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Sony Boosts Selection of Plasma, Rear-Projection LCD, DVI

Sony increased its commitment to plasma and rear-projection LCD 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 specialty-dealer conference, here, 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.

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

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, those models will be joined by three previously announced DVI-equipped XBR direct-view models, one of which will be widescreen.

(For ES-series audio introductions, see p. 26.)

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 1366×768 and 1280×768, respectively, said Alessi. The former is Sony’s first 50-inch plasma. They feature integrated speakers and separate NTSC-receiver units, and they’re due in the fall at $15,000 and $12,000 suggested retails, respectively.

The XBR rear-projection LCD sets, called Grand Wegas, are 60- and 50-inch widescreen models due in October at suggested retails of $6,500 and $5,500, respectively.

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.

The XBR plasma models bring Sony’s Wega to plasma for the first time. It’s said to minimize the number of D/A conversion processes, the engine includes reverse 3:2 pulldown technology to minimize motion artifacts from film-based content. Other engine parts include composite component processor to increase the S/N ratio when converting analog signals to digital, Digital Reality Creation to upconvert digital SD video to HD quality.

Both XBR plasma models also feature 40-watt audio output, “floating” glass-panel design, and new panel driver LSI to improve contrast and deliver greater scene depth.

Compared to the company’s first LCD rear projector, introduced last year outside the XBR series, the new XBR models boost black levels by 25 percent. They use three wide XGA LCD panels, one for each color signal. Other features include Digital Reality Creation, reverse 3-2 pulldown, and 30-watt three-way speaker system.

The XBR plasmas and LCDs SRS TruSurround to deliver phantom surround channels without limiting the effect to a narrow sweet spot, the company said.

For more on Sony’s video lineup, see