For the last several months you may have noticed a huge drop in posting activity here at Sony Insider. The reason: I accepted a position at CNET earlier this year and have been writing there ever since. As much as I enjoyed obsessively exploring some of the fascinating details of the Sony brand and its products, it became apparent to me after several years of doing so that I needed to shift to bigger and better things.
When I first started SI, Sony had a lackluster social media presence; a site like ours was critical as the brand transitioned its social media presence. For many months (and years), we were one of the biggest Sony blogs on the Internet, assisting with the launch of many products (and leaking them, too). Traffic exploded as the months rolled by, and Sony Electronics was a very gracious host by accommodating many of our needs. Sony Electronics also gave us access to incredible opportunities and events, which I will always be thankful for. However, it was around late last year when I realized Sony was investing an incredible amount of energy in its own blog and SGNL video series, making Sony Insider less necessary. I also felt a sense of competition between Sony and SI, whereas the original goal was to hopefully one day be an official part of Sony. That obviously never materialized, which was a severe disappointment.
Sony Insider is not dead, but rather on a hiatus for now as I further my professional career and spread my wings. This isn’t over; we will return at some point and be better than ever. No one covers Sony like Sony Insider. Stay tuned.
We’ve been quiet for several weeks, but in that time things have changed greatly at Sony Insider.
Sony Insider was founded nearly three years ago, and we’ve been hosted the majority of that time at Kreative Networks. They are an incredibly responsive, professional, and reliable hosting service. We survived some major incoming hits at times, believe me, and everything went really smoothly.
As traffic to the site grew, it became necessary to evolve from that shared hosting option to a dedicated server. We have now transitioned to BlueMileCloud dedicated hosting. So far, so good. We like them. Sony Insider now sits on a quad-core server that has lots and lots of bandwidth to play with. And with that freedom means a change in way that we present things.
While the previous layout of Sony Insider was very innovative for a WordPress blog, the design just didn’t reflect the way I feel I should blog anymore. I think Tumblr style blogging is the future, because its a faster delivery, and works great with mobile devices. If you haven’t noticed already, our mobile sites have been greatly upgraded and offer improved functionality across various platforms. The iOS experience is really nice (especially the iPad in landscape), and it looks smooth on Android too. Any phone with a touchscreen will enjoy the site, I promise. And we will be adding pictures to all stories once things get going. You’ll love it.
Sony moves so fast that it just makes more sense if we just throw lots of media at you (pictures, video, quotes, audio), plus our usual style of presentation for our stories. Give us a few days and you’ll see. The website design is not complete yet, and will continue to evolve in appearance and navigation improvements over the next several months.
We’ve certainly missed some big Sony product launches in the last several weeks but we’ll be covering them anyway, and trying this new format out and seeing where this all goes. I think that in the end, it will just mean more high quality, cherry picked Sony content for you to enjoy. I hope you’ll stay on board and continue supporting us.
I also want to spend a moment to plug our new search feature, which uses Google custom search to cover the blog (2,161 posts) and Sony Insider forums (175,165 posts). This will hopefully be valuable for consumers seeking opinion on the Sony brand.
2010 was an incredible year in many ways for Sony as a brand, its social media team and Sony Insider’s role in that circle.
Every year we like to share the top ten stories that received the most hits on the site. This year’s list is rather interesting because it signals to me Sony Insider, while it has great coverage of news, has also become an informative tool for consumers when they want to learn more (and purchase) Sony products. We also noticed that many stories from 2009 are still receiving healthy traffic.
I hope we can do an even better job of being a source of news, reviews and everything else Sony in 2011. We will be following up this post with another list of our favorite memories of 2010, and our thoughts on what Sony needs to do in 2011. Happy New Year!
Thanks for reading!
September 14th – Every year in Japan, Sony holds a special Dealer Convention that shows off the latest products and a glimpse of what is coming. The event, held this year in Shinagawa, Tokyo, has always been interesting as sometimes reveals products and prototypes that Sony hasn’t even announced yet. While the big focus at this year’s Dealer Convention was 3D products, there was also a small exhibit showing a very exciting development that could one day be used in future Sony Reader devices.
April 12th – Sony Europe announced a new and improved Sony Wearable and Water Resistant Walkman in their W series. The Sony NWZ-W250 is actually water resistant, something that its cousin W202 has had issues with. You also get a new look, a new stand and of course Sony acclaimed superb sound. NWZ-W252 is offered in a 2GB of storage in the USA and 4 Gb to store your techno or whatever music you like to work out to.
August 12th – The fall season in the USA always brings an update to Sony Reader devices, and we were the first to deliver concrete information about the new models – PRS-350 and PRS-650. Sony has been under pressure in the E-Book Reader product category as they face increased competition from rivals Apple (iPad), Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), and a hodgepodge of other companies.
August 24th – Inside Job is a documentary from Academy Award nominated filmmaker, Charles Ferguson (“No End In Sight”), and is the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, Inside Job traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia.
January 19th – Sony Computer Entertainment Asia announced that the company has formally started PlayStation business in Socialist Republic of Vietnam, making the one of the world’s popular computer entertainment systems and services available to the PlayStation fans and consumers in the country.
January 21st – According to dozens of forum users at Notebookreview.com, apparently owners of the powerful Sony VAIO F Series VPCF112FX/B, VPCF11JFX/B, VPCF11MFX/B and VPCF1190X CTO were experiencing an odd high pitched whine or buzzing sound (aka whining) while using the laptop. The issue caused several consumers to call Sony for support, but they were unable to provide a fix over the phone – this led to several of the laptops being returned, exchanged, and so forth. However, after observing the forum topic it seems that the problem resides within the microphone built into the laptop itself, and with a few simple clicks this issue can be temporarily resolved. Sony eventually provided a full fix for this issue.
