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Samsung: We’ll have new plasmas, just not at CES 2014

LAS VEGAS — In the wake of Panasonic’s decision to abandon plasma, CNET along with the rest of the videophile world was eagerly anticipating word of Samsung’s plans for our favorite non-OLED display technology.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any official announcements yet. Unlike LG, Samsung said it will not reveal any new plasma TVs at CES 2014.

On the other hand, Samsung assured me it will release new plasma TVs later in the year. I spoke to Dave Das, VP of Home Entertainment for Samsung, and he said the company was planning to release new models around the middle of the year.

Catch CNET’s complete coverage of CES 2014

Even better, he mentioned plans to offer a less expensive version of the PNF8500 series, one of the best TVs of 2013. The new version, perhaps with a 7 series designation, would have similar picture quality to the 8500, but skip some of the extra features like the camera and elaborate metal stand, thus reducing cost. As someone who was pining for a videophile-grade, affordable plasma similar to the dearly departed Panasonic ST60, that description is music to my ears.

In the meantime, Das said the 2013 lineup would continue to be produced and sold. He stressed that none of these plans are final, however, which is why there’s no CES announcement.

I was told in a follow-up conversation with John Ryu, VP of Samsung’s Visual Display R&D office, that the lineup will encompass just a few models and, more tellingly, that he doesn’t think the technology has a future beyond 2014 at his company. He cited the difficulty of making a cost-effective 4K version–reportedly a factor in Panasonic’s pull-out–and the overall cost of production compared to LED LCD.

It’s impossible not to take these words along with Samsung’s sorta-non-announcement as another nail in plasma’s inevitable coffin. Samsung’s plasmas received very good to excellent reviews last year, and I fully expected to hear about their 2014 successors at the show. I guess Samsung didn’t want overshadow its extensive LED LCD announcements with news of any new plasmas.

The bottom line? TV buyers who value picture quality and don’t want an LED LCD can take solace that Samsung will continue making plasma sets, at least for a little while.

Updated with comment from John Ryu

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