Sony's best LCDs in today's announcements are disappointingly not in the top of the line XBR series of Bravias, but additions to their still high-end V-series of LCDs. The 1080p models come in 40 and 46-inch sizes, dubbed the KDL-40v3000 and KDL-46v3000, respectively. They get many tricks, including upscaling from standard def sources to full HD, and the ability to control devices via HDMI cable. But the most remarkable upgrades are the "Xross" media bar UI ripped from the Playstation 3, 10-bits per pixel processing for much finer color, native support for the real frame rate of almost all modern films, and internet video. That's enough to make me forget my beloved XBR..
Before I get onto explaining those last three, let's go over the rest of the line.
The S-Series Bravia LCDs are 1366 by 768 sets that will handle 720p, but won't do more than that natively. That's fine for the 26 and 32 inch models (KDL-26s3000 and KDL-32s3000) but the 40 and 46 inchers (KDL-40s3000 and KDL-46s3000) sound kind of icky at those pixel counts. The TV gets internet video, 10 bit processing and the Cross Media UI.
Then there's the odd duck, the XBR4, which sounds like an evolutionary top of the line product. Except that this is a 1366 by 768 32 inch monitor. It has mostly everything the V-series has, allowing for splits in the jargon that have no bearing in common understanding, and the addition of 120Hz output. That's special, as we'll explain below.
Deciphering the codex of new TV spec sheets is never simple. These, and most of Sony's 2007 LCD HDTV see improvements in several ways: A
Most superficially evident and interesting is that the PSP and Playstation 3's cross media interface is being used on all of the new sets. The XMB, isn't bad, as far as UIs go, because its incredibly quick and difficult to get lost in. We saw this UI used on a Sony receiver, but these are the first TVs to get the fancy onscreen menus.
Getting into the nitty gritty of the video systems, all but the lowest-end sets get 10-bits of processing, per pixel, giving colors/greys 64 times the level of detail compared to 8-bit processing. We're checking into the question of whether that needs special media to execute the added detail, or if this is something that is interpolated from existing color depth. Charlie will check out a demo to see if the improvement is noticeable in person, too. Some TVs in the line also get 120Hz video, which takes regular video and interpolates frames in between real ones to reduce motion blur and judder. We wrote about the best benefits of 120hz TVs before, specifically the ability to replay most movies in their 24 frame per second native format, without the shimmering that occurs when 60Hz TVs try to fit 24 frames per second evenly into the space of 30 frames per second.
Last and least, all seven of the new TVs are getting compatibility with Sony's Internet Video Link system, which we have serious reservations about. Free content from minor league providers, plus Spiderman 2 in HD as a bone from Sony Pictures? Please, if there's one thing the PSP's disc, the UMD, taught us, it's that any format that uses a spiderman film as the kingpin in its launch is doomed to fail.