HOME Technology 2005
Flat screen TVs take over
LCD catching up to Plasma
A decade ago life was a lot simpler, if you wanted a TV you had the choice of black or silver and 20-29 inch screen size; today you have to chose between CRT, Plasma, LCD, rear projection, front projection and a variety of shapes, colours, models and screen sizes.

The pressure is on to upgrade, to go big, flat and wide. Buyers need to ask will it suit my needs for the next 5-years, and does it have the right inputs to plug in the DVD recorder, VCR, Sky decoder, sound system and Windows Media Centre PC? Part of the answer might be the HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) which is the new single cable approach for digital and other media input.

The next choice is between Plasma and liquid crystal display (LCD) flat screens. Plasma is a light emitting technology with each individual pixel creating its own light while LCD is a backlit, or light reflecting technology using transparent panels with liquid crystal between them. Plasma has dominated in the 37 to 60-inch market while the majority of LCD TV sets have hovered around 20-32 inches in diameter.

Thatís all shifting with the cost of manufacturing LCD panels expected to drop by up to 60 per cent over the next couple of years, with Sony, Sharp, Sanyo and Samsung leading the fray into larger more affordable unit runs. Recent breakthroughs have seen Sharp deliver a 65 inch LCD panel and Samsung an 82 inch.

Sony is relying on its new Ďseventh generationí factory to push LCD sizes beyond 40 inches - its latest Bravia range includes two 40 inch models ($4000 and $5000). Sony product manager Glen Chean, says these units are designed for the future, with high definition (HDTV) compatibility to take advantage of the graphical output of Microsoftís XBox 360 and Sonyís PlayStation 3 due out next year.

Rick Jansen country manager with BenQ agrees the market for large screen LCD TVs is shifting dramatically and heís expecting "cut throat" competition this Christmas. BenQ, has been in the country since February, and evolved from Acerís communications and multimedia division. The $US5 billion company is the number one provider of LCD monitors and projectors to the Australian market.

Its entry level 20 inch LCD TV has halved in price this year to $1100, and according to Jansen itíll be $900 in six months. A 32 inch LCD is currently $3299. Among is new range are 37inch and 42 inch models.

Meanwhile Plasma makers, including Samsung SDI, Panasonic, Hitachi and Pioneer are cutting prices and moving to larger sizes to ward off the challenge. L.G Electronics product assistant Gordon Allen says Plasma still comes into its own at 42 inches and beyond, and is likely to hold its place for the next two years. "Plasma is getting on top of production and the price of a 42 inch screen is now a third of what it was five years ago. You used to pay $15,000, now itís between $4000-$5000." L.Gs 42 inch LCD is still around $12,000.

Itís a matter of personal preference and budget, some say Plasma is the way to go because of its more vibrant colour, others prefer LCD saying itís warmer, less grainy, not so fragile and more portable. Whatever you decide, your new flat screen unit is likely to become much more than a TV set, itíll be at the centre of a home entertainment experience that embraces not only hi-fi sound and DVD screenings but slide shows and other content from your PC, digital camera and mobile MP3 player.

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