OLED? Who needs OLED? That was one of Sony's messages here at CES, despite the fact that so far ,Sony is the only company to actually market an OLED TV, the XEL-1 set we reviewed several years ago.
In typical fashion the press conference was a star-studded event, with appearances by Men in Black 3 star Will Smith, director Barry Sonnenfeld, and singer Kelly Clarkson, who performed a song.
Instead, Sony's focus was on a new TV technology, which it is calling Crystal LED Display that uses LEDs as the TV's light source, so a separate backlight isn't required. Sony says the ultra-fine LEDs are mounted to each of the RGB colors, and the light source is mounted directly on the front of the display for better light-use efficiency.
Like the OLED TVs we've already seen at the show from LG and Samsung, the Crystal LED Display is capable of a wider color gamut, better contrast, and faster response times than traditional LCD TVs. Sony is only showing a 55-inch prototype of the TV, which didn't have a date for availability.
There was a lot of emphasis on enhancements to the Sony Entertainment Network, a common platform with a unified interface for content across TVs, game systems, and mobile devices. The service includes Video Unlimited, Music Unlimited. New to the service is PlayMemories Online, a cloud-based service for family photos and memories that will launch this spring.
Some Bravia LCD Internet TVs will be getting a newly designed Qwerty remote control that has a built-in microphone for voice control, and Sony is offering new lightweight titanium active 3D glasses for 3D-capable TVs.
In 2012, Sony will have three new series of Bravia TVs: the entry-level BX, the step-up EX, and the flagship HX. Some step-up models will get Sony's new OptiContrast panel that pumps up contrast by elevating the picture to the front surface of the TV against a dark background, the company says. Sony also has new versions of its Motionflow anti-blur technology
While the company isn't announcing any new Google TV series (it was the only manufacturer to sell Google TVs last year) it is offering boith a Blu-ray player and a new network media player with the features, and some new 2012 Bravia TVs models will link seamlessly for easier use of Google TV features.
Sony's new flagship LCD TV series if the Bravia HX850, offered in 46- and 55-inch screen sizes. The 3D-capable TVs have Motionflow XR 960 technology (for a 960Hz-like effect) to reduce motion blur, a dynamic edge LED backlight with local dimming, and built-in Wi-Fi. The TV, which sports Sony's frameless Monolitic design and Gorilla Glass, is Skype-ready for use with an optional webcam. The TV has access to Sony's extensive online offerings and apps.
Just below that series in price are the 3D-capable HX750-series sets, which are similarly featured 46- and 55-inch 3D-capable 1080p sets except for Motionflow XR 480 and the design. Another series, the EX640 sets, are offered in more screen sizes, but lack 3D, and come with an edge LED backlight without the local dimming feature, Motionflow 240 XR, and are Wi-Fi-ready.
For more budget-conscious buyers, Sony has the BX330 and BX450 series sets. Offered in 32, 40-, and 46-inch screen sizes, the BX330 series are Sony's entry-level 720p sets. The similarly sized BX450 models adds 1080p resolution. Both are 60Hz sets.
—James K. Willcox