Understanding the new 2013 BRAVIA line from SONY
Two weeks ago, I enjoyed a night of being wined and dined by the good folks from SONY as they unveiled their new BRAVIA line of TV’s.
I’ll tell you a secret. Having been a tech writer and editor for more than 10 years, I’m at my most uncomfortable self writing about anything to do with A/V products. Not because I don’t understand flat screen TV’s or audio — it’s more about trying to describe in words an experience that’s best felt when you’re there. How do you write about 3D? How do you write about 7.1 surround sound? You can shove a thousand words to your reader and he still won’t get it.
The “magic” happens in the showroom. That’s where the consumer (and in my case, my readers) get to validate everything they’ve read up on various websites. One thing you need to know, historically, about the BRAVIA line is that in the past, when they were advertising their slim CRT television boxes, they were known for having the brightest displays. And this came as a serious threat to other manufacturers. Other brand managers would tell me that they had to up the default white balance and brightness settings of their TV’s in the showrooms just to match SONY’s default settings. ProTip: When buying a new TV have the salesperson reset the settings to default to do a real comparison.
This was more than 7 years ago and the BRAVIA has moved on to compete in other factors such as price, audio quality and features in your LED TV gauntlet match. True enough, the industry has changed since then and SONY had been playing catch up ( < --- click that link; it's a well-written piece on the state of SONY) in the entire TV market as they were overtaken by Samsung's "wine glass" LED designs which ultimately led to consumer choice becoming more a factor of price because it "approximated" the quality of SONY, at least from first glance. But this is a piece not about Samsung (or other brands). This is about how SONY is aggressively pulling back in many areas of innovation (the gaming segment comes to mind with the success of the PS3 and excitement over the PS4).
If back then, BRAVIA was known to be the brightest of all the CRT TV's, these days it's all about color. Not color boosts or enhancements, but having your TV render the actual colors that you see in your environment. You know how sometimes your images look a bit washed out even after fiddling with the settings? There you go. SONY Philippines President Mr. Yasushi Asaoka, announced that high end BRAVIA models will come with TRILUMINOS technology which basically means that the reds, greens and blues will, on the screen, look like their natural colors. They also announced this new thing called X-Reality Pro, which basically makes your images look better. It's like the OpenGL of the TV world; a better video card that renders faster and better compared to a stock video card, if we compare it to the PC industry.
But really, dear readers, none of you care much about these technical terms. In fact the most technical term you'll encounter in this new chapter of the TV is the term "4k." What does it mean? What happens if your TV is 4k capable? Does it matter? To answer that question, let's backtrack a bit.
You most probably own a flatscreen LED TV and if you look at the panel, there’s usually a sticker that says 720p or 1080p Full HD. 1080p means that screen has a resolution of 1920×1080. Simply put, it’s clear and crisp and it’s widescreen! Now here’s the thing, the bigger the TV gets, it does not necessarily mean that the image will get better. Inversely, it also does not mean that the smaller the TV gets, you’ll notice differences in picture quality. Here’s the golden rule: ever wonder how some bigger TV’s have that “pop out” screen effect that’s sort of like 3D but isn’t? Well to achieve that effect you will need to have at the very least, a 40-inch LED TV. Anything smaller won’t do any of that stuff. 1080p quality movies will be noticeable to up to about having an 80-inch flat screen TV. “4k” simply means that it is 4 times the resolution of 1080p. You will only start to notice 4k quality the bigger the screen gets, which is why it’s recommended to get a 4k TV that’s bigger than 80 inches. James Chua of OMGeek “Instagramed-in” a question during the evening launch, which was basically the thing that boggled my mind with 4k upscaling:
Also, there is almost zero content (movies) shot in 4k quality so at the very most, you’ll be loading up a 1080p movie into a 4k TV and a feature known as upscaling will kick in, which is simply the term given to the TV trying to improve the picture quality of the movie by “adding” the loose ends into the picture. WHat’s amazing is that the upscaling from 1080p to 4k is quite amazing and you won’t feel cheated on spending PHP 150,000 on a big-ass TV that can render 4k content.
Did any of you just understand that? Next time you go to a showroom ask the attendant to stop playing the demo video (which is shot in native 4k) and pop in a movie that’s in 1080p quality and see how it upscales. Pretty nifty!
There are many good reasons why SONY should definitely be considered as your next TV. For one, with the arrival of the PS4 by the end of the year, having a SONY-enabled living room will definitely help with **some** conveniences such as 3D simultaneous split screen co-op gaming. If you’re conscious about sound, you’ll be glad to know that despite the BRAVIA being thin, it does have the ability to ‘simulate’ a sub-woofer using NASA-based magnetic fluid technologies. In other words, even with a thin frame, your audio will still sound whole.