Plasma and LCD TVs getting thinner

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Ultra-thin flat panel displays were the highlight of this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show, with many vendors showing thinner and sleeker high-definition TVs, giving users a peek of what LCD, plasma and OLED screens will look like in a few years.

Visitors thronged the booths of Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Pioneer and Hitachi, where the companies were showing larger flat-panel TV prototypes with reduced thickness, ranging from 3 millimeters to 39 mm, depending on the screen size.

The thinnest perhaps was Sony’s 11-inch OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TV, the XEL-1, which is 3 millimeters thick. At $2,500, the panel is much thinner than LCDs, which start at 24 mm in thickness. The XEL-1 went on sale in Japan in December and was launched in the U.S. this week. Sony also showed off a 27-inch prototype OLED TV at CES.Samsung showed off a thin OLED display prototype with a 31-inch screen, the largest of its kind on display at CES. Measuring around 4 mm thick, it is thinner than LCD panels and displayed vivid pictures than LCD TVs.

TVs based on OLED technology have a slender design thanks to the use of an organic material that emits its own light. LCD TVs (liquid crystal display) require a backlight, which takes up space at the back of the panel.

OLED screens may display the best images, but its expected life is only three to four years, and production issues plague the screens. While Sony and Samsung are investing heavily in OLED technology, a Sharp executive said the company is exploring the technology, but it won’t consider the technology until its life span is at least 10 years.

Until the OLED technology doesn’t resolve its problems, LCD and plasma TVs will rule the high-definition TV roost.

Panasonic displayed a prototype of its thin 50-inch ultra-thin plasma TV, which the company said is lighter and more power efficient. The display is 24.7 millimeters (0.97 inches) thick and weighs around 22 kilograms (48 pounds), half the weight of current high-definition TV models in similar sizes, said Toshihiro Sakamoto, president of Panasonic AVC Networks, during a Monday keynote at the show.

The company also demonstrated a prototype of its massive 150-inch plasma display, which Panasonic said is the largest flat-panel display in the world and is based on the slim design model used by the 50-inch prototype. It slimmed down the plasma TVs by using a thinner backlight unit, Sakamoto said.

Pioneer has minimized the significance of a backlight to deliver more vibrant colors on its 50-inch plasma display prototype shown at CES. However, the 9 mm display won’t be bought to market this year, Pioneer said. Dubbed “extreme contrast,” the concept display stops idle luminance in a TV, filling the screen will black levels that will allow the company’s future plasma displays to offer a deeper spectrum of colors, said Russ Johnston, executive vice president of marketing and product planning, during a CES press conference.

JVC showed the 42-inch LT-42SL89 and the 46-inch LT-46SL89 flat-panel LCD TVs, both of which are 39 millimeters thick across most of the back of the panel, significantly thinner from its earlier models, JVC said. Both models will hit the U.S. market in “early summer” with pricing to be announced at that time, JVC said.

Hitachi unveiled thinner LCD TVs in three sizes — 32, 37 and 42-inches — with 1.5-inch (38.1 mm) thickness. The name of the LCD TVs, 1.5, comes from the thickness. The product will be available in later this year and Hitachi did not provide pricing information for the products.

Not only do slim TVs look cooler, they are more power efficient and lighter, which will makes them easier to carry and mount on a wall.

[SIZE=-2]Agam Shah, IDG News Service, San Francisco Bureau

(Martyn Williams and Dan Nystedt of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.)
Agam Shah is U.S. correspondent for the IDG News Service.

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Through out my years, Sony has been a passion of mine.

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