In recent days, Sony, Panasonic and Samsung have all held press conferences or made announcements of their 3DTV and Blu-ray player product launches. Of the three, Samsung clearly had the loudest megaphone, judging from its media events in New York City in early March.
The March 9 festivities were staged at the Samsung Experience in the Time Warner Center and centered on the unveiling of 15 new 3DTV models - six plasma designs, eight LED-backlit LCD sets, and a solitary CCFL-LCD offering. The company followed that up a day later with a high profile 3D event right in Times Square that features James Cameron and the band, the Black Eyed Peas.
In the plasma line, 7000-series and 8000-series 50-inch, 58-inch, and 63-inch 1080p TVs have a built-in IR emitter and 3D operating mode that is compatible with side-by-side and top/bottom 720p and 1080i broadcast content, along with the HDMI 1.4 full-resolution Blu-ray format. Prices range from $1,799 (PN50C7000) to $3,799 (PN63C8000), and all models will ship in May.
The LED TVs (Samsung insists on calling them that, and not the more appropriate "LED LCD" TVs) are represented by eight models across the 7000, 8000 and 9000-series lines, ranging in size from 40 inches to 55 inches. They offer the same built-in emitter and compatibility with broadcast and Blu-ray formats, and range in price from $1,999 for the UN40C7000 to $6,999 for the top-of-the-line UN55C9000. 46-inch and 55-inch 7000-series sets are already shipping to stores.
The lone CCFL-LCD offering is the LN46C750, a 46-inch set that will ship in May and retails for $1,699. There’s also a new 3D Blu-ray player, the BD-C6900, to go with any of these TVs, plus an HT-C6930W home theater system that also includes a 3D Blu-ray player ($899).
To further stoke consumer enthusiasm, Samsung is including a 3D starter kit with the purchase of any of these new TVs, plus either the BD-C6900 Blu-ray player or the HT-C6930W home theater system. The kit is a limited-time offer, and includes two pairs of active-shutter glasses (a Samsung proprietary design) and a 3D copy of Monsters vs. Aliens, thanks to an exclusive, yearlong deal Samsung has with DreamWorks Animation (Glendale, CA). Samsung also has first shot at new, remastered 3D BD versions of the entire Shrek series of movies, which is quite a coup.
The price spread across the Samsung 3D plasma line isn’t surprising — only $2K from the lowest-cost 50-inch model to the best 63-incher. What is surprising is the spread in the LED LCD-TV line: $5K. I can’t remember the last time I saw a 55-inch LCD-TV selling for $7K, and I doubt there will be much demand for this model or its 46-inch version (UN46C9000, $5,999), 3D or not.
I’m also surprised that Samsung even bothered to bring out a CCFL-equipped 3D LCD in any size. The cheapest LED-equipped set (UN46C7000) sells for only $300 more than the LN46C750. Why not link 3D with LEDs in the public mind, since that’s where backlighting technology is heading anyway?
Samsung’s "shot heard round the world" was topped off March 10 with a 3D coming-out party and concert at the ESPN Zone in Times Square, featuring the Black Eyed Peas. James Cameron and production company Cameron/Pace filmed the event in 3D, and it was streamed live via Dipdive.com. (That’s the sort of event Sony and Panasonic used to put on, back in the day.)
All of this hoopla makes Panasonic’s March 10 announcement of two 3D plasma sets and Sony’s June 10 plans to ship 40-inch and 46-inch 3D-LCD sets seem pretty weak. How will both of these companies, plus the yet-to-be-heard-from crowd (LG, Toshiba, Sharp, etc) counterattack this shot across the bow? Stay tuned.
Note: an expanded version of this coverage will appear in the April issue of Large Display Report.