Sony Drops Prices on New Rear-Projection HDTVs

As of March 1, Sony Electronics is offering a nice inducement to home-theater fans: a 30% reduction in the suggested retail prices of 53" and 61" high-definition rear-projection television sets. 1999 list prices for 53" and 61" HDTV RPTV models were $4499 and $5499, respectively. The equivalent models for the year 2000, the KP-53HS10 and KP-61HS10, will be priced at $3199 and $3699—a discount of approximately 30% from the previous year. Both sets are capable of displaying pictures at 1080i, the highest quality of all varieties of digital video. The price reductions are encouraging news for broadcasters as well as for consumers, as more than 120 stations nationwide now offer HD programming.

Viewers will also get maximum enjoyment out of legacy video sources and NTSC broadcasts, according to a company press release. Both the KP-53HS10 and KP-61HS10 big-screen TVs incorporate the latest generation of Digital Reality Creation (DRC), a "proprietary technology that converts analog signals to that approaching high-definition quality, resulting in clean, vibrant images. . . . DRC bit-maps the original NTSC and standard-definition (480i) signals in real-time, doubling the number of scanning lines and pixels per line, creating a picture with four times the image resolution. As a result, conventional NTSC programming approaches the picture quality of high-definition TV."

DRC upconverts NTSC signals (from any source) from 480i to 960i. The HS-series sets can also accept and display 480p signals from progressive-scan DVD players in anamorphic 16:9 widescreen form. Component-video inputs and an S-video connection are said to provide superior performance with HDTV receivers. Two-tuner picture-in-picture is a standard feature on Sony's upper-end sets, as is a substantial onboard 2-channel audio system with 40W of power. Sony claims that Virtual Dolby Sound with Dolby Pro Logic processing "can reproduce [the] lifelike sound of rear speakers using only the stereo pair built into the television cabinet." Still, most people in the market for a high-definition display will also want an external multichannel audio system.

The new HD sets will be available in the spring, as will a new series of mid-priced and entry-level video products from Sony, which this year is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the KP-4000, the world's first projection television for the home.

In other Sony news, the company announced February 23 that it will integrate its research and development operations for digital television receivers worldwide. The corporation is hoping for a more than 30% reduction in R&D costs, according to Japanese news agency Nihon Keizai Shimbun. The plan includes standardizing common digital-signal processing chips, software, and decoding devices for equipment destined for the Japanese, North American, and European markets. Digital TVs made under the common specifications will appear sometime after this summer, with further price reductions possible.