While flagship LED TVs are generally well equipped in the features department, no maker has pushed the envelope further than Samsung. The headline goodie found in its high-end series is Smart Interaction, which lets you abandon the remote control in favor of voice and gesture commands. Down the road, however, the company's Smart Evolution module technology could be even more valuable. Smart Evolution lets you add new features and functions offered in future Samsung sets to older ones -- in theory, that is, since no modules have yet been released and their cost is still unknown. Samsung's 2012 high-end sets will be the first compatible with Smart Evolution.
Among Samsung TVs with these features, the Samsung ES8000 series gets the best reviews. There are some quibbles with how useful or well executed things like Smart Interaction really are, however. One thing is certain, there is a learning curve with mastering the system. More pedestrian features like 3D are well executed, and Samsung includes four sets of glasses; extras are only $20 each. Internet streaming is robust, with a great library of content partners, but the interface is a bit "cluttered," some say.
Turning to picture quality, what you see on the screen is very good, but not as good as what's found on some other sets, including the Sony HX850 or the Vizio M3D0KD. That's a major letdown considering this TV's premium price: *Est. $2,500 in the case of the 55-inch Samsung UN55ES8000. Like Sony, this and other high-end Samsung TVs are subject to a Unilateral Pricing Policy.
If you are a fan of Samsung sets and you can live without the sexiest features of the ES8000, namely Smart Interaction and Smart Evolution, the ES6000 series gets some nice -- but not completely so -- feedback. Picture quality is roughly the same, as are the core 3D and streaming features, though styling is a little plainer. Cost, however, is considerably less, and the series is available in seven screen sizes, from the 32-inch UN32ES6500 (*Est. $800) up to the 65-inch UN65ES6500 (*Est. $2,700).
In the race for the features crown, honorable mention has to be given to LG. Unfortunately, when it comes to picture quality, things look decidedly worse. A case in point is LG's LM9600 sets, such as the 55-inch LG 55LM9600 (*Est. $2,700). Considering that it is equipped with its own cutting-edge features -- notably a Magic Motion controller that makes short work of the sometimes tedious task of scrolling through set menus and using Internet features -- and a stunning design, reviewers seem almost shocked by the picture quality, especially the disappointing black levels. The negative feedback is amplified by the fact that LG was among the picture-quality leaders in 2011.
If you like the look of the LM9600 and its features, including the innovative Magic Motion remote control, the company's LM7600 series draws better comments. Picture quality of sets in the series, such as the 55-inch LG 55LM7600 (*Est. $1,600), is no better, but nearly all of the goodies found in the LM9600 set can be found in the LM7600 as well, and at far lower street prices. In addition to the Magic Remote, you'll find well-executed Internet streaming with a good roster of streaming partners, as well as passive 3D, similar to what's found in Vizio's LED TVs. If you don't care about an enhanced refresh rate (ignore the 120 Hz TruMotion spec, as the set's native refresh rate is actually 60 Hz), the step-down LM6700 series, including the 55-inch LG 55LM6700 (*Est. $1,500), is otherwise identically equipped and can save you a tiny bit more.