After Hong Kong
In last month's editorial, I was in Hong Kong, and I strongly hinted that I had taken the train to Shenzhen, China. But then I steered the story in a different direction.
In fact, I did go to Shenzhen, and thanks to an introduction from Hoi-Sing Kwok, Director of the Center for Display Research at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, I was able to meet Henry Song, President of backlight-maker Diguang (DG) Electronics. Song startled me and the others in our group by announcing for the first time to any journalist or analyst that DG would start sampling a 32-in. LED backlight for LCD TVs, and that the backlight would cost about US$200 in quantity. Since that is between one-third and one-fifth of what equivalent backlights were selling for at the time, and because Song said he could attain an overall power efficiency similar to that of a CCFL backlight, you can see why Song's listeners were startled and why I was happy to have grabbed onto a really good story.
But, dramatic as it is, DG's development is just one of many performance improvements and cost reductions that are being announced by flat-panel- and rear-projection-TV manufacturers and their suppliers. I was to see several of them at my next stop, IMID 2005 in Seoul, Korea.
Particularly impressive was the latest iteration of Samsung Electronics's PVA-LCD technology, which is called Super PVA. The prior version of PVA produced good picture quality with broad viewing angles by dividing each subpixel into four domains. Each domain favors different viewing angles, and all of them together provide an image whose colors are quite constant when the viewing angle changes. There is nothing new about this approach. It has been the basis of multi-domain vertically aligned (MVA) LCDs for years.
PVA's colors were indeed "quite constant," but not enough to avoid claims from archrival LG.Philips LCD that for the critical mid-tone colors that dominate the images of most TV programming, LG.Philips's Super-IPS LCD provided better color constancy with changes in viewing angle.
So, for S-PVA, Samsung has taken an additional and significant step. The subpixels are now divided into eight domains which are in two groups. The two groups of domains are driven separately, as if they were two subpixels of a new type, and one group has twice the area of the other. The results are extremely impressive, with excellent color fidelity across the entire range of viewing angles – Samsung claims a 180° viewing angle. And the excellent color is combined with a very good, very-wide-angle black state for which PVA is known.
Samsung Electronics's president did not want viewers to overlook the excellent wide-angle performance of the S-PVA panel. At the IMID exhibition, he specifically arranged for a 46-in. TV based on the panel to be mounted on a turntable that oscillated through nearly 180°. The point was very hard to miss.
So, what's next? Look for very serious initiatives from all of the major LCD-panel makers to markedly reduce motion blur. A variety of approaches should be appearing in commercial products in 2006.