Sony Discontinues Rear-Projection TV

On December 27, Sony announced that it will discontinue manufacturing rear-projection TVs (RPTVs) and instead focus on flat panel display (FPD) TVs. A couple of months ago, in October, Sony lowered its forecast for its RPTVs from 700K down to 400K. Compared to that, Sony is expecting to sell 10 million LCD TVs this fiscal year ending March 2008. That is 3.7 million more LCD TVs that the company sold in the previous year. I recently wrote about why my next TV will be a Sony 55″ SXRD RPTV. This new development has a positive and a negative impact on my purchase decision. First the negative: It will be most difficult to get customer service once Sony is completely out of the RPTV business. But besides replacing the UHP bulb, I hope the SXRD RPTV will last a strong decade. The positive is that Sony and all of the retailers carrying Sony’s SXRD RPTVs will be blowing them out. That means really great prices. My goal is to get a sub-$1000 55″ 3-chip SXRD RPTV. Let’s see if that happens in the next couple of months. It is a shame that Sony is discontinuing such a great technology because consumers are so enamored with the cool factor of thin. I’d rather have thick and better picture quality.

Source: New York Times

[tags]Sony, Rear Projection TV, RPTV, SXRD, LCoS, Liquid Crystal on Silicon[/tags]

LG L246WP-BN : 24″ LCD Monitor

LG L246WP-BN

Size: 24″
Aspect Ratio: 16:10
Pixel Format: 1920 x 1200
Brightness: 500 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio: 1000:1
Response Time: 8ms
Inputs: VGA, HDMI, Component
Panel: In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology or Multidomain Vertical Alignment (MVA)
Viewing Angle: 178/178
Price: MSRP $650

I have always preferred LCD monitors that use In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels. A display’s primary function, in my opinion, is to accurately display information, may that be text, graphics or video. For graphics color is very important. IPS panels are known to have little color shift as you go off-angle leading to great color reproduction. That is why almost all of Apple‘s LCD monitors use IPS panels. And that is one of the reasons why I like LG‘s L246WP-BN.

The 1920 x 1200 pixel format is great for displaying high-resolution pictures and having two windows of 960 x 1200 side-by-side. I like using the “Tiles Windows Vertically” feature in Windows quite a bit, and that is how I am blogging right now. I have the WordPress window on the left and the LG product page in the right window. Oh, I’m not using the LG monitor for this, yet. I have a 17″ Dell Inspiron 9300 with 1920 x 1200 pixels. The fonts can be on the small side for some, but the added productivity outweighed the smaller fonts and icons when I was making the purchasing decision about 2 1/2 years ago.

I was surprised to see the 1000:1 contrast ratio. LG.Philips LCD (LPL) generally makes excellent IPS panels, but contrast ratios have generally lagged behind Vertically Aligned (VA) panels from Samsung or AU Optronics (AUO). I guess they have been making advances in IPS panels: making blacks more black or whites more white. Another interesting choice was the HDMI in lieu of DVI port. Most IT-targeted LCD monitors will sport a VGA + DVI combo, but LG’s L246WP-BN has a VGA + HDMI combo. My guess is that LG was hoping to capture the wallets of consumers looking more toward consumer electronics (CE) applications. CE applications like the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Blu-ray and HD-DVD players have HDMI out, but not DVI (some have both). So if you wanted to play some games with your PS3 or Xbox 360 with 1080 lines, then this would be a good monitor to do it with. But, one caveat: the response time is only 8ms. This is on the slow side as some brands, namely Acer, have come out with really fast response times. Motion blur is the blur effect you see when things move about quickly especially when you watching sports. LCD TVs without 120Hz or black frame insertion technologies will experience quite a bit of motion blur since most of the time they are displaying moving pictures. Of course, this 24″ beaut will be used for both work and play. Just don’t expect CRT-like fast and crisp movements when watching sports on ESPN HD if you happen to connect your STB via HDMI.

