The ‘Braviazation’ of Sony
Sony’s Bravia line of LCD televisions has become so successful – the no. 1 selling HDTV in the U.S., says the company – it was no surprise to see several new models unveiled, even up to 70 inches! Many of the sets offered ‘true HD,’ or 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) resolution, 10-bit LCD panels and support for the upcoming Bravia Internet Video Link (due out in July for about $300 U.S.), a small box with an Ethernet jack that streams video content from the Web directly to your television, via partners including AOL, Yahoo! and Sony’s own Grouper. It can also receive RSS feeds for local traffic, news, weather, and more. And because of its success on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and PlayStation 3, the Technical Emmy award-winning Xross Media Bar (XMB) will be an integral part of the Internet Video Link to easily navigate through all of your content, including television, movies, music, photos and more. Another feature announced for future TVs is something called Bravia Theater Sync, where users only need to press one button on a remote to perform multiple functions, such as turn on the TV, change the Video input, turn on stereo receiver and Blu-ray Disc player and press Play. The Bravia brand has proven so popular for Sony, they announced here at the Open House the name will also be used for non-LCD televisions – namely, their microdisplay (rear projection) sets, which are now 22 percent slimmer, and possibly its growing front-projection line of products.
While we likely won’t see these in production anytime soon, Sony wowed the crowds with a look at their OLED televisions – though they only had a pair of 11-inch TVs unlike the 27-incher shown at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) a month ago. Even still, the picture quality looked extraordinary. OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diodes, which can produce rich, colourful images and with exceptional contrast, resulting in incredible whites and super deep blacks. How good is the contrast ratio on these televisions, you ask? How about 1,000,000:1. Yes, compare that to a typical LCD television with only 700:1 contrast ratio. What’s more, these 11-inch prototype televisions were only 3mm thick! The Sony rep was reluctant to prophesize when we’d be watching 50-inch OLED TVs on our walls, but said their engineers in Japan are tirelessly working with the technology.
Zoom, HD cameras
Sony took the wraps off many new Cyber-shot digital cameras. One highlight was a teeny 8-megapixel digicam (DSC-T100) with an impressive 5x optical zoom and large 3-inch LCD screen that took up most of the back of the device. The camera will ship this March for $400 U.S., and will be available in red, black and silver. While bulkier, the Cyber-shot DSC-H9 (April; $480 U.S.) offered 15x optical zoom. All upcoming Cyber-shot cameras will support the VMC-MHC1 accessory, a HD component cable to view photos in high-definition on a compatible television. Sony says this is a first for the digital camera market. Depending on the model, this cable may be included. On the camcorder front, Sony showed an upcoming Handy-cam with 40x zoom, and announced their first high-definition DVD-based Handy-cam for under $1000 U.S. Since traditional DVD players can’t display HD video, you will need to attach the camcorder directly to your HDTV to see the video it captures in full HD.
And other goodies
* Sony showed off a number of car and home-based stereo systems with integrated Bluetooth connectivity. With an optional adapter, which looks like a Bluetooth headset with a cord that plugs into the mini headphone jack of a MP3 player, you can stream your digital audio to the stereo up to 30 feet away. No launch date, price or model number was given. More info is at www.sony.com/bluetoothstereo
* According to Sony, Blu-ray Discs are outselling HD DVD discs at a rate of about 3 to 1, and 19 out of the top 20 grossing films of 2006 are on Blu-ray Discs. While it’s still too early to tell which format – if any – will be the winner in this new disc war, Sony had on display 164 Blu-ray titles and announced two new models; the BDP-S300, available this summer, will be a more affordable player ($600 U.S.) compared to its current offering, the BDP-S1, available for $1000 U.S.
* Sony’s upcoming Vaio line of laptop PCs will offer Blu-ray Disc drives – and yes, Blu-ray recording capabilities, too – as well as integrated ‘place-shifting’ technology (based on its Location Free TV product) that lets you access your local television and other content anywhere in the world you’ve got an Internet connection. Demos of this streaming technology were also shown on a PlayStation Portable, which was wirelessly streaming live television from another source. As for personalization, upcoming Vaio computers will offer optional dye-sublimation artwork and custom engraving on their outer shells.