The Evolution Kit has many benefits, but they don't add up to $299.99
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There are always folks who complain about technology’s great pitfall: what you buy this year will be obsolete next year. This is true for cars, computers, smartphones, and yes, TVs. That $2,000 television you bought last year? It’s now on sale for $1,000 and its features pale in comparison to the new model.
With Samsung’s Evolution Kit, you can feel a little better about last year’s big purchase.We say “a little better” because, as interesting as this concept is, it isn’t the most useful addition to your TV. At its core, the Evolution Kit gives select 2012 Samsung TVs the company’s current smart platform, a quad-core processor for better navigation, and the 2013 Smart Touch Remote. While we raved about the new Smart Hub, you need to remember: This little kit comes with a $299.99 price tag and it's only compatible with high-end 2012 Samsung smart TVs. Is this smart-platform-in-a-box worth the price of admission?
Installing the Evolution Kit is way less complicated than that whole evolution thing. The package includes the Evolution Kit, Samsung’s 2013 Smart Touch Remote, and an ethernet adapter. To use a wired internet connection after setup, users must plug their ethernet cable into the Evolution Kit via the adapter—the TV's ethernet port will not work after installation. Weird, but not a big deal.
Before you even think about purchasing one of these kits, you need to have one of the following high-end 2012 TVs:
If you have one of these TVs, the actual installation consists of removing the Evolution Kit sticker on the back of your display, which reveals a slot for the little box. Unplug your TV, insert the kit, then plug the TV back in. After powering on, your 2012 Samsung television will begin the installation process, which doesn’t require you to do anything—just sit back and relax.
Once the new software installs and updates—this took us almost an hour—your Samsung TV will behave like a new model. We went through the same setup process as 2013 Samsung smart TVs, which involves linking your cable content to the new user interface.
One slight difference when using the Evolution Kit is that it utilizes Samsung’s 2012 IR Blaster, which looks like a tree stump. This device functions the same way as the 2013 IR Blaster, except it's wireless and requires batteries... and it's significantly larger. You’ll still be able to flip between channels using just your Samsung remote, which is a luxury compared to juggling different controllers. Long live the IR Blaster!
We’re big fans of Samsung’s 2013 Smart Hub, but does that mean everyone with a high-end 2012 Samsung smart TV should buy this? Not at all. It’s great that Samsung designed some of its TVs with a slot for the Evolution Kit, but at its core, this is just an external smart TV device like an Apple TV or Roku box with the added benefit of smoother navigation. And while we can't complain about increased processor performance, the 2012 Smart Hub still performs adequately, so is the additional horsepower necessary? This is a smart TV, not a processor-intensive device like your phone or laptop.
The asking price of $299.99 is a bit much for a new smart TV interface and remote—I hate to keep bringing up the Apple TV, but that device only costs $99 and gives you most of the same streaming options. Speaking of streaming options, Samsung's 2013 Smart Hub doesn't have any more services than the 2012 iteration—just a cleaner interface. True, the Evolution Kit brings cable integration to your TV—a huge boon if cable programming is part of your everyday routine. If you've ditched cable in favor of streaming services, though, stick with what your Samsung TV already has.
Amazon is already selling the Evolution Kit for $100 less than its MSRP, which is a much more appealing price. If you own one of the four Samsung 2012 smart TVs that supports this upgrade—and you’re really bored of Sammy's 2012 smart TV interface—consider picking up an Evolution Kit. Otherwise, stick to what you have.
Here's hoping that next year's eventual Evolution Kit will bring more concrete benefits.