Display Technology Needs to be Better Explained

by C. M. Kim

Without question, flat-panel displays are having an enormous impact on the TV market. But while they are ushering in an extremely bright future for high-definition (HD) TV, they have also handicapped many consumers with some confusing technology claims and terminology.

This has slowed the market penetration of HDTV. To accelerate the pace, the industry needs to not only simplify terminology, but to increase component standardization and cooperate more in educating the public about the entire "immersive" HD viewing experience, including dispelling misconceptions about key technology capabilities.

HDTV Service Needed

First, we must all push hard to collectively assure that consumers are benefiting from HDTV service at the same time that they are acquiring improved HDTV technology. According to reported results of a recent study by the Leichtman Research Group, many consumers think they get HD programming automatically when they buy an HDTV. Yet, only about 50% of HDTV owners subscribe to an HD service and another 25% believe they are watching programs in HD when they are not.

Consumers must be better informed that enjoying high-definition displays does not just mean purchasing an HDTV, but also requires that they subscribe to an HDTV service and that it is properly hooked up with cabling such as HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface).

LCD Technology Leads

Despite the progress in technology that has occurred over the past couple of years in liquid-crystal-display (LCD) TVs, the impact of recent advances has not sufficiently filtered down to consumers. Some have been confused by contradictory claims about the cost of LCD TVs, contrast and color-accuracy levels, viewing angles, and motion blur. But one trip to a favored TV retailer and consumers would find that not only have daunting technological issues been overcome, but also that large-screen LCD TVs with full high definition now present the best value proposition among TV technologies.

Perhaps no metric for comparing flat-panel displays is more prone to distortion than the contrast ratio, which can be affected by viewing conditions. Claims are sometimes made without reference to ambient-lighting conditions, for example. The fact, though, is that most of today's LCD technology has higher contrast when viewed under normal lighting conditions. The flat surface geometry and true vertical alignment of Samsung's SuperPVA technology exemplifies how LCD technology is eliminating dark-state light leakage and yielding the industry's highest contrast ratios and blackest blacks.

Challenges Overcome

Other potential purchasing concerns also are old news for leading-edge LCDs today. With SuperPVA LCDs, consumers receive a full 180° viewing angle, which is as good or better than any competing large-screen technology. Regarding color depiction, a wide spectrum of CCFL (cold-cathode fluorescent lamp) and LED (light-emitting-diode) backlights enables excellent color reproduction in LCDs. Moreover, the greater bit-depth processing of color in most LCDs today provides the highest color rendition in the industry. Unfortunately for the industry, consumers so far have been relatively slow to grasp these advancements.

Improved technology has similarly ended any concern about motion blur. LCD manufacturers have dramatically improved the clarty of moving images, and essentially eliminated any noticeable blur, thanks to sophisticated technologies such as DCC (dynamic capacitance compensation) and motion-compensated frame interpolation. But this story isn't being fully told either.

Simplifying Choices

Consumers also need to be aware of the hidden purchasing cost in the different types of TV technology: power consumption. A major 2006 study released by the U.S. Environ-mental Protection Agency estimated that, even though the energy efficiency level of a TV can vary significantly among models having the same display technology, LCD TVs in general present a considerably more-energy-efficient choice for consumers over competing flat-panel technologies (Preliminary Television Market and Industry Research, January 2006).

Consumers further need to better understand that increased standardization of TV screen sizes will simplify their buying experience and continue to bring down prices. In the past year, 40- and 46-in. diagonals have become the large LCD screen sizes of choice, with 52- and 57-in. diagonals being solidified as the primary sizes in the 50-in. class.

When choices are clearly simplified, sizes standardized, and consumers given a better sense of the latest technology advancements, they will be better able to understand that which most impacts their buying decisions. The entire industry needs to enlighten, not just innovate, and component manufacturers must help lead the way. •

C. M. Kim is Vice President of Marketing and Operations at Samsung LCD Business, San Jose, CA.

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