Sony KDL-52W4100 LCD TV Bravia Internet Video Link

Bravia Internet Video Link
As I mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to test the Bravia Internet Video Link (BIVL) module with the 52W4100. This module, officially dubbed DMX-NV1, can be mounted on the back of the TV with the included hardware. The documentation indicates that it's supposed to come with an HDMI and USB cable, but these were not in the package I received from Sony.

The required USB cable has a normal connector on one end and a "mini" connector on the other end, which I happened to have on hand. This cable connects the module to the DMex port on the back of the TV. The supplied HDMI cable has an L-shaped connector on the end that connects to the module, which is necessary if you want to attach the cable cover after making all necessary connections. I used a conventional cable without the cable cover.

Aside from USB and HDMI, the other connections include AC power and Ethernet to your network router. The module also has an HDMI input and USB port, which means you don't lose either type of connector when using the BIVL module.

When I connected the module and pressed the DMex button on the remote, a message appeared that informed me there was an update available, so I downloaded it. The update was complete in about 15 minutes, after which the XMB menu system had two new main items—Video and Network. In addition, the Setup menu had a new Internet Video item.

Selecting Network from the main menu brings up My Page by Yahoo! with weather, news, and traffic reports based on the zip code you enter. This is much like the RSS feeds from USA Today that are available on some high-end Samsung flat panels, such as the LN52A750.

The Video menu item displays a long list of "channels" that provide on-demand video content. As of this writing, there were 25 different sources, including CBS, CW, YouTube, Sports Illustrated, and Timeless TV, which offers episodes of classic TV shows from the vaults of Sony Pictures Television. Amazon On Demand will be added in September. Up to now, all of this content has been standard-def, but Sony will soon announce that some providers will offer high-def—in fact, I'm told that a few already do, though I didn't find any in my testing.

Selecting any of these "channels" brings up a list of available titles. When you select a title, it starts to download into a buffer and begins playing once the buffer has a certain amount of data.

I started with a "channel" from Wired magazine and selected a program about Virgin Galactic's efforts to develop commercial space travel. The show was only a few minutes long, but the playback kept starting and stopping as the buffer filled and emptied, which was very annoying. The system should buffer way more data before starting to play, but even that would not have helped much in my case. The Internet connection at Grayscale Studio downloads at about 3Mbps, which is clearly way too slow to keep up with BIVL's playback.

To test this further, I selected another short program about David Byrne's project to turn an entire building into a musical instrument. The program's duration was only 2 minutes and 23 seconds, but it took over 12 minutes to download completely—and that was with no other traffic on the network! I would need a download bandwidth over five times as fast as I have—over 15Mbps—for the buffering to keep up with playback.

After the download was complete, I was able to watch the program, and I have to say I was not impressed. The picture was very soft with lots of jaggies, no doubt due to the high level of data compression applied to the video. Combine that with the fact that most folks do not have anything near the bandwidth needed to make this a seamless experience, and I cannot muster any enthusiasm for it.