According to DisplaySearch, LCD panel prices for monitors and notebooks has gone up a bit in the second half of February, while TV and netbook panels haven't budged.
We're not talking about skyrocketing prices here, but an adjustment of +$3, on average, in the first half of February, and another +$1 in the second half.
This could be just the beginning. DisplaySearch says panel makers are likely to increase notebook panel pricing due to component shortages and labor issues in China. Meanwhile, larger TV panel prices will continue to remain flat, says DisplaySearch, who pointed out that demand for 42- and 46-inch models is starting to level out.
Even with the rising prices, consumers aren't real likely to notice. Notebooks are cheaper than ever before and continue to come down in price overall.
Flat panel TVs, both LCD and plasma, set the stage for a seismic shift manufacturing dominance. Where Sony was once the dominate player, back when TVs still had CRTs, today it’s Samsung. Samsung has been the ‘big boy on the block’ since 2006, but it’s become even bigger, verging on 20% of the global market share of TV sales.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Samsung is approaching a milestone not reached since the earliest days of television. And, Samsung has achieved the feat almost single-handedly, keeping production in-house, where it has greater control over quality, rather than outsourcing. Samsung shipped 38 million TVs in 2009, a 15 percent increase from 2008. It expects to ship 45 million in 2010.
Following on Samsung’s heels is LG Electronics, which accounts for 14.8 percent of the market. Panasonic (6.9 percent), TCL Electronics (6.6 percent), and Sony (5.9 percent), round out the top five. Together, these manufacturers account for 51.4 percent of the global television market.
It’s a brave new frontier in reading. Gone are the days when people hauled around bits of dead trees with words written on them in ink. Okay, maybe those days aren’t over quite yet, but more people than ever are using e-readers of some sort. The question is can your eyes take it?
The consensus overall is that whatever you’re reading on, real damage to your vision is unlikely. Eink screens like the one found on the Kindle and Nook are considered nearly as good as paper in bright light. However, the contrast ratio is still not as high as paper making them harder to read in low light. Without a backlight there’s little to be done.
Low light settings are just where an LCD based e-reader like the upcoming iPad could shine. Thanks to the backlight, an LCD should be useful in settings with low ambient light. However, in brighter areas the reflectivity of the screen may cause strain. As for the notion that the flickering refresh of an LCD will eventually cause eye strain, Carl Taussig of HP says not so much. “Today’s screens update every eight milliseconds, whereas the human eye is moving at a speed between 10 and 30 milliseconds,” said Taussig.
All the experts agree on this: use the reading surface that works best for you. They all have their strengths, so the choice is yours.
OLED displays are widely accepted to provide some of the best image quality money can buy. The problem is that it does take a lot of money to buy them. The current generation of manufacturing tech means that small OLEDs, like the one found on the Nexus One, are really at the upper limit of cost effectiveness. A start up called Kateeva wants to change that. They are developing a system for printing OLED displays.
Kateeva’s manufacturing process has been shown to be capable of printing 1.8 by 1.5 meter OLED displays. They estimate the costs to be roughly 60% of current methods. Don’t get too excited yet. The OLED printer is set to be tested by display manufacturers next year. Just imagine, in a few short years you may be tossing out your tired old plasma or LCD HDTV and buying an OLED version.
There are cool 27-inch LCD monitors, and then there are super cool 27-inch LCD monitors. Apple’s 27-inch iMac has one. Now too does Dell with its newly released UltraSharp U2711.
The U2711 has an In-Plane Switching (IPS) LCD, and a resolution of 2560 x 1400, which provides a more vivid and detailed image, with a wider viewing angle (178º on the vertical and horizontal). Its 12-bit internal processing can support 1.02 billion colors. The aspect ratio is 16 x 9, response time is 6ms, brightness is 350 cd/m-squared, and the contrast ratio is 1,000 to 1 (with a dynamic contrast ration of 80,000 to 1). Not too shabby.
And the U2711 has ports galore. There’s an HDMI port, two DVI-D ports, a DisplayPort, a VGA port, plug-ins for component and composite video, one USB 2.0 upstream port, four USB 2.0 downstream ports, and an 8-in-1 media card reader. In a world gone wireless, it's nice to know there's still a place to plug things in.
All this super cool doesn’t come cheap. Dell’s offering the U2711 for $1,099. But, for that price your monitor comes with a “certified color-calibration factory report.”
Go big or go home, right? Not at BenQ's headquarters, where thin is definitely in. The PC peripheral maker this week launched a line of high-contrast (of the dynamic variety) monitors that BenQ's marketing peeps claim are the thinnest in the industry, measuring only 15mm (that's 0.59 inches for the anti-metrics folks) thick.
