LED LCDs Take The Lead In Consumer Markets

June 22, 2012
The consumer markets and society in general have become display driven. Not only are LCDs leading the pack in the display market, but LED-backlit LCDs are slowly taking the lead.

Displays now drive the market, as well as society. Almost everywhere you look, you’ll find someone staring at a display, whether it’s on a smart phone, laptop, automated teller machine, or HDTV. Most people have difficulty comprehending anything unless it’s on a screen. It’s like prehistoric times, when most communication was via pictures and symbols drawn on a cave wall.

Many of these screens are LCDs. NPD DisplaySearch expects LCD shipments to increase by 7% in 2012 over other display technologies like cathode ray tubes and plasma, even though the research company also expects worldwide TV shipments will remain flat. TV shipments to developed markets will recede by 11%, negating a forecasted 8% growth in emerging markets, NPD says.

Still, NPD sees LCD TVs accounting for more than 88.5% of TV shipments worldwide in 2012, up from 82.5% in 2011 and rising to more than 90% by next year. Two prime reasons for this growth are pretty obvious: price and performance. LCDs have been around for some time and prices have come down considerably. They also are reliable and deliver a high-quality viewing experience. And, LCDs are available in any size, from ultra-small to huge.

LEDs Provide The Backlight

NPD DisplaySearch forecasts the end of cold-cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) backlights in LCDs, supplanted by the brighter, cooler, and longer-living, though a bit more expensive, LED. Earlier this year, Samsung launched the EH series low-cost, direct LED-backlit LCD TVs with LG’s LS3400 series close on its heels. Both series vie for position in entry-level and mainstream areas of the LCD TV market, once dominated by CCFL-backlit units.

Although LED backlighting may add perhaps a few pennies more to the wholesale price of a high-end TV, those pennies have what NPD feels is a big impact on entry/mainstream acceptance of the product. Apparently, edge backlighting OEMs have not been successful at reducing the cost of LED solutions over CCFL backlighting in this arena. But again, as LCDs have been around a while, so have LEDs. As their development is constantly evolving, their prices are going a little further south each quarter.

The TV OEMs are now turning their attention to backlighting components that add value, such as low-cost direct LED-backlighting targeting mainstream markets. Naturally, low-cost direct LED backlighting will be competing against CCFL backlighting.

Surprisingly, the CCFL industry is under cost pressures due to severe shortages in rare earth metals. This shortage translates into fewer new CCFL-backlit models and disappearing margins for cost cuts.

According to NPD, market share of low-cost LED backlit LCD TVs is expected to increase to 70.1% in 2012, over 45.3% in 2011. These direct-lit LED models are bulkier than edge-lit models. However, the lower prices will attract cost-conscious consumers. In its first-quarter LED Backlight Report, NPD concludes that low-cost direct LED backlighting will achieve 100% penetration of the LCD TV market by the end of 2014.

Notable LCDs

One example of how size flexibility and high performance go hand in hand is the NL192108AC10-01 D 9-in. (23-cm diagonal) full high-definition (FHD) LCD (Fig. 1). The fruit of collaboration between Renesas Electronics and NLT Technologies, the LCD addresses increasing demand for higher resolution and color saturation in portable broadcast equipment and cameras.

1. The NL192108AC10-01 D 23-cm diagonal from Renesas Electronics and NLT Technologies is a full high-definition LCD meeting the higher resolution and color saturation requirements of portable broadcast equipment and cameras.

The NL192108AC10-01 D is a mid-size amorphous-silicon, thin-film transistor color LCD with 245 pixels per inch and a 103.5-µm pixel pitch. It employs NLT’s proprietary Super Fine thin-film transistor (TFT) technology to deliver a viewing angle of 176° horizontally and vertically without brightness or color losses at 1920-by-1080 FHD resolution. It also boasts 400-cd/m2 luminance and a 72% color gamut (NTSC ratio).

For industrial apps, German supplier of TFT displays and systems Distec offers VideoPoster-III, an industrial-grade media player (Fig. 2). The unit provides I/Os for HDMI signals, supports the WMV and FLV video formats, and plays still images and full-HD, 1920-by-1080 video.

2. VideoPoster-III is an industrial-grade media player that plays still images and full-HD video. It comes as an open frame monitor, built into monitor housings by Data Display Solution, or as a kit for custom installation.

VideoPoster-III is available in different versions: as an open frame monitor, built into Albra, Brilan, and Smart monitor housings by Data Display Solution, or as a kit for integration into custom enclosures. Compared to previous versions, the VideoPoster-III adds more applications and features. For example, playlists can be time dependent, i.e., one playlist for the morning, a second for the afternoon, and off at night. Also, playlists can be controlled by as many as 12 buttons or motion sensors. An extra HDMI input accepts external signals for array purposes.

Samsung’s LED-backlit S27A650D series LCD monitor is 27 in. wide and provides an aspect ratio of 16:9 (Fig. 3). Supporting resolutions up to 1920 by 1080, it provides a brightness of 300 cd/m2, static contrast ratio of 3000:1, and view angles of 170/160°. Other features include a response time of 8 ms and a power consumption of 42 W operational with a maximum standby power consumption of 400 mW.

3. Delivering resolutions up to 1920 by 1080, the LED-backlit S27A650D series LCD monitor from Samsung specifies a brightness of 300 cd/m2 with a power consumption of just 42 W.

Future Of LED Backlighting

The NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly LED Supply/Demand Market Forecast Report predicts the demand for LED backlights for LCDs will continue to drive LED demand until 2013, when it will reach its peak.

As the popularity for the lower-cost LED-backlit LCDs escalates, the demand for LEDs in backlights will continue to increase through 2013. According to the researchers, while the number of LED packages per LCD backlight unit will peak in 2012, continued growth in penetration of LED backlights will lead to a slight increase in LED demand in 2013.

The demand for LED-backlit TVs will increase even in lieu of cost considerations. First, on the technical side, LED backlighting improves and expands color gamut and spectrum, which enhances the viewing experience. Second, LED monitors have a longer life span, typically more than 100,000 hours.

Better color plus longer life almost ensures longer viewer interfacing with the display. LED-backlit displays are the new crayons for the cave wall.

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