Samsung Washers Rank #1…Again

Samsung was once again ranked the highest in customer satisfaction by JD Power. This marks the fifth consecutive year Samsung has received the industry’s top ranks in JD Power’s annual study. The study cited performance, reliability, ease of use and price as factors in the decision. Samsung dryers also scored very well in the study earning Samsung a #2 ranking in the category.

“Our goal is to create premium smart appliances that deliver the right mix of flexibility, performance and design that consumers love and want for their home. Receiving such high rankings in this year’s J.D. Power Laundry Appliance Satisfaction Study demonstrates that Samsung understands what families look for in their home appliances,” said Kevin Dexter, Senior Vice President of Home Appliance at Samsung Electronics America. “The continued recognition from J.D. Power and the ongoing support from our consumers is an absolute privilege; it pushes us to continue to deliver the technologies and features consumers want and need.”

Samsung's WA50F9A6DSW washer

Samsung’s WA50F9A6DSW washer

Samsung’s commitment to technological innovation has made it one of the most popular laundry brands in America despite being a relative newcomer in the market. Take high-efficiency (HE) top-loaders for example. Samsung’s brand new HE top-load model WA50F9A6DSW features an industry leading 5.0 cubic foot wash capacity allowing consumers to wash larger loads than ever before. While capacity is great, the main purpose of a washing machine is to clean your clothes. A big tub in an HE top-loader makes it difficult to achieve a thorough clean because unlike a traditional top-loader, HE top-loaders use very little water and do not feature an agitator. As a result, it can often be difficult to evenly distribute the sudsy water throughout the load and move the clothing in the wash tub enough to open up the fabrics for a deep clean. To overcome this, Samsung developed AquaJet Technology. AquaJet uses powerful jets to thoroughly wash and rinse even the largest loads. Best of all, it features different settings to allow you to utilize AquaJet for a variety of loads including everything from your gym clothes to your most delicate items. Click here to see AquaJet in action.

Samsung’s innovative technology also leads to enhanced energy efficiency. The EPA’s ENERGY STAR program recently awarded Samsung’s DV457 dryer with the Emerging Technology Award for its class leading energy efficiency. This is the first time the award has been given to a clothes dryer. The Smart Grid-ready DV457 dryer uses up to 36% less energy than a typical dryer. When paired with the matching WF457 washer (also Smart Grid-ready), Samsung claims the pair can save an average consumer $3,978 in energy costs over the life of the pair. That’s a pretty significant savings, especially when you consider the pair retails for right around $3,000.

Samsung's 457 front-load laundry pair in Onyx

Samsung’s 457 front-load laundry pair in Onyx (shown with optional pedestals)

 

What You Should Know Before Buying a 2013 TV

2013 TV models from LG, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba have started trickling into our warehouse and out to our stores. I’m sure they’re hitting other retailers as we speak as well. I hope you’ll stop into one of our stores soon to check out the latest in TV technology, but regardless of where you shop, here are six things you should know before you hit the store.

Full disclosure, the list below does feature a collection of facts and my opinions. The opinions are based on my personal preferences and experience as Grand’s audio-video sales manager since 2004.

1. Shop for Features, Not Sizes.

I counted, and at the time of this printing LG had almost 50 TV models available for us to display and sell. Samsung has even more. There’s no way we can display absolutely everything from every brand we represent – and we’re not alone. Almost every other retailer is in the same boat, even the big guys. Instead, we’ll show as many series of TVs from each manufacturer as we can. A series is a collection of different sized TVs from a brand that share similar features. This allows us to show a wider variety with less actual units on display. Finding the series with the right features allows you to compare your “apples-to-apples” options across all brands.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a 55″ TV with 1080p resolution and smart TV functionality. Find the TVs on display that are 1080p and smart rather than finding the 55″ TVs. As a side note, at Grand, we’ll often have popular sizes like 55″ in stock for all the series represented on our floor even if they’re not displayed on the floor in that particular size.

2. RIP Traditional LCD

That’s right, we already have an obsolete flat panel TV technology. Traditional fluorescent lit LCD panels – commonly referred to simply as LCD TVs – are a thing of the past as none will be available from any of the major manufacturers in 2013. When I heard florescent LCD was gone, I reflected fondly on my first buy as the audio-video buyer here at Grand. It was a shipment of Sharp Aquos 30″ 720p LCD TVs and as I recall, we got such a great deal from Sharp we could sell them at a blistering retail or $2,995 – $500 less than any of our competitors. To put that in the proper perspective, we now sell 39″ 1080p LED TVs starting at $399 and most 60″ LED TVs start at retails of less than that.

Of course, LCD screens will still be used in all 2013 LED TV models.

3. Buying an LED? Up the Hz.

Your TV works like a flip book – it displays a number of still images (called frames) in rapid succession to create the illusion of motion on your screen. Hz refers to the number of frames shown each second. Standard 60Hz LEDs display 60 frames each second; upgraded 120Hz or 240Hz rates double or quadruple that number. The advanced Hz rates were developed to overcome a natural limitation of all LED TVs. The liquid screen in an LED TV takes a moment to respond to motion on the screen. In 60Hz TVs, this creates a shadow or ghosting effect visible to most viewers – particularly with larger screen sizes. Increasing the rate of frames per second reduces or eliminates this issue producing smoother motion on the screen.

