HOME Technology Nov 2006
Flat screen fetish
Market heads to widescreen
Screen technology for both PCs and TVs is getting wider, flatter and more capable of handling higher resolution images from all digital media sources.

The wide has to do with the new 16:9 digital movie format that television and DVDs are now using, and the flatness relates to space and power saving, and pixel performance breakthroughs.

The rumour that analogue TV is dead, or at least dying, has obviously made an impression with Kiwis spending $84 million on LCD (liquid crystal display) TV sets in the 6 months to June, a massive 200 per cent growth over the same period last year, according to consumer electronics market researcher GfK.

This year for the first time global TV panel revenues exceeded PC panel revenues. Display makers expected to ship 50.4 million large-size LCD TVs, up 77 percent from 2005, with worldwide shipments expected to double in 2009, to 107 million units. While Plasma display panel (PDP) shipments increased 73 percent worldwide, to 2.4 million units by the second quarter of 2006, sales locally were eclipsed by the trend to LCDs.

Older CRT (cathode ray tubes) sales have certainly slowed as bigger screen TVs have come down in price. However big players like LG Electronics remain confident there’s still a market, and are launching Slim tube versions of their 21 inch and 14inch models for Christmas, alongside their LCDs and Plasma models.

LGE, Panasonic, Philips, Toshiba, Sony, Sanyo, RCA, JVC, Sharp and Acer are the main players in the flat screen TV market. Plasma dominated in the early stages but now LCD is ramping up its sizes and parallel on price from 26 inch entry level (sub $2000) through the 32 – 42 inch range ($1700 – $3000).

Plasma still holds sway in 42 – 46 inch ($2000 – $3500) sets but Sony product manager Kane Silcock, claims new 46 inch and even 52 inch versions are on par with Plasma all the way. "There’s no cooling fan in Sony’s new Bravia LCD range, they draw less power and at the 40 inch and 42 inch level they’re around the same price."

Gordon Allen, customer Services manager with LG Electronics, says buyers need to be confident about placement of big screens. Will they hang on the wall and need to swivel or pivot? How will they be impacted by ambient light? Does it have sufficient inputs and resolution to meet future requirements, such as displaying PC or high definition TV content, or run NICAM stereo?

If you want to be ready for high definition TV broadcasts and DVD titles its essential to ensure you have an HDMI interface with HDCP copy protection for Sky, Freeview. Having a USB input to connect a video camera or PC or laptop is useful. If you plan to hook a big flat screen to your PC, home entertainment centre or decoder box you may not need a TV tuner or onboard speakers.

The faster the response time (milliseconds) the less chance there is of noticing a lag in the displayed image. The higher the contrast ratio, the ’ blacker the blacks and whiter the whites’; and the higher the resolution (more dots on screen) the finer the detail, although this depends on the signal quality.

Progressive scan, gives better detail and flicker free reproduction. Picture in picture (PIP) is available in some big screen models, enabling you to watch a TV channel in miniature as a sub-frame of the DVD you might be viewing.

Bigger screen monitors and TVs are on the way but they’re mostly still in the boasting stage, including Sharp’s new 65 inch Aquos, currently doing the rounds of trade shows.

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