No company has worked harder to advocate and educate on the topic of 4K than Sony. Now with the Ultra HD/4K format gaining significant momentum through the inclusion of high-dynamic range (HDR) color gamut technologies the format is poised for mass-market adoption.
For its latest 4K Ultra HD televisions that the company previewed at CES 2016, Sony has announced pricing and availability for its XBR-X850D, XBR-X930D and XBR-X940D. The new displays include HDR compatibility, as well as the latest Sony video technologies for the best possible image, and a full platform of streaming media options to entertain today's homeowner.
“This new lineup of 4K HDR Ultra HD televisions is proof of our continuing commitment to deliver a premium 4K HDR experience to our customers,” says Sunil Nayyar, director of product marketing, TV and projectors, North America for Sony Electronics. “Sony TVs provide superior picture quality no matter what content is being viewed, but these new televisions really shine when display 4K and HDR content.”
The X850D and X930D/940D TVs are available for pre-sale now and will hit authorized dealers and retailers in March. Pricing is: XBR-55X850D, $2,499; XBR-65X850D, $3,499; XBR-75X850D, $4,999; XBR-85X850D, $9,999; XBR-55X930D, $3,299; XBR-65X930D, $4,999; and XBR-75X940D, $7,999.
Sony recently showcased the new displays at a demo event in New York City, where the company emphasized the importance of its latest 4K Processor X1 image engine, which ensures the best possible viewing experience from 4K and upconverted HD content.
“We've had technologies that we've been workign on the past few years to enhance clarity, color and contrast, but it isn't just the parts. You need a brain, and it's the brain that determines how well you can use those materials. We realized that for 4K and 4K HDR, the type of brain in the TV was not good enough, so we built a new brain in 2015 and it's our most powerful one and built for the future,” Phil Jones, product technology manager for Sony, noted at the event. “There's better upscaling, less noise when you look at content that's film based. Not only can we detect what resolution you're looking at, we can detect what type of source you're looking at, and based on that we triage the patient differently. A 4K Blu-ray looks very different than 4K you shot on your cellphone; the TV knows that and uses different processing based on each one.”
Jones was referring how the processing handles the varied bandwidth/bit rate of content from the growing list of 4K sources available for viewing on the new TVs, which now bear a “4K HDR Ultra HD” logo. Along with 4K flavors such as Netflix and Amazon streaming, Sony is tapping into its own entertainment resources to provide 4K HDR movies and TV shows directly to the new TVs through an “Ultra” service, Jones said.
The XBR-X850D, XBR-X930D and XBR-X940D series of TVs incorporate Sony Pictures' Ultra app that will officially launch later this year. Sony Electronics says that through the upcoming app, homeowners can purchase and stream 4K HDR movies and TV shows directly from Sony Pictures' library of content.
Speaking of Sony Pictures, an intriguing demo Sony did during its event was to put one of its new sets along with an LG OLED set and Samsung SUHD (both 2015 models since 2016s were unavailable yet) and played them behind the film industry reference monitor used by Hollywood post-production studios — also a Sony but in this case a 30-inch RGB OLED, the BVM-X300 whose cost is in the five-figures. Since it's often said manufacturers and integrators are trying to reproduce what the director intended viewers to see, in the home environment, it was interesting to see today's 4K sets compared with Hollywood's vision; Sony's latest premium series closes the gap in color accuracy and contrast as shown in the demo, while the LG's OLED showed its strength lies more in the contrast and black levels.
More on the features, Sony's Dramatic brightness function help the TVs to produce inky blacks and bright white levels, while the Slim Backlight Drive technology found in the X930D series of products help those TVs produce extended dynamic range levels. All of the new TVs include Sony's TRILUMINOS displays that help the products to produce bright colors, and Sony says the televisions' ultra-thin industrial design creates a borderless picture with flush-mount options.
Sony has also incorporated its X-tended Dynamic Range PRO technology into the X930D and X940D lines, and according to the company this technology enables the TVs to produce maximum contrast levels by dimming and boosting the TVs' backlighting levels for each zone of the screen with an algorithm that helps HD content to produce images that are near HDR in terms of quality.
The new TVs' inclusion of Google's Android TV operating system allows users to watch broadcast, streaming video and downloaded content that includes Google Play, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, HBO Now and YouTube.
Android TV also includes a voice search function now supports natural language voice actions and longer sentences. Sony demonstrated during the event the synergy with Logitech's Harmony Hub and app to use Internet of Things functionality straight from the TV such as controlling lights and motorized shades.
Arlen Schweiger contributed to this report and slideshow.