January 22nd – The XPERIA X10, also known in Japan simply as Xperia, came to the massive wireless carrier DoCoMo yesterday amid great reception. However, what’s truly odd about this 1Ghz, 4 inch screen Android phone is that the battery life figures have been relatively unknown up to this point. Even Sony Ericsson’s global site has never listed the battery life figures in its specifications. This left many curious as to how long it could actually last.
January 10th – One of the most overlooked announcements by Sony at CES 2010 was the new iPhone/iPod Touch application called “BD Remote” that is compatible with all 2010 Sony Networked Blu-ray Players. Well I guess it wasn’t that overlooked after we published a nice hands-on with the interface.
April 13th – The XPERIA X10 is truly outstanding as SE’s first Android device, and has some features that really shine in comparison to the competition. The design is also just so stunning, and reminds me of the Monolithic Design concept we’ve seen with Sony’s other products. However, after using the phone daily, it became obvious that there was a big problem – the battery life. The battery was draining way too quickly, even in standby mode. I tried some application management programs, and so forth, but it still seemed less than what I’d hoped for. This post originated before a firmware fix that corrected some problems, and visitors left comments with other tips.
Sony Ericsson’s major device for AT&T in 2010 was the XPERIA X10. With specifications straight out of Star Trek, is one of the most advanced devices ever released by Sony Ericsson. However, the new iPhone 4, despite its shortcomings, has set the bar in smartphone functionality that is nearly unmatched by other devices. We put the XPERIA X10 (specs courtesy Sony Ericsson) head to head with the iPhone 4 (specs courtesy of Apple) in a detailed specifications comparison.
There are literally hundreds of gift recommendations I could give for Sony products, but instead I will simply choose a few that are guaranteed to impress and are below $300. There are many great ideas here for digital imaging, audio, and some tips for the PlayStation 3 as well.
In this article, we provide links to SonyStyle and have pricing listed merely as reference. If the prices listed here still seem high, we recommend checking out other e-tailers selling these products. A great way to compare prices is to always check Amazon, Google Product Search, or SlickDeals (just put the product name in the search field). Great savings can be found for many of the items listed here in those websites, but SonyStyle is still able to guarantee Christmas shipping if you order as soon as possible.
While Sony sells many point and shoot cameras I really have to put all of my energy towards the DSC-TX5 ($279). It is one of the greatest portable compact cameras Sony has ever made. The TX5 is waterproof (up to ten feet), dustproof, shockproof (can be dropped five feet), and freeze-proof. I bought one for my girlfriend and we had so much fun over the summer shooting pictures underwater at the pool, shooting HD video underwater while making funny faces, and more. She took the camera on a girls beach trip and the pictures she came back with were stunning.
For many people, these type of features are a dream come true. Imagine dropping your camera and not worrying about it breaking, or being able to jump in the water with it and take great shots. The TX5 also has a 3.0″ wide touch screen, 4x optical zoom, “Exmor R” sensor, iSweep Panorama Mode, and 10fps (pictures per second) at the camera’s full 10.2 megapixels. The TX5 is easy to use – almost anyone can use its easy to understand touchscreen interface. There’s also five great colors to choose from, including red, pink, silver, green and black.
If you have not tried a 2010 Sony point and shoot camera, the pictures are seem so much higher in quality thanks to the Exmor R sensor. Sony also has some dynamite looking camera cases that are worth looking into.
A cheaper digital imaging gift is the versatile Bloggie Touch, which is a stylish 12.8 megapixel camera and 1080P video recorder. The Touch comes in a 8GB ($179, 4 hour video) or 4GB ($159, 2 hour video) models, and both will be more than sufficient for the Facebook or YouTube enthusiast in your life. The videos are recorded in an easy to upload format that can be transferred easily with the built-in USB stick. Did we mention it also has Auto Macro (for easy, close up shots and videos) as well as 4x digital zoom? Not too shabby.
There are a couple simple gift recommendations I can give for Sony audio products.
The first that comes to mind is the W Series Walkman ($59), which is a wearable one-piece audio player. The W Series is water-resistant, quick-charging, and comfortably wraps around your head and fits in your ear. There is 2GB of storage built-in to the device and is perfect for someone who runs or does other activities. We did a hands-on with this music player and it withstood some really tough workouts. It’s far superior than using your iPhone or iPod because it eliminates pesky headphone wires and is more durable.
If that didn’t really win you over, then at least give the gift of better sound. I cannot stand seeing people wear those tacky white iPhone/iPod earbuds knowing they are experiencing inferior audio quality. You wouldn’t believe the difference when you put on a nice quality pair of Sony earphones. Plus they just look amazing. Scout around in the SonyStyle earbuds section, or look further at Sony’s unique PIIQ line of headphones and earbuds, which has some really funky designs and poppy colors. You really can’t go wrong with this option and it’s a gift that will definitely be used over and over.
The Sony Dash Personal Internet Viewer ($149) is a cool gift for the geek that has everything, or someone who could use a little spice of tech in their life. The Dash has a 7″ screen that shows off everything from weather, e-mail, traffic, sports, social networking, movies, music, games and more. There are more than a thousand apps for it, including Netflix watch instantly and Hulu Plus. Can your alarm clock do that? The only downside is that it doesn’t have a dock for the iPhone/iPod.