The $650 price can be a bit much and I was quite surprised when I came across Best Buy’s sale. BB regularly has LG’s 24″ for $599.99. But, BB was having the L246WP-BN for just $450! BB’s online store stated that it was sold out, and as of Dec. 22 9:19am PST, it still is. I went by the BB store in Santana Row (a popular hang out place with lots of name brand shops and places to eat in San Jose, CA) yesterday but they were completely out of stock. But the good news was that I was able to have a look at inventory for LG’s L246WP-BN for all the stores in Northern California. Unfortunately, all San Francisco Bay Area BB stores were out of stock. But, I was in luck. I saw 4 units for a BB in Salinas. And I have a dear relative who lives there! To make a long story short (it’s already long enough!), I’ll be staring at a 24″ IPS-based LCD monitor tomorrow afternoon!

Source: Best Buy, LG

Update Christmas Day 2007

I received my L246WP-BN yesterday. I am using it to post this blog. Just to make sure I had a perfect display, I used Dead Pixel Buddy (I downloaded it from FreewareFiles.com) to test my very large LCD monitor. The LG IPS panel turned out to be perfect without a pixel defect or a sub-pixel defect. Yay! Compared to my 17″ TN LCD in the Dell Inspiron 9300… actually I can’t compare: The IPS display can be seen, without hardly any color shift, from side to side. I am very happy with the display performance so far. The only challenge that I am having is using the DVI-HDMI cable. I am currently running 1920 x 1200 via the VGA cable as I have had trouble using the HDMI connection. Anyone know what I must do? I have googled the problem but did not find a solution. Let me know if you know. And Merry Christmas!

Update 2007.12.29

I think I have found the solution! My L246WP-BN is being driving via the DVI-HDMI connection right now. Compared to the VGA connection, text is so much more crisp! Ah. Finally! This is what I did:

1. Connect the DVI-HDMI cable. Use the OSD on the LG and set the input to HDMI. Promptly, the LG monitor will go to sleep mode.
2. Enter display settings and make sure to set it so it is using the LG display as either duplicated or extended (I use extended).
3. Reboot PC. I have Windows XP Pro SP2.
4. The connection simply works when Windows boots up.

I am simply ecstatic! I can’t say how much I am relieved. I hope all of you out there that have a L246WP-BN can get the HDMI-DVI connection to work. Happy New Year everyone!

[tags]LG, LG Electronics, LGE, 24″, LCD Monitor, 1920 x 1200, HDMI[/tags]

LED Headlights: Lexus LS600h, Audi R8

LED light sources have become common in automotive taillight applications. For taillights, the light does not have to project and need to be simply bright enough for other drivers to see when daytime running lights (DRLs) and/or the brakes are engaged. Because of the low brightness requirements, LEDs have been able to replace regular bulbs for taillight applications. With continued advances in LED technology, brightness has increased considerably over the last few years and now we see LED technology begin to penetrate automotive headlight applications, especially for in forward lighting.

Audi’s luxury sports car, the R8, will have LED DRLs standard with LED headlamps as an option. Although five other Audi models have LED-based DRLs, the R8 will be the first Audi to use white LEDs for both high-beams and low-beams. In Audi’s case, the LEDs are manufactured by Philips Lumileds and integrated into a headlamp by Automotive Lighting in Germany.

Toyota is also introducing LED technology for its headlights, but only to function as a low-beam projector. Toyota’s luxury division, Lexus, will introduce LED low-beam projectors on its ultra-luxury LS600h saloon. Halogen and Xenon lamps will also be offered as standard and optional items, respectively, on the LS600h. Why the shift to LED power? There are several advantages. LEDs can last about 100,000 hours, or more than 11 years. Although some might incorrectly think think brightness levels do not decrease for LEDs, they do in fact decrease. The 100,000-hour lifetime specification is actually the time it takes for the LED brightness to hit 50% of its original brightness. Still, 11 years is a very long time, and much longer than conventional light sources. LEDs are also solid-state, meaning there are no moving parts and therefore are very durable and somewhat more resistant to shocks and bumps relative to halogen or Xenon. The picture above shows a three-LED powered low-beam headlamp. We will most likely see more LED technology being applied to all automotive headlamps as LED chip and packaging technologies continue to advance.

