Up Close and Personal with the Samsung Smart TV Lineup

Though we got a good peek at them at the recent CES, Samsung’s 3/6 event in NYC gave Sound+Vision a chance to get even more up close and personal with the company’s new LCD and plasma Smart TVs.

When I say personal here, I mean it: Some of the new sets have a built-in camera that can recognize your face and switch the Smart Hub GUI to a customized layout that’s all about you. The camera also enables gesture control, wherein you navigate and select items from onscreen menus with a wave of your hand.  Along with Face and Gesture Recognition, there’s also Voice Recognition, which lets you select apps, or change TV channels and adjust volume simply by speaking those commands (“Channel 903. . . volume up. . . ”). Voice Recognition doesn’t yet support spoken channel names (ESPN or HBO, for example), but it can be used to control an external cable or satellite tuner via an included bluetooth-controlled IR blaster. Face, Gesture, and Voice Recognition are all features you’ll see on the company’s ES8000 and ES7500 LED models (scheduled to arrive this month), and forthcoming E8000 plasmas.

Another cool thing that comes with the above TVs is Samsung’s Smart Touch remote control. The new remote has a large touchpad for navigating menus and scrolling though and selecting links when you’re using the set’s built-in web browser. It also has dedicated hardware buttons along the edges plus a built-in microphone for use in noisy situations where the TV’s own mic isn’t the best option. Looking at a traditional TV remote (also included) alongside the Smart Touch one, the old-school handset looks like a relic from the distant past.

Given the Web functionality built into today’s TVs, wireless keyboards are becoming a must-have accessory. Samsung’s Smart Wireless Keyboard ($99) will let you easily type when the urge hits — either when composing Facebook posts using the set’s app, or when searching for titles on Netflix. The bluetooth keyboard includes a touchpad, has dedicated buttons to control basic TV functions, and can also be used with Samsung Galaxy tablets.