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CEDIA 2003 Wrap-Up—Video

Nov 12, 2003 12:00 PM, By Peter Putman


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PROJECTION HIGHLIGHTS

There were some excellent images being projected in booths and on the trade show floor. In particular, the InFocus 3-chip prototype, Samsung’s new SP-H700A (designed with a lot of help from video veteran Joe Kane), Digital Projection’s single- and 3-chip chassis, and Marantz’s VP-12S3 (single chip) will help to make people forget they ever heard of three-gun CRT projection. (I still use one, so what does that say about me?)

There is now so much DLP-engined product in the market that it has taken a lot of the suspense out of press conferences. The minute SIM2 announced a single-chip projector using the Matterhorn 1,024-by-576 device; you knew at least half a dozen other manufacturers would have it in short order. I am aware of at least six different 3-chip designs that are being engineered for home theater, and the latest TI Mustang/HD2+ 1,280-by-720 DMD is now popping up in nearly a dozen front-projector designs.

Companies such as Panasonic, Sony, and JVC are countering with projectors based on either high-temperature polysilicon or liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) devices. Most notable of these was Sony’s new Qualia projector, an enormous chassis that resembles a high-tech bathroom scale and employs three homegrown 1,920-by-1,080 LCoS panels, dichroics, and a xenon lamp.

The Qualia dominated Sony’s booth, and lines to see its images were long all three days. I managed to sneak in to the demo an hour before the show closed on Sunday and watched about ten minutes of clips from HDCAM, including some original 1,080i footage and film transfers. Image quality was quite good, except for what appeared to be some compression at the high end of the gray scale (otherwise known as crushed whites). I’ve seen this before with other LCoS demos, both front and rear projected.

Although Sony’s Qualia did kick up a lot of interest, JVC had an equally interesting and quieter demo off the floor at the Hyatt. In addition to a new product offering, the 1400 X 788 DLA-HX1U front D-ILA (also LCoS), I was able to see a prototype front LCoS projector with .8-inch 1,920-by-1,080 D-ILA panels that took up about one third as much room as the Sony box, and its picture quality wasn’t too bad. High black levels and some white crush were the usual suspects.

Samsung’s entry into the front DLP market was one floor down in the Hyatt and showed a lot of homework had been done. Kane did the demos himself on the SP-H700A, a distinct little box with selectable color gamuts (EBU/SMPTE/HDTV), numerous user-memory settings, and the ability to directly input R,G,B color coordinates to get to a specific white point.

InFocus came into the market last year, and many of us editors adopted a show-me posture when the folks from Oregon announced they intended to be major players in the HT space. Well, after selling several thousand projectors worldwide, it looks like they do have it all figured out and announced the ScreenPlay 7205 as their latest entry. This 1,280-by-720 DLP box employs Faroudja FLI2310 processors and a seven-segment, five-speed color wheel.

Vidikron unveiled the Model 20 and Model 40 front DLP projectors, the difference being the Model 20 uses the Matterhorn 576p chip and the Model 40 goes all the way with a 1,280-by-720 native device. Meanwhile, corporate partner Runco (which never does anything low-key) announced eight (that’s right, eight) new high-end 3-chip DLP machines that provide anything from 3,000 to 6,000 lumens with 1,280-by-1,024 DMDs and 720p, 960p, or 1,024p outboard processing.

Marantz demonstrated both an updated single-chip model, the VP-12S3, and a 3-chip prototype that was running a bit on the red side but still looked good. Digital Projection is poised to compete in the $10K-and-up projector arena with a bunch of products. One is the supersmall iVision HD, a single-chip 1,280-by-720 DLP design that weighs but 6.6 pounds. The 3-chip Mercury HD was in evidence, and there are even plans to bring out a 3-chipper using the new 2K cinema-grade DMDs.

Optoma had the H76, the price leader in the single-chip 1,280-by-720 arena. This box is selling for less than $8K and has the potential to be a disruptive product in terms of price, as does BenQ’s PE8700, which is a similar product and sells in the same price range. SIM2 had the Domino on display, and that little wonder makes use of the Matterhorn 576p DMD device to compete at a lower price with other 576p and 1,024-by-768 front projectors.

FLAT PANELS

Projection wasn’t the only highlight of the show. In fact, the deluge of flat-panel technology into the CE and HT markets has the potential to be another slam dunk. With all of the oversupply and price wars taking place in Asia, the field of plasma and LCD resellers and retailers is more crowded than the recent California recall election.

The writing is clearly on the wall: flat-panel TVs are the wave of the future, and that wave is coming faster than many analysts expected. The forecast is for flat-panel technologies to surpass CRT displays by 2005 in all categories, and with plasma and LCD TVs and monitors now available in sizes from 10 inches all the way to 63 inches (with some 70-inch and 72-inch product in the works), the battleground will extend even to rear-projection TVs using microdisplay technologies such as (what else?) DMDs and LCoS panels.

