They are rear projection. They are THIN. They produce an image that looks just great. They have every imaginable feature. Hey! We were told that rear projection was dead. (See the May 1st, 2007 edition of Display Daily - this column). What happened? Apparently Sony did not get the word. Well, in any case, to trade on the words of Mark Twain "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated". Indeed.
Insight Media Consultant
SXRD is Sony’s version of LCOS. Large screen, rear projection HDTV products based on SXRD microdisplays have been offered by Sony for some time. Their image qualities routinely get good reviews. On the other hand, the preference by consumer’s for flat panel displays is clear and beyond doubt. The solution is obvious: make flatter rear projection TVs (RPTVs). Well, that is a classic "easier said than done". None-the-less, Sony took up the challenge. At the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Sony provided a preview of coming attractions by showing off a prototype "thin", hang on the wall RPTV. That was then. Today, Sony announced the availability in the fall of this year of two model lines of thinned RPTVs.
The two models in the XBR line have been thinned down by 40% compared to previous, equivalent models. The three models in the A3000 line have been thinned down by 20%. All of the HDTV models are loaded with features and have a wide variety of interface and input capabilities and compatibilities. The more interesting of the features include the following:
1. Motionflow 120Hz. By taking a source video that has 60 frames per second and interpolating an extra frame between each existing frame, the motion is made to look smoother and less dizzying when a rapidly moving image is displayed. Motionflow technology is adjustable with four modes (including "off") so that the user can adapt the feature to differing image content such as high definition sports or movies from a Blu-ray Disc.
An interesting point related to the selection of 120Hz is that it’s not only double the frame rate for 1080p/60 signals, but also a direct multiple of the 24 fps frame rate used in movie film. Movies on Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD are encoded at 1080p/24 and players are starting to allow output at that native rate. Sony’s adjustable Motionflow modes should allow display of the 1080p/24 signal at a direct five times the frame rate of 120Hz. This would remove judder and flicker in the image. Other 120Hz displays may not directly accept 1080p/24 signals, or they may convert them to 1080p/60 before converting to 120Hz.
2. Photo Mode. Video looks best when the image is sharp. On the other hand, when a sharp still image is displayed, it may not necessarily look its’ best. Photo Mode addresses this issue by smoothing the photo images without losing the detail.
3. Live Color. SXRD based HDTVs can handle broader color gamuts than their source video. In order to utilize this capability a feature is included by which the video processors themselves enhance the color of source material to the new xv color standard.
The new Sony RPTV models are not cheap. The initial pricing announced today follows:
60" KDS-Z60XBR5 $5,000
70" KDS-Z70XBR5 $6,000
50" KDS-50A3000 $3,000
55" KDS-55A3000 $3,300
60" KDS-60A3000 $3,500
We see Sony’s new SXRD based product line offerings as a major and continuing endorsement of RPTV. Then again, perhaps in fairness a codicil should be added to the endorsement. All of Sony’s new products are at the large end of the screen size spectrum. That’s OK. Conventional wisdom has it that flat panel displays own the smaller screen sizes and rear projection makes the most sense and competes most effectively in the larger screen sizes. But (there is always a "but") based on the continuing success of flat panel displays, the unresolved question has become: at what size does "large" begin? Perhaps Sony’s new RPTV offerings will help define the range of screen sizes over which RPTV is viable.
In any case, today was a good day for believers in RPTV. Viva LCOS! Long live rear projection!