60Hz vs. 120Hz

60Hz vs. 120Hz

You may be told 120Hz is only needed for viewing fast motion content like sports, movies or video games. However, I argue 120Hz is a must for any TV viewing. Think about the news, for example. Not exactly what you’d consider rapid motion viewing, but definitely what I would consider 120Hz material. Newscasts consist of a heavy dose of close-up views of people’s faces and upper body. You pick up a lot detail viewing in HD and following the motion while maintaining the integrity of the high-detail image can be very difficult for a 60Hz TV – even though the motion is typically slow and deliberate. No one wants to watch a newscaster whose face is a mess of blur every time he or she speaks a word, furrows a brow, etc. Plus, many stations feature a ticker at the bottom of the screen scrolling the day’s breaking news. All that text streaming by is a lot easier to read when you up the refresh rate.

4. Don’t Forget About Plasma

Samsung's 8500-Series Plasma

Samsung’s 8500-Series Plasma

LED is a great technology. It’s the most efficient, slimmest, lightest, brightest and longest lasting technology on the market (apologies to the OLED crowd, it’s not exactly ON the market right now). That said, plasma represents a tremendous value as even ultra premium sets are consistently priced beneath comparably featured LED models.

In addition, pure picture nerds (like me) will always argue plasma has the better picture. To understand why, you have to know a bit about how plasma and LED TVs work. The screen on a plasma TV is made up of millions of pockets filled with plasma gas. The pockets can either be turned on to create colors or turned off to create a deep black. In addition, the plasma gas within each pocket can react instantaneously to changes in the image.

On the contrary, LED screens are made up of a liquid screen that produces an image and an LED light that produces the brightness. The light source is usually on the side of the TV shining inward and is always on.

So why is this all important? Here are the top three reasons:

  • Motion Response: In Tip #2 I discussed 60Hz LEDs vs upgraded 120Hz and 240Hz LEDs. Plasma doesn’t differentiate or need different determinants for fast motion. Its all super fast because the plasma pockets can react instantaneously to motion on the screen for a smoother image than any LED.
  • Black Levels: Black levels are the basis on which you build a quality picture. If a TV can do deep black, bright white and everywhere in between it can create a vibrant, clear image regardless of what’s on TV. Plus, deep blacks create wider contrast between dark and light so vibrant colors literally pop off the screen. Plasma blacks are better because the pockets can be turned on or off depending on what’s on the screen. You want color, pocket is on. You want black, pocket is off. In an LED, the light source is always on so the TV must mask it in darker areas to create a black, dark gray, etc. In many LEDs, this results in outputs often look more gray or deep purple than black. The best LEDs available can create pretty good black levels, but most still have trouble maintaining the consistency of the black across the panel resulting in “hot spots” of diminished blacks.
  • True Color: In the beginning of this section, Tip #3, I mentioned LED is the brightest technology available. LED manufacturers exploit this to overcome objections about inferior black levels. Unfortunately, amping up the brightness in the TV often results diminished color quality. Want to see for yourself, ask the salesperson at your store of choice to put on a sporting event played on a grass field and compare LED vs plasma. I’m pretty confident you’ll see the LED produce more of a neon green while the plasma produces a green more like what you remember – albeit not as bright as the LED.

In fact, in this humble reviewer’s opinion, unless you have $19,999 for LG’s 84″ Ultra LED model 84LM9600, which boasts resolutions four time that of 1080p, Samsung’s much lauded 8500-series plasma TV is the best TV you can buy. It features Samsung’s Super Contrast Panel, which delivers unprecedented brightness, the deepest black levels and precise colors and clarity.

I should note that plasma isn’t the solution for everyone. In general, if you watch daytime TV and your TV faces direct sunlight or you watch more than six hours of TV each day, I’d recommend considering LED. If not, don’t shut the door on plasma.

5. All Smart TVs Are NOT Created Equal

Samsung 2013 Smart TV Interface

Samsung 2013 Smart TV Interface

Smart TV is the biggest buzz word on our sales floor. We’re finding more and more consumers that want to be able to access the internet and popular web-enabled services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Skype through their TV.

If you’re among those interested in these services, I recommend asking to see the Smart TV interface on the TVs you would be interested in purchasing. Look at how fast it loads and how intuitive the menus are to use. This is particularly important if you’re planning to use the Smart TV functions heavily. The faster it loads and easier it is to use, the more you’ll use the functionality.

I’d even recommend considering a Smart TV with quad-core processor for the fastest access to your favorite apps and content. We’re all used to fast load speeds on other smart devices like phones, tablets and computers, shouldn’t we expect the same from our smart TVs.

