Kazuo Hirai, CEO and president of Sony Corporation, took to the stage on January 5th to help introduce consumers to the line of products they’ll be bringing to market this year. It’s a pretty cool line-up that ranges from the latest in TVs all the way to intelligent lightbulbs; a diverse range that we should be seeing on Best Buy shelves before 2016 is out.
4K BRAVIA X93D HDR Television
As a staunch fan of the 4K revolution I’m always pleased to see when 4K is a focus, and Sony has joined other industry leaders in taking 4K to the next level with something called 4K HDR. If you’re familiar with the term HDR or high dynamic range from photography (your iPhone or Android phone probably has an HDR setting) you’ll find that the concept is similar: high dynamic range is colour as 4K is to resolution.
Where 4K expands the amount of pixels we see, giving us a crisper, sharper image, HDR expands the way we see colour on our TV. There’s no current HDR standard, but the general idea is that an HDR TV gives you more brightness and more colour information in areas that were previously too bright or too dark to see. The result is a picture that has clear details in areas that would typically be “blown out” in brighter scenes or lost in shadow in darker scenes.
The new X93D Bravia series displays Sony is rolling out a backlighting system called Slim Backlight Drive, something they’ve described as a grid array backlight in an effort to deliver the detailed colour and contrast of a full-arty direct LED backlight.
This new feature, combined with their X-tended Dynamic Range™ PRO technology (an iteration on what was found in last year’s X900 series) should help the X93D deliver the HDR experiences that customers are looking for. HDR content should be available from Netflix and UHD Blu-Ray later this year. This display is also touted to include ULTRA, an app that Sony has said will allow users to purchase and stream 4K HDR Movies and TV shows. There was no word on Canadian licensing for ULTRA at this time.
The X93D continues a trend of delivering remarkably thin displays, coming in at well under 0.5” in some parts, allowing it to disappear into the wall when wall-mounted.
Building on last year’s push for high resolution audio, Sony has continue to launch products that support this initiative. The h.ear go, h.ear In Wireless and h.ear On Wireless NC were all announced: the go is a portable speaker that looks a bit like a lego block; it boasts easy pairing and long battery life. The In Wires and On Wireless are both headphone devices, with the NC adding noise cancelling for a more accurate audio experience.
One cool feature announced generally for Sony Wireless speakers is the ability to create a home theatre setup by pairing with Sony Soundbars, similar to the way that Sonos PlayBar and Play1s can be paired today.
The camcorder is a category that has become more specialized as we’ve seen many casual users shift over to using phones. At CES 2016 Sony has announced the FDR-AX53, the latest iteration of the 4K Handycam. I tried out last year’s model and really liked it, this year there’s a new high-sensitivity image sensor with pixels 1.6 larger than the older model. It’s stabilized by Sony’s BOSS (Balanced Optical SteadyShot™) technology, and shoots in beautiful 4K with a brand new Fast Intelligent AutoFocus feature. Also new for this is a more robust microphone for capturing more accurate sound.
The HDR-CX675 HD is a 1080p entry, equipped with BOSS and a cool feature called “Intelligent Active” mode that can stabilize your shot across 5-axes, designed to engage while your running. It’ll be great for anyone looking to make their own Cloverfield-style knock-off disaster movie.
Finally we’ve got the newest in Sony’s Action Cam line with the AS50R. It comes with a Live View Remote; I’ve used these remotes in the past, they’re wrist-watch style monitors that let you see what your camera is seeing. It’s way more convenient than messing with an app on your phone, letting you focus on the action.
This new model shoots 4K video, 4K time-lapse, and underwater shooting as deep as 60m (the unit comes with an underwater housing. This is a respectable upgrade; it’s not revolutionary, but it’s a great choice for anyone getting into the action camera space.
Life Space UX and other innovations
Sony’s innovation doesn’t stop with existing product lines; with Life Space UX they’re looking to change how you see technology in your home. Some products in this category include LED Bulb Speakers (already available in Japan) that add wireless distributed audio to your home anywhere where you can screw in a standard light bulb; this is coming to North American in the first half of 2016.
For those with smaller living spaces, the 10cm cubic Portable Ultra Short Throw Projector gives you a way to share video and pictures with friends and family without large projector installations. It’s capable of projecting an image as small as 22” and up to 80” from remarkably short distances.
Finally, the Glass Sound Speaker is a crystal clear tube of organic glass that includes an LED light; it lights up the space and fills it with sound in one pretty funky device.
All of these items will be available before the end of 2016, making it an interesting year with cool new stuff from Sony. Personally though? I’m waiting for PlayStation VR.