If you’re looking for a great iPhone/iPod dock, Sony has several options. Some have a clock radio, and others are merely speaker systems. The ICF-CS10iP is a perfect example of having a speaker dock and clock radio combined. The audio quality of some Sony docks is actually surprising, and some can also get very loud. While we’re in our room, my girlfriend and I often listen to Jazz internet streams or other audio from my iPhone on the ICF-CS10iP and it sounds great. There is pretty much something for everyone in numerous price ranges all the way up to $250.
There are more gift options for the PlayStation 3 than ever before. If you know someone who has the console and are thinking of giving them a gift, this really may be your best bet.
If he or she doesn’t have a PS3, this is definitely the right time. It really is one of the greatest gaming systems ever released. And I’m not just saying that because I run Sony Insider. Most people who have really given the console some time would agree. Even though I play FPS games on the PC, there are several titles I have put many hours into on the PS3. The crazy thing is that the hits just keep coming for the console. Gran Turismo 5 is a perfect example of the true power of the PS3 with its access to over 1,000 vehicles and dozens of racetracks.
There are three official PS3 options, including the PS3/PlayStation Move bundle (320GB/$299), and regular PS3 (320GB/$349), and PS3 (160GB/$299) systems. You can find the 160GB model for less than $299 with some easy sleuthing. All the versions of the console come with huge hard drives, the incredible quality of movies and music on Blu-ray, 3D movie and gaming compatibility, free PlayStation network access, built-in Wi-Fi and so much more. It can be used as a device that can stream or playback numerous types of audio and has a lot of use as a networked device. The PS3 has access to a wealth of games, and also some really interesting content on the PlayStation store. They sell a variety of videos at the Store as well and it also has access to Hulu, Netflix, etc. Some people overlook the fact the PS3 also has a fully functional web browser with flash.
In a nutshell, the PS3 is a really great start towards building a media center for that LCD in the living room. It doesn’t necessarily trump the XBOX360 in every regard, but it still has several untouchable advantages.
Game gift recommendations are really easy – the biggest titles I can easily think of include Call of Duty: Black Ops, Gran Turismo 5, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Red Dead Redemption, NBA JAM, Uncharted 2, Super Street Fighter IV, LittleBigPlanet, and essentially anything else in this list. Any of those aforementioned games will provide dozens, if not hundreds of hours of enjoyable gameplay and have incredible replay value. Also, if they already have Gran Turismo 5, then just get them this PS3-compatible Logitech Driving Force GT Racing Wheel, which will seriously accelerate their experience from zero to awesome.
One of the easiest recommendations for a PS3 owner I can give is the PlayStation Move, which is an incredibly accurate Motion Controller for the PS3. The experience is like the Nintendo Wii, but more accurate and in HD. Sony has a $99 bundle that includes a PlayStation Eye camera, PlayStation Move controller and the game Sports Champions. That’s all you need to start. We’ve covered the Move extensively in a video hands-on earlier this year and it did not disappoint. I also own a PlayStation Move myself, and I can tell you it really put some interest back in the system for me. THe great part is that they also sell some interesting PlayStation Move games and demos on the PlayStation store, along with many great games that support the technology. The PlayStation Move, only in its infancy, has already transformed the potential for the PS3.
I fully expect second generation Move titles to be even more amazing than the first. Sorcery, one of many Move-compatible titles coming in 2011, is a great example of what I’m talking about here.
The Move has many accessories that goes with it, which is also a nice thing for someone giving a gift to a person that has it already. The official list of PlayStation Move add-ons includes several options. A second Motion Controller is an easy buy, and is useful in singleplayer and encourages more local mutliplayer action – reasonable at $49. The Navigation Controller ($29) is a smart purchase for someone who has games that require precise movement and will be essential for Move-based FPS games (like MAG, Killzone 3, etc).
A heavily recommended purchase is the PlayStation Move charging station ($29), which keeps the controllers fully charged and upright in a nice looking base. I bought this immediately when I got the Move because of the convenience. It’s much better than just leaving the wands laying around. If placed appropriately, they are always a conversation piece as well, which will lead to playing.
There’s also the PlayStation Move shooting attachment ($19), which seems a little childish looking in comparison to the third party options out there. If your getting them a FPS game for the PS3 that has Move compatibility, then the gun is the way to go.
I hope some of these recommendations help you on your way to giving the perfect Sony gift these holidays.
We’ve been working hard over the last few days to upgrade the software and craft a new default skin for the Sony Insider forum. The forum is based on the IP.Board discussion software by Invision Power Services. If you have never used the Sony Insider forum, please spend just a few moments to give it a look over. Please register and feel free to discuss Sony (and everything else) with us today. We would love your company.
The origins of the Sony Insider forum is a story that’s nearly a decade old.
When I joined the Minidisc.org team around 2001, Sony had a lackluster Internet presence and the iPod was barely a household name. Initially, I joined their forum as a fan of the product I had received for Christmas – a MZR-700 Minidisc recorder. I used it to record myself playing bass guitar and I loved the quality. There wasn’t much of a community for me to share it with, however. So, I took the initiative and built the forum up into a community that could support each other and share their works because Sony wasn’t doing it and it had that potential. Things quickly accelerated with the site and suddenly we were the top resource for Minidisc information, support, and product announcements.