6. Budget for Sound

Typical TV Wall

Typical TV Wall

Truth be told, TV manufacturers don’t have much motivation to include better sound in their TVs. If you’re shopping for a TV, chances are you’ll find a long wall with dozens of TV sets on display at your retailer of choice. Most consumers will simply pick the best picture for their budget and move on. So, a TV manufacturer is primarily concerned with their picture standing out among the rest – not necessarily ensuring you can actually hear the dialog on your favorite prime time show.

So, while TVs get thinner and brighter to win the aesthetic battle on the sales floor, speakers get smaller and are typically relegated to the back of the TV because they’ve run out of real estate on the front. In order for you to hear the content you’re watching, sound must to come out of the back of the TV, make a U-turn around the TV and make it’s way across the room to your ears in the listening area. I probably don’t need to tell you this doesn’t work very well. The effect is even worse if the TV is mounted on the wall. Imagine turning your back to someone, holding a phone book up to your face and trying to have a conversation.

More bad news, your TV is getting richer content via HDMI than it ever has before. Your cable/satellite box, blu-ray and gaming system is outputting hi-res, multi-channel surround sound audio and your TV is expected to use it’s thin, poorly-placed speakers to decipher that content and send it to you with some sort of clarity. Not a winning combination.

There is some good news, you don’t need to fill your room with bulky, obtrusive speakers and equipment. This sound problem has caused a revolution in the audio industry centered around slim, flat-panel matching solutions for improving the sound quality of your flat panel TV. We carry simple sound solutions quality brands like Polk, Bose and Sonos that will greatly enhance your TV viewing experience. Pricing ranges from approximately $300 to $1500 so there’s something of quality available within most budgets.

Bose CineMate 1SR

Bose CineMate 1SR

Bonus Tip: Check Out the Closeout Deals.

closeout-sale-banners-153Last but not least, be open to buying 2012 technology. You can get a great deal on a closeout TV this time of year. Every retailer – Grand included – is discounting old product to make room for 2013 models. Wherever you buy, be sure to check out the closeouts. Often pricing is as good or better than it was on Black Friday. Check out our Liquidation Center to see models we’re currently closing out.

Samsung Smart TVs

Samsung’s 2011 line of web-enabled Smart TVs have hit the market and are generating a lot of buzz on the retail floor. Smart TVs allow you to surf the web (select models), access popular web applications like Netflix, Facebook and Pandora, access files stored on networked devices in your home such as your computer or smart phone and even allow for enhanced control with smart phones and tablets.

The Smart TV feature is available on five LED series and three plasma series with retail pricing starting at $1,099 for a 40″ LED TV. Here’s what you need to know before you buy.

Smart Hub. The heart of the Smart TV system is the Smart Hub (pictured below). From the Smart Hub you can easily access content, games and more. Best of all, you don’t have to miss a minute of the action on TV while browsing the Smart Hub for content. Notice the box in the top left showing several hot air balloons. That box represents a live action feed of the TV broadcast while browsing the Smart Hub.

App-Based Web Content. Smart TV content is app-based so you can add and delete apps over time as needed. There are currently hundreds of apps available with more being added every day (click here for a full list). Listed below are the most popular apps by category:

  • Video On Demand: Netflix, Blockbuster, Vudu and Hulu Plus
  • Sports and News: ESPN Next Level, MLB.TV, AccuWeather, USA Today, AP News and Google Maps
  • Lifestyle: Facebook, Twitter and Picasa
  • Music: Pandora and Napster
  • Games: Sudoku and Texas Hold ‘Em

Skype. Skype is a free video chat service ordinarily confined to your computer or laptop. Not anymore. The Skype app is available on most models allowing you to video chat through your big screen TV. Samsung’s Skype camera accessory ($149) is required for use of this feature.

AllShare. AllShare is what enables connectivity with networked devices in the home like your computer and smart phone. Download the free AllShare app on your smart phone or enable sharing on your computer to pull pictures, family movies or music from your PC to your TV without a mess of wires or complicated connections.

Smart Phone/Tablet Control. Most of the functions on the Smart TVs can be controlled by a tablet or smart phone via Samsung’s free control application. Apple’s iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone and most Android devices are compatible with the controller app. What’s more, Samsung announced a partnership with Comcast and Time Warner Cable at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that could eventually lead to the ability to control of your cable subscription through the Smart TV platform and eliminate the need for a cable box. Stay tuned for developments on that front.

System Requirements. All Smart TVs can be connected to the internet using a standard Ethernet cable or wirelessly via WiFi. Ethernet provides the fastest, most secure connection, while WiFi provides good connection without extensive rewiring. In fact, many models are equipped with a built-in WiFi adapter so in many cases, they can connect to your existing WiFi network right out of the box. For the best WiFi connection, particularly for streaming video content, be sure you’re using an N router.

So if you’re tired of waiting for the next Netflix shipment to arrive or huddling the family around the computer to Skype with the grandparents or view pictures from your most recent vacation, a new web-enabled Smart TV might be up your alley. Samples are on display at all 12 Grand Appliance and TV locations now. Stop in for a test drive.