Sony's high-end product lineup at the Consumer Electronics Show resembled a menu at a very upscale restaurant that doesn't list the prices of dishes. If you have to ask, chances are you can't afford it.
That may be the case even with the company's new "smaller" Ultra HD televisions, the Bravia X900A models, which now come in 55- and 65-inch sizes — a step down from the current 84-inch, $25,000 model. If that behemoth is for the one-percenters, perhaps the smaller models will be within reach for the two- or three-percenters, even after their tax hike.
It's hard to say for sure, because Sony's president and COO Phil Molyneux didn't name a price, saying only that the TVs "will deliver a stunning 4K experience at a more accessible price range." The world will find out the bill in the spring, when Sony puts the televisions on sale.
Gripes about the cost notwithstanding, the Ultra HD models really are amazing. When standing even uncomfortably close to the screen, about 5 feet away, I couldn't see even the possibility that it had individual pixels, as the images appeared perfectly smooth. It wasn't until about an arm's length away that I had a notion that there might be pixels, and I had to get within about 6 inches to clearly see them, which is obviously nothing close to normal viewing distance.
The best comparison might be to call these Ultra HD models Retina Displays for the living room, inspired by Apple's famously high-def screens on its iPhones and iPads.
And past patterns say that any device with an astronomical price today will get cheaper later on. Apple replaced lower-res screens on its iPhones and then iPads without raising the price. And even HD TVs once had prices in the stratosphere. In 2004, Sony's first 40-inch LC TV sold for about $10,000. Now a similar set from Sony costs only about $700. And a 42-inch set from Vizio comes for as little as $450 at Costco.
If history is any guide, perhaps we'll see similar prices for Ultra HD sets in five or so years. There may come a time when Americans can chant, "We…are…the 99 percent! And we love our Ultra HD TVs."