Sony unveiled a mountain of new gear at its IFA press conference yesterday, but for whatever reason it decided to quietly slip this beauty out under all the noise. Comparable to the 55-inch OLED set that Samsung unveiled at CES, Sony's new 65-inch, 1080P, S990A is the first set to put a gentle curve on LED flatscreen technology. And since LED sets are pretty common these days, it means the S990A is available for pre-order in the US right now for just $4,000 (£2,600), and hopefully the UK too soon, compared to the £6,000 that Samsung wants for its curvy offering.
The 16:9 aspect ratio introduced with HDTV was designed to better fill a user's field of vision, and the gentle curve on the S990A takes that idea one step further with a slightly more immersive feel when you're sitting front and centre. The effect is even more noticeable when you're playing games with a first-person perspective, but it works just as well for the home theater experience too.
The S990A uses Sony's TRILUMIOS display technology, which has the ability to precisely control the set's LED backlighting in order to make colours seem particularly vibrant. And as much as it sounds like just a marketing buzzword, the results are colours and saturation that are very intense. As long as your source material hasn't been compressed to a muddy mess, you'll certainly see the difference on the S990A if you're upgrading from a flatscreen that's even just a few years old.
To allow the 65-inch set to still be mounted to walls, the back of S990A doesn't match the curve of its display up front. It remains flat, which means that while the TV is thin in the centre, it gets a few inches thick at the sides. But Sony has found a way to even promote that as a good thing, by using that extra space as resonance chambers for a set of four speakers on either side.
Home theatre enthusiasts will probably still want to stick with their own speaker setups, but those happy to rely on the S990A's will appreciate that the top speaker on either side is actually pointed slightly outwards to bounce the sound around a room, creating a faux-surround experience. You won't be fooled into thinking you're sitting in a cinema, but it's adequate enough if the S990A topped out your budget.
The downside, of course, to this recent trend of curved TVs is that you run into the same issues with viewing angles as we did with 3D sets. It's not quite as bad here, you can certainly sit pretty much anywhere in front of the S990A without any loss of image or color quality. But the sweet spot for the full immersive experience is still dead centre, which limits how many people crowded in front are getting the best experience.
However, the curve is so gentle that sweet spot issues aren't a complete deal breaker. And if you live alone and are looking for the ideal way to escape into a movie or a video game, the immersive feel of the S990A is most definitely noticeable. Particularly when you then go back to a perfectly flat set and wonder why the screen is curving away from you. And Sony has managed to price the S990A at a reasonable level so that this first generation of its curved sets isn't completely out of reach for most consumers. [Sony]