Sony Outlines HDMI 2.0 Upgrade Path For 4K Projector & X9 TV

Vincent Teoh

Readers who have been following developments in the ultra high-definition (UHD) arena will know that Sony has been blazing the trail in 4K on both the content and hardware front, which has helped the Japanese manufacturer establish a sizeable lead in 4K Ultra HD TV shipments during the first half of the year. However, with the official announcement of the HDMI 2.0 standard a few days ago, early adopters of Sony 4K products face the unenviable prospect of their gadgets being rendered obsolete almost immediately. Fortunately the company has taken the opportunity at the IFA 2013 trade show in Berlin to swiftly to allay these fears, detailing various upgrade solutions for its 4K TVs and projectors.

Sony 4K projectors

Owners of the second-generation Sony Bravia X9 series of 4K Ultra HD televisions, namely the 55-inch KD-55X9005A and the 65-inch KD-65X9005A, will be able to download an online firmware update by the end of this year for free, adding HDMI 2.0 support to these UHD sets at no extra cost. The same applies to the firm’s new Bravia X8 4KTVs which sport slimmer profile due to omission of the “elephant ear” side speakers found on the X9, though it has since been confirmed that the X8 won’t be coming to the UK and Europe except Russia.

Among the numerous improvements afforded by increased bandwidth allocation in version 2.0 of the HDMI specification, probably the most important is the boost in frame rate from HDMI 1.4’s 4096×2160 at 24fps or 3840×2160 at 30fps to HDMI 2.0’s 4K at 50fps/60fps, which should enhance the motion clarity of fast-paced material like live sports broadcast.

Interestingly, Sony’s first-generation 4KTV, the 84-inch Bravia KD-84X9005 which was launched in the second half of last year, will require a hardware service upgrade to gain HDMI 2.0 compatibility. This suggests that the company’s second-gen Ultra HD televisions are already equipped with the necessary HDMI 2.0 chip, requiring only a software update to be activated. Sony and Panasonic (who unveiled the world’s first – and only, at this time of writing – HDMI 2.0-compliant 4K TV at IFA 2013 in the shape of the Viera TX-L65WT600) are both founding members of the HDMI Licensing Group.

On the projector front, Sony Europe’s product manager Tak Nakane told HDTVTest that HDMI 2.0 support for the VPL-VW1000ES 4K projector (here’s our review) will arrive in the form of a separately purchasable upgrade package where the company will send a courier to pick up the unit from owner’s address, perform the hardware upgrade (apparently a mainboard overhaul is required), and then ship the projector back to the owner. Exact pricing for this upgrade package remains unconfirmed, but we’re reliably informed that it’s in the region of thousands rather than hundreds of pounds.

At this year’s IFA, the Japanese brand also launched the Sony VPL-VW500ES, the world’s first 4K projector to boast native HDMI 2.0 compliance without needing any further software or hardware upgrade, offering 4K resolution at 60Hz/50Hz out of the box. Aggressively priced at £8500, we expect this to be a very successful model that can potentially eat into the sales of JVC’s e-Shift 2 projectors, unless the latter responds by releasing its first true 4K projector for the consumer market.