[opendtv] News: The Skinny On Flat-Panel TVs

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 2 Dec 2004 08:03:32 -0500


The Skinny On Flat-Panel TVs
Penelope Patsuris, 11.30.04, 8:55 AM ET

NEW YORK - This holiday season, shoppers in search of the right 
flat-panel television have more options than ever before.

  The shelves at Best Buy (nyse:  BBY -  news  -  people  ), Circuit 
City Stores (nyse:  CC -  news  -  people  ) and Target (nyse:  TGT - 
news  - people  ) are stocked with televisions that are thinner, 
bigger and have sharper pictures. They're also cheaper, although by 
no means inexpensive. Last year's average price for a 32-inch 
liquid-crystal-display (LCD) high-definition TV was $3,783, according 
to market researcher iSuppli, while this year that average price is 
down 37% to $2,379.

The irony for anyone who's intent on adorning their living room wall 
with a sleek-looking plasma: Traditional cathode-ray tube televisions 
still offer the very best picture quality available. "No one would 
argue that CRTs are still the benchmark for image quality," says 
DisplaySearch analyst Chris Connery. Still, according to retailers, 
most shoppers are happy to forgo the best picture in order to get a 
flat screen.

  Consumers won't always have to choose between form and function. 
Manufacturers like Samsung, Sony (nyse:  SNE -  news  -  people ), 
Pioneer (nyse:  PIO -  news  - people  ), Philips Electronics (nyse: 
PHG -  news  -  people  ) and Matsushita Electric Industrial (nyse: 
MC -  news  -  people  ) brand Panasonic are plugging away to close 
that gap.

  Digital-light-processing rear-projection televisions are widely 
available for the first time this year. These sets use semiconductors 
that are loaded with over one million microscopic mirrors to project 
an image onto a screen. DLP TVs represent a small segment of the 
market but are quickly gaining steam because of the compromise they 
offer. DLPs are cheaper per square screen inch than flat panels but 
offer picture quality that's on par with them. They come in large 
screen sizes and although they are rear projection TVs, they're 
getting much slimmer. RCA's new 61-inch Scenium Profiles DLP TV is 
just shy of 7 inches deep--thin enough to be wall mounted like a 
plasma or LCD set, while Samsung's 50 inches pedestal DLP TV is only 
20 inches deep.

  Another promising type of rear-projection TV uses 
liquid-crystal-on-silicon technology to project programming onto a 
display. Analysts say the LCOS pictures are exceptional, but these 
TVs have been slow to take off due to manufacturing difficulties. The 
category lost some momentum in late October when Intel (nyse:  INTC - 
news  -  people  ) halted its ongoing efforts to make the LCOS chips. 
However, JVC (another Matsushita brand) and Sony are making LCOS TVs, 
and they will probably have more of a presence in the market next 

  As is so often the case with electronics, there's new technology 
just around the corner, which may make some shoppers wonder if they 
should nix a purchase for now. The spoiler this season is the 
surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) TV, which is 
expected to be in stores by Christmas 2005 from a joint venture 
between Toshiba (otc: TOSBF -  news  -  people  ) and Cannon (nyse: 
CAJ -  news  -  people  ). The buzz is that SED TVs will have the 
best of any flat-panel picture, on par with that of CRTs and that 
they'll be much cheaper than LCD or plasma screens.

  "If it really is less expensive, SED could overthrow plasma," says 
Gartner analyst Paul O'Donovan. Either way, it's another acronym to 
add to the long list of terms we'll have to keep straight just to 
shop for a television.

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