Sunday, February 7, 2010

HDTV Review: Sony KDL-52W5100

So, now that I've got my new UVerse installation up and running, it was time for the next step - the new HDTV. I've finally picked up a Sony KDL-52W5100. I was originally aiming for a 46- or 47-inch model at around $1000, and Costco has a Sony KDL-46VL150 on sale for $800 now. But at the last second, I decided I would go for the next bigger model, on the theory that you should always by as much capacity as you can afford. The next step up at Costco had the 52-inch W5100 on sale for $1200. Besides the larger size, this model also has an updated video processor (Bravia Engine 3 vs 2), and also network capabilities.

This last one was the final tipping point for me. I've posted a few times about streaming to my home theater from the media on my Mac through my Playstation 3. Well, this TV is also supposed to support the same DLNA client functionality, meaning I could have one less device in the loop. The W5100 also has various network apps provided by Sony, such as some rather useless Yahoo widgets and a variety of streaming audio and video channels.

So far, the streaming audio and video provided by Sony works great. No stuttering with my UVerse 12Mpbs service. The quality is what it is - most video channels look pretty good, except for the YouTube video, which is being blown up a little too much for its own good. The real find for me so far is the support for the Slacker radio service. I was familiar with Pandora, which is a similar service. But while Pandora provides streaming radio "stations" based on your preferences, the Slacker service seems to provide more control over what goes into your custom stations, and also provides a large collection of existing stations. The selection of Rock stations is great, and the audio quality is wonderful. There's also a Slacker app for the iPhone. I'm going to be using this a lot, especially since the URGE music channels provided by UVerse are rather meager in comparison.

However, the current downside is that the DLNA streaming so far is not working. The Bravia reports finding both Mac-based (MediaLink, Rivet) and PC-based (Windows Media Player sharing) servers, but then reports a problem connecting to either of them. I don't know if this is a router issue - maybe the UVerse router is somehow blocking access? Or maybe DLNA is not as "standard" as I think - maybe DLNA for the PS3 is somehow subtly different than DLNA on the Bravia. At any rate, it still needs work.

[Update: I've now gotten WMP to share with the W5100. In WMP, you have to approve each device individually for connection. I thought the TV was on the list, but they were all listed as "Unknown Device", and it turns out the two I had approved were my PS3 and the UVerse set-top box (which also has some media streaming support). Once I approved the Bravia TV, the sharing worked fine. Of course, this doesn't directly help me, since my main goal is to share from my Mac-based iTunes library, not my Windows-based WMP library. But at least it's a step forward.]

Video-wise, I'm mostly satisfied with the W5100. It's my first HDTV, so obviously anything is an improvement over what I had. Considering all of the horror stories out there, I found that this TV actually does a pretty good job with standard-def signals. Ordinary DVDs look great, too, although I don't know if the Playstation 3 upscaling or the Bravia TV processing is responsible. The High-Def looks great, as well - the only problem I've seen is a little bit of fuzz around some players while watching a basketball game, so I'm going to have to keep an eye on the high-speed processing. But TV shows, other sports like football, etc. all look great. No Blu-Ray disks yet, so I can't report on how wonderful they look compared to plain DVDs.

So, finally - I've scrambled up to 2008-level home theater technology! Now where's my hovercar?


Kyle said...

Did you ever get your DLNA working for mac? I have the same problem I can stream with ORB to my PS3 but the TV is just not picking it up.

Bill said...

Whoops - been away from the blog and didn't see this comment.

It sounds like my experience is similar to yours. I can get the TV to see my DLNA servers and usually to browse the folders, but it seems like the transcodings are not quite working out. More often than not, the TV refuses to run the served video stream, while my PS3 is able to handle it fine. I haven't sat down with the specs of the TV versus the PS3 to see if there are documented differences in supported formats, but I end up usually having to go through my PS3 instead.