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Sony Intros First XBR Plasma TV

8/08/2002 08:17:00 AM Eastern

Vancouver, Canada - Sony increased its commitment to plasma and rear-projection LCD technologies with the introduction of its first two XBR-series plasma TVs and first two XBR rear-projection LCD TVs, all with HD widescreen displays.

At a Wednesday specialty-dealer conference, Sony also expanded its commitment to DVI interface technology. All four new XBR models feature DVI inputs, as do two new second-generation TS2-series widescreen plasma TVs featuring integrated NTSC tuner and speakers.

With the introductions, Sony extended DVI for the first time to plasma and rear-projections LCD TVs, said Tim Alessi, marketing director for the visual network products division. In the past two months, Sony began shipping its first two DVI-equipped 4:3 direct-view CRT TVs, both non-XBR models. In September, they'll be joined by three previously announced DVI-equipped XBR direct-view models, one of which will be widescreen.

To go with the DVI-equipped TVs, Sony unveiled its first settop HD receiver with DVI output. It receives ATSC, NTSC and DirecTV SD and HD programming and ships in September at an expected retail of $899. Last December, Sony stopped shipping its predecessor, a non-DVI model at $799.

None of the new DVI-equipped products features 1394 connectors, but Alessi denied that the company is phasing out 1394, which appears in select current products. Sony 'will look at' future products with 1394, he said.

The two XBR plasma TVs, called Plasma Wegas, measure in at 50 inches and 42 inches with HD native resolutions of 1366x768 and 1280x768, respectively, said Alessi. The former is Sony's first 50-inch plasma. They feature integrated speakers but separate receiver units, and they're due in the fall at an everyday $15,000 and $12,000, respectively.

The XBR rear-projection LCD sets, called Grand Wegas, are 60- and 50-inch widescreen models due in October at expected everyday retails of $6,500 and $5,500, respectively. Their resolutions are 1366x768. The company previously offered a single LCD rear-projection widescreen set, also dubbed Grand Wega, but it wasn't part of the limited-distribution XBR series.

The XBR plasma and rear-projection LCD models are the first Sony plasma and LCD rear-projection TVs to incorporate Memory Stick slots to display digital photos. Sony already offers Memory Stick in CRT-based direct-view and rear-projection sets.

The company has no plans to offer DLP-based rear projectors, Alessi said. LCD provides the 'best balance' of slim design, improved picture quality, and light weight, he said.

In non-XBR introductions, Sony:

-- included DVI in its first tabletop widescreen rear-projection CRT TV. The 46-inch model, part of the open-distribution WT series, features Hi-Scan 1080i technology and is due in November at an expected everyday $1,899, excluding optional $200 stand.

--unveiled an upgraded front LCD projector with higher contrast ratio and black level. It features 16x9 XGA LCD panel at $6,499.

--showed new second-generation widescreen plasma displays with integrated NTSC tuner and speakers. The 32- and 42-inch widescreen models, comprising the TS2 series, are brighter and offer higher contrast ratios than their predecessors, and they add DVI. They ship in the fall at $6,000 and $8,000, respectively.

--introduced its first ES -series multichannel SACD/DVD-Video player, replacing a non-ES model that was distributed through ES dealers. It ships in October at an expected everyday $1,199 with SACD bass management and MP3 playback.

--unveiled its first two ES receivers with such custom-oriented features as 12-violt triggers, IR passthrough, and RS-232 ports.

--launched its next-generation virtual-surround IR headphones, which add 6.1-channel surround decoding at an expected everyday $799. It ships at the end of August.

In other comments, Sony reiterated its plans to market a dual-format DVD+RW/DVD-RW recorder in spring 2003, but no later than the end of March. The company hasn't determined whether to incorporate DVD-R capability.

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