updated 03:20 pm EST, Sun January 15, 2012
Samsung 9 Series desktop, WB150, and QF20 at CES
Samsung had a few extra stand-out devices at its CES booth this past week, and we got to try many of them. The Series 9 All-In-One PC is effectively Samsung's answer to the 27-inch iMac. Whatever you think of Samsung's affinity for Apple design, the 9 is certainly unique just from aesthetic perspective: it uses Samsung's distinctive asymmetric look and tucks all of the computer into the base, leaving the display itself to be less than half an inch thick.
The 1080p LCD also has a unique trick that lets users flip it to 3D whenever they want through a simple toggle, although it's only really useful for games and videos. Our core gripe with the Series 9 was its display flexibility; it's not as easy to pivot as an iMac, for example. And if you're more concerned with resolution over 3D, the 2560x1440 iMac display is unquestionably smarter.
Performance isn't easy to test for a desktop at a show, but it's clear Samsung is being aggressive here. The Series 9 AIO will use an Ivy Bridge-based Core i7 processor and a Radeon HD 6730M for video when it ships, and the floor unit's present-day Core i7 was still fast. Ivy Bridge isn't expected until spring and may see Apple catch up or leapfrog Samsung in speed.
For those who want a Samsung screen, there will be a Series 9 Display as well; it will have the 2560x1440 resolution and high-color output you'd expect of similar screens. At $1,200 for its March ship date, though, it's not as cost-efficient as a $999 Apple Thunderbolt Display if you happen to have a Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt port on your computer.
The Wi-Fi cameras included three still cameras, the ST200F, WB150F, and WB850F, as well as the QF20 camcorder. We focused most of our attention on the WB150F as the one we were most likely to get: the differences between the three center on their zooms (10X, 18X, and 21X) and sensor megapixel counts (12, 14, 16.2). The WB850F may be the one you want if you value low light shooting, owing to its backside-illuminated CMOS sensor.
Samsung has gone so far as to include a dedicated dial for Wi-Fi modes on the cameras, which we consider smart; it's effectively a quick sharing mode. Once there, Samsung presents a very simple but also flexible way to get photos off the camera. Apart from sharing to social networks, it's possible to automatically backup photos to a place such as Microsoft's SkyDrive, share locally over DLNA, or even use a smartphone as a remote viewfinder. In spite of Internet access being congested at the show, we liked using Wi-Fi for much more than just sparing a USB cable.
All three cameras have features like Motion Photo, Split Shot compositing, and a "live" panorama shooting mode that just lets users hold down the shutter button. The WB150F and WB850F both have full manual controls -- a much appreciated factor for experienced users -- and three-inch AMOLED screens that were very colorful and bright in floor conditions. Samsung didn't have pricing or ship dates, but we suspect they won't be expensive; they may be good companions for those who like to post to Facebook or Twitter but want something as a step up from (or a companion to) a smartphone.
The QF20 looks like a typical barrel-shaped, touchscreen-driven camcorder, but has a rare option to upload to Facebook, Picasa, or YouTube. It's not entirely different from pocket camcorders in that sense, but the 1080i video quality and 20X optical zoom certainly make a difference. We most liked the ability to flip the camera and use it left-handed: while the hardware buttons don't change roles, the camera through a motion sensor inverts the image and touchscreen to keep it working naturally for left-handed owners.
Again, Samsung was silent on when the QF20 would ship and for how much. We'd say pricing might be the key, since a high price is likely to keep users on their Galaxy S II or iPhone for Internet-connected video if the company isn't careful.