Samsung has launched its latest generation Smart TV – the ES8000 – in India and with it the company is pushing voice and motion controls big time. Samsung demoed some of the key features and we went hands on with them. Read on. Also Read - Samsung cuts production of TVs, home appliances
To get the ball rolling, the ES8000 has a remote control, which not only accepts voice through a built-in microphone but also has a touch pad for the navigation of the UI. These touch controls work pretty well, but if someone is expecting a level of smoothness associated with the current crop of smartphones, then the user will definitely be disappointed as we don’t get kinetic scrolling. That said, initially it does take time to get used to controlling the TV using this new method. Also Read - Top 5 55-inch smart TVs under Rs 50,000 to buy this November
Another way to control the TV interface is via voice controls. Samsung pre-configures its new Smart TVs with set of voice commands. For instance, it a user wants to start the Skype app, then he/she just needs to say ‘Skype’ after pressing the voice command and voila it starts. Again, one should not expect a ‘Siri’ like sophistication in the Voice commands, it’s a pretty bare bones experience and pronunciation of the word is crucial to detection, which in my humble opinion detracts from the user experience as the user is always aware about getting the pronunciation right. Also Read - Looking to buy a 55-inch Smart TV? Here are best ones available on Amazon
Apart from controlling apps, changing channels, or increasing volume, users can also search using voice controls, however the user is restricted to using Microsoft’s Bing search engine for this.
To Samsung’s credit, the Voice commands work pretty well even in noisy environments as the HDTV can either detect commands from a microphone build in the unit or from the remote control.
As mentioned above, Samsung made a big deal about motion controls. The motion controls work via a built-in camera and setting up the gesture controls is pretty painless. Having said that, Samsung has made some strange decisions regards the gestures as these TVs use bewildering gestures that border on the obscene. Making things worst is the fact, that a lot of user input is required which frankly makes controlling the TV arduous.
Samsung says that typing in has been simplified through motion controls as one can control the curser via the motion controls. I beg to differ or may be I am old school and have not gotten used to the idea of controlling the curser via my hand. Regardless, Samsung is offering a Bluetooth keyboard as an accessory, which also has a touch pad built-in. This in my opinion will be a more intuitive way of controlling the UI.
When I was going in for the demo, I assumed that the these features will be more or less gimmicky as people in India mostly use their set-top boxes to control their entertainment. Refreshingly, the Samsung representative who demoed the TV told us that the device is sold with a IR Blaster, which can be used to link the set top boxes, IR signal to the Samsung remote from where the user can utilize the voice and motion controls. However, this function was not demoed to us, so we are a bit skeptical about its usability.
Other than the motion controls, Samsung as usual went big about its Smart TV functionality. As of now, Samsung’s platform offers around 450-500 applications in India, out of which 100 have been made specifically for India. Samsung also showcased a social networking app called Family Story. The company said that the upcoming Galaxy S III smartphone will also be preloaded with the app which will facilitate synergy between the Smart TV and the super phone.
Another area where this TV was unique was in terms of upgradability. Samsung, will provide an ‘Evolution Kit’ which will facilitate the upgradation of both the hardware and soft are, including the dual-core processor powering the ES8000.
In terms of picture quality, the ES8000 flaunts class leading contrast ratios and frankly pictures looked quite stunning. Samsung uses edge lit LEDs in tandem with backlit LEDs. The result is that the ES8000 can selectively increase the brightness of LEDs in the corners if additional brightness is the need of the hour or shut them off for deeper blacks.
It also supports 3D and 3D up-scaling and the TV ships with four active 3D glasses, which is a nice touch as historically Samsung has always offered a single active 3D glass with its TVs. Samsung has also loaded its Smart TVs with a 3D explorer store from where the consumer can stream 3D content from iMax labs directly on to their device.
The new Samsung ES8000 Smart TV costs Rs 2,73,000. On the whole, while we definitely appreciate Samsung pushing new user interfaces for the HDTV, which in my opinion is a good thing as the TV UI has remained stagnant for the last 40 years.
Photo Credits: Rohit Sharma