More importantly, I started to notice that consumers were using the forums when they had problems with Sonicstage (the music management software for Minidisc and other Sony audio products) and out of those discussions we built comprehensive FAQ’s. We were all helping each other to ensure that we had the most optimal product experience by making it successful for everyone. Sony was quietly watching in the background, and we all knew it, as our recommendations for future Minidisc products and Sonicstage fixes were being implemented – Sony realized we were a voice for the product, and catered to us. It was truly impressive.
As Minidisc faded out, so did my interest and I went on to make a new website called ATRACLife. ATRACLife was similar to Minidisc – it had the latest news as well as hardware and software support. As ATRACLife grew and became a trusted resource for Sony audio players and other ATRAC devices, so did its influence and that’s when I started to receive direct contact from people within Sony who wanted to help. Without realizing it, the site had transformed itself from a collective of consumers to a leader. We worked closely with Sony audio engineers in California, manifested a rich 3rd-party software environment, and also ran a contest with Sony Europe giving away a couple of Video Walkmans. I visited the Consumer Electronics Show in 2006 and met with many people in Sony, all of whom were very supportive and helpful to what I was doing.
Months before the end of ATRACLife I purchased the domain name Sony Insider. The rest is history.
In late 2009, I worked with Invision to merge the forum databases of Minidisc Community Forums, ATRACLife and Sony Insider together. This new discussion forum is one of the largest third party forums for Sony content, with 173,000+ posts and 112,000+ members at the time of this writing.
We are on the precipice of a major transformation in technology and entertainment. Perhaps one could call this moment the calm before the storm. We know now that in the early years of the twenty-first century this world became truly connected and the ability to rapidly advance our intelligence became possible. We know now that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns that consumer electronics companies gave us an option to escape in immerse worlds in high definition. With infinite complacence, people went to and fro over the earth about their little affairs, and achieved a serene existence by placing high definition equipment in their domains. The universe was no longer a dark mystery; even the minute elements within the small spinning fragment of solar driftwood that man inherited was now defined in stunning clarity.
Despite an immense effort to transform and catalog the world in HD, minds that to our minds as ours are the creators of this technological utopia – their intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic – regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their ultimate plans for the consumer. In the tenth year of the twenty first century came the most extensive integration of the third dimension in our lives.
Sony is launching a 3D invasion upon us.
If you visit an electronics store you will see products that we have grown accustomed to for nearly a decade – products such as LCD TV’s, point and shoot cameras, video players, notebooks, and movies/video games on disc. Change is coming.
In hindsight, the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show was ground zero for 3D – it was the point on the Earth’s surface where an explosion occurred. Nearly every major consumer electronics manufacturer who has a presence in television showed off 3D capable displays. The world was surprised by such a massive tour de force. Yet for some strange reason, many attendants were kind of underwhelmed by the sudden shift in industry focus; those people were too comfortable with HD and the lull of product evolution that has existed for the last five years.
The 3D invasion is not only an effort to make movies, pictures and games feel truly immersive, but it is also an enormous gamble to galvanize multiple industries that have either gone unchanged for eons, or were lost in an endless cycle of incremental upgrades. 3D is also a powerful angle from companies who have suffered profit losses from pirated content. If you think about it, the profits are back in the hand of the creator; to enjoy 3D you have to buy it.
I believe those who choose to truly open their eyes and minds are becoming inspired by the exceptional collective achievement of releasing 3D from its prison of theater. At first, I didn’t believe it was worth the effort.
And I’ll be honest with you, I have spent a fair amount of time with Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG and other 3D TV’s throughout their evolution at trade shows and the finalized versions at retail. I’ve seen all the different types of active shutter glasses and marketing terminology that assures the consumer that their interpretation of 3D is the best option. And after my observations my eyes made the decision what companies I liked best – Sony and Panasonic.
Several days ago, I visited Los Angeles, California to participate in a 3D launch event Sony hosted at the historic Sony Pictures Studios. The event was not just a simple effort by the company to showcase a few televisions, but rather a real attempt to convince those who were still skeptical about whether or not 3D could really be the “next big thing.” The event also served the purpose of showing off the latest innovative 3D content. Sony also wanted the consumer to identify the company is leading 3D with strong content partnerships and education offerings.
3D, whose momentum has been subdued by economic woes and skepticism, is finally starting to accelerate forward. Sony held no reservations about how important this strategy has become for the struggling company, as CEO of Sony Sir Howard Stringer, President and COO Stan Glasgow, CMO Mike Fasulo, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Michael Lynton, and President/CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Jack Tretton were all on hand to talk 3D, and how it will influence their respective businesses. We will have separate articles about their marketing and movie efforts; we wanted to focus on the consumer electronics portion of the presentation for this post.
Sony is playing a solid hand for the first generation of 3D home theater. There are seven 3D ready (and built-in 3D) televisions Sony will deal to consumers this Summer, starting at $2,099. Let’s take a look at the models:
As you can see, Sony has attractive 3D TV options in screen sizes ranging from 40″ to 60″.
The LX900 (52″ and 60″) series is the most feature rich option of out of the box, as it includes built-in 3D capabilities, MotionFlow Pro 240Hz, a vast array of online video, included active shutter 3D glasses and built-in Wi-Fi. Picture-wise, most consumers will find the ultra-thin LCD panel (with side-lit LED) of the LX900 to offer excellent quality. I sat down with the 60″ LX900 and played several Playstation 3 games in 3D, including Super Star Dust, Wipeout, and Motorstorm. I peeped around on the Playstation 3 and the firmware was 3.30, but it was a special build that had developer options I’d never seen before, allowing the ability to install items and other features.
