CES Samsung Keynote Report Card
Although a lot of different companies have a lot of reasons to succeed at CES this year, I'm really hard-pressed to find anyone more excited to generate positive attention.
And while Samsung dominates virtually every area it invests in; their CES lineup ran the gamut of wearables, appliances, computers, and televisions. Let's dive into each of these categories and see if they can move away from what President and COO of Samsung Electronics America Tim Baxter called "a challenging year for Samsung."
Throw Out Your OLED
After quickly glazing over their phones (which were covered more in depth in at a smaller conference yesterday,) Joe Stinziano took the stage. The Executive VP painted a picture of innovation and "transforming the TV experience."
Stinziano stated that the UHD market had grown 70% from Q3 2015-2016 and Samsung has 46.4% of that TV market in the US. Their biggest investment comes in the form of quantum dot technology.
Yes, it feels like just yesterday we were honeymooning with OLED, but Samsung promises that their quantum dot TV, dubbed QLED, is better in all aspects. Improved image quality, no degradation over time, and it supports "nearly all" DCI P3 color space, reproducing 100% color volume.Samsung's bottom line is that their QLED is the most optimal color spectrum money can buy and it will look good doing it.
And while the improved picture quality will be left to the debate of those with higher standards than the average consumer, their newest line of TVs really blew me away.
After being revealed, Stinziano revealed that the TV had an "invisible connection" in the form of just a single cable to a breakout box (sans power.) The sleek design sported a built-in wall mount that gave it an entirely flush look against a wall.
The TV sported a bunch of sweet features like control from a smartphone, voice control, and interface powered by Tizen that helps navigate between your favorite audio and video streaming services.
It also has some absolutely stunning mounts that really even if they don't catch on are, at best, innovative.
Wrapping up, Samsung also has showcased a soundbar that rocks the bass down to 35Hz and probably sounds good no matter what it is hooked up to, a second generation UHD Blu-ray player, and a curved 31.5" monitor.
The QLED line (Q9, Q8, and Q7) will hit retail by about spring with no price tag revealed at the moment. I'm excited to see how they will shake up the industry but not excited to explain another magical marketing word to the average consumer who simply wants something a bit more frictionless. That being said, Samsung promised innovation and by design alone they delivered.
Is Your Refrigerator Updating?
John Herrington took the stage to talk about all the white goods (or rather metallic goods) in today's home. The obviously more exciting product was a dual compartment washing machine and dryer combo.
The FlexWash and FlexDry boast two compartments each that give you the option of doing up to 6 cubic feet of wash (5 feet in the bigger) and 7.5 cubic feet of drying room, not including the top container.
As we are escorted into the kitchen, we are introduced to more IoT connectivity with nothing that really shined or was out of the ordinary.
Until the otherwise normal french-door fridge quietly rolled out in front of the crowd sporting a gigantic touch screen. Ready to go with FamilyHub 2.0, the fridge can organize calendar events, read recipes, search the internet, give a peek inside the fridge, stream music, and even reorder food all handsfree.
The newest line of washing and drying machines make me jealous. I want them, and I imagine I'm not alone. I'm a little skeptical that repairing them might be a nightmare, but I can imagine a ton of function from the smaller compartments for quickly washing and drying things an hour or so before leaving the house.
And the full kitchen IoT is standard with the territory of Samsung innovations.
But this fridge needs to stop. Frankenstiening a tablet onto a french-door fridge doesn't make it suddenly more useful. My phone, tablet, and a litany of other devices all do what the 250-pound tablet does and is one less place I need to organize my life.
Advertising that it can tell me what is inside my fridge via a set of cameras is a solution to a problem I didn't have. Restocking my fridge online is a solution to a problem I didn't have. Slapping a tablet onto a fridge is a solution to a problem I didn't have.
Please stop giving brains to all the devices, some are just fine being dumb.
Charting New Territory
Alanna Cotton (shout out to our Most Powerful Women in Consumer Tech recipient!) wrapped up the conference but was arguably the most exciting.
The Gear S3 is getting more functionality, apps, and will vie to stay relevant in an anemic smartwatch market.
What was really exciting was the Chromebook refresh courageously named the Plus and Pro. Again, picking a fight with Microsoft and Apple, against the Surface and iPad respectively. Both are built with Android app support and a familiar looking stylus for screen grabbing and highlighting objects like a laser pointer. The 360-degree hinge, all-metal chassis, and 2.5-pound pair are released in February at $449 for the Plus and an undetermined date and price for the Pro and basically, serve the same purpose, save a few minimal side-grades.
Their Notebook 9 sports a Kaby Lake processor, 1.8-pound body, and a GeFroce 940MX. It also has a bunch of inputs for SD cards and HDMI out making it at the very least functional, but otherwise lukewarm.
However, Samsung had one big finale in the form of a gaming laptop. The Notebook Odyssey is Samsung's first real venture in gaming. The gaming laptop combines a bunch of consumer demands like easy to upgrade ports, attention to cooling, and a rainbow of LED options. The mid-tier GTX 1050 will be more than enough to run most games with decent settings and the quad-core Kaby Lake i7 is no push over either.
I'm enjoying all these options from Samsung for laptops but I feel that they may be stretching themselves too thin.
The Chromebooks (despite the terrible naming scheme) will probably be just fine. Nothing more, nothing less. However, I've been very skeptical of Chromebooks and what their fate will be. I'm loving the agility of a light-weight, easy to use computer but once you creep into the $500 range it becomes a premium Chromebook. The price just isn't right for the product.
The Notebook 9 seems like a step in the right direction. With a slew of I/O's, a solid video card, and a shockingly light weight, this is what on-the-go laptops are all about. It boasts a huge battery and super-fast recharging and isn't limited by ChromeOS. It may be a darkhorse for one of the best laptops of the year.
And then we look at the Odyssey. Samsung wants a piece of the gaming pie so bad but this is not the way to do it. While they did some things right in the easy to remove panel and the industry standard LED, I don't expect the Odyssey to shock the world. We've seen a ton of tremendous computers come out of Acer, Asus, and MSI but this is simply not a contender.
The graphics card is just not strong enough to compete and the overall aesthetic occupies the wrong way. Samsung had the opportunity to really make their line of individual PC parts shine and pumped out a very forgettable gaming laptop. To be fair, we are seeing a lot of these come out in wild designs but I'm not sure anyone has ever asked for them.