This spring Sony released its mainstream Bravia LCD models, namely the 15-odd HDTVs announced at CES, and we've already reviewed two of them: the 32-inch KDL-32M4000 and the 46-inch KDL-46W4100. Today the company follows up by announcing the bulk of its high-end XBR-branded sets, which will be more expensive and offer a few key step-up features when they hit stores this fall. The main addition of note is an LED backlight, which is finally trickling down from the company's 2005 Qualia model and the $30K KDL-70XBR3. Below you'll find information on all of the new XBR-branded Bravia sets, from least to most expensive, and before you ask, no, Sony hasn't announced pricing.
The bottom of the XBR family in 2008 consists of five XBR6 models, and you can already buy the two smallest sizes in stores. The 32- and 37-inch XBR6 sets have different styling compared to their newly announced larger cousins, however, such as the 40-inch model pictured above, with its bottom-mounted speaker suspended from a pane of glass. These smaller two sets also lack the MotionFlow dejudder processing and TV Guide Onscreen (we originally indicated that the smaller models also have MotionFlow, but that isn't the case).
The larger three sizes in the series, available in 40, 46 and 52-inch sizes, have the same MotionFlow dejudder processing and 120Hz refresh rate found on the KDL-46W4100, along with that model's TV Guide onscreen EPG and graphically intense menu system. They also include a USB port for music and photo playback; for the latter the company includes an Ethernet port on the back (no word on whether it will allow firmware updates) that can communicate with DLNA-compliant networked PCs to display digital photos on the big screen.
Four HDMI inputs are also standard. One step-up feature over the non-XBR models is the ability to swap out the silver speaker grille for another color "including silver, red, brown, and gold" according to the press release. Optional colorful grilles are available on all XBR models aside from the 32- and 37-inchers below; the XBR6 models ship with silver grilles while the XBR7 and XBR8 sets come with black.
- Sony KDL-32XBR6 ($1,199)
- Sony KDL-37XBR6 ($1,499)
- Sony KDL-40XBR6 ($TBD)
- Sony KDL-46XBR6 ($TBD)
- Sony KDL-52XBR6 ($TBD)
Key features of the Sony KDL-XBR6 series
- 1080p native resolution
- 120Hz refresh rate with dejudder processing (40-inch and larger only)
- TV Guide onscreen EPG (40-inch and larger only)
- optional colored speaker grille (40-inch and larger only)
The other two series in Sony's XBR lineup include just two models apiece, and the less expensive (but still, we're sure, damn expensive) XBR7 series has a modest 40-inch model and a gigantic 70-incher. Both have a fluorescent backlight as opposed to the LED one found on the XBR8 series, and step-up features over the XBR6 models include an RS-232 port for custom installers (yawn) and--potentially slightly more exciting--improved video processing, according to the company. "The KDL-70XBR7 features BRAVIA ENGINE 2 Pro digital video processing, while the KDL-40XBR7 offers BRAVIA ENGINE 2 EX." How much of a difference these processors make is a question that will just have to wait.
Models (suggested retail prices)
- Sony KDL-40XBR7 ($TBD)
- Sony KDL-70XBR7 ($TBD)
Step-up features of the Sony KDL-XBR7 series
- RS-232 port
- Bravia Engine video processing
The highest-end series of Sony's 2008 Bravia LCDs has a pair of screen sizes, both of which are blessed by an LED backlight. Using light-emitting diodes should result in improved black-level performance, if our experience with the LED-powered Samsung LN-T4681F is any indication. Like Samsung, Sony uses a "local dimming" scheme to turn off unused parts of the backlight, and although it resulted in some blooming around bright objects on the 81F we tested, perhaps Sony has made some improvements. We're also curious to see how the backlight holds up when seen from off-angle, which was another weakness we saw on the Samsung.
- Sony KDL-46XBR8 ($TBD)
- Sony KDL-55XBR8 ($TBD)
Step-up features of the Sony KDL-XBR8 series
- LED backlight