Super Star Dust 3D was quite impressive, and the game looked fantastic in 3D as my ship flew around dodging asteroids, creating explosions and upgrading its weapons. The neon guns and explosions shined in 3D, creating a rather amazing effect that made such an ordinary game quite extraordinary. I noticed the game had an option to intensify or lessen the 3D effect, which was helpful addition that I actually found useful. Motorstorm 3D was better than the original, and the smoothest looking game of the three but still left something to desired. And finally, I felt Wipeout 3D was the king of the games available to sample, clearly demonstrating that high-speed games did not suffer in 3D, but rather complimented them greatly. I was worried that the high speed element of the vehicles would be too challenging to enjoy in 3D, but it was rather a surprisingly great experience that was truly fun. A well made 3D first person shooter on the PS3 will be a “killer app.”
For more thoughts on Sony’s Playstation 3D efforts at this event, please check out this informative post I helped put together – “PlayStation CEO Talks PS3 And Its 3D Future.”
The HX909 series (46″ and 52″) is for the true picture enthusiast, as it offers a LCD panel with direct LED back lighting, and offers picture quality on par or above the famous BRAVIA XBR8. The HX909 also has incredible other features pointed out in the above comparison chart (and this HX909 SonyStyle info page). However, the HX909 is only 3D and Wi-Fi ready, meaning you will have to pony up the extra money for those accessories in order to gain that functionality. So that $3,999 52″ HX909 will be much more expensive if you add on the cost of 3D transmitter and 3D active shutter glasses.
I watched Alice in Wonderland in 3D in a dark room on the 52″ HX909 and it was clearly the best 3D presentation out of all the Sony 3D TV’s currently available. Colors were truly lush, and the black levels were exceptional. The HX909 series truly shines because of the Intelligent Dynamic LED backlighting and the innovative OptiContrast panel. I started to realize after watching the movie for an extended period of time that a set like this could convince nearly anyone that 3D for the home is the real deal.
There was also a brief opportunity for me to see several 3D panoramic pictures on the HX909 taken with the upcoming NEX-5 camera. It was not a gimmick – I felt like I was witnessing the future of photo viewing. Images looked fantastic and detail was very crisp. The sense of dimension was quite noticeable, especially in a group shot of about three dozen people standing together. You are also able to zoom in on the 3D panoramic photo with the remote control. Incredible stuff.
And finally, there is the workhorse HX800 series (40″, 46″, and 55″) which is very similar to the LX900 series as they both have a dynamic edge-lit LED LCD. Read more about the HX800 series at SonyStyle. However, like the HX909, the HX800 series it doesn’t include the 3D emitter, active shutter 3D glasses, or integrated Wi-Fi but can support them.
Sony had the LX900 next to a Panasonic 3D TV, which was quite straightforward for Sony to do at an event like this but it demonstrated how hungry they are to convince the media they are serious about dominating 3D TV at home, as many have considered Panasonic Plasmas to be some of the best first generation 3D TV’s. Yet somehow, in this demonstration, when viewing the LX900 and Panasonic 3D TV next to each other, the LX900 looked better. I found it hard to believe that an edge-lit LED LCD panel could be on par with a Plasma, but it was. The LX900 was very bright, and seemed to solve that “whites aren’t white enough” problem the Panasonic exhibited. I also noticed the colors were not as lush on the Plasma as the LX900, and the power consumption of the Panasonic was nearly double the LX900 (as seen above). Troubling. Here are some comparison pictures of the 3D glasses for Panasonic and Sony:
The 3D Launch event wasn’t just about the newest hardware, though – it was also about how Sony has released a free firmware update that enables 3D functionality in existing 2010 Blu-ray disc players and home theater systems, such as the BDP-S470 and BDP-S570 players and BDV-E570 and BDV-E770W home-theater systems. The firmware update can be directly downloaded and installed over the Internet, or through a USB port. Nice.
Also, after purchasing and registering a 3D BRAVIA TV, you will receive a copy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray 3D title “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” as well as Blu-ray 3D title “Deep Sea.” There is also an included PlayStation Network voucher enabling purchasers to download stereoscopic 3D gaming experiences on the PS3.
There was also a great exposition of 3D content at the event, ranging from sports (golf, basketball, extreme, both types of football), nature clips, action movies, and so much more. Over the last year of trade shows, it seems the quality of the 3D clips have evolved dramatically. Sony is investing incredible energy into creating tools that shoot great 3D and educating others how to use them effectively, and the content is truly starting to reflect that. There were two clips that impressed me the most throughout the presentations. The first clip was in conjunction with the announcement that the next X-Games (ESPN) would be shot and presented in 3D, and they proceeded to show some dirt bikes flying in the air off ramps – it was truly jaw-dropping.
Imagine the motorcycle and rider doing a trick in the air, fifty feet off the ground; the moving image just looked so stunning. The rider was perfectly separated from the crowd behind it in vivid 3D; it was like the third dimension is what has been missing from making extreme sports truly exhilarating to watch. Another clip that grasped the audience was the slow-motion clip from Discovery Channel of an enormous shark capturing a fish in its mouth while jumping high in the water. The near freeze-frame effect of the slow motion perfectly complimented the 3D effect; the rise of the mammoth shark felt so real, and with it being in 3D the true intensity of the moment helped create the most brilliant piece of nature footage I’d ever seen.
