LED-backlit televisions are all the rage, but plasma displays aren't dead, folks. Far from it, in fact. According to DisplaySearch, who always has a finger on the display industry's pulse, plasma TV panels finished off a "great year" by hitting a record high in the fourth quarter of 2010. What the bezel?
Much of the Maximum PC and Maximum Tech staff is in Las Vegas right now at CES 2011, checking out all the newest gadgets on display. We've got a film crew down there, putting together high-quality videos of the show, but sometimes we know that you just want a quick glimpse at what's hot on the show floor. That's why we're bringing you guerrilla footage, shot by our editors using handheld cams.
First up, Jon Phillips takes a look at the Viera, the newest, thinnest, bad-ass-est 3D TV from Panasonic. Check out our review of the last-gen Viera right here.
With all the ballyhooing over 3D, Consumer Reports set out to find which displays do the technology justice. What they found in their sampling of 14 3D TVs is that plasma does a better job at beaming 3D images than LCD sets, mostly because the plasma sets exhibited far less ghosting.
"It remains to be seen whether 3D TV is just a novelty or a new product category in the consumer electronics space," said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor fo Consumer Reports. "But, our tests show that there are some fine 3D TV sets out there for those consumers eager for a new experience."
To conduct its tests, Consumer Reports used both exclusive 3D test patterns developed in-house and a collection of 3D blu-ray movies and recorded 3D sports broadcasts.
The Panasonic-brand plasma sets showed the least amount of ghosting, which "plays a big part in 3D quality."
It's turning out to be a banner year for TV makers, who according to market research firm DisplaySearch, will ship more than 242 million TV sets globally in 2010. That number marks a 15 percent on-year growth rate, made even more significant when you consider shipments only grew by 2 percent in 2009.
Not surprisingly, LCD displays are performing exceptionally well with a 29 percent growth rate to 188 million units, but don't go counting out plasma and CRT TVs just yet. DisplaySearch says both have a better outlook in 2010 than previously expected. Plasma TV shipments, for example, rose 24 percent on-year in the first quarter of 2010, driven by demand for high value-per-inch.
On the LCD side, LED-backlit displays are quickly gaining ground. While only 3.9 million LED-backlit LCD TVs were shipped around the globe in the 2009, DisplaySearch expects that number to jump to 37 million units in 2010.
"Most of the top LCD TV brands are strongly emphasizing LED technology in an attempt to offset declining profits and prices fo CCFL-backlit models," said Hisakazu Torii, VP of TV market research for DisplaySearch. "This has led to a shortage of critical LED backlight components, and the lofty goals for LED market share in 2010 have been tempered somewhat by the reality of supply constraints."
By the end of the year, DisplaySearch reckons LED-backlit displays will account for 20 percent of total LCD shipments.
Boy has it been a tough year or so for those who took the plunge into HDTV territory back when bulky rear-projection units were all the rage. Since then, skinnier, brighter units have emerged, many of which cost less than their chunky counterparts.
The latest thin-framed HDTV to emerge comes from LG, who just announced a line of plasma sets measuring a scant 25mm thick (for those who shake an angry fist at the metric system, we'll save you the Google conversion - 25mm breaks down to just less than an inch thick).
That's right, LG chose to go plasma for its 'Skinny Frame' line, as the company has dubbed them. LG says the new HDTVs come capable of a 600Hz refresh rate with 1080p support. They also come with three HDMI ports and a single USB port.
LG's releasing these first in its home market of Korea. The 50-inch model will run about $1,500, while the 60-inch unit checks in at about $3,325.
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.
If the choices are to go big or go home, Panasonic (and NBC) will take the former. Just how big are we talking? Panasonic says it has been selected to provide its 152-inch Plasma display to NBC during the network's coverage of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.
In addition to providing the world's largest plasma display, Panasonic also promised to serve up technical and engineering support.
"As a worldwide Olympic partner, Panasonic is honored to be able to provide NBC with our 152-inch Plasma Display for their coverage of the Vancouver Winter Games," said Nelkin. "Our 152-inch Plasma is the world's largest Plasma Display Panel and is the perfect technology on which to show all of the exciting, fast-paced action and stunning imagery of the Olympic Winter Games."
So what are the specs on a 152-inch display? Try 8.84 million pixels, or 4096 x 2160. That's four times the 1080p HD specification of 1920 x 1080. Panasonic says the screen size is equivalent to nine 50-inch plasmas with an effective viewing area of 11.2 feet.
We wonder how long it will take someone at NBC to hook up an Xbox 360.
It’s chicken-and-egg time again. Right now the question is playing out in 3D television. There’s no content because there’s no TVs; there’s no TVs because there’s no content. Someone has to go first, before the others will follow. Panasonic has decided to be one of those first-goers, announcing it will soon start shipping its first 3D plasma HDTVs.
The VIERA VT2 series was introduced at this year’s CES in Las Vegas. The series is expected to contain four sets ranging from 50-inches to 65-inches. The two available now are the 50-inch TH-P50VT2 and the 54-inch TH-P54VT2. Each has 1080p resolution, and a contrast ratio of 5 million to one. Both digital and analog tuners are built-in, as is a 20W 2.1-channel speaker system. Each set has four HDMI ports, a VGA output, a D4 (component) output, and an Ethernet port. They also feature Panasonic’s VIERA CAST IPTV functionality and are THX certified.
The 3D effect is realized through the use of active shutter glasses, which are included with the set. (No word on how many pairs with each set, or whether other pairs will be available as an option.)
The new sets are due for release in April in Japan. No mention of a release date for the United States. And they won’t come cheap: the 54-inch model is priced about $6,000 (¥530,000), and the 50-inch model about $4,900 (¥430,000).
Buying an LCD HDTV just got a whole lot easier. According to Dr. Raymond M. Soneira, of DisplayMate, the quest for minimal response times is as foolish as comparing raw processor speeds. It’s the real world that matters, and for live video mid- to high-range LCDs perform just fine regardless of their rated response times.
Dr. Soneira compared the motion blur characteristics of eight LCDs and two Plasmas against a Sony Professional HD Trinitron Studio monitor, using a battery of motions tests from the proprietary DisplayMate Multimedia with Motion Bitmaps Edition software. His conclusion: “there was essentially no visually detectable motion blur on any of the LCD HDTVs in all of the extensive live video content that we assembled.” Motion blur is more likely a subjective rather than an objective phenomenon.
The good news from this report is it isn’t necessary to ‘buy up’ to 120 Hz or higher refresh rates, strobed LED backlighting, or advanced motion blur processing (which Dr. Soneira claims can introduce “ugly motion artifacts”). Stick with a reputable brand, in the mid- to high-range, without regard to response times, and you’ll be fine.
Excuse us while we clean up our morning coffee off of our keyboard and desk - Panasonic wants how much for its 85-inch plasma display? The answer is $30,000, but hey, if you wait long enough, maybe you can catch one on sale for 'only' 20 Gs.
According to Panasonic, the exorbitantly priced TH-85PF12U is the industry's first 85-inch full HD, 1080p plasma display and equivalent to four 42-inch plasmas. The company also claims its Neo plasma display panel technology has made it possible to keep the 85-incher "significantly thinner and lighter than past plasmas," measuring 3.9 inches deep and checking in at 260 pounds.
Sounds groovy and all, but how do you convince your significant other that a $30,000 TV set would really complete your living room? Answer that question and you're halfway there.