CES is the time for large companies like Sony to shine. It featured one of the largest and most impressive booth spaces on the showroom floor and a line that saw hundreds of reporters queuing up haphazardly for nearly an hour beforehand.
If pre-show appearances were any inclination of what we were about to see, this would have made for an amazing annoucement designed to show off Sony’s new wares. But if you believe that large and impressive-looking booth spaces and hundreds of reporters are a sign of great things to come, you’d be mistaken.
“This event was off the charts”
Gary Vaynerchuk was so impressed with TNW Conference 2016 he paused mid-talk to applaud us.
Let’s take a look.
X93D Series Bravia 4k LCD TV
Yes, apparently companies still make LCD TVs. While LG, Samsung and Vizio are moving on to OLED and quantum dot technologies, the announcement that Sony would utilize traditional LCD technology in its flagship line was a puzzling one.
The Bravia 4k LCD TVs complete with made up buzzwords and company-specific jargon, but the specs are solid and it supports Google’s Android TV. Overall, not bad.
The TV was aesthetically pleasing, but didn’t seem all that interesting beyond its design. There wasn’t anything ‘new’ to speak of in Sony’s flagship line. Regardless, they’ll be in stores
The audio portion struggled to gain any momentum. The new Walkman line certainly looks cool, but Sony failed to spend any real time on it as they elected to talk about speakers and headphones instead.
The headphones, again, are truly beautiful to look at — in fact, they might have been some of the nicest-looking I’ve seen so far — but they’re a bit bass heavy for my taste and again, Sony didn’t really spend a ton of time on them as they mostly touted their aesthetic value rather than anything that would make a room full of reporters excited.
‘Hi-Res Audio’ was the phrase of the day when it came to speakers, headphones and earbuds and in all honesty, it does make for a pleasant listening experience. That said, Sony probably could have gone to greater lengths to sell the sound as opposed to just the aesthetics.
In addition to the headphones and earbuds, Sony also spent a few moments on a new Bluetooth speaker — the ‘h.ear go’ (not a typo) — which, again, was aesthetically pleasing but failed to offer any real features that would make it a must-have over other, similar speakers.
Sony announced several new camcorders to the Handycam line and two are worth talking about: the FDR-AXP55 and FDR-AX53, both of which shoot in 4k.
The FDR-AXP55 features a Zeiss lens, high-sensitivity image sensor and a pixel size approximately 1.6 times greater than current Handycam models.
The FDR-AX53 touts ‘Balanced Optical SteadyShot,’ which is a mixture of optical and sensor image stabilization. In practice, the feature left the video looking as if it were shot while walking slowly even when bouncing up and down or running with the device.
Again, these product offerings sound super-solid, but camcorders and point-and-shoot cameras are becoming a sort of specialty market as their main functionality continues to get swallowed by smartphones.
Life Space UX
The Life Space UX line is a series — or planned series — of connected home devices that are already mostly available in Japan. The highlight of these — or, the most talked about — were the two LED Bulb Speakers, one of which was appropriately named ‘LED Bulb Speaker’ and the other was ‘Glass Sound Speaker.’
While Sony gets no points from me for its naming conventions, both seemed to be useful in a connected home.
The LED Bulb Speaker will be released in the US in the first half of 2016 and is meant to plug into existing light sockets in order to provide wireless streaming music anywhere in your home.
The Glass Sound Speaker uses tube-shaped organic glass (what?) that provides rich sound and an LED light source, of course. Expect this one in the spring.
Sony also announced its Portable Ultra Short Throw projector, which has built-in speakers and battery. The unit is capable of projecting a 22-inch to 80-inch image onto any non-transparent surface. Cool, but not exactly groundbreaking.
Sony Announces A… Turntable?
Perhaps the coolest thing Sony mentioned was the PS–HX500 Turntable. The turntable allowed those that still have a vinyl collection to copy the analog tunes into MP3 format for easy playback on your smartphone, or Walkman.
Pretty cool, but the technology has existed for years now. Sony’s offering has nothing new to speak of — outside of the ability to record in Hi-Res Audio (there’s that buzzword again) — and it was another in a series of puzzling announcements during a time when companies typically seek to showcase new and groundbreaking technology.
The event as a whole wasn’t what we’d hoped. It left dozens of reporters heading for an early exit and a relative sense of disappointment was apparent both during and after the event.
Maybe we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns for large companies at CES. Blame the large product portfolios or the relatively short release cycles of, but any way you slice it, the lack of focus led by Sony to one of the most disappointing events of CES so far.
It’s not that anything announced was bad, per se, it was just that there wasn’t anything that we, as members of the press, could really latch on to and get excited about. And if you can’t get a room full of tech nerds excited about your new toys, you’ll fare even worse with the average consumer.
Better luck next year, Sony.