By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sony recently unveiled more advanced lines of its Bravia LCD TVs and SXRD-based microdisplay rear-projection sets, highlighted by XBR models using the company's approach to 120Hz refresh rate technology.
In total, the company introduced, at a press conference held here, nine Bravia LCD TVs and five Bravia SXRD microdisplay sets. All feature 1080p "Full HD" resolution.
In both categories, Sony stepped up its emphasis on design, showing LCD TVs with new floating glass frame styles, and large screen SXRD rear-projection sets with significantly reduced cabinet depths, including select SKUs that were said to be 40 percent narrower than last year's models.
Both categories also include models that expand on Sony's popular use of interchangeable bezels or speaker grilles that accent the sets with a choice of color options.
"Bravia is not just about a pretty picture," said Randy Waynick, Sony home products division marketing VP. "It's an art. Now you've got flat panels that hang on the wall. So, we've worked hard to make them fit in and complement the environment."
New models all feature Sony's Digital Media Extender (DMeX), technology that employs a digital connection for the previously announced Bravia Internet Video Link module (shipping this summer at a $299 expected street price). The module will enable users to view select Internet-delivered video content including some planned high-definition offerings. Announced programming partners include AOL, Yahoo!, Grouper, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony BMG Music.
The video link mounts on the back of the set to allow a direct connection to the Internet via an existing broadband Ethernet connection (3Mbps or higher) without the use of a personal computer.
Having previously unveiled core TV line offerings at its spring line show, Sony used the summer showcase to focus on its more upscale offerings, including new XBR4 and XBR5 series models, much of which will see "sheltered distribution" through A/V specialty dealers equipped to explain the feature benefits.
Select Bravia LCD TV models feature 10-bit panels, Sony's "Motionflow" 120Hz high frame rate technology, and are capable of displaying the expanded color depth of forthcoming x.v.YCC — which Sony calls "x.v.Color" — encoded video content. The new LCD TVs are offered in three model series, including the XBR5, XBR4 and W3000 lines. Screen sizes in each include 52 inches, 46 inches and 40 inches.
LCD TV models also include Sony's Bravia Theatre Sync feature for unified one-button home theater system control when using components equipped with HDMI-CEC standard interfaces.
Another feature found in both the new LCD and SXRD models is a "Theater Mode" that adjusts the TV picture settings to a preset that was established in consultation with motion picture professionals for optimal movie viewing, Sony said.
New Bravia models also add a new Photo TV HD mode that sets the picture parameters to produce the look of actual printed photographs.
Bravia LCD TVs in the W3000 series include the 52- (shipping in August at a $4,300 expected street price), 46- ($3,500) and 40-inch ($2,700) screen sizes. The latter two models ship in July.
All come with a brushed metal picture frame bezel, and feature Live Color Creation technology using WCG- CCFL backlighting, 10-bit processing and a 10-bit panel to produce 64 times the color range of 8-bit panels, Sony said. This produces smoother transitions between colors and more accurate color shading.
The models also use what Sony calls its "Bravia Engine EX" video processing system with Digital Reality Creation-Multifunction v1.0 (DRC-MF v1.0) technology that optimizes the look of standard-definition sources that have been up converted for display on the high-definition screen.
Inputs include HDMI (60p and 24p), component video, and PC inputs (with supporting PC graphics cards).
The XBR4 series LCD models ship in August and include the 52- ($4,800 expected retail price), 46- ($3,800) and 40-inch ($3,000) screen sizes, and add to the 3000 series models a floating glass frame design with interchangeable bezel color options. All include Sony's MotionFlow 120Hz high frame rate technology that doubles the existing 60 fps rate by adding 60 unique fps to smooth out fast motion images.
The XBR5 series models also include the 52- (shipping in September at $5,100), 46- ($4,100) and 40-inch ($3,300) screen sizes. The latter two ship in August. XBR5 models feature a different piano black (non-interchangeable) bezel design with floating glass accent.
New Bravia SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) microdisplay sets feature Motionflow 120Hz high frame rate technology, reduced cabinet sizes, TheaterMode and PhotoTV HD mode settings, Bravia Theatre Sync and the Bravia Engine. XBR models also add Bravia Engine Pro circuitry with Digital Reality Creation-MultiFunction v2.5, which up-converts signals, including 720p and 1080i, to 1080p.
All models will display 1080p source material natively through HDMI connections, which support both 60p and 24p frame rates.
The A3000 line ships this August and features three new models in the 50- ($3,000), 55- ($3,300) and 60-inch ($3,500) screen sizes. All offer new cabinets that are about 20 percent thinner than last year's models, and interchangeable speaker grilles with four color options available at $50 each.
XBR5 models, which are said to be 40 percent thinner than its predecessors, are offered in the 60- ($5,000) and 70-inch ($6,000) screen sizes. Both offer side mounted input jacks to allow closer placement to walls and cabinet enclosures.
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