Internet-connected smart TVs with apps and Web-based functions are nothing new, but Samsung hopes that its new ES line of TVs will stand out from the crowd thanks to a remote-free voice and motion-based control scheme.
For now, only the ES7500 and ES8000 series have the Smart Interactions interface. This essentially means that you can control the TV with gestures, or speak out commands to launch apps, change channels, or adjust the volume.
This is a great idea, because remotes today have buttons most of us will never press, making them pointlessly bulky. With these new Samsung TVs, you have two options. Choosing a menu option or “clicking” on an on-screen button requires you to only wave your hand, and then close it to a fist to “press” the button. Or if you prefer, you could just speak to the TV. Launching an Internet-based app such as Skype on this connected television is as simple as saying “Skype” to the television, which has a built-in camera and mic.
Smart interface: It’s a great idea but the experience falls a little short.
I tried out the 46-inch ES8000 (Rs 1.58 lakh) and the 55-inch ES8000 (Rs 2.73 lakh) in the Samsung showroom in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi, last week, watching different types of content and trying out the new control interface.
The interface is great in theory but in practice your experience may vary. The ES TV needs a certain amount of lighting for the motion control to work properly, and it is not foolproof. The in-store calibration showed that there was enough light, but when I tried, it lost track of my hand every once in a while.
I felt talking to the TV worked better. The TVs come with a Smart Remote that doubles as a microphone, and it picks up your commands even when there is background noise. But you need to talk clearly, and there were times it just couldn’t understand that I wanted to open the Web browser.
Anyone who’s tried to use voice controls and found themselves repeating the same command in 30 different tones to try and be understood knows that it can be frustrating, and pointless. Pushing a button is easier, and faster.
Samsung knows that too, so despite the importance it’s placing on natural controls, the TV comes with both the Smart Remote (which uses a touchpad instead of buttons), and a normal remote. If you buy the TV, you’ll quickly find situations where each control method is most appropriate, but it’s very likely that the most used method will still be the basic remote.
The TVs also display 3D content, and have a 2D to 3D conversion mode, so any content can be viewed in 3D. The conversion is fast, and works well, though the results are not as stunning as we have seen in some of the TVs launched by other brands this year. The TVs use active glasses, synced with the screen for the 3D effect. Four such pairs are given free with each TV, though future, cheaper models will ship with two pairs. If you need more, each pair will probably cost around Rs 3,500—but the price hasn’t been finalized yet.
The ES TV has a built-in Wi-Fi adaptor, and can be connected to your home network the moment you switch it on. As with other Samsung Smart TVs, there is a free app hub, which has over 1,500 apps at present, with more being added. There are a number of apps for streaming video, music and games, alongside apps such as Facebook and Skype, and these can be controlled using a combination of voice and motion controls. You can also connect a Bluetooth keyboard to the TV.
Samsung is using a dual-core processor for the current wave of Smart TVs, but it’s also using something called the “evolution kit”—a slot in the back of the TV where you can add upgrades that improve the hardware and software of your TV. The idea is that you can keep your TV up to date, without having to buy a new one every year.
The image quality is really good, and in terms of tech specs, the new TVs live up to expectations.
One area Samsung (and other brands) need to look at, however, is pricing.
If you’re looking to buy the TV only for the Smart Interaction, you might be disappointed—it’s 90% there, but those last inches of the journey are all the more frustrating because you can see how good an experience it could be. Otherwise, the ES7500 and ES8000 make for great choices—on the expensive side.