Naturally, Sony and the other consumer electronic manufacturers will face hardship trying to convince consumers to spend large amounts of money on a 3D TV. To make matters worse, if you have an old home theater system you will have to buy a 3D compatible receiver. Then there is the matter of accessories – only two of Sony’s 3DTVs come with the 3D emitter and active shutter 3D glasses, adding more cost to the equation if you buy a model that doesn’t include those items. It’s still unclear how much content will really cost. It’s like the beginning of HD all over again, essentially, but this non-believer has been converted. The content looks so amazing. Despite the fact there will only be two 3D channels available for consumers – ESPN 3D and Discovery/IMAX 3D – I feel that live sports and video gaming in 3D will play the biggest role in attracting consumers to the 3D revolution.
This evening I visited Sony Netherlands Headquarters for one of their 3D TV Demonstration events. I have been a Sony fan for as long as I can remember, but this was my first time ever at Sony’s Dutch HQ. While the building doesn’t look very special from the outside, they have do have the perfect space to organize these events.
After entering the building I was led to a large reception area. This area was set up beautifully with sleek furniture in black, white and grey, and a couple of modern white chandeliers. In the center there was a huge bar with a variety of drinks and at a separate bar finger food was served. There were a couple of flatscreens on which Sony content was shown, like movie trailers and concerts of Sony stars like P!nk and George Michael. A couple of Large Sony Make.Believe logos decorated the walls.
The event started in a cinema hall in the basement of the building. A short movie was shown in which Sony´s integrated 3D world was shown: 3D camera’s, 3D content, 3D players and 3D TV’s. After the short movie we went back to the ground floor, where there was a huge showroom. In this room all kinds of Sony tech was present: audio equipment, cameras, VAIOs, Walkmans, and of course a lot of Bravia TVs.
We were seated in front of a 3D TV (the KDL-46HX800) and received the 3D glasses which were much lighter and more comfortable than I expected them to be. A 3D movie of an aquarium was shown to us and I was really amazed by the sharpness of the 3D images and the 3D depth. After that we saw impressive game movies of 3D versions of LittleBigPlanet, WipeOut HD, MotorStorm and Super Stardust HD. To show that the TV can also upscale 2D to 3D images, some upscaled 2D soccer footage was demonstrated which showed quite some depth in it.
After that we watched another 200 Hz 3D TV, received the price list for 7 3D TV models and that concluded the demonstration. I had a look at some other Sony tech in the showroom and headed outside. Before leaving, I received a goody bag with some nice Sony stuff in it, including the Blu-ray of Michael Jackson’s “This is It.”
Due to this demonstration my interest in 3D TV certainly has grown a lot. Although I slightly fear that it will take some time before many interesting 3D TV emissions will be available, but I think especially 3D games could relatively quickly become a driving force for 3D TV.
Furthermore, I really appreciate it that Sony organizes these kinds of events because it allows you to experience new technology in a very relaxed setting. I hope Sony will decide to organize these kind of events much more often.
The Sony DSC-TX7 could possibly be one of the greatest point and shoot ultra slim cameras ever created. It truly is a pinnacle of Sony’s commitment to quality in its twenty five years of making Cyber-shot cameras. At $399, it also surprisingly faces stiff competition in the ultra slim category from giants such as Samsung, Canon, Nikon, and others.
What Sony brings to the table with the TX7 makes it a real player in comparison to anything else out there. Lets go over some of the basic features before we start our review – the TX7 has a 3.5″ touch screen, “Exmor R” sensor, iSweep Panorama Mode, 10fps at full 10.2 megapixels, Anti-Motion Blur / Hand-held Twilight, AVCHD Movie mode, Optical SteadyShot, and 4x optical zoom. And while that list may seem exhausting, that’s not even everything available on the TX7 – it’s merely the beginning.
When you first hold the TX7 you can most certainly sense that this isn’t some flimsy camera. It’s very well-built, and is very slim. The design of the camera is nearly unmatched in this category; only what I’ve seen from Nikon’s Coolpix line of cameras could even come close. It is available in three colors, ranging from Red, Silver, and Dark Blue. Turning on this T series Cyber-shot is as easy as its predecessors – you simply slide down the lens cover and away you go. The TX7 turns on very quickly, in a mere matter of seconds.
Buttons are few and far between and that’s how it should be for a touchscreen camera – the only things to push or move is the On/Off, Tele/Wide button, camera, and movie buttons. However, the Tele/Wide (aka zoom) button is on the upper right side of the camera, which seems something Sony integrated out of convenience, but could prove to be a challenging aspect in everyday usability. There is a slider on the bottom of the camera that allows access to the battery compartment and SD/MS Duo slots. Yes, you read that right – this TX7 can use Memory Stick Duo and SD (HC) cards.
A special note about the MS Duo slot – it also accepts the 8GB MS Duo TransferJet card MSJ-X8G, which is compatible with the TJS-1 TransferJet Station. We’ve covered TransferJet extensively in the past, but basically its a wireless technology that lets you to wirelessly share photos and videos with other TransferJet devices. So, take a picture with your DSC-TX7 with MSJ-X8G card, then put the camera on top of your TJS-1 and view pictures on whatever the TJS-1 is connected to (via USB, which can connect to computers, TV’s, photo frames, etc). It’s really cool technology that allows rapid transfer of pictures wirelessly. I’ve seen TransferJet in person and it is not slow whatsoever, and its short range transmissions doesn’t interfere with any other common wireless band (4GHz).
