Sony Announces New Smart TVs, 3D TVs for 2011

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Sony is bringing the heat this year, with a whole host of shiny new 3D TVs with Internet-connected features. Check out what they've got planned for 2011.

Sony's Smart TVs

Between their mid-range and high-end models, Sony is bringing 22 "Smart TVs" to market in total. Each of these HDTVs comes equipped with Sony's Bravia Internet Video service, which includes support for standard Internet streaming sites like Netflix, HuluPlus, and Amazon Video On Demand as well Sony-only services like Sony's Video on Demand and Music Unlimited (powered by Qriocity).

Other Internet-connected features include Skype support for video chat in 720p (although you'll need to purchase a separate camera and mic for that), and Track ID, which lets your TV check the Gracenote database to find the song name, artist, and album information for whatever song is playing on the TV at the moment. Buy a Sony TV, and you'll never wonder what that song was playing during the ad break was ever again.

Interestingly enough, there has been no word on further Google TV-powered Sony TVs.

3D TVs: Active Shutter or Bust

While LG has announced their "Cinema 3D" line of polarized-lens 3D TVs, and Vizio's entire 2011 lineup will include their similar "Theater 3D" polarized-lens 3D capability, Sony is sticking to the classic active-shutter lens 3D in a big way, with 16 new 3D TVs coming between now and August.

That doesn't mean they're resting on their laurels, however. Sony's new line of 3D TVs will have built-in IR emitters (instead of the dongle-attached external emitters that their 2010 line had) and can display 3D images taken from the new line of Cyber-shot cameras. Also, there are a few improvements behind the scenes: Sony has implemented some proprietary panel drive enhancements that should reduce the TV's response time, reducing crosstalk--which means less ghosting and eye fatigue during 3D movies, as well as a 5:5 pulldown feature so your TV can match the frame rate of movies without any judder problems.

Enhanced Image Processing

A TV's image processing functions are a standard part of any modern TV manufacturer's bag of tricks, and Sony is stepping up their game considerably. While Sony's 2010 TVs seemed rather modest compared to, say, Samsung or LG's in terms of aggressive image enhancement, Sony's new TVs look like they mean business.

Their high-end TVs will include a dual-chip image processing system called the X-Reality PRO Engine, which compares incoming video signals with their "ideal" scenes--as determined from a vast video and film library--and enhances the image accordingly. The X-Reality PRO Engine can work on anything from full HD signals and compressed HD signals to SD TV video or even low-res Internet streaming video, so you can expect pretty much everything to look a bit better.

The lower-end models will stick to the single-chip X-Reality Engine, which uses a feature Sony is calling "Intelligent Image Enhancer". This separates an incoming video signal into three component parts--the outline, the texture, and the color/contrast--then enhances each part, reduces noise, and displays the image.

The New Class

Here's the breakdown of Sony's upcoming TV releases, model line by model line.

The XBR-HX929 series is a full-array LED back-lit LCD TV with MotionFlow XR 960 (Sony's proprietary refresh rate tech), and it comes in 46-inch, 55-inch, and 65-inch sizes. This TV series has Intelligent Peak local LED dimming, Sony Bravia Internet Video, the X-Reality PRO processor, built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi, and 3D. The 46-inch and 55-inch models will be available in April, while the 65-inch model will debut in August.

The HX820 series is an edge-lit LED line with MotionFlow XR 480, and it comes in a 46-inch and 55-inch size, both of which will be available in May. The HX820 TVs have the X-Reality PRO engine, Sony Bravia Internet Video, built-in Wi-Fi, and 3D. The similarly-equipped HX720 series will also be available in May, and comes in a 46-inch, 55-inch, and 65-inch model.

Next up is the NX720 series, an edge-lit LED line with MotionFlow XR 240, the X-Reality Engine, Sony Bravia Internet Video, 3D, and built-in Wi-Fi. The NX720 TVs will be available in 46-inch, 55-inch, and 60-inch models in May.

The last of the 3D lineup is the edge-lit LED EX720 series, with the X-Reality Engine, MotionFlow XR 240, and Sony Bravia Internet Video. Unlike the others, Wi-Fi isn't built-in, though you can buy a USB dongle separately. These sets will start at 32 inches and go all the way up to a 60-inch model, though the 60-inch model won't be available until April (the rest debut in February).

On the lower end are their EX620 and EX 520 series edge-lit LED sets, the former with MotionFlow 120 and the latter with a 60hz refresh rate. Both of them support Sony Bravia Internet Video, though they require the separate USB dongle for Wi-Fi, and neither of them have 3D capability. The EX620 series comes in a 40-inch, 46-inch, and 55-inch model, while the EX520 comes in 32-inch, 40-inch, and 46-inch sizes. Both will be available in February.

Finally, Sony is releasing two low-end CCFL back-lit LCD TVs, neither of which have 3D or Internet-connected features: The BX420 series comes in 32-inch, 40-inch, and 46-inch models, while the 720p BX320 series only has a 22-inch and 32-inch model.

Check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2011.

This story, "Sony Announces New Smart TVs, 3D TVs for 2011" was originally published by PCWorld.

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