At a press event last week in Beverly Hills, California, Sony announced three new receivers and a Blu-ray player in the company's premium ES (Elevated Standard) line. Also new this year is a revised policy for ES sales. Unlike Sony's standard models, the ES series will be marketed exclusively through specialty retail outlets. These will include the Magnolia division of Best Buy and independent sellers. Sony feels that only such stores are fully qualified to properly demonstrate these products to consumers, allowing buyers to appreciate and take full advantage of the features they offer. Such limited distribution will also allow Sony to better enforce its minimum advertised pricing structure. The ES products will no longer be available online, nor will they be sold in Sony Style stores.
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Superb resolution • Accurate color in THX mode • Black level disappoints, but still solid • 2D only
Price and Performance
LCDs are now soaking up a larger and larger percentage of the market, and it’s been hard slogging for plasma displays. But that doesn’t faze Panasonic. As the sole remaining major Japanese plasma manufacturer, it offers a huge range of models. Yes, Panasonic also does LCDs, but only in smaller sizes. If you see a Panasonic HDTV that’s 46 inches or larger, it will be a plasma.
The last couple of weeks felt like 3D festivals in Los Angeles, with nearly simultaneous press events involving Digital Projection, Sony, and Panasonic. Panasonic's was by far the more relaxed, intimate affair. With just a few journalists briefed at a time, there was more opportunity to absorb the information and get answers to questions we didn't even know we had until recently.
Last week, Sony invited hundreds of journalists to soundstages on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City California. The event: a kickoff of its new 3D component lineup, plus announcements of upcoming 3D software.
Price: $2,900 At A Glance: 10-step calibration option • Strikingly deep blacks • Crisp resolution and accurate color • Local-dimming LED technology
Black Is the Color
Although 3D is about to make a loud buzz in the HDTV world, most current sets aren’t ready for the 3D gravy train yet. The top-of-the-line LG Infinia LX9500 series will be 3D capable. At one step down in LG’s lineup is the solidly 2D Infinia 47LE8500 LCD HDTV, reviewed here. It’s surprisingly thin, and with local-dimming LED technology, it comes well equipped to compete for honors as the best overall LCD we’ve yet seen from any manufacturer.
Price: $2,800 At A Glance: Edge LED backlighting • Excellent color and resolution • Non-uniform black level
Light My LEDs
Not too long ago, LED backlighting was a feature in only a few premium flat-panel LCD sets. Now you can find it everywhere, including six series in Sony’s 2010 lineup of BRAVIA LCD HDTVs. The top three—the LX900, HX900, and HX800 series—are either 3D capable out of the box (the XBR-LX900) or 3D ready.
Movie studios don't miss a thing when it comes to keeping a tight watch on the effectiveness of Blu-ray copy protection. Recently, in an apparent attempt to close an assumed (I assume) breach, 20th Century Fox updated its BD+ copy codes in an effort to keep the door firmly locked. The first disc I noted a problem with was (surprise!) Avatar, which was so firmly locked it would not play. After an inordinately long loading cycle it decided it couldn't get along with an Oppo BDP-83 player, which I've admittedly been lax in updating. The same proved to be the case on another current but not updated model, the Pioneer BDP-320. Same long wait, same lack of a payoff. Or at least not a welcome one. All I got was a bright red screen telling me to update my player.