Don’t think the technology is vapor, either – it is backed by large consortium of companies such as Samsung, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Toshiba, and so many more. You will be seeing TransferJet integrated into many new future consumer electronic products in the coming years. Unfortunately, new technology also brings a high price – the 8GB MS Duo TransferJet card MSJ-XG8 is $99, which the USB base station TJS-1 is $149. If you were to buy everything together for the optimal TransferJet experience, including the aforementioned accessories and the camera itself, it would run you more than $650. Time and ubiquity will bring these prices down, but it will be a considerable amount of time from now.
The back of the DSC-TX7 is home to a large 3.5″ touch screen LCD (921k pixels), that has TruBlack technology. Reviewing pictures looked very crisp – not OLED crisp as you would see in several of Samsung’s point and shoot cameras, but most certainly best in class. Sony display technology is usually great in small form factor devices. The touchscreen was very responsive and didn’t detract from usability whatsoever – it was very convenient to use. It also enables you to select the focus point with a simple touch, scroll through images by sliding your finger across the screen and one-touch access to the menu. We also appreciated the Ultra AR film coating, which noticeably reduced reflections and favorably increased contrast and brightness in bright situations. I remember in the days of old when it was annoying to review a picture you just took while outdoors, as I usually had to hold my hand over the top of the screen to see it properly.
The TX7 can take some truly amazing pictures (as seen above, courtesy of AV Watch), and the reason for that is the 10.2 megapixel “Exmor R” CMOS image sensor that brings out the full power of the camera’s Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens. Sony kept things pretty average with the optical zoom, which remains at 4x this year. The camera can deliver extremely fast speed, high resolution pictures, and stunning low-light sensitivity with improved image clarity and drastically reduced grain. A lot of that may seem like marketing speak, but if you can take one thing away and one thing only from reading this entire review, then understand that Sony’s 2010 camera line-up with the Exmor R CMOS image sensor makes a huge difference in low light situations. It really is a big change, and one that we are so happy to finally see. For so long it felt like we were in a megapixel race, but now as that has finally come to pass you’ll soon realize that this improvement is one of the most important features to hit point and shoot cameras in many years.
Unfortunately, I did notice that the placement of the lens may make it easy for people to accidentally put their finger in the picture, and will require people to hold the camera specifically to avert this that will be easy remembered after several uses.
Battery life is pretty great with the new super slim type of batteries Sony is using with this camera – the NP-BN1 Lithium-ion N Type rechargeable battery is capable of about 230 images per charge, or approximately 115 minutes of shooting still images as listed on SonyStyle. The TX7 also comes with a stand that has connectivity options such as DC In, USB, A/V Out (stereo), and HDMI out.
There are just so many smart aspects of this camera that really make sure you never miss the perfect shot. In some ways, the camera works overtime just for you to ensure this. For example, when the camera is set to Soft Snap, the Anti-blink function captures two images, recording only the photo with less squinting or blinking. If a blink is detected in other shooting modes, a warning will be displayed after you take the shot. The Self-Timer, pictured above, can do the routine 10 second wait, 2 second wait to take a picture, or take advantage of the facial detection and capture a picture when a person is detected, or two people. Now that is impressive. Sony’s Face Detection technology detects up to eight individual faces and adjusts flash, focus, exposure, and white balance to help deliver crisp, properly lit images of family and friends.
Here are some of the settings in the camera one may encounter:
The camera is also a bit of a quick shot, in two very special ways. The Handheld Twilight mode allows you to take six images in less than a second with the push of a button, and combines all six images together that results in great detail and low noise. This method is also present in the Anti-motion Blur mode, which also takes six images and combines them together to vastly decrease subject blur.
In addition to High Sensitivity Mode (ISO), you can select up to seven ISO settings (Auto, 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200) when shooting in Program Auto Mode to adjust sensitivity to your shooting conditions. This compliments the TX7′s motion detection features quite nicely, along with face motion detection, which adjusts ISO sensitivity and increases the shutter speed when movement is detected, reducing blur in moving subjects and faces. Also, the auto focus is ultra-quick and locks focus in as little as 0.3-sec.
Unlike traditional auto mode, the included Intelligent Auto (iAuto) mode thinks for you, recognizing scenes, lighting conditions, and faces, and adjusts settings resulting in clearer images, faces with more natural skin tone, and less blur. This is achieved by incorporating advanced features such as Intelligent Scene Recognition, Face Detection technology, and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. Whether you’re shooting landscapes, capturing a beautiful flower, or taking pictures at an in-door birthday party or wedding shower, iAuto mode will optimize your camera’s settings to help ensure you come away with a great shot.
On top of iAuto, the TX7 also has Intelligent Scene Recognition (iSCN) Mode, which automatically detects nine different types of scenes and, within just 1/30th of a second, selects the appropriate camera settings: Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Twilight using a tripod, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, and Close Focus. iSCN has two modes: Auto and Advanced. In Auto Mode, the camera takes a single shot using the optimal settings. In Advanced Mode, the camera takes a photo with the optimal settings and, if in difficult lighting (low light or back light) immediately takes a second photo with another optimized setting so you can choose which to keep.
The DSC-TX7 features 12 convenient scene modes: High Sensitivity / Twilight / Twilight Portrait / Portrait / Landscape / Beach / Snow / Fireworks / High Speed Shutter / Underwater / Gourmet / Pet.
