Greatly improved Internet-enabled streaming features come with a pretty good picture and 1080p resolution with 120 Hz refresh.
This latest Bravia 1080p 46” LCD set (also available in other sizes) features built-in movie and TV streaming capability via Amazon’s new (and still in beta at presstime) Video on Demand service, which provides both SD as well as HD movie and TV shows for rental and purchase (there are also some freebies offered, such as short subjects along the lines of bonus material found on DVDs and Blu-ray discs, and a few movie trailers.
While their selection is somewhat limited for now (compared to Netflix, for example), expect it to grow exponentially as time goes on. In addition to the Amazon streaming service, there are also over twenty five other content services offered, including YouTube, Sony Pictures, Sony Music, and Sports Illustrated, to name just four. You’ll need a broadband internet connection for these features, of course. A handful of Yahoo! widgets (news, weather, sports) rounds out the online feature package. Note: At presstime Sony announced that they’re adding Netflix capability to their Bravia Internet Video platform this fall, which greatly expands the range of streaming movie and show choices.
Consider this HDTV if: you’d like a very good-looking picture along with a quite broad range of Internet –accessible video channels and movies on demand via Amazon. This latest Sony dispenses with the need for an optional outboard Internet video adapter (as was the case with some prior models).
Look elsewhere if: you’re not so interested in the 120 Hz screen refresh or internet video capabilities as these functions do add cost to the set.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced LCD HDTVs):
With most sets in the Sony’s price range offering 1080p resolution and 120 Hz screen refresh, here the main differentiation is the broad range of internet content channels that the Sony provides. Of the more than twenty–five content providers offered, it’s Amazon’s new Video on Demand service and Netflix that will probably capture the most attention, with both HD and SD shows available for purchase or rental. The rental prices are mostly either $2.99 or $3.99 per SD (DVD quality) movies, and a couple of dollars more for the HD equivalent (most of both types come with the standard 24-hour viewing window; a select few movies I noted were available for 48 hour rental, but with a higher price tag). A purchase option is provided with many (but not all) choices–the content isn’t actually downloaded permanently to the set, but remains available for viewing at any time, with unlimited repeats, in most cases.
With four HDMI inputs and two component inputs the Sony is well equipped to handle a variety of HD sources, and the set also features an RGB PC input that is HD-compatible. There is also one S-video input and a composite input, but those are shared so it’s an either/or situation. A USB port allows photo, music and video playback from thumb drives and the like, and the LAN port is the gateway to the internet content functions (as well as allowing access to DLNA multimedia-enabled PCs that are on the home network).
On Screen Display
No surprises here, as the set features Sony’s tried-and-true Xross Media Bar interface that is very user-friendly (and will be quite familiar to PlayStation owners). The Options button on the remote brings up the most-used picture and audio controls (among others), and the adjustments and menus remain onscreen for as long as you like, which is very helpful when making adjustments with test discs.
The slender remote features a clearly legible numeric keypad, along with dedicated internet video and widget buttons. While not backlit, the remote’s overall layout is sensible with an easy to find Home button that brings up the main menu. The remote doesn’t have dedicated input buttons (few do these days, it seems). The rounded back side features grooves that help improve grip and a finger notch near the top that aids in using the cursor keypad and surrounding buttons.