Sony tosses latest pitch for curved TV displays

Sony is throwing a curveball into the HDTV game.

Its new 65-inch curved screen HDTV, about to hit stores, isn't the first concave display to hit the market -- LG and Samsung brought curved OLED HDTVs, available for $10,000 and $9,000 respectively, to market this summer.

But Sony's new display is the first curved LCD HDTV -- with contrast-enhancing LED backlighting -- bringing a cinematic vision in at lower price ($4,000). "A lot of times people see the curve and think it's a gimmick," says Sony TV training manager Philip Jones. "But this TV is designed to be more immersive."

The set produces richer 3-D video and has a wider viewing angle, he says. And Sony researched the proper curvature for the set to make TV watching more natural. "Your brain has to do less work and it's more comfortable to watch," he says.

TV shoppers need an information caddy to keep track of all the new display technologies available. The new OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays have been coveted for years because the super-thin displays reproduce super-saturated colors, ultra-distinct blacks and whites and virtually no motion blur.

The first Ultra HD or 4K TVs, which began arriving last fall, provide four times the resolution of current HDTV. Since launching its 84-inch Ultra HD set ($25,000), Sony has brought out two new smaller displays, a a 55-inch set for $3,500 and 65-inch sets starting at $5,000. Other makers with Ultra HD sets available include LG, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba.

Ultra HD, "is about detail, whether you are watching (Ultra HD) or HD content," Sony's Jones says. "This (curved HDTV) is designed to provide more immersion." That immersive effect carries over into sound, too, as the curved display also has a multi-angle surround sound array of eight speakers, he says.

Consumers at retail have stated a preference for curved sets because, says Richard Doherty, director of tech consulting firm The Envisioneering Group, "it feels like you are in the center of the action."

Despite the curved Sony HDTV set's higher price, compared to other 65-inch HDTVs that can be found for less than $1,500, some consumers may opt for the new look as "a style decision," Doherty says. "It may be a reason to sell it to your spouse or to impress your neighbors."

When the new Sony displays begin selling today at Video & Audio Center in Santa Monica -- priced at $3,998 with sales tax included -- the retailer will have the curved display next to other top-of-the-line displays.

Customers in the hundreds regularly turn out for the retailer's events showing off new OLED and Ultra HD 4K sets, says Video & Audio Center's Tom Campbell. "The consumer is hungry and has an appetite for these new technologies," he says. "Not everyone is coming to buy but they are coming to see (new products). They are very curious."

The set is also available for pre-order on Sony's online retail store with estimated availability of Oct. 27.

The big selling point of the new curved set is that "you get depth like never before," Campbell says. "It used to be that 'thin is in' and 'flat is where it's at' but not any more. Curved is where it is at."


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