Electronic Design

Entertainment Technologies Take Center Stage At CES

Entertainment has gone high-tech. Huge plasma flat-panel displays, 55-in. LCD screens, rotating disk drives no wider than a thumbnail, and advanced dual-layer DVD disks storing over 8 Gbytes were just a few of the developments on display at last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Pushing plasma technology to its limit, Samsung Electronics' HPP8071 prototype color flat-panel display has an 80-in. diagonal. It delivers a 2000:1 contrast ratio, 1000-CD/m2 brightness, and a high-definition (HD) resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. Production is expected in two years. Nearly as large, a plasma TV from LG Electronics boasts a 76-in. diagonal, and it's just 83 mm thick. Like the HPP8071, it delivers 1920- by 1080-pixel resolution (see the figure, a). Yet LG expects to have it in production by the fourth quarter of this year.

LG also unveiled a 55-in. diagonal LCD HD television that offers the widest viewing angle of any LCD TV—176°. The panel is implemented using a single glass sheet and the company's super in-plane switching LCD technology, which LG claims gives it the fastest response time of any commercially available HD LCD panel. Sharp Electronics isn't far behind, though. Its 45-in. diagonal AQUOS LCD TV has 1920-by-1080 resolution.

Sharp also revealed its innovative continuous-grain (CG) silicon technology, which is used to create ultra-high-performance, small-area LCD screens for mobile information devices. With it, designers can build the LCD drivers, controllers, and power-supply circuits into the same substrate as the LCD, reducing the component count. The same technology is used to implement LCD panel speakers—speakers and audio circuitry actually deposited on the surface of the LCD panel, eliminating external speakers.

High-performance DVD drives and recorder/player systems were all the rage at CES, too. DVD drives that can write at 8× standard speed are appearing from many suppliers. Fuji Film's new disk material will speed up the process to permit 16× write speeds. Also, some drives will incorporate the new Blu-ray high-density DVD disk technology. Supported by 10 companies, the Blu-ray standard will soon be finalized. It will offer a read-only, a write-once, and a rewritable format and a storage capacity of 50 Gbytes on a CD-size disk—large enough to hold a movie in high-definition resolution. For details, go to www.blu-raydisc-official.org/index.html.

Portable music and video players are getting smaller thanks to the use of smaller mechanical disk drives. Toshiba's Storage Devices Division showed off the smallest hard-disk drive yet released: Its 2-Gbyte version is 24 mm wide, 32 mm long, and 3.3 mm thick (see the figure, b), and the 4-Gbyte version is 5 mm thick. Toshiba expects to sample it this summer.

Portable music video players will be able to use these drives to replace the bulkier 1.8-in. drives now in use. Capacity will be an issue, though. The 1.8-in. drives are already available in capacities up to 40 Gbytes—ideal for storing videos, lots of photos, and MP3s.

Typical of the A/V players on display, the Archos AV320/340 palm-sized multimedia jukeboxes pack 20 and 40 Gbytes of storage, respectively (see the figure, c). Both include a 3.8-in. color LCD screen and can record and play back movies with stereo MP3 audio. When storing video in MPEG-4 format, the 40-Gbyte version can hold up to 80 hours of near DVD-quality video, 400,000 digital photos, 2000 hours of MP3 music, 4000 hours of voice recordings, or a combination of all media types.

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