHub” user interface, best explained in the video above. Taking it a step further, the new panels also feature a full-on WebKit-based browser, best accessed via the optional full QWERTY remote control. And, of course, you can use an app to control your HDTV via an Android or iOS mobile device, and even stream what’s on your TV to a Samsung Galaxy Tab Android tablet.

Samsung’s 2011 D7000 and D8000 sets are available in 46-inch and 55-inch LED sizes as well as 51-inch, 59-inch and 64-inch Plasma versions featuring “+1” slim bezel design. The sets all support full 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution during both 2D and 3D playback. Which gets me back to the core question I have about these high design, high function “TVs”: Which would you rather have in your living room, stunning design, stunning picture quality, or computer-like functionality including apps, Internet video, and Web/social networking? Or do you want it all? Yeah, I thought you might.

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