Update 2008.05.30
Autoblog is reporting that the Audi R8 will be sporting a full LED headlamp and that includes high and low beams, turn signals in addition to the DRLs. The DRLs alone took 24 LEDs so you would think the entire LED headlamp would require quite a bit more. Nope. the entire LED headlamp requires just 54 LEDs. The light coming out of the LEDs are said to be really close to the color of daylight, instead of the yellowish stuff most of us are used to. The LED headlamp option will take a big toll: £3,590 or $7,100 USD, enough to purchase a used A4!!!

Source: LEDs Magazine, Motor Authority, Autoblog

[tags]Lexus, Audi, R8, LS600h, Automotive, LED Headlight, LED, LED Headlamp[/tags]

Sharp Solar Investment

On December 14, Sharp’s Chairman Katsuhiko Machida announced that the company will be investing JPY100 billion ($US877 million) on a solar cell factory that will be located in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture. The solar cell factory will manufacture thin-film solar cells starting in fiscal 2009. With an annual production capacity of 1,000 million watts, Sharp’s solar cell factory will be the world’s largest. The solar cell factory will be adjacent to Sharp’s G10 LCD fab that is currently under construction. Similar to LG.Philips LCD’s Paju site where many suppliers have co-located with the firm’s G7 LCD fab, Sharp is expected to have many suppliers co-located with its G10 LCD fab and its solar cell factory.

In other news, on November 26, Sharp announced that it is with Namaste Solar Electric to bring solar power to Colorado’s Nyland neighborhood, located in Lafayette. Nyland was built in 1990 as one of the first cohousing communities in the country. Namaste Solar will install 23 Sharp OnEnergy solar systems in the community by the end of 2007: 22 on homes, and one on the community-owned and operated Wood Shop. Sharp OnEnergy solar electric systems use a proprietary simplified, flexible mounting system to make installation faster, easier and more cost-effective. Nyland is a cohousing community of 42 private homes, built by Wonderland Hill Development Company, located in a rural setting six miles outside of Boulder, Colorado with an expansive view of the Rocky Mountains. There are approximately 135 resident members who share meals, meetings, workshops and miscellaneous events at the common house, a centerpiece of the neighborhood. Namaste Solar Electric is a values-based, employee owned solar electric company dedicated to the betterment of the planet by bringing clean, reliable, and affordable renewable energy technologies to homes, businesses, and nonprofits throughout the Front Range. Integrating both holistic and traditional business methods, Namaste Solar is currently the #1 solar electric company in Colorado with more than 350 solar electric systems installed since 2005. Namaste Solar’s work at Nyland will offset more than 4100 tons of CO2.

Sharp’s Solar Energy Solutions Group, based in Huntington Beach, California, is a unit of Sharp Electronics Corporation, the U.S. subsidiary of Sharp Corporation, Osaka, Japan. Sharp is the world’s largest solar cell manufacturer providing standard and integrated roof modules for home applications. Sharp maintains solar panel assembly operations that assembles a solar panels for residential and commercial installations at its manufacturing facility in Memphis, Tennessee.

The picture above shows Sharp’s Solar Racking System that is available on its OnEnergy packages. All lines and mounting hardware are significantly reduced and every component can be assembled using one socket for roof lags and one socket for bolts resulting in reduced installation time and helps to make servicing more convenient.

Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing that attempts to overcome the alienation of modern subdivisions in which no one knows his or her neighbors and resulting in a lack of sense of community. The typical cohousing community has 20 to 30 privately-owned, single-family homes arranged in a way to encourage interaction with neighbors. Interaction is encouraged through extensive commonly shared amenities like a common house, workshops, gardens and a greenhouse. The common house often includes a dining room and kitchen where residents prepare meals for each other on a rotating basis, a kids’ playroom, guest rooms, craft room, exercise facility and meeting rooms. Cohousing communities are designed and managed by the residents as an intentional neighborhood where people are consciously committed to living as a community. Most cohousing communities share an environmental ethic with a commitment to “living gently on the land” in terms of building eco-friendly homes, using organic gardening methods, and incorporating community recycling and composting. This type of housing began in Denmark in the late 1960’s and spread to North America in the late 1980’s. There are now more than a hundred cohousing communities completed or in development across the United States and Canada.

