This year, Sony is going all-out with its BRAVIA 4K and Full HD TVs. To celebrate the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, it's giving away free PS4s and integrating a special 'Football' sound mode that recreates the acoustics of Brazil's stadiums. Here's everything you need to know about the new TVs.
Sony's Score Twice promotion is the big selling point in the lead-up to the World Cup in June. Depending on which new TV you buy, you'll score a free PS4 and controller worth $549, as well as a copy of FIFA 14 worth $100.
All of Sony's TVs this year have some measure of Smart capability, whether it's delivered over Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet connections. All the catch-up and social apps you'd expect are available on Sony's grid-based Smart TV interface; one of the stronger in-house movie streaming options comes from Sony's various entertainment subsidiaries and partnerships.
You can set favourite apps, download from a wider library of content, and on all BRAVIAs you're also able to playback music, movies or photos from a connected USB stick or hard drive -- and, crucially, MKV and other high-res compressed video files are supported.
Sony is really pushing its 4K Ultra HD BRAVIAs this year. That's not to say its regular Full HD TVs aren't any good (they're great!), but the Japanese company is increasing the size range and variety of 4K panels that it sells. They're all LED-backlit LCDs (no OLED), ranging from 49 inches to a massive 85-inch behemoth. All of the new screens support HDMI 2.0, so they're capable of displaying 4K content at 60 frames per second.
The Sony Ultra HD line-up kicks off with the X8500B, consisting of four screen sizes (49-, 55-, 65- and 70-inch). The X8500B is Sony's base-level 4K TV -- it cuts out fancy image processing features and just delivers a simple, LED edge-lit 4K LCD panel. It uses Sony's X-Reality PRO engine to upscale lower resolution content and has a TRILUMINOS panel using quantum dots which promise a much improved colour gamut over competing TVs from Samsung, LG and Panasonic.
The step-up 55-, 65- and 79-inch X9000B adds in X-tended Dynamic Range, courtesy of local dimming from the edge LEDs. Local dimming massively boosts the dynamic range of a LCD by dimming or switching off the LED screen-lighting network in specific areas of the screen; this lets the X9000B show a larger number of gradations in especially dark or bright scenes of a movie. You also get excellent side-mounted Magnetic Fluid speakers -- liquid-cooled for a more natural frequency response.
At the absolute top of the series, the X9500B further tweaks that X-tended Dynamic Range; it adds a PRO moniker on the end to denote local dimming LED backlighting rather than edgelighting -- this is the holy grail of LCD lighting, since individual sections have more minute control over their brightness. The X9500B will be available in 65- and 85-inch screen sizes when it launches in July.
Sony delineates its Full HD Smart TV BRAVIAs more than the 4K ones; there are five model lineups to choose from. Sony's most basic BRAVIA is the W600B, although it'd be considered mid-range by any other manufacturer's standards. There are no lower-than-Full-HD screens in Sony's lineup; the 40-, 48- and 60-inch W600Bs have 1920x1080 pixel LCD displays with LED edge-lighting, and while the lower two screens are 100Hz the 60-incher is 200Hz capable -- which should mean excellent fast-motion performance.
Moving up slightly in price and spec is the 32-inch W700B, with built-in Wi-Fi and a bundled wall mount over the cheaper model. The 42-, 50- and 55-inch W800B are Sony's cheapest TVs with 3D playback and two bundled pairs of glasses; like the cheaper models they're able to playback and record content to any flash drive or hard drive connected over USB. Like the lesser sets, the smaller screen is 100Hz while the larger two are 200Hz.
At the pinnacle of Sony's Full HD lineup sits the W850B and W950B flagship models. The 60- and 70-inch W850B is the company's first Peak Design television, with speakers running the entire lower length of the 200Hz panel. The screens look great, and they've got the Sony image quality to back that up. The absolute top-of-the-line W950B, a single 55-inch model, adds X-tended Dynamic Range local dimming and a TRILUMINOS quantum dot panel -- it should be one of the best Full HD TVs on the market this year.