For a couple of years now, Sony has shied away from the main exhibit floor into their own separate room off to the side. Unfortunately, this doesn't actually do what you might expect - cut down on visitor traffic. Instead, what you get is a room jam-packed with soles panting over the latest Sony offerings, causing the room to reach 90 degrees and record humidity levels... for a desert. Between guzzling bottles of water, we got a chance to poke around.
Sony goes bigger.
So, what did we spy this at this year's claustrophobic extravaganza? Well, quite a few neato products. First is the new Sony KV-40XBR700 television. Sure, you've heard about the 32 and 36 inch Wega's immense weights... but you haven't seen this puppy. 40 inches of glass. 250 pounds of pure pleasure. Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration... but looking at it, maybe not. Either way, the new TV includes Sony's oddly named "Digital Reality Creation" (what, do they pick an abbreviation then figure out what to call it?) and all of the other goodies you'd expect. This mega-Wega will be available in October for (gasp) $4,000. What, no HDTV tuner?
Grand Wega. No, this isn't some new type of minivan, it was a demonstration 50" 16:9 widescreen rear projection set which uses three XGA LCD panels. And it looked absolutely gorgeous. The problem is that Sony's still finalizing plans on it, so no pricing or availability or other information whatsoever is available.
There's more than one way to watch...
Sony's not content to sit on their laurels with their DVD players, even though it seemed to us as if not much else in way of improvements could really be made. Well, we were wrong. Their new DVP-NS700P is a single-disc player that incorporates a 12-bit/54MHz video D/A converter for progressive scan 480p output. Ah, I see Sony's joined the Dark Side. The DVP-NS700P will be available in June for about $400. Also planned for this year is the DVP-NC600 five-disc changer, which is one of their first players to offer both CD-R and CD-RW playback. This model employs "Digital Image Enhancer" and will be available in June for $300.
Lagging somewhat behind their competitors, Sony's DVD+RW technology is scheduled for mid-2002 introduction. Which means we won't be covering it here. Instead, we'll look even further off into the distance at Sony's amazing new blue laser technology. With more than 22 gigabytes of capacity, the DVR-Blue technology can store the same amount of data as five DVDs. It even offers a high enough transfer rate to support two and a half hours of high-definition video, or more than 10 hours of standard definition video. Availability? No idea. Cost? Probably way out there. Still, it's nice to be able to see what's down the road - 27 episodes of The Simpsons on one disc!
Sony's heading whole-hog into the SACD market, with even more players announced. First is the SCD-C555ES, a multi-channel (did they forget "multi" could also mean "two"?) five-disc changer. Priced at a cool $1,700, the SCD-C555ES will be available in April for anyone who's actually found five good SACD discs. For those of us with more modest budgets, Sony's got the SDC-CD775. This five-disc changer is said to "incorporate many of the core technologies found in the SCD-C555ES at a price point around $400". Well, gee - makes you think twice about the SCD-C555ES, eh? The lower cost model will be available in July.
Anyone really into MiniDisc players will be interested to hear about Sony's new "MDLP" - or MiniDisc Long Play - technology, which allows up to 5 hours of audio on a standard disc. Sony's only announced portable and car models with the technology, so home theater fans will have to wait for this technology to trickle down to them. Sony's first CD-R/RW home deck is the RCD-W1, which features 4X dubbing of CDs from one tray to the other. The $500 unit includes a 24-bit D/A converter to enhance CD/CD-R/RW playback sound quality, while a 20-bit A/D converter will bring analog sources into the digital realm.
Whenever I see a photo of an Aibo I figure "I gotta get me one of those". The problem is the cost has always been so prohibitive - not to mention Sony practically required an application just to get one. Well, being ones to realize when they've got something hot-hot-hot, the latest generation of Aibo "entertainment robots" was released on a wider range late last year. The ERS-210 can now recognize up to 50 spoken words - a feature completely missing from the first models. Additional features include an optional wireless LAN connection (does he need his own email address?), more motors, quicker movement, personalized naming and many other refinement. Base specifications include multi-colored LEDs for expression, three touch sensors, built-in digital camera, 20 joints and 20 degrees of freedom (as opposed to 16 joints and 18 degrees of freedom), 64-bit RISC processor, 32 megabytes of memory, 90 minute Lithium battery, PC Card slot up his rear and all sorts of software packs including "Party Mascot". The price? $1,500. Well, at least you won't have to spend money on carpet cleaning.
Remotes... or lack thereof.
And now what you've been waiting for - remote controls. Alas, I don't actually have much to report on. The RM-VL900 will be getting a little brother, the RM-VL700, which still features full learning, but drops the silver case and all macros. Cost will be quite low, expected to be $20 less than the VL900. This'll make the RM-VL700 the perfect low-cost learner for anyone who doesn't need the advanced features of the VL900. More news as I get it.