CES NEWS: Samsung launches five new LCD and plasma ranges - and dumps its model-number madness

Samsung has unveiled its flatscreen plans for 2008 and beyond - and is making it far easier to know the sort of set you're buying.

Yes, it's ditched its current, confusing model numbers and replaced them with five new numbered series of flatscreens, which include both plasma and LCD TVs - and some neat features including 'Touch of Colour' bezels, 3D gaming support, USB and Internet connectivity, and in-built flash memory.

"It's simple," said Rob Shaw, general manager of Samsung's UK TV division, "the higher the number, the higher the spec of the television".

Available from March/April, the entry-level 4 Series (pictured above) will feature six new 450-model sets – 26-, 32-, 37- and 40in LCD TVs, plus 42- and 50in plasmas - all with an HD Ready spec. There will also be a sonically superior 470-version 50in plasma, available in late May, and all the plasmas are 3D-enabled for expected future gaming developments.

Sticking with Samsung's entry-level models, the UK gets to keep the existing 19in 'Bordeaux' LCD, which will continue to be available in its gloss black or white finish.

Samsung expects the next range up - the 5 series - to be its most popular one. All the models will be Full HD TVs expected to cost as little as £100 extra than HD Ready screens of the same size in a bid to drive adoption of the higher-resolution sets.

There will be five, 550-model LCDs - 32-, 37-, 40-, 46- and 52in - plus a 50in plasma. The sets will be in shops by April.

Style starts to seriously set in at the 6-series level, with Samsung's new-look "Touch of Colour' range, which includes colour-injected moulding to give a "rose black" finish to a wide range of 650 LCD models.

There are 19- and 22in HD Ready models, then a Full HD line-up featuring 32-, 37-, 40-, 46- and 52in sets (pictured below). From the Full HD 32in upwards, each featured four HDMI sockets, 50,000:1 contrast ratio and a USB 2.0 socket for easy playback of MP3 music or JPG photos via your TV. Viewing angles and fast-motion handling have also been improved over standard LCD models, Samsung claims.

The Touch of Colour sets - available from June - will be a premium option, but (as with all the TV announcements) no more-exact indication of pricing was given.

Moving from design to technology, the first sets in the 7 series featured advanced connectivity - they are internet-enabled, allowing a range of content to be streamed directly to the set. Their USB connection also supports DiVX and MP4 video, and there's 1GB of built-in flash memory that'll allow you to store your favourite photos, for example - and that'll also come pre-loaded with content, including user manuals for your set.

The 750 sets will be available from June, in 40-, 42- and 52in Full HD LCD versions, each also including subwoofer-backed sonics.

Finally, the new flagship of Samsung's range: the 9 series, described as the company's best-ever LCDs. Due around October-time, these 46- and 55in sets will also be internet-enabled and feature Flash memory - but more importantly, they'll have a claimed contrast ratio of a mighty million-to-one.

As if all that wasn't enough, Samsung's also showing some of its possible future sets. It has 14- and 31in OLED prototypes, and expects to be producing real-life sets - in 40in+ sizes - by 2010. The ultra-thin sets are 40 percent lighter than today's flatscreens, have no backlight and offer a 1M:1 contrast ratio.

Keeping things trim, Samsung is also showing an 52in LCD TV that's merely an inch (2.5cm) thick. The 50,000:1 contrast ratio, Full HD model is expected to go into production next year.

Lastly, like several of its rivals here, Samsung is showing ultra-high-resolution display in action - an 82in Quadruple Full HD set with 3840x2160 pixels. The company expressed hope that it and its rival manufacturers can agree on a standard name for the fledgling technology, which is appearing at CES in many guises: 4X being our beery favourite!

Expect to see reviews of all the new sets in What Hi-fi? Sound and Vision from March onwards - looks like we'll be busy!

Technorati Tags: Flatscreen TVs, Internet TV, LCD, Plasma, Samsung