Inside Sony - The Road to Zero

Day 2 of AVForums visit to Sony's head office in Tokyo

by Steve Withers Feb 16, 2012 at 5:04 PM

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    Inside Sony - The Road to Zero
    Today’s meetings were held at Sony’s new office building in the Tokyo district of Osaki. The building only opened last year and it includes a ‘bio skin’ as part of Sony’s efforts to be carbon neutral or as they call their plan, the ‘road to zero’ - the goal of which is to ultimately have zero impact on the environment.
    This bio skin consists of a series of ceramic pipes across the front of the building, rain water collected on the roof is sent down through tubes and evaporates through small holes in the ceramic pipes. This has the effect of lowering the ambient temperature of the area around the building by about 2 degrees which can be very handy during Tokyo’s sweltering summers.

    We were given a demonstration of some of Sony’s other eco friendly products today, which included the same demonstration seen at CES, with a 2011 EX723 and a 2012 HX753 both showing the same content and hooked up to energy meters. Thanks to the Dynamic LED Frame Dimming on the HX753, the energy consumption was half that of the EX723 but Sony also claim that the picture is superior. Sony’s ultimate goal is to create a TV that consumes 1W for each inch of screen size, so for example, a 55” TV would consume 55W on average. When asked how an OLED screen would compare to an LED LCD TV, Jay Magee, Sony’s Environmental Communications Manager, said that an OLED screen is 30-40% more efficient than an LCD, so if Sony develop consumer OLEDs they might not be far from their goal. The company is also seeking to save energy with their entry level BDP-S185 Blu-ray Player, which thanks to its reduced size, consumes a minuscule 5-6W of power. Another eco innovation is Sony’s SoRPlas material, which is made of recycled CDs and DVDs. The broken up CDs and DVDs are treated to create recyclable plastic which then has a flame retardant material added, in a ratio of 99% recycled plastic and 1% flame retardant material. The resulting plastic, which Sony call SoRPlas (Sony Recycled plastic), is both durable and flame resistant and has recently been used to make the casing of Sony’s HDR-TD20V camcorder, as well as the bezel of the EX310.

    Speaking of bezels, we also got an in-depth presentation of Sony’s design philosophy for 2012. This has become increasingly important for Sony, because one of the conclusions drawn from the market research mentioned in yesterday’s blog was that customers had far less brand loyalty. For a company that once benefited from very strong brand loyalty this is a worrying development and the company sees the design and build quality of its products as a way of differentiating themselves from the competition. Whilst the company is still following the minimalist approach of its ‘Monolithic’ design strategy, there have been some changes. The new designs will follow the idea of what Sony refer to as ‘on/off conscious’, which means they look good when they are on and when they’re off. They also still use the upward styling which sees the screen tilted back by 6% and is designed to be placed low down. However in market research, whilst consumers described the Monolithic design as minimal, simple and tranquil, they also described it as masculine and solid. Sony’s designers felt the last two comments related more to the dedicated stand that could be bought for their Monolith TVs, which was a bit chunky. To address this, the designers have gone for a more ‘airy presence and lifestyle’ with a trimmed edge, floating stand and tensioned structure. There is also an attempt to contrast the materials the TVs are made from, using gloss black and brushed aluminium.

    The HX853 represents the epitome of this approach, with a single sheet of gorilla glass at the front and a silver trim along the outer edge. There is a gloss black bezel around the screen that is about 3cm wide and it is good to see Sony resisting the urge to follow the pack and use ultra-thin silver bezels. Another interesting conclusion drawn from their market research was that consumers were not especially interested in ultra-thin bezels and personally I think that a wide black bezel offsets the screen and results in a more defined and brighter appearing image. As well as the gorilla glass, the HX853 includes the Opti Contrast ambient light filter, which is also designed to improve the perceived contrast. The overall look of the HX853 is consistent with Sony’s new design philosophy and the gloss black of the panel chassis is contrasted with the brushed aluminium ‘floating stand’. This stand is designed to give the appearance that the panel is floating above it, thus creating a light and airy presence. The stand will come as standard with the HX853 and includes forward firing speakers built-in as well as a subwoofer at the back but there are also downward firing speakers built into the chassis, in case you want to mount it on a wall. The HX853 will be released in the first half of this year and will come in 40, 46 and 55” screen sizes.

    Sony’s new HX753 also follows the same basic approach as the HX853 and includes a gloss black bezel with a silver trim and a 6 degree tilt. However the entire display sits in an easel stand that once again gives the TV an airy presence. The HX753 will also be released in the first half of this year and will come in 32, 40, 46 and 55” screen sizes. The third TV that we were shown was the EX653 which included many of the same design features as the HX753. There was a gloss black bezel with a silver trim, a 6 degrees tilt to the entire display and the same easel stand that could be swiveled. However the bezel also had a pattern of dots on it and it had a curved shape whichSony refer to as a tensioned structure. As with the other two TVs, the EX653 will be released in the first half of this year and will come in 22, 26, 32, 40 and 46” screen sizes.

    Sony’s BD players include a variation on the design of their TVs with curved surfaces and a combination of gloss black and brushed metal. The designers had two Blu-ray players on display, the entry level mentioned earlier and Sony’s top of the line 3D Blu-ray player. The top of this player has gradations in the surface which are added using hand made tooling, it was very attractive but you have to wonder how many consumers will notice or even appreciate how hard it is to create. Sony also had their long awaited Google TV set top box on display which was small and neat and the finish used the same dotted pattern found on their EX653. The rear connections were quite thorough and include two HDMI inputs, two USB and a LAN cable and the dual sided remote includes a full keyboard and touch sensitive screen, as well a motion sensing and universal remote capability. Despite my comments yesterday about it not being released until 2013, it would appear that Sony will be launching Google TV around August of this year.

    On the audio side of things, Sony had their Blu-ray disc player with built-in 2.1-channel sound, which is exclusive to Europe. There was also a Blu-ray player 5.1-channel all-in-one sound system, as well as a 5.1-channel all-in-one system. All these sound systems look great and utilised similar styling to that found on Sony’s TVs, with opposing curves, gloss black and brushed metal finish. There was a touch panel and display under clear glass and the a disc slot was at the side. Finally, Sony showed us their new 3D glasses, and whilst they were much lighter and could be recharged, they had no real frames at the sides and so let in ambient light. Sony said that the older style of glasses would still be available for those that preferred to have bigger frames. However the new glasses still use just one vertical LCD lens, which results in reduced flicker but does make them intolerant to tilting your head - which is a shame.

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