Novelty would imply low-cost, but we were immediately struck by what a swotting rip-off the XEL-1 is in the UK. The US XEL-1 is available for 'just' $2,500 (£1,750), but here, it's a much less bearable £3,500. As far as we can tell, the only difference between the two versions is the built-in TV tuner. Digital TV in the US uses a transmission system called ATSC, whereas we use DVB-T. But this in no way explains doubling the pigging price. Nor does adding VAT to the US price, which adds just a few hundred pounds. The only logical conclusion is that someone at Sony UK was trying to work out what the RRP should be, and just hit x2 on their calculator.
There are also some concerns about how long an OLED panel will last. When you're spending £3,500 on something, you'd jolly well expect it to last a good few years. Sony says you should get around 30,000 hours out of the XEL-1, but some independent research has put the actual figure at 17,000 hours. The lifespan of LCDs, plasmas and OLED is measured by how long it takes the display to dim by 50 per cent. In a plasma you'd get around 100,000 hours, and LCD backlights manage around 60,000.
By now, you'll almost certainly want to know what this TV does that's so amazing. It's hard to put that into words, because you need to see one up close and personal to appreciate it. Firstly, the colour and picture quality is amazing. OLED also has the advantage over LCD that its pixels generate light, without the need for a backlight. That means when something on screen is dark, the screen can show a proper black. The XEL-1 is also fantastically thin, at just 3mm. It's really very striking.
As a TV, the XEL-1 is an impressive gimmick, and while the quality is excellent and the XEL-1 can accept inputs up to 1080p, it's not an HD TV. It has a resolution of just 960x540 pixels, which makes it merely standard definition. You do, however, get two HDMI inputs, which is quite generous on such a small screen -- after all, it's not like it's going to be the centrepiece of your entire home cinema.
So, ignoring matters of price and reliability, the XEL-1 is an impressive piece of technology. We're properly cheesed off about the price though: surely Sony must have noticed this global recession thing that's all over the news? Perhaps not, as it claims to have had a number of pre-orders. If you've got the spare wedge, you can buy the XEL-1 right now.