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Sony Grand WEGA 60-inch (KFWS60S1)

Sony's Grand WEGA rear projection TVs will have you seriously rethinking your passion for plasma.

Sony Australia has announced that while it will still be selling a few plasma models, it will focus its forthcoming television line-up on LCD and rear projection technologies. Here's why they are putting their considerable muscle behind rear projection.

Upside
Sony's Grand WEGA LCD rear projection television range gives you a choice of smart looking widescreens in three sizes - 60, 50 and 42 inches. They've only been on the Australian market since December (KFWS60) and January (KFWE50 and KFWE42), yet Sony has already announced a price reduction of AU$1500 on all three models to AU$7,499, $5,499 and $4,499 respectively.

The company says that what sets Grand WEGAs apart from DLP rear projection TVs, such as the Toshiba 62JM9UA, is that there is no spinning DLP colour wheel. Rather, Grand WEGA's optical engine employs a prism-like lens system with 11 elements that bend the light path, creating an ultra-short focal point while maintaining high levels of brightness. The light is then reflected into three high-resolution XGA panels, one for each RGB colour signal (Red, Green and Blue). The result is a picture resolution of 1.05 million pixels that is crisp across the entire screen from corner to corner.

Sony also claims that the Grand WEGAs have a much lower power consumption than plasma TVs, with its 60-inch model consuming only about one third the wattage of a 60-inch plasma.

On the features side, Grand WEGA televisions incorporate a two HD/DVD Component input connection that enables high definition content to be delivered to the unit from a HD set-top box, and all have a Memory Stick slot that allows the playback of JPEG and MPEG1 files.

Downside
Sony concedes that DLP rear projection televisions still produce better black levels, which may be important to you if you use your set for gaming or are likely to watch a lot of film noir.

Rear projection TVs also utilise high-density lamps which have a lifespan of about 8000 hours, so they will need replacing every 2 to 3 years. Sony replacement lamps cost around $500, but the company claims that you should be able to easily replace the removable lamp cartridge yourself.

Outlook
If you're not hung up on hanging a plasma on your wall, the Grand WEGA models look extremely competitive from both a picture quality and price perspective. Sony says that rear projection TVs have claimed 30 per cent of the U.S. big screen market -- and that it has a 50 percent share of that chunk -- so the company enters the Australian market well armed. If you're shopping for a big screen right now, Grand WEGA should certainly be on your short list. CNET.com.au will be putting a review unit through its full paces shortly.

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