Here were some of the highlights:

Samsung is one of the big players in this market with both LCD and plasma fabrication lines running full tilt in Korea. The company is into its third generation of plasma with four models, starting with the 42-inch SPN4235 (852 by 480) and 42-inch HPN4239 (1,024 by 768 ns). Both have integrated NTSC tuners and a fanless design for cooling to keep noise down. The 50-inch HPN5039 (1,366 by 768) and 63-inch HPN6339 (1,366 by 768) will also include NTSC tuners. All four models offer DVI inputs and Digital Natural Image processing.

In the LCD arena, Samsung offers the LTN406W, a 40-inch wide-screen NTSC TV with 1,280-by-768 resolution and the even larger 46-inch LTN468W (1,280 by 768). There are 22-inch (LTN265W) and 32-inch (LTN325W) models also in the new line. All of ’em use Samsung’s Patterned Vertical Alignment LC crystal process for wider viewing angles.

LG showed up with new 42-inch, 50-inch, and 60-inch plasma monitors. The RU-42PZ90 has an integrated NTSC tuner, and the 50-inch MU-50PZ90V and 60-inch MU-60PZ90V are monitors only. Similar products with the Zenith brand were also on display (the P42W34, P50W38, and P60W38). Of particular interest was the DU-42PZ60, a 42-inch plasma HD-ready TV using a 1,024-by-768 (nonsquare) pixel matrix. This product featured a built-in NTSC and ATSC tuner, a first in its category.

No discussion of flat-panel TVs would be complete without a mention of Sharp, the worldwide leader in LCD TV sales. It unveiled the new 30-inch LC-30HV6U and 37-inch LC-37HV6U integrated LCD TVs but with a new horizontal speaker design below the screen. Sharp had a neat technology demo featuring the LC-15L1U-US, a 15-inch LCD TV equipped with a 802.11b wireless card and batteries for a true portable LCD TV system.

The new and improved Vidikron added three plasma monitors into their line. The VP-42 is a 42-inch 480p monitor that is HD-ready, as is the 50-inch VP-50 (1,366 by 768) and the 60-inch VP-60 (1,366 by 768). RCA is also a player with two LCD TVs. The LCDS2022B is a 20-inch design with 800-by-600 resolution and 160-degree viewing angle, and the LCDX2722W sports 1,280-by-768 resolution, DVI input, and 170-degree viewing angles.

Fujitsu had a couple of surprises, including the first-ever 50-inch plasma monitor assembled at the Fujitsu-Hitachi plant. The P55HXA actually measures 55 inches diagonally and sports 1,366-by-768 resolution, and it uses the familiar Alternate Lighting of Surfaces technology found in 42-inch Fujitsu and Hitachi models. A 63-inch model (ostensibly OEM’ed from Samsung) also made a debut and is branded as the P63XHA. (Hitachi also had its version of the 55-inch panel on display as a technology prototype.)

Panasonic showcased the 42-inch TH-42PX20U and 50-inch TH-50PX20U plasma monitors. Both offer an integrated NTSC tuner and two speakers, Photo Viewer SD and PCMCIA slots, and a pedestal stand. In the world of smaller screens, Panasonic’s 22-inch TC-22LH1 and 32-inch TC-32LH1 are LCD TVs with 1-280-by-768-pixel resolution and HDMI inputs. Sony is also onboard with a new 26-inch LCD TV. The KLV-26HG2 WEGA is an HD-ready set with integrated NTSC tuner, a Memory Stick slot for JPEG and MPEG1 playback, and updated speaker design.

There were several other companies showing a variety of small LCD TVs in the 10- to 17-inch-size range. Many of those have Wide XGA (1,280 by 768) resolution and are suitable for use in small rooms, kitchens, or even as carry-around TVs if power is available. Luce, Samsung, Sharp, and Zenith are all well represented in this product category. None of these products are ATSC-ready, although Luce did show a larger LCD TV with a built-in ATSC tuner earlier this year.

GOT FLAT IF YOU WANT IT

This recap is by no means exhaustive, but it does give you a pretty good idea of how the market is being redefined by microdisplay and flat-panel technologies. Eventually, the two will compete head-to-head in 40-inch and higher screen sizes. Right now DLP has the advantage in price; RCA’s 61-inch DLP rear-projection TV lists for $4,500, and a comparable 61-inch plasma monitor is close to $20K, but that will surely change with time.

The prediction is that LCD monitors and TVs will take over the market up to 40 inches and 42 inches within a couple of years, with plasma still hanging on in larger sizes. LG and Samsung have both shown LCD TVs with screens larger than 50 inches, and Sharp has a 60-inch version in the works. But these are not viable products yet and far too pricey to compete with plasma and even rear-projection TVs. But the day is coming.



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