They also upgraded the popular Sweep Panorama mode this year to Intelligent Sweep Panorama Mode, which now shoots 258 degrees. Press shutter and sweep and the camera does the rest, continuously, shooting images and in one second stitching them together. In the picture above, captured with the TX7, you can see the technology is almost bulletproof. This model even detects faces and moving subjects to stitch intelligently different widths to help avoid subject distortion. However, in our further tests, we found that it couldn’t fix everything, as there was some object distortion in some of the products captured with our panoramic shot below within SonyStyle at Atlanta, GA.
A feature I’m hesitant to really gush on but felt the need to include was the expansion of some creative painting tools, which allows you to decorate photos with words, drawings, etc. This feature was truly popularized in the minds of some US consumers by Nikon’s commercials with Ashton Kutcher. Aside from a paint pen (your finger is the brush), there are more than 30 stamps and 15 types of picture frames you can color your picture with, but unfortunately it will downgrade the image quality to a maximum of five megapixels.
Lastly, the movie mode is very appealing – you can record movies in 1080i AVCHD at 60i (MTS files), or 720p MP4 movie mode where the camera shoots 1280 x 720 high definition movies at 30 fps. Just be warned however, those AVCHD MTS files are quite a burden on non dual core machines and you will fare much better with a newer generation computer. Movie recording is somewhat limited (29min segments for MP4 up to 12Mbps 1440×1080/30p) (and) (10 minute segments for AVCHD up to 16mbps 1920×1080/60i.) Pretty amazing it can do that type of AVCHD in a ultra slim point and shoot – its almost similar in specifications to their Handycam camcorders from two or three years ago. You can check out a AVCHD 17M FH / 1,920×1,080 / 60fps / 24.9MB video from the DSC-TX7 in pure .MTS file format here.
All things considered, we recommend the TX7 if you have the money to spend. There are many alternatives out there for less, but few bring this level of quality. I’ve looked at the competition and I truly believe Sony will be ranked very highly in point and shoot for 2010 Digital Imaging sales, customer satisfaction, and so forth. And for those of you still reading, a special gallery of the DSC-T90, DSC-TX1, and DSC-TX7.
There is a certain amount of Geek DNA that was required to run Linux on the PS3 from the start. Over time that changed and guides and easy installers were made to take advantage of “Install OtherOS” and it became much easier to do so. The problem now is that the geek community is like the NRA: number wise very small in comparison to who they lobby against, but extremely vocal. That segment of users were some of the ones touting the PS3 in forums, fan boy circles, and online. So that segment now feels betrayed, hence the reason why the lack of SACD support didn’t generate such shockwaves in the community.
The addition of Divx/Facebook at this point are enhancements, but they don’t really differentiate Sony from anyone else operating in the console space. They are simply things that have become common place. Linux access to the Cell, although very restricted and controlled was a powerful option. It gave that core group something that they were more than happy to generate free publicity about, and that group did buy hardware, and fell in love with the console.
Given the statement of what you lose if you don’t upgrade (i.e. PSN access) it gives the impression that by wishing to retain your Linux access, you are somehow doing something you should not. Akin to 360 users being banned from Live for playing pirated games. Not the same by any means, but again, it’s that perception amongst many that is being circulated, and while not entirely accurate, it casts Sony in a negative light.
It is true that as a whole Linux has not been a significant revenue driver for Sony’s Playstation brand. Modifying the GameOS required modifying the OtherOS to ensure compatibility between the two, and that when you have to segment resources to support something the majority aren’t using, it makes sense at some point to discontinue it. Couple that with George Hotz gaining some serious ground very quickly, one can see why Sony is taking a move like this. Right now, in the next generation Sony has the longest streak of being the console that is not compromised. But look at what this has caused. Previously, George Hotz was not going to do anything more than release his exploit according to his own blog, and then let everyone play in his sandbox. Now he is behind creating custom firmware to maintain the OtherOS feature, the very thing Sony doesn’t want. If everyone gets behind this, and views the OtherOS as a martyr (which is happening) it’s going to do nothing but force piracy as a backlash. Or at the very least find more exploits that previously might not have known.
The other problem is that not only does this feature removal come so suddenly, so swiftly and the most inopportune time given Sony’s amazing buzz. Sony is leading PS3 sales in Japan, analysts predict the PS3 is going to sell more than all other consoles, people were excited about the Playstation Move, and now Sony is being viewed as the evil company who takes away features. Along with that there is nothing to replace it. If Sony wanted do a little, give and take, the perfect idea would be one thing: Divx 7 certification. True it would support mkv, and there is a strong reason why Sony would not want to do that. However, many other vendors are starting to do it as well, and the PS3 would be the only console to support it. That would get many in the geek community, the vocal ones, behind Sony again.
The Playstation Blog is quite the interactive community, filled with many people who are frank and open. Sony engages their users more than I think anyone else does, via chat’s, message postings etc. PlayStation.Blog Share is a great initiative, which formally allows anyone to submit their best ideas on how Sony can improve all PlayStation products. It’s also a place where you can discover and vote on other people’s ideas, as well as communicate with us and other PlayStation fans about how to bring great ideas to life. Those 100′s of people who post comments, are your town herald. Why not engage them, why not mention what is going to go away and solicit responses on what should replace it, is it Divx 7, is it Boxee support, is it a better flash experience and the restoration of real Hulu support?
If that isn’t good enough, look at the top requested items on Share – Cross Game Voice Chat, Software Emulation for PS2 games, Auto-Syncing Trophies. Take things a step forward by creating a timetable for when these features will be added (if possible).
All eyes are on Sony now, and they have a real opportunity to do something here and spin this to their advantage, but will they?