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Sony Announces New Products

March 6, 2007

As expected, Sony waited until late February to announce its new slate of TVs rather than have them get lost in the sea of CES 2007 announcements. They've got new LCD flat-panels, new LCD rear-projection sets, that new smaller Blu-ray Disc player (with more details), and an accessory box for the TVs that lets you connect them directly to the internet -- no computer required.

But first, some new information about the $599 BDP-S300 Blu-ray Disc player.

As mentioned earlier, the player will output Full-HD 1080p, and at 24 frames per second for movies; it will also be able to play CDs.

Of note, Sony's press release says the BDP-S300 also supports AVC-HD discs encoded with expanded color space xvYCC technology (which is supported by HDMI 1.3 but not earlier versions). So therefore the player must have an HDMI 1.3 output, which would not be surprising since the player will be released this summer.

The player also "offers multi-channel linear PCM digital audio output via HDMI, and can decode Dolby Digital Plus." Since the release does not mention Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, we're probably safe to conclude that it does not decode either of those.

Nevertheless, it should be able to pass those lossless formats in their compressed (un-decoded) form over the HDMI 1.3 output to an A/V receiver for decoding (which is probably the best way to go). While there are no receivers yet capable of decoding the two lossless formats, they will start hitting the market this summer.

Sony's seven new Bravia flat-panel LCD TVs fall in three series: a 31.5" KDL-32XBR4 (1366 x 768) set, two V-Series Full-HD models - 40" & 46" (1920 x 1080), and four S-Series 720p models - 26", 31.5", 40" & 46" (1366 x 768).

All of these sets are compatible with Sony's new Internet Video Link module, which mounts to the back of the television and connects to the internet via broadband Ethernet. With it you can access internet video programs, music videos, and movie trailers. Navigation is via Sony's XMB icon-based on-screen menu system which works with over-the-air, cable, satellite, or internet source content. The module will be available in July for about $300.

The 31.5" XBR4 set features Sony's "Live Color Creation" using a wide color gamut cold cathode fluorescent lamp (WCG-CCFL) backlight unit. The wide spectrum backlight enables the set to display more saturated realistic colors than LCD panels using conventional CCFL backlights.

The set sports a 10-bit video processor, and a 120 Hz refresh rate to eliminate motion blur. It has three HDMI inputs with 1080/60p and 1080/24p capability, and PC inputs. It will be available this spring; price TBA.

Sony's V-Series LCD flat-panels are Full-HD 1920 x 1080 sets: KDL-40V3000 and KDL-46V3000. These sets also have Sony's "Live Color Creation" technology and the 10-bit processor that "increases the television's gradation level by 64 times from 8-bit panels."

The V-Series sets also have what Sony is calling "BRAVIA Theatre Sync" which is a one-button command that integrates the operation of the TV with external components that are connected via HDMI. With one button, you can switch from among a variety of program sources.

The TVs accept 1080/60p and 1080/24p inputs. (60 and 24 are frame rates)

The V-Series sets will be out this summer.

Sony's new S-Series sets (1366 x 768) - 26", 31.5", 40" and 46" - have the Theatre Sync feature. The KDL-32S3000, KDL-40S3000, and KDL-46S3000 have the wide spectrum CCFL backlight with associated video processing ("Live Color Creation"); the 40" and 46" sets also have the 10-bit video processor.

The 26" model will ship this summer; the other will be available in the spring.

Sony's new 3-chip LCD Micro-Display RPTVs come in three sizes: 37", 46", and 50". The 37" is the first RPTV I've seen that small; it's a 1280 x 720 display. The 46" is the first Full-HD 1920 x 1080 RPTV/micro-display I've seen of that size. These sets give consumers new choices.

They're also 22 percent thinner than previous Sony Grand WEGA RPTVs. The 46" and 50" models are about a foot deep.

All three are compatible with the Internet Video Link module. They all have the XMB menu system.

The E-Series models (Full-HD 46" and 50") support both 1080/60p and 24p frame rates. "They process signals at a direct multiple of 24p to avoid artifacts, such as judder or flicker, when viewing next-generation high-definition formats like Blu-ray disc." This suggests that the sets can also display at a frame-rate that is a multiple of 24, but they don't say that and neither do they say what frame rate they "process" at. I wish the marketing people would have an engineer review their press releases to avoid all this ambiguity.

The KDF-46E3000 and KDF-50E3000 sets won't be available until July. We'll have to wait for prices (and detailed specs). The smaller KDF-37H1000 ships in May for about $1300.