Sony will flood stores with 26 new Bravia LCD televisions from March 2010, including seven 3D models and 21 with the ability to access 15 free internet TV channels (IPTV) over a home broadband network. The Internet video-enabled Bravias start at $1299 and while Sony didn’t talk dollars regarding its 3D offering, GadgetGuy expect these to be on par with the company’s current premium level offerings, so think price tags of $5000-7000.

Like Panasonic, Sony has earmarked 3D as a lucrative future category and looks intent on implementing it in other products, including cameras, camcorders, notebooks, projectors and Blu-ray players. The focus of today’s announcement however, was very much around IPTV and the content services that will be streamed directly from a broadband connection to Bravia TVs.

Broadband entertainment courtesy of Bravia

Eleven of the 15 free ‘Bravia Internet Video’ channels will be available from March, and include specialised programming, video on demand and catch-up TV services from SBS and Yahoo7.

Other broadband channels include: Billabong, You Tube, Wired, Golflike, eHow, Video Detective, Livestrong, Ford Models, Epicurious, blip and Style.com.

(Curiously, Yahoo’s Channel 7 programming is not available via Tivo, which is part-owned by Channel 7, and the ABC’s popular iView catch-up service, which is available on the Sony Playstation 3, is not part of the Sony offering.)

Sony says that its broadband entertainment channels will continue to grow, with many new services to made made available for free. There is the ability to add pay per view movies or content in the future, with the Sony Pictures catalogue being a likely  – and ready – source of programming.

Like all streaming services, however, the buffering of video may be problematic, as may the bill from your ISP provider should your appetite for broadband entertainment exceed your monthly data allowance. Sony did not announce uncapped metering plans with any Australian ISPs.

The LCD 3D experience

Sony's 3D glasses

Sony’s 3D televisions will become available from July 2010, with the LX series (52 and 60 inch models) being 3D-capable out of the box and the HX800 (40, 46, 55 inch) and HX 900 (52, 55 inches) models to be upgradeable to 3D with the purchase of a transmitter and a pair of active shutter lenses.

The 3D Bravias use LCD panels that run at 200Hz to present alternating images to left and right eyes 100 times a second. These images are assembled in the brain after being filtered b active shutter glasses. It is likely that Sony will provide two pairs of glasses, valued at around $100 each, with each 3D purchase.

Unlike the Panasonic system, however, these glasses are not polarised, meaning you can watch 3D TV in bright ambient light without the room lights flickering strongly in response to the shutter lenses. Because a plasma 3D system does require polarised lenses, the experience has to be enjoyed in dim lighting conditions, which may not always be ideal.

On the down side, Sony’s 3D system has a far narrower angle of view than the Panasonic 3D system we previewed recently. Tilt your head sideways – like you would if reclined on the couch – and the 3D effect through Sony’s glasses and LCD panel is lost. Likewise, sit too far to the side of the set and the 3D effect is compromised.

Like Panasonic, Sony will only offer what it calls Real 3D, not Simulated 3D. Simulated 3D systems apply clever chip-based jiggery pokery to standard 2D content to create a 3D-like affect. In a Sony Real 3D system you will need 3D equipment in every part of the chain: content on Blu-ray, a Blu-ray player or PS3 with the 3D upgrade and a 3D compatible television.

Sony's Monolith Design for the new Bravia 2010 models
The  ‘Monolith Design’ of Sony’s flagship Bravias insets the LCD panel into a length of luxe bushed aluminium baseplate and tilts it backwards by six degrees. This is said to be the ideal angle for making larger screens appear less dominating.