As if there aren't enough different LCD-based flat-panel HDTVs on the market already, Sony saw fit to introduce seven more today, all bearing the Bravia name and all available this September. These higher-end models improve on the currently available S2000 and U100M entry-level Bravias, with higher 1080p resolution in larger models, better backlight technology, and, yes, higher prices.
The new sets start with the 40-inch and 46-inch V2500 series, the least expensive 1080p LCDs in Sony's 2006 lineup. Aside from their higher native resolution, these LCDs have new WCG-CCFL (Wide Color Gamut Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp) backlights, standard on all of the new Bravia models. You'll be tested on that later, but in the meantime, just remember that Sony claims the new 'lights make colors look better. Connectivity is highlighted by a pair of HDMI inputs that can, unlike most 2005 1080p sets, accept 1080p resolution signals. The KDL-40V2500 will sell for $3,500 and the KDL-46V2500 for $4,500.
Movin' on up, there are three models in the KDL-XBR2 series: 32 inches, 40 inches, and 46 inches. The bigger sets are 1080p and the smaller is the standard 1,366x768 resolution, but the main difference between these models and the step-down versions is on the outside. The two larger ones bring back Sony's "floating glass" design, made popular by the company's high-end plasmas and LCDs from a couple of years ago, that borders the frame with a strip of glass on all sides. Upping the style ante even further, the big XBR2s have silver frames that can be swapped out in favor of five optional colors: red, white, blue, black (pictured), and brown. The 32-incher lacks the floating glass and hot-swap frame, and it misses a few of the features of its brethren (it has just one HDMI input, for example). The 32-inch KDL-V32XBR2 costs $2,500, the 40-inch $4,000, and the 46-inch KDL-46XBR2 $5,000.
Finally, the company will ask an even prettier penny for the flagship KDL-XBR3 line, which again comes in 40-inch and 46-inch versions. These 1080p sets distinguish themselves from the rest with a glossy black frame, again ringed by floating glass -- and that's the only difference. Sony's press release pimps these models as being compatible with its forthcoming , but of course any 1080p-input-capable, 1080p-resolution HDTV could claim the same level of synergy. You'll pay $4,300 for the privilege of owning the 40-inch KDL-V40XBR3 and $5,300 for the 46-inch KDL-V46XBR3.
This flurry of Bravias matches the level of turnout from Samsung and Sharp this year, albeit at higher prices all around. It also marks an important exchange in the LCD vs. plasma battle, with even the least expensive new Bravia costing significantly more than much larger plasmas. On the flip side, 1080p resolution will definitely appeal to many videophiles, and plasma doesn't come close in that department yet. Whether enough people will want to pay the premium remains to be seen.