2D Performance 3D Performance Features Ergonomics Value
Price: $3,800 At A Glance: Exceptional black levels • Outstanding detail and color • Head-tilt 3D ghosting
With the growing popularity of LED backlighting for LCD HDTVs, it’s easy to forget that not all such backlighting is created equal. LEDs can be configured to provide either backlighting or edge lighting. In either case, the lighting can be steady, with image brightness dependent only on the pixels of the LCD imaging panel, which darkens the picture as the source requires. Or the lighting can be dynamic, in which the set can dim the backlighting or edge lighting from instant to instant, as needed, assisting the LCD pixels in adjusting for the optimum light output.
Sony's first Super Audio CD players were audio-only machines that did not play back DVD-Video discs. Fair enough—those machines were aimed at the top of the high-end audiophile market, and were priced accordingly. But with the DVP-S9000ES—the first DVD player to carry Sony's upscale "ES" badge—we have not only a first-class SACD player, but one priced within the reach of many home-theater enthusiasts.
At a press event in Pittsburgh, PA, last week, Sony announced two new rear-projection SXRD televisions. Previously available only in the company's upscale Qualia line, SXRD now enters a wider market. The 60-inch KDS-R60XBR1 and 50-inch KDS-R50XBR1 Grand Wega designs, at $5000 and $4000 respectively, are still priced toward the high-end, but they are now in direct competition with top-of-the-line sets using other digital display technologies.
Sony must have spent all year prepping for their press event. It was as elaborate as any Disney theme park show, much of it in 3D on a huge and super-wide screen consisting of millions of LEDs. It included a major promotion for The Green Hornet, a Sony Pictures flick that opens next week, and concluded with a performance by one of the 256 Cirque du Soleil troups now appearing on the Vegas strip.
Twenty-seven new Sony BRAVIA HDTVs were introduced. The leading character, and the new Sony flagship, will be the XBR HX929-Series, with full 3D capability and full-array local dimming LED backlighting. It's loaded with Internet features, and comes in three sizes: 65-, 55-, and 46-inches. Prices TBD. Available in March. Some of the new models also use Corning's new Gorilla Glass. It's said to be more resistant to damage than conventional glass, though I suspect you'll still want to hold off on tossing that brick at the screen during the 2012 Presidential debates.
Sony's new top-of-the-line stand-alone 3D Blu-ray player is the BDP-S780 (March, about $250). It's Wi-Fi (of course) with SACD playback as well as CD and the usual video suspects.
At a press event last week in Beverly Hills, California, Sony announced three new receivers and a Blu-ray player in the company's premium ES (Elevated Standard) line. Also new this year is a revised policy for ES sales. Unlike Sony's standard models, the ES series will be marketed exclusively through specialty retail outlets. These will include the Magnolia division of Best Buy and independent sellers. Sony feels that only such stores are fully qualified to properly demonstrate these products to consumers, allowing buyers to appreciate and take full advantage of the features they offer. Such limited distribution will also allow Sony to better enforce its minimum advertised pricing structure. The ES products will no longer be available online, nor will they be sold in Sony Style stores.
Last week, Sony invited hundreds of journalists to soundstages on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City California. The event: a kickoff of its new 3D component lineup, plus announcements of upcoming 3D software.
With Sony's recent announcement that it is discontinuing production of all rear projection sets, both LCD and SXRD, in favor of its flat panel LCD Bravia line, the video display landscape is becoming noticeably thinner. Yes, many major companies—Panasonic, Samsung, and Mitsubishi among them, continue to turn out rear projection televisions. But is the handwriting on the wall for this type of display?
It's a new world. Though many of us lament the passing of the CRT as the premier video-display technology in most manufacturers' catalogs, that passing is happening rapidly. One of the favored alternatives is LCD, in both flat-panel and rear-projection designs. The latter, which use small LCD panels in conjunction with a projection lamp and optical path, are at present the more economical of the two—particularly in the larger screen sizes.
The cathode-ray tube, or CRT, has been the mainstay of direct-view sets since Philo Farnsworth exclaimed, "Uncle Milty, come here, I need you!" And when projection television entered the scene, the trusty CRT stayed the course. While new technologies are beginning to make inroads on the market, virtually all of today's rear-projection sets still use three separate CRTs to produce an image. Despite its challengers, the CRT still provides the best combination of quality and affordability a consumer can get in a one-piece set. But CRT sets are complex, fussy, and, when used in the large screen sizes consumers now demand, massive. A typical 60-inch-diagonal RPTV can weigh 250 lbs and take up more space than a large refrigerator.
Viewing a good movie in a darkened room is an immersive experience. The image and sound command your full attention. Nevertheless, large numbers of potential buyers avoid projectors because they don't want to watch television and video in a completely darkened room. Many are infrequent moviegoers whose reference viewing environment is a domestic space, not a darkened theater. (There's an audio equivalent to this. I know audiophiles—<I>audiophiles</I>—who prefer watching movies with mono sound because they've been watching movies on their television so long that they consider surround—or even 2-channel stereo—to be a distraction!)