Technology Showcase: Flatpanel Mounts
Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney
Market expands with some unique designs to show off new TV technology.
This is a great time to be in the flatpanel-mount business. Flatpanel displays are growing bigger, so there is more need to securely position them on walls or hang them from ceilings at the proper viewing level. At the same time, flatpanel displays are getting less expensive, so putting them in a place where they can make a statement is becoming ever more popular. Add in the fact that today's screens can benefit from ancillary equipment — such as video processors or cable hubs — and that they are almost always hooked up to record/playback units such as DVRs, then the need for a sophisticated mounting systems designed to hold all the extra stuff can be seen as more than a luxury. As a result, carving out a practical, secure space off the ground for that brand-new LCD or plasma display is driving the innovations being seen in flatpanel mounts.
The irony is, however, that as mounting systems become increasingly popular, the latest trend in their design is to make them practically invisible. While swivel and articulating-arm models can reach the display out into the room, the boxes that provide their support and even the mounting arms themselves are growing thinner and are being hidden by receding them right into the walls. Some mount designs sit so close to the wall that they are almost unobtrusive, while others have motorized positioning systems that automatically retract themselves when the display is turned off.
But these skinny performers are rapidly gaining in popularity. While market statistics for the mounts themselves are not available, Pacific Media Associates — which tracks information on largescreen displays — reports in its 2007 End User Survey: Professional Flatpanel Displays that survey respondents reported 50 percent of their meeting rooms are currently equipped with flatpanel displays. When asked about their plans for 2008, the average result was that respondents expected up to 62 percent of all meeting rooms to have flatpanels by the end of the current year.
However, we may be on the threshold of a major watershed in what we look for in flatpanel mounts because the flatpanel displays themselves are skinnying down faster than a contestant on The Biggest Loser.
At this Spring's CES show, Hitachi unveiled a new line of LCDs called the Ultra Thin 1.5 series to celebrate its 1.5in. depth. Initially offered in 32in., 37in., 42in., and 47in. screen sizes, the 1.5 line of displays will provide pro AV contractors with a new range of placement options for any corporation's board room, meeting facility, training center, or even entrance lobby. Plasma screens are destined to get the same depth reduction, and other manufacturers have already announced they will be following suit.
That is nothing compared to the potential of the next jump in technology: organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. An OLED screen is composed of an emissive layer and a conductive layer made of special organic molecules that conduct electricity, a substrate for support, and anode and cathode terminals. Although the concept has been around since the early 1950s, multilayer OLED technology was first developed at Eastman Kodak Research Laboratories by Dr. Ching W. Tang in 1987 and first used on the Kodak EasyShare LS633 Digital Camera in 2003.
Small OLED screens have also been used for several years as displays on mobile phones and portable MP3 players, but at CES 2008, Samsung unveiled a 31in. OLED TV and in May, Sony started shipping the new 11in. XEL-1, an OLED desktop display that claims outstanding dark-scene detail and a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. Without its stand, the XEL1 OLED is just 0.1in. thin.
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