If you're planning on buying a new TV in 2013, you're spoilt for choice. Sony's range certainly deserves consideration, with plenty of features packed into even mid-range models.
The new design is more understated than the wilder ranges from the last couple of years. The top models, including the W9, get a new anodised aluminium bevelled bezel which is "inspired by the facets of quartz crystal" and shines with an aquamarine hue when the light catches it. Sony's top Blu-ray players also get this hue, along with an unconventional and non-stackable design (the top panel isn't flat).
We've already had our hands on the new 55in and 65in 4K models in the X9 range, but we now know they will both be coming to the UK in the summer. We've also had a change to listen to the magnetic fluid speakers in a quiet room (unlike the din at CES) and can confirm that they sound pretty amazing.
Listening to a Blu-ray of Adele in concert at the Albert Hall, it was clear that the six front-facing speakers were able to produce excellent quality, conveying the nuances of the vocals and piano in Someone Like You with no trouble. We're sure the XBR-55X900A will be one of the best-sounding TVs of the year.
Going on sale in May 2013, the W9 (KDL-W900A) is the flagship 1080p range and gets all the features including Triluminos (a new filter which evens out the red, blue and green light from the white LED backlighting to give truer colours), X-Reality PRO (a processing engine which sharpens and upscales video from any source), and also a new 1.2m speaker duct at the rear which gives better bass and lower midrange - and the sound we heard in the demo was pretty good considering the speakers aren't front-facing.
As you'd expect, the W9 is also a 3D TV and uses active technology, rather than passive. We're told the 40in model will come with two pairs of 3D glasses, while the 46in and 55in models will have four pairs in the box.
Another feature is a second remote control, dubbed One Touch. This is a smaller controller with NFC support. Currently this lets you touch your Sony Xperia Z smartphone on it to pair it with the TV and automatically create a Wi-Fi direct connection to mirror the phone's screen. It isn't compatible with other NFC-enabled Android phones, but you'll still be able to mirror their screens by using the on-screen menus.
Menus are the other major update. Gone is the old XMB interface, replaced with a more modern-looking menu that's even easier to use.
You still get the Sony Entertainment Network, including BBC iPlayer, Demand Five, Facebook, Netflix, Crackle and other on-demand and social media services. There's also Sony's own music and video streaming services. To access these, there's a choice of wired or wireless networking.
One step down from the W9 is the W8 range. This has passive, instead of active, 3D. There are three sizes: 42in, 47in and 55in. There's a choice of a black or silver bezel in each size (silver shown below).
W8 models come with the One Touch NFC remote and also have the X-Reality PRO engine, 'Sense of Quartz' bezel and circular stand. It won't have the Triluminos filter, though. The whole range goes on sale in May.
Although technically mid-range sets, W6 models still have a decent feature set. These will be available in 24, 32 and 42in screen sizes. As well as the new interface, it has a clever stand which doubles as a wall mount, has the same smart TV features as the W8 and W9 and even built-in Wi-Fi.
Impressively, W6 models have the X-Reality PRO engine, which in the demos we've seen really does make content sharper and does a decent job of upscaling lower-resolution content. This was only available in the top-end 2012 models previously.
The W6 is a 2D-only model, but will be available in black and silver as with the W8. The 32in and 42in models will go on sale in April, but for some reason the 24in won't be out until September.
Next page: entry-level R4 range and Triluminos comparison demo
The entry-level 2013 TV range is the R4. This looks much like the W6, with the same stand design, and will come in 32, 42 and 46in screen sizes. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't have X-Reality PRO, but retains MotionFlow - an intelligent frame creation algorithm which smooths motion in lower framerate material, and is good for watching sports.
It will also have MHL support so you can hook up a compatible smartphone to mirror its screen via HDMI.
Triluminos demo comparison
The Triluminos filter on the X( and W9 ranges ensures that more red and green light is able to pass through the LCD panel, providing not only better reds and greens, but also enabling a more natural look and greater differentiation between shades of colours. In particular it makes it possible to see more clearly the difference between reds, oranges and purples. The image below demonstrates this in action. The top TV is a 55in W9 set, and the bottom TV is a 55in Samsung ES8000.
We haven't edited the image except to crop it, and it clearly shows how the Triluminous filter allows the Sony set to display subtly different shades of red and orange. The Samsung - itself an excellent TV (see our review of the UE46ES8000) - simply cannot reproduce the shades and they merge into one, so you can't read the text.