This design is tidy and self-contained, and it permits the screen to tilt 70 degrees forward or back. The screen doesn’t rotate on its vertical axis, however; if you want to show it off to someone next to you, you have to turn the whole base. Or don’t, and just exploit the screen’s nearly 90-degree viewing angle.
Nor does the screen come off of that base, so that you can suspend it or mount it — a fantasy that occurs to almost everyone. The base is, after all, where you connect the power cord and the video sources. Its back panel offers a coaxial cable input, two H.D.M.I. cables, a headphone/digital-audio output jack and a Memory Stick slot (to play photos of the memory card from a Sony camera).
There are no component-video inputs and no analog inputs for things like VCRs, although if you’re spending $2,500 on an 11-inch TV, chances are pretty good that you’ve graduated beyond the VCR.
Another concern: until recently, O.L.E.D. had a reputation for short life span. Sony, however, says that the XEL-1’s screen will be good for 30,000 hours. That’s 8 hours of watching each day for 10 years, or twice through “The Lord of the Rings” Special Extended Edition DVD boxed set.
There’s no way to know for sure how Sony’s claim will hold up. Check back here in 2018 for an update.
The user guide, meanwhile, does warn that O.L.E.D. screens can develop plasma-like burn-in if you leave a static image on the screen for a very long time.
The XEL-1 comes with a very thin, nicely laid-out remote, but it’s non-illuminated and can’t control any other gear. On the base are volume up/down, input-switching and power buttons. Their labels light up when the TV is on, and disappear into the black surface when it’s off, which is very cool.
The Sony also comes with a comedy booklet entitled, “Operating Instructions.” It’s filled with hilarious warnings, like “Do not install the TV upside down,” “Do not throw anything at the TV” and “Do not install the TV where insects may enter.”
(Some of them are physical impossibilities. “Do not place objects on top of the TV,” for example — what could you possibly balance on a 3-millimeter razor’s edge? Or this one: “Adjust the volume so as not to trouble your neighbors.” Listen, the only way this TV’s tiny speaker could trouble your neighbors is if they tried to swallow it.)
But maybe Sony’s over-protectiveness is understandable; after all, the XEL-1 is the first and only one of its kind.
Clearly, with this big price and small size, the XEL-1 won’t be showing up in sports bars and home theaters anytime soon. Instead, think of the XEL-1 as a concept car that you can actually buy.
In the meantime, Sony has demonstrated a prototype of a 27-inch version, and other companies have O.L.E.D. sets of their own in the works. No, you probably can’t pay, or wouldn’t pay, $2,500 for an 11-inch TV today. But even if you don’t buy the XEL-1, at least it shows you what the end of the plasma-L.C.D. era will look like: gorgeous.
David Pogue is a columnist for the New York Times and contributor to CNBC. He can be emailed at: email@example.com.