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Senior Correspondent

Sony bundles portable display with flat-panel TV

Aug 06, 20033 mins
Cellular NetworksUnified Communications

Consumers buying Sony’s latest plasma display panel (PDP) television will be getting a little more than just a monster flat-panel television.

Consumers buying Sony’s latest plasma display panel (PDP) television will be getting a little more than just a monster flat-panel television.

Sony is providing a gadget, called a palette display, that is based on Linux, sports a 7-inch touch-sensitive LCD and looks a little like a small tablet PC. It stays in touch with the PDP via an IEEE 802.11a wireless LAN link and can be used to watch television, access the Internet or control the PDP and other devices through its remote control function.

Both Internet data and television signals are sent across the wireless LAN, the latter as a streaming video signal. While this is more complicated than simply fitting the palette display with its own TV tuner it means that the picture should always be clear because the streaming video can be sourced from an external antenna or cable TV signal present at the PDP.

There is a dual-tuner for terrestrial channels, so different stations can be simultaneously displayed on the portable unit and PDP, and a single tuner for satellite channels. The set does not offer a tuner for digital terrestrial broadcasting, which will begin in Japan in December this year.

It’s the first time Sony has bundled such a device with a television, although the basic concept for the palette display is not new. Sony’s Airboard, which was first launched in 2000 and most recently updated with a third-edition model earlier this year, has many of the same functions and features. Unfortunately, the palette display has some of the same weak points too.

Battery life is short. A fully charged set of batteries provides enough power for between two and three hours worth of TV viewing or Web browsing, so it will be able to last the length of most sports events or movies but will fall short of an evening’s entertainment. Also, the wireless link has limited functionality. It cannot be used as an access point so you won’t be able to connect from another device, such as a notebook PC.

The palette display is available with either the KDE-P50HZ1 or KDE-P42HZ1 televisions, which were launched this week and are 50-inch and 42-inch widescreen PDPs, respectively. The 50-inch panel has a 1,365-pixel-by-768-pixel resolution and the 42-inch panel has a 1,024-pixel-by-768-pixel resolution. Screen resolution on the palette display’s 7-inch screen is 800 pixels by 480 pixels.

As you might expect, all of this technology doesn’t come cheap. However, the price tag might still surprise. The 42-inch version will go on sale Sept. 10 and carries a price tag of $9,560. That’s about double the current price of equivalent-size PDPs from other manufacturers.

In addition to the purchase price, there is also the running cost. In common with other PDPs the new Sony sets suck up power at an impressive rate. The 50-inch panel draws 540 watts in use while the 42-inch panel draws 460 watts. The tuner box, common to each, pulls another 78 watts. In contrast, a Sony 36-inch CRT set, one of the largest CRT sets the company sells, draws just over 200 watts in use and a more modest 24-inch set draws around 100 watts.