Electronic Design

Highlights From CES 2006, Part 1

The huge 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is a mesmerizing collection of technologies and products that spans so many areas it’s nearly impossible to sum up all the activities into a single theme. That said, as I walked through the conference on its first few days, I found three major trends worth noting. First, LCD and plasma panel HD-capable TVs and monitors are now mainstream. Second, the battle between Blu-Ray and HD optical disk formats will heat up as companies start shipping players. And third, media-on-the-go (audio and video content) will continue to overwhelm the consumer with a dazzling array of devices ranging from cell phones that play music files to dozens of micro-hard-disk-based and flash-based multimedia players that allow content to stay with you at all times. This first article will look at some of the display developments while future installments will look at some of the portable A/V solutions, new chips, and other products that vendors featured at CES.

Flat screens were everywhere at the conference. Wall-sized plasma screens that offer diagonals measuring 103 and 102 in. were demonstrated by Panasonic and Samsung, respectively, while Sharp wowed attendees with its 65-in. Aquos LCD display (Fig. 1). In addition, Samsung demonstrated a prototype of an 82-in. LCD display, the LNS8297D, built from a single sheet of glass. No word, though, as to when it will be commercially available or how much it will cost. Smaller LCD screen sizes were in abundance from many manufacturers, with LCDs moving from 37-in. diagonals up to 42-, 50-, and 56-in versions that will become the next mainstream sizes.

New technologies that promise higher contrast ratios and novel features were also demonstrated by many display suppliers. Sharp, for example has a scheme it calls Megacontrast that can achieve a 1,000,000:1 (one million to one) contrast ratio, which is more than two orders of magnitude higher than most currently available flat-panel displays. Sharp also demonstrated a dual-view LCD panel that allows two different images to be displayed, one on the left side of the center axis and one on the right side of the center axis. Such a display, if used in a car, would let the driver view maps or directions, while the passenger would be able to watch a movie or play a game. Larger versions of the dual-view display are in development.

LG Electronics demonstrated a 47-in. HD LCD TV system with built in digital video recorder and dual tuners (Fig. 2). This system is based on the jointly developed super-in-plane switching scheme that LG and Philips crafted to improve the viewing angle of the display. The latest version, called enhanced super-in-plane switching, will deliver the widest angle with the least color shift, even at off-axis angles.

A number of suppliers also showed off LED-backlighted LCD panels as a lower-power alternative to the cold-cathode fluorescent lamps used in most of today’s panels. The LEDs provide longer lifetimes and reduced panel thicknesses. Several companies are also re-examining field-emission displays that are composed of large arrays of electron-emitting silicon tips that act like microscopic electron guns. Both Toshiba and Sanyo demonstrated prototypes of large area displays based on field-emission structures.

In addition to all the direct-view LCD and plasma systems, projection systems were abundant and also delivering stellar performance. Sony, for example, showed a 55-in. LCD-based projection system that uses separate 2-Mpixel LCD shutters for each color. A new optical path in the SXRD projection system keeps the system’s depth to just 12.6 in. while delivering a contrast ratio of better than 5000:1.

Many projection systems leveraging Texas Instruments’ digital light processing (DLP) technology were wowing the attendees. The latest units, like Optoma’s HD72, delivers a 5000:1 contrast ratio with 720p resolution and a bright, 1300-lumen light output for less than $2000 (Fig. 3). Other suppliers showing off projection systems with similar resolution include InFocus, Mitsubishi, and SIM2.

Optima also showed a full 1080p resolution system, the HD81, which offers a 6000:1 contrast ratio and will sell for about $10,000. These new projectors contain the recently announced BrilliantColor technology from Texas Instruments. BrilliantColor increases the color processing capabilities from 3 up to 7, enabling a significant boost in mid-tone colors for richer, more saturated full-color images. Additional companies showing off 1080p projectors include Marantz, projectiondesign, Runco, Sharp, and SIM2.

TAGS: Components
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