Source: Nyland Cohousing, Sharp’s Solar Energy Solutions Group, Semiconductor International

[tags]Sharp, Solar, Solar Cell, Namaste Solar Electric, Namaste Solar, Nyland Cohousing[/tags]

Why my next TV will be a 55″ Sony SXRD…

The most popular TV technology today is LCD. LCD TVs come in many sizes: from smallish 13″ ones to huge 70″ and larger ones. Although 32″ seems to be at the sweet spot now, 40″ and 42″ LCD TVs will take the spotlight in 2008, mainly because top brands will have lower-end models that dip below $1000. LCD TV wasn’t always popular. Just a few years ago, it was plasma TVs. Remember Gateway when the company introduced 42″ ED plasma TVs for just $1999? That was big news back then. Of course, now, you can get a 42″ HD plasma TV for just $999. For 50″ and larger TVs, plasma TV still has the edge in price but that won’t be for too long. But I’m not interested in either LCD TV or plasma TV. My interest is in liquid crystal on silicon or LCoS. LCoS-based rear projection TVs to be a bit more revealing. And to be ultra-precise, my next TV will be a 55″ Sony 3-chip 1080p SXRD rear projection TV. I will give you three reasons why.

1. Thin might be in, but is a waste of money. Unless you are intending to put your LCD TV or plasma TV on the wall, paying for thin is a waste of money. Although the display might be thin, the base needs to be fairly deep to prevent it from tipping over. For 40″ and larger sizes, you want a pretty sturdy base. Another reason why thin is a waste of money is because you will most likely put it on top of a table or furniture piece that is significantly thicker than the TV. The reason for this is simple: most if not all A/V equipment that will connect to your thin over-priced TV will have a depth that is 2x to 3x more. These include DVD players, A/V receivers, Blu-ray and HD-DVD players, game consoles such as Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, etc. So why do you need your TV to be thin?

2. EMI. Electro-magnetic interference is everywhere and the most come from when the microwave is on, but next to that is when your large TV is on. We, as in folks that live in the US, live at a time when 40″ is about the bare minimum size of a living room TV. In addition to that, I have kids, who love to sit or stand right in front of the TV and exposing themselves to all that EMI. Since kids will be kids, I want to get a TV that has minimal EMI. And guess what? Plasma TV is known for very high levels of EMI. LCD TV has much less, but rear projection TV is significantly less than both.

3. UHP. Ultra-high-performance lamps. Yes, these go out every 3-4 years and, some say, is a pain in the butt to replace. Add to that the $200-$300 price tag on one of these and a TV that uses a UHP bulb sounds downright expensive. Well, I want to look at this differently. A CCFL or LED backlight will last 50,000 or more hours before brightness levels drop to 50% of original. That turns out to be a very long time. So what happens when your TV’s brightness falls to a point where you don’t like it anymore? You can’t do anything. You can possibly find a company that can replace the backlight unit, but that is very unlikely. Most likely, you’ll need to get a new TV. And that will cost you quite a bit more than $300. With a UHP-based rear-projection TV, you can basically get a brand new TV every 3-4 years for just $300. I like that.

There is another reason why I want Sony’s 55″ SXRD TV. Soon, it will come below the $1000 mark. And that’s a great value for a 1080p 50″ TV. Sony’s LCoS implementation in its SXRD technology is a gem. Although many of you might disagree with the reasons I put forth, one of my goals is to maximize the return on my investment. Thin is nice, but is way overpriced and in most cases (unless you’re putting it on the wall) is not even a useful feature.

[tags]Sony, SXRD, Rear Projection TV, RPTV, 55″, LCoS, Liquid Crystal on Silicon[/tags]