The Kalehoffs Host Family Movie Night (…And Test A Bunch Of Sony Gear)


As announced last week, I’m participating in Sony’s DigiDads program. Several tech-savvy daddy bloggers, including me, are testing Sony gear and sharing our experiences while collaborating on some fun projects. Our first assignment was the Connected Living room, where we set up some home-theater gear and hosted movie night.  We invited the Hartley’s, our neighbors who have a one-year-old and a two-year-old, the same ages as our kids. Beer, pizza, toddlers and Free Willy: What better way to spend the last Saturday in August?

The Venue

I was looking forward to this assignment because I take a lot of pride in the ongoing cultivation of our own digital theater room. Because our (sacred) theater room is set up just the way we want it, we opted to leave it alone and test the Sony gear in our basement (a.k.a. “the man cave” or “tech demo room”). While Laura hates that space, I like it because it’s equipped with green leather La-Z-Boy chairs, a futon and a beer fridge. There’s no ambient noise and little sunlight, so it’s perfect for watching movies. Moreover, I don’t care if anyone spills drinks or food on the old carpet.

The Gear

For this project Sony loaned us:

The Gear In Action


Take On The Gear: The Good

I’ve always admired Sony for its quality and sophistication. While Sony has more fierce competition these days, I consider all of the products I tested at the high end of their respective classes.

The BRAVIA HDTV? It offered a great picture, and its setup and navigation were consistent with our other non-Sony HDTVs (which is a good thing for usability).

The Blu-ray player? It was easy to set up and connect to the BRAVIA, and it produced awesome picture and sound. I only wish that Blu-ray titles were more ubiquitous.

The VAIO was a good Windows laptop for multimedia, with its Intel Centrino 2 technology, Blu-ray DVD player and HDMI output. In fact, the VAIO’s integrated Blu-ray player worked just as well as the standalone Blu-ray player. (Incidentally, it’s a compact version of another Sony VAIO multimedia and gaming laptop we purchased last summer, which we love.)

And like the BRAVIA, the DSLR A330L camera performed well and its navigation and features were similar to our non-Sony DSLR cameras. Importantly, our two-year-old quickly learned how to use it – and it didn’t break. (I plan to spend a lot of time with this gizmo and will share a deeper report and photos in a few weeks.)

Take On The Gear: The Bad

I believe simplicity, design and usability are extremely important, and that’s why I love Apple computers, Flip video cameras, TiVo’s interface, and the Roku video streaming box. While Sony’s consumer electronics have design and usability much better than most, there’s room for improvement across its portfolio – especially compared to the companies I just mentioned. From the packaging, to the control interfaces and even the instructions, there are opportunities to make Sony’s great products friendlier, simpler and more beautiful.

The BRAVIA? It was a “good” looking television and it performed well, but so does our Samsung. And just like our Samsung, it has a bright, backlit logo under the screen, which I prefer to hide with black electric tape. That way I can devote full attention to the video.

The Blu-ray DVD Player? It worked out of the box, and it successfully connected to my home WiFi network. As my fellow DigiDads blogger, Jeff Sass, pointed out, you need to insert a USB drive in order to access the “BD LIve” Internet features. Not cool.

The VAIO laptop? Again, it was a great laptop, but its biggest shortcoming is that it runs on Windows Vista operating system, which guarantees frequent crashes. Additionally, I’ve had trouble with VAIO’s pre-installed “Startup Assistant”, which freezes when I select “No thanks” to its backup prompt. It’s a great laptop, so hopefully the availability of Windows 7 will make it a better machine (versus a Mac).

Take On The Gear: BRAVIA + VAOI Combo = Boxee

Perhaps this is an unintended combination of the Sony gear in this project.  But a 46-inch HDTV and a powerful multimedia PC with an HDMI output create a perfect combo for online video entertainment. That’s why the first thing I did was to download Boxee, a free Web software program that optimizes online video for your HDTV.  It “lets you navigate all your personal movies, TV shows, music and photos, as well as streaming content from Web sites like MLB, Netflix, Pandora,, and Flickr from one screen with a remote.” I’m happy to say that Boxee worked extremely well on this Sony BRAVIA-VAOI combo. Boxee is one of the more transformational developments in video, so I hope that Sony will soon integrate the software right into future devices. In the meantime, this rig will do a fine job.

This post is part of series called the “Sony DigiDads Project” by Sony Electronics where a group of dads, including C.C. Chapman, Jeffrey Sass, Max Kalehoff, Michael Sheehan, and Brad Powell, have been given the opportunity to test and review Sony gear. If you want to know more about this project, visit the Sony Electronics Community.

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Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.