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Sony Bows ‘Full HDTV’ Push, More BRAVIA, SXRD TVs

Los Angeles — Sony Electronics used the Home Entertainment Show, here, to unveil six new BRAVIA LCD TVs and five SXRD-based rear-projection sets featuring resolution and HDMI inputs capable of full 1,920 by 1,080p resolution.

Sony executives said they will underscore the 1,080p capabilities of the TVs in a “Full HDTV – 1,080” promotional campaign that uses the Blu-ray Disc format with 1,080p output capability as its foundation. The company will sell its first Blu-ray Disc player in late summer at a $1,000 suggested retail price.

Jeff Goldstein, Sony A/V product marketing VP, said, “It’s time to ask ourselves ‘What kind of HD experience is our industry really offering?’ As always, when it comes to high definition, Sony believes that we need to set the right expectations for consumers by developing technology that provides the very best HD performance possible.”

New BRAVIA 1,080p LCD TVs include six models in 40W-inch and 46W-inch screen sizes. Also announced was a 32W-inch BRAVIA set featuring 1,366 by 768 (WXGA) screen resolution.

The new LCD TVs will be offered in three product series — V Series, XBR 2 Series and XBR 3 Series. All XBR models offer a floating-glass design, and Sony’s Live Color Creation technology featuring Wide Color Gamut Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp (WCG-CCFL) backlight that improves color realism.

New models also feature the BRAVIA Engine Pro full digital high-definition video processing system with Sony’s Digital Reality Creation Multi Function Version 2.5 (DRC-MFv2.5) processor designed to address standard NTSC up to 1,080i high-definition signals.

The top of the line XBR3 Series, which ships in September, includes the 46W-inch KDL-46XBR3 ($5,300 suggested retail) and 40-inch KDL-40XBR3 ($4,300). Both feature native 1,920 by 1,080 panel resolution and three HDMI inputs with 1,080p capability.

XBR3 models also offer floating glass-encased, high gloss, piano black bezels with side speakers, built-in ATSC tuning, PC input, two high-definition component, one S-video and three composite inputs.

The new BRAVIA designs were tested with focus group studies, said Randy Waynick, Sony Home Products Division senior VP.

New XBR2 BRAVIA models feature BRAVIA Engine Pro processing, and HDMI inputs with 1,080p capability. Shipping in September, the 46W-inch KDL-46XBR2 ($5,000) and 40W-inch KDL-40XBR2 ($4,000) feature silver bezels that can be replaced by one of five different colored bezels for custom integration into any décor. The optional bezels come in five colors, including red, white, blue, black and brown.

These models also feature the same audio package, built-in ATSC tuner, PC input, two high-definition component, one S-video and three composite inputs. Rounding out the XBR2 line is the 32W-inch KDL-V32XBR2 model featuring a 1,366 by 768 screen resolution. It will ship in September at a $2,400 suggested retail price, equipped with Sony’s BRAVIA Engine and Live Color Creation, which delivers a sharp and rich picture from standard definition sources as well as high-definition, according to the company.

The set’s narrow, two-tone black and silver bezel incorporates invisible bottom speakers with SRS TruSurroundXT and BBE Digital Enhancement technology. Other features include a built-in ATSC tuner, single HDMI and PC inputs, as well as two high-definition component, two S-video and two composite inputs.

In the BRAVIA V2500 Series, the company will offer the 46W-inch KDL-46V2500 ($4,500) and 40W-inch KDL-40V2500 ($3,500). Both feature 1,080p resolution and two 1,080p-capable HDMI inputs, the BRAVIA Engine and Live Color Creation technologies.

Cosmetics include a black bezel, and space-saving bottom speaker design optimized for placement in existing AV cabinets.

Other features include a digital amplifier with SRS-TruSurround XT and BBE Digital Audio Enhancement technologies for high-quality sound, a PC input, two high-definition component, two S-video and two composite inputs.

The company also launched five 1,080p SXRD rear-projection HDTV sets in screen sizes ranging from 50W inches to 70W inches. The assortment has been expanded to five from three last year.

In the XBR2 SXRD line, the company introduced the 70W-inch KDS-R70XBR2 ($7,800 suggested retail) and 60W-inch KDS-R60XBR2 ($5,300), which will both ship in early fall. This year the company opened the XBR Series up to national accounts as well as regional and A/V specialty accounts, but will not be open to warehouse clubs or mass merchant discounters, said Phil Abram, Sony TV product marketing VP.

Features include Sony’s WEGA Engine HD video signal processing system and Digital Reality Creation Multi Function Version 2.5 (DRC-MFv2.5), high-resolution video processing technology that digitally maps conventional NTSC up to 1,080i HD signal sources. The sets’ Cinema Black Pro mode delivers up to a 10,000:1 contrast ratio based on overall light levels of the original signal.

Also added are CableCARD slots and TV Guide On Screen programming guides. Other features include two HDMI inputs with 1,080p capability, front HDMI HDV camcorder connection and a PC input. XBR models also feature side speakers.

The KDS-R70XBR2 and KDS-R60XBR2 units will ship in early fall and be available for about $7,800 and $5,300, respectively.

In the SXRD A2000 line the company is offering three models shipping this summer in the 60W-inch ($4,500), 55W-inch ($4,000) and 50W-inch ($3,500) screen sizes. Abram said pricing in the series has been reduced to appeal to a broader audience.

All three include new compact, bottom speaker cabinet designs, the WEGA Engine system and Cinema Black Pro with up to 10,000:1 contrast ratios. All offer two HDMI inputs with 1,080p capability and a front component input for HDV camcorder and PC input.

To underscore the “Full HD” message, Sony said its BDP-S1 Blu-ray Disc player ($1,000) will output full 1,080p resolution, and will playback and up-convert standard DVDs to picture quality approaching HD. The HDMI output will also handle Dolby Digital, DTS and up to eight channels of uncompressed digital audio. The player will also support Java-based interactivity for a variety of extra content on move discs, including video game capability.

Other video enhancement features include Sony’s Cinema 2 and picture presets with three modes that automatically set contrast, brightness, color saturation and hue levels to match different ambient lighting conditions. Three user modes also enable adjustment of a number of picture parameters including custom white level, black level, and hue and chroma levels.

“Sony is taking a full HD approach to both our latest sound and source components. Without a full HD marketing strategy, consumers won’t experience all the benefits of Blu-ray Disc and other high-def home entertainment,” said Goldstein. “Instead they’ll only realize just another underwhelming format introduction — the kind that has negatively affected the other next-gen platform. Therefore, Sony has decided to expand our initial Blu-ray Disc launch plans into a series of milestone events.”

The campaign begins June 3 by previewing the Sony BDP-S1 in top SonyStyle stores, expanding to over 40 locations across the country in the next few weeks, Goldstein said. Later this month, Sony will also conduct Sony Blu-ray Disc demonstration and promotional events at leading retailers, eventually reaching 100 venues nationwide.

The prelaunch will be underscored by a consumer- and trade-publication advertising campaign that underscores Blu-ray Disc’s primary benefits, Goldstein said.