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CES '16: Samsung Updates Smart Hub, Intros New UHD TVs

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Like Panasonic and LG, Samsung introduced new 4K TVs at CES today. Unlike those manufacturers, though, Samsung's press conference put its smart TV features front and center, with improvements to the company's Smart Hub service.

Samsung introduced its first line of SUHD (Super UHD) TVs at last year's CES, and the company now accounts for 50% of the U.S. 4K TV sales (down fro 60% a year ago), according to Joe Stinziano, executive VP of Samsung Electronics America. Stinziano announced a new line of SUHD TVs, including the bezel-less curved KS9500. In fact, the company will launch 5 full series of TVs in 2016, with screen sizes ranging from 44 to 88 inches. The new TVs feature a cadmium-free 10-bit Quantum dot display. "We believe it is the future of display technology," Stinziano said. "It expands the color range while creating more lifelike images, without distortion and without compromising brightness. It displays up to 1 billion of the purest colors and the most striking brightness available today. The majority of viewers watch in brightly lit rooms, and the new screens minimize glare and maximize brightness and contrasts."

All the new Samsung SUHD TVs feature HDR and are certified as meeting the Ultra HD Alliance standards announced earlier this week.

The updated Smart Hub displays live TV, OTT apps, games, and connected devices on the same home screen, "making going from ESPN to Netflix as easy as going from channel 1 to channel 2," Stinziano said. The new Smart Hub also attempts to reduce the friction infolved in switching from live TV to OTT or connected devices. When a viewer highlights an app like Amazon Video on the home screen, she'll see thumbnails of new content, andcan go right into the show or movie without first launching the app.

The Smart Hub also includes updates to the EXTRA service, which previously worked primarily with live sports. The new version lets viewers push a button on their remote and access information about the show they're watching, similar to Amazon Video's X-Ray service. That new remote, which Samsung is dubbing Smart Control, also controls set-top boxes, OTT devices, game consoles, and Blu-ray players from all major manufacturers.

Samsung announced last year that all TVs will be IOT ready by 2017. In the interim, the company introduced a SmartThings Extend USB Adapter, which can control more than 200 SmartThings-compatible devices, from home appliances to baby monitors. The adapter will be available free of charge to every customer who purchases a 2016 Samsung TV

Samsung also announced an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, noting that 20th Century Fox will release 100 Ultra HD Blu-Ray titles this year, including The Martian and Peanuts.

Samsung America president and COO Tim Baxter also spent a few minutes touting the Gear VR, launched last year in partnership with Oculus. There are now more than 400 videos in the Milk VR service, and more in the Oculus store, Baxter said. 2015's top title was Gone, an 11-episode thriller from Skybound Entertainment.

The new Samsung KS9500 Ultra HD TV

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