Sony has concluded its CES 2013 product announcements, and although company is releasing a veritable truckload of new products, we can sum up Sony’s sentiments with just two key concepts: 4K and NFC. Here’s what Sony has been busy planning for the home entertainment space for the past year.
NFC, or near field communications, is a technology we’re seeing a lot of this year. Samsung and LG are both using it as the basis for their respective content-sharing technologies. Sony is doing the same, but is leveraging NFC on a much grander scale; and if you’re interested in diving into the deep end of Sony’s entertainment ecosystem, the rewards will be plentiful.
Sony has planted NFC chips into tiny, personal Buetooth speakers, larger portable Bluetooth speakers, Bluetooth headphones, a personal 1TB storage drive (for photos and video), sound bars, and a remote control for several of its Bravia televisions. So long as you have a Sony smartphone with NFC, you can share music and video with any of the above devices by simply holding the phone near them. To best of our knowledge, this is the most comprehensive NFC-based personal entertainment ecosystem to have been developed so far, and that’s a big feather in Sony’s cap.
At CES 2012, Sony inferred that it would be leveraging its start-to-finish 4K (Ultra HD, if you ask anyone else) pipeline to become the industry leader in 4K. While these sorts of statements are usually platitudes, this time the claims have turned out to be meaningful.
Sony announced two new 4K/ Ultra HD televisions to supplement the 84-inch model it announced and began selling late last year. Sometime this spring, we can expect to see the 65-inch (XBR-65X900A) and 55-inch (XBR-55X900A) 4K models showing up at stores. Pricing details were not announced.
Along with the release of its 84-inch 4K model, Sony decided to tackle the rather significant issue of a lack of 4K content by pairing the expensive TV with a media server pre-loaded with 4K movies and other assorted 4K content. The content server must be updated by a professional serviceman, though, a process that is only scheduled to be performed every few months or so – not exactly an elegant solution, but a reasonable stop-gap measure. But Sony has new plans now: The company is going to continue selling these media servers, and will initiate a beefed-up 4K content “distribution service” sometime this summer. No word on whether that distribution will involve the Internet, but we sure hope it doesn’t require periodic visits from a specialist – that’s simply not scalable.
Sony also said it was planning the release of several 4K-mastered Blu-ray titles. Though these movies will still be played in 1080p resolution, Sony’s process will take the studio masters of the movie and prepare them for Blu-ray playback using entirely 4K technology. How much better the picture will be remains to be scene. Also, those who’d rather make their own 4K content will have the option to do so using a new consumer-level 4K video camera.
We caught ourselves getting quite a few strange looks when we suggested that 4K and OLED were in competition for consumer dollars because the two technologies were mutually exclusive – in other words, pick one or the other, because you can’t have both. It seems, however, that will not be true for much longer, as Sony showed off (briefly) a 4K OLED prototype as a teaser of things to come. Unfortunately, nobody got a decent look at the TV, since the computer that was serving it 4K content bit the dust just seconds after it was rolled out onto the stage. It was, however, one of the most stunning blue screens of death we’ve ever seen. We’ll swing by Sony’s share of the show floor soon to get some up-close video, should Sony dare to try showing it off again.