Sony Bravia LED TV

Sony Bravia – Better Web Stream Images

Want to dump the $75-a-month cable or satellite-TV service? There are plenty of options to help satisfy that TV fix, and they continue to improve as more consumers cut the cord and turn to the Internet for video content.

A report released this year by market research firm Nielsen found that homes with broadband and no traditional pay-TV service — a base that increased by 23 percent from late 2010 to late 2011 — stream video twice as much as the rest of the population.

One way to view Internet content on the TV is to hook up the set with a streaming player or a video gaming console such as an Xbox 360.

The past couple of years have given rise to smart TVs, which can connect to a Wi-Fi network without the need for an external peripheral.

And in 2011, Sony introduced technology that helps improve the quality of Web content designed for smaller screens when they’re streamed to the big screen.

For the past couple of weeks, I tested a 46-inch Sony smart TV — the Bravia HX820 — that features the X-Reality Pro video processing technology. Sony says X-Reality Pro can improve the quality of all content from Blu-ray movies to low-resolution, highly compressed Web video. For my test, I focused on streaming video from Netflix and user-generated clips on YouTube.

The Netflix videos appear crisper when compared with the same stream to my 5-year-old 42-inch HD LCD via a PlayStation 3. In addition to the X-Reality Pro technology, refresh rates and other factors may also play a role in the improvement.

The technology’s impact on YouTube videos was more impressive. Clips that are already a little grainy on my 23-inch computer screen actually looked just as good, if not better, on the 46-inch TV screen.

X-Reality Chip

Sony says the X-Reality chip analyzes each individual pixel, which allows the engine to know that a white blob in the foreground of a building is actually a seagull flying across. Then the system looks into its database for the best matching pattern and restores detail lost in compression and transmission. That’s a simplified explanation of how the technology works.

Technology that optimizes Web content for the big screen can be a game changer as more consumers cut the cord, and especially for those who want to watch foreign content that’s available only on YouTube or through special packages from a satellite-TV operator.

But it is expensive. Sony wouldn’t break out how much of a premium the technology adds to a TV. But for comparison’s sake, a 46-inch Sony Bravia 1080P LCD without X-Reality Pro sells for $700 on Amazon, while the set I tested was listed at $1,600last week. The difference in price isn’t solely because of X-Reality Pro because the HX820 is a 3-D LED TV.

Andy Vuong : 303-954-1209 or facebook.com/byandyvuong