Sony has announced its 2013 range of BRAVIA LED TVs, with 17 models ranging from a $749 32-inch to the company’s existing $24,999, 84-inch Ultra HD behemoth. Almost all the new screens have built-in Wi-Fi, and several of the new TVs integrate NFC chips in their remote controls, for easy connection with mobile devices.
Also of note is Sony’s leadership in the ‘4K’ Ultra HD arena, with two new screen sizes — 55- and 65-inch — being added to its existing 84-inch display. The new, smaller Ultra HD BRAVIA TVs will become available in July, bundled with eight Sony Pictures Blu-ray movies that are optimised for viewing with an Ultra HD TV.
Sony’s 2013 TVs: the range
All Sony’s ‘Smart’ BRAVIAs have Wi-Fi built-in — this is everything but the cheapest range. Sony makes claim to the widest range of catch-up TV services in every one of its Smart TVs, with ABC iView, SBS On Demand, PLUS7 and Ten streaming directly to every screen. New this year is the Pandora Internet radio on demand service, as is the Yupp.TV Indian movie service — it joins Quickflix and Sony Video Unlimited for on-demand movies.
X9000A: Ultra HD
The top range is, as you’d expect, the BRAVIA X9000A and X9004A — these are the company’s best-of-the-best ‘4K’ Ultra HD TVs. The existing 84-inch X900 has been renamed the X9000A, with the 55- and 65-inch screens getting the X9004A moniker. All three screens are Ultra HD, with a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels — that’s four times the resolution of the 1080p Full HD screens that we’re used to at the top of the market.
Where the X9000A retains its locally-dimming, edge LED backlighting, the X9004A screens get Sony’s revitalised TRILUMINOS RGB LED backlighting system. Where Sony’s top LED TVs from 2009 had red-green-blue LED backlighting, able to cover a far larger colour gamut than standard white LED backlighting, it was discontinued due to high production costs. That tech is now back in the X9004A, with a few tweaks — all the backlighting LEDs are blue, with ‘quantum dots’ that alter the lighting to red or green when needed. What all this means is better contrast, a higher degree of colour accuracy, and power and brightness that should rival OLED.
Another draw-card for the X9000 series is Sony’s bundled extras. Buy a new Ultra HD TV, the 55- and 65-inch models of which will be available in-store in July, and you’ll be treated to eight of Sony’s ‘Mastered in 4K’ Blu-ray discs. Although they’re still technically only 1080p, the discs are optimised for playback on a 4K TV, with expanded colour gamut and a higher video bit-rate that should mean slightly more detail visible (albeit on any high-end TV, be it Ultra HD or Full HD, LED, plasma or OLED).
W900A: TRILUMINOS, NFC, acronyms aplenty
The W900A series is the company’s top 1080p Full HD screen, with both 55-inch and 46-inch screen sizes available for $3,999 and $2,999 respectively. Two interesting points here — Sony isn’t pushing larger screen sizes in non-Ultra HD any more, and its prices are significantly lower than Samsung and LG’s top models. This is a gradual turn-around we’ve been tracking for a couple of years now, but if the W900A proves to be of good quality it’ll actually be one of the better value premium TVs on the market.
The W900A’s selling point is the same TRILUMINOS tech that appears in the X9004A Ultra HDs. An allegedly far better backlight than the white edge LEDs (local dimming or no) that we’ve been seeing in the last couple of years means that the W900A is actually a significant technical leap for LED TVs — something we haven’t seen in a while.
The W900A will also be the top model to feature near-field communication (NFC) chips built into the TV’s remote control. If you’ve got a NFC-compatible mobile phone — obviously Sony would rather it be the Xperia Z — you simply tap the phone against the remote in an appropriate situation, whether you’re sharing a photo or video or mirroring the phone’s screen to the TV. It’s a minor feature but one that should cut down on the currently-imperfect process of sharing content from small to big screens.
From the W900A down, Sony offers smaller and larger screen sizes, gradually dropping in features as prices fall. All screens have Wi-Fi (apart from the R450A/R400A), and everything but the cheapest range has 3D.
W800A: Step-down, cut-price
The W800A loses the red-green-blue TRILUMINOS LED tech from the W900A, but retains NFC on everything but the smallest screen size. 3D TV support is standard, with four sets of glasses bundled. You’ll be able to buy the W800A in 55-, 47- and 42-inch screen sizes, for $2,599, $1,999, and $1,349 respectively.
W700A/W670A: Less accessories
The W700A is an anomaly in Sony’s 2013 screen line-up. A single $1,599 50-inch BRAVIA, it’s bundled with the NFC remote control that’s optional on the two W670A screens. No 3D glasses are bundled in any of the W670A or W700A, although 3D support is built-in. The W670A is available in 42- and 32-inch screen sizes, for $1,049 and $749.
R550A: Big screens, small prices
The made-for-the-mainstream R550A line-up from Sony comprises three display sizes — a 70-, a 60- and a 50-inch LED TV are all offered. This is the only series of Sony TV that’s available in bigger than 55-inch without being an Ultra HD screen. Prices are $4,999, $2,999, and $1,999 respectively. Buy an R550A and you’ll get four pairs of 3D glasses included, although no NFC support is available even with the optional remote.
R450A/R400A: For budget buyers
Available in 40- and 32-inch screen sizes, the prices for the basic R450A and R400A screens from Sony are still up in the air. The R450A is the 40-inch screen while the R400A is the 32-inch, and while both are Full HD 1080p panels there’s not a great deal of connectivity beyond MHL for smartphones and USB for downloaded media files.