CES 2009 set the tempo for TV tech for the year. Whether intentionally or not, you could more or less have switched one manufacturer’s speech for another only with a different company logo behind them.
On the one hand, the global recession was a factor and, on the other, environmental meltdown. What this meant in consumer tech terms was that you could connect all new TVs to the internet; each company has a cleaner, greener way of putting their sets together and that no one showed off the new world’s biggest panel.
For us, we now have a sea of widget TV interfaces to work through until we’ve found the one that suits us best and a marsh of greenwashing shpeel to wade through until we can see if these machines will either save a) the planet, b) our wallets, or ideally, c) all of the above.
So when Sony invited the UK techno-scribblers to have a look at their 2009 Bravia range, I simply couldn’t refuse the excellent opportunity to stand in front of some panels scowling and pretending to be much less impressed than I actually am. Love that shit.
To make this simple, my general feeling is that they’re good. The picture is good, the design is good and they just generally have that Sony feeling of being reassuringly expensive.
A demo of the difference between 50Hz, 100Hz and 200Hz frame rates showed quite nicely how smooth their 200Hz Motionflow technology is and that buying a 50Hz TV is somewhere close to stabbing yourself in the eyeballs over and over again rust-flaked iron nails.
Most intriguing of all though was the Bravia WE5 eco TV. It’s the one I stuck at the top of this post. After all, I’ve written about the others before. They’ve had their 15 minutes.
The WE5 consumes 50% less power than last year’s set of Bravias and that’s mainly down to the micro-tubular “Hot Cathode Fluorescent Lamps” used to backlight the screen. They’re basically large energy saving bulbs.
My first question was whether, like household energy savers, the bulbs took a while to warm up. Apparently not according to Sony, although I’d like to see one from start up myself.
What I can say is that the contrast didn’t look quite as crisp as the non-eco model next to it. Now this may have had something to do with the way it was set up or the fact that it had a silver bezel rather than a black one but there was something ever so slightly dusty about the picture; the kind of thing you would only notice in direct comparison. I’m not saying that this is about the HCFLs but I would take a very close look at a working WE5 before you buy one.
Its other green credentials include that all of the plastics used in it is recycled, that much of the packaging and instructions avoid fresh paper and card, and that it has a power saving switch that ensures 0% energy consumption when the set is switched off.
The trouble is that these are the kinds of features that all Bravias and other makes of TV should have as a standard. It’s a shame that we should be talking about them at all.
The innovative feature of the WE5 that we rightly mention, and I’m going to give it at least a whole paragraph to itself now, is the intelligent presence sensor. It’s a little camera that you can just make out at the bottom of the screen which locks onto heat sources and monitors them for movement. The idea is that the TV will then know if you’ve fallen a asleep or left the room and it’ll turn itself off to save energy.
You can set the TV to power down after whatever kind of time interval you like and, although a little on the gimmicky side, I do appreciate that Sony is putting in some effort here. Chances are that people will just never bother turning their TVs off in the normal way any more and actually end up using more power, or that the WE5 will shut down when you don’t want it to. You’d really have to live with the thing for a while to tell.
The money saving cost of the WE5 has been estimated at around £50 per year which isn’t exactly buckets but is near enough the difference in initial outlay for the eco model over the course of 24 months.
The final stop on our Bravia tour was the at the smallest screen of all – the legendary Sony XEL-1, the OLED TV. We all know what the little devil is capable of and it was really about getting a few important answers. They ran something like this:
Q Why is it so much more ludicrously expensive over here than in the US or Japan?
A The week pound, having to re-engineer for PAL and moving the speakers from the front of the unit to the back.
Q When are we going to see more?
A Probably not till closer to 2015. They’ve only brought 100 or so into the country for sale. They’re more a statement of what Sony can do at the moment rather than what is commercially viable. The only people buying them are the super rich to show off with.
So. Bravia. Still good. Buy one. They’re not cheap but then what do you expect? These are TVs we’re talking about.