These will be part of the company's new V series comprised of nine models in all. Sizes range from 18.5 to 24 inches, with the first model to land on shelves the 21.5-inch V2200. The V2200 will boast a 160-degree viewing angle, 10,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, and 5ms response time.
Every model in the V series will come with both DVI and VGA connections, while several will ship with HDMI 1.3, a headphone jack, or an anti-glare panel.
No word yet on pricing, but you'll find out soon enough. BenQ says it will start shipping the new panels this month and next in Taiwan, with worldwide availability slated for June.
It's all about the contrast, baby, or at least that's true over at BenQ's headquarters. The value-oriented peripheral maker this week announced a pair of 15.6-inch LED-backlit monitors -- G610HDAL and G610HDPL -- both of which boast a dynamic contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1.
In fact, the two screens share quite a bit in common. Both sport a 1366x768 resolution and are rated with an 8ms response time. And according to BenQ, the two new models are capable of automatically adjusting their brightness to room lighting conditions.
This brings us to the primary difference between the two. The G610HDAL claims a slighter brighter output of 250 nits courtesy of its glossy screen, while the G610HDPL has an anti-glare screen and produces 220 nits.
No word yet on when these will ship or what they'll cost.
The performance of an LCD monitor ultimately depends on how its liquid crystals are manipulated to channel light. We’ll examine the three most common technologies: Twisted Nematic (TN), In-plane Switching (IPS), and Vertical Alignment (VA).
Each of these three technologies creates a pixel using a cell of liquid-crystal molecules controlled by a thin-film transistor. Liquid crystals are used because they’re capable of effecting light as though they’re a solid, while exhibiting the malleability of a fluid. In a color LCD, each pixel is subdivided into three cells, or subpixels, which are colored red, green, and blue, respectively, by additional filters. These cells are arranged in a matrix of rows and columns sandwiched between two panes of glass, with a polarizing film on the exterior side of each pane.
A light source, such as a cold cathode fluorescent lamp or an LED grid, is placed behind the first glass panel. Light waves from the backlight follow the alignment of the liquid-crystal molecules, but they must pass through the two polarizing filters before reaching the surface of the display. Light waves must be oriented perfectly parallel to the first filter to pass, but since the second filter is oriented perpendicular to the first, no light will pass unless it’s reoriented first.
One of NEC's solutions to cutting back on energy consumption is to go small, as in 17 inches, which is the size of NEC's latest 'green' monitor, the AS171. According to NEC, the AS171 with a 4:3 aspect ratio consumes 21 percent less power than its predecessor and uses half the amount of mercury in its design.
"The 17-inch AS171 display brings variety and value to AccuSync Series users," said Lynn Gu, Product Manager for NEC Display Solutions. "We continuously see a strong demand for the 17-inch standard aspect ratio from enterprise and small-to-medium business sectors, and our goal with this display is to offer improved green technology, energy efficiency, and eco-friendly features."
One of those features is a new carbon footprint meter for tracking your carbon savings. But probably of more value to SMBs is the 2-step ECO Mode technology, which allows users to switch between two energy-savings modes.
Other specs include a 1280 x 1024 resolution, VGA and DVI connectivity, 900:1 contrast ratio, 5ms response time, and tilt adjustability.
NEC will begin shipping the AS171 this month for $160, noting that the backlight is included in the three-year parts and labor warranty.
Regardless of how you feel about the newly announced iPad, it’s probably going to do a few things very well. But will it be the reading device we’ve all been waiting for? Steve Jobs pushed the iBook store in the keynote, and discussed how the Kindle pioneered ebooks. Jobs then said Apple would “stand on [Amazon’s] shoulders”. Can it work?
The obvious benefit of the iPad is that it has a color screen. There will be more options for text size, search, and even font choices. Magazines and newspapers will look nice, but reading an old fashioned book may not benefit much. The Kindle and other eReaders have a 16 level eInk display meant to be easy to read. The screen on the iPad, being a conventional LCD, may not be quite so easy on the eyes.
Content wise, the iPad may be in good shape. Out of the gate it will have content from Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Harper Collins and Hachette. It will also support the open ePub format, which is more than we can say for Amazon. This means the iPad will have access to Google Books. The Nook has ePub support also, so it’s not a total win for Apple.
Price is certainly of concern. The iPad is clocking in at $499 for the 16GB version sans 3G. That’s quite a bit more than the Kindle and Nook at $260. To get data on the go, you need to purchase an AT&T data plan for the (more expensive) iPad, whereas the Kindle and Nook come with free wireless. Granted, the iPad does much more than eBooks, but buying it primarily as a reading device may be a questionable move.