CES 2013: Samsung Leans Into Smart TVs, Windows 8 PCs

By Matthew Braga

Iterations and upgrades abound at this year's Samsung press conference, but little in the way of surprises.

From Smart TVs to washing machines, Samsung offered up a bevy of new product announcements for 2013 with the tagline "discover possibilities." But how about we discover more about the products' themselves? Here's a quick brief on what the year ahead for Samsung has in store.

Samsung clearly knows its past Smart Television software didn't exactly offer the best of user experiences – but that's something the company is hoping to change. A number of Samsung's high-end televisions will now include faster quad-core processors, and older models can be physically upgraded with similar capabilities using Samsung's hardware-based "Evolution Kit." One company executive described the hardware upgrade as a brain transplant, though we prefer Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz's comparison to a Nintendo Cartridge for your TV.

But all that increased horsepower isn't for nothing. Samsung has also revamped the software experience of its Smart TV interface. The company says its new Smart Hub now boasts five dynamic UI panels with various thumbnails for simpler discovery and navigation. The Smart Hub can also track viewing habits over time, using Samsung's S-Reccomendation service, and analyze this data to suggest movies or television shows. Gesture and voice control features from last year are still present on some high-end models, but Samsung says the latter has been improved to understand more natural language queries, and reply with a voice of its own (doing tests of our own on the noisy show floor will no doubt be fun).

Of course, whether any of these improvements make the Smart TV interface any more enjoyable, intuative or simple to use is anyone's guess – but Samsung seems keen enough on giving it another shot.

Samsung did more than just revamp their teleivions' internals, however, and made a number of external changes as well. The Samsung S9 Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV, for example, is a massive 4K television available in both 85-inch and 110-inch models, with panels that float within a metal frame (like "art" – the design was called "timeless" on stage). Otherwise, Samsung showed off a number of nominal upgrades across its LED and LCD lines – most notably, Samsung's OLED F9500, which allows two viewers wearing 3D glasses to watch separate content streams at the same time, and even includes wireless earbuds with each pair of lenses to deliver seprate audio streams as well. It's similar in concept to how Sony's ill-fated PlayStation-branded 3D TV performed, though perhaps the technology may finally find an audience here instead.

We were also given a quick preview of the company's new mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, the NX300, announced earlier this week. This is an upgrade of the NX200 model from late 2011, but with a larger, 3.3" AMOLED titling touch screen, 20MP sensor, a new hybrid autofocus system and a 45mm f/1.8 lens capable of capturing 3D videos and stills. Look for a more in-depth, hands-on report later this week.

Otherwise, the remainder of Samsung's press conference was a particularly rote affair. The usual complement of smart appliances are apparently smarter (the T9000 boasts an Evernote app on its LCD, though we'll reserve snark and judgement until we see this thing in action), and two new notebooks, the Series 7 Chronos and Series 7 Ultra include touch-friendly displays, which we'll be sure to poke and prod on the show floor.