The Eee Brand

DigiTimes is reporting that Asustek Computer might be making Eee an independent brand. The Eee brand would include the Eee notebook PC and others such as Eee branded TVs (E-TV), desktop PCs (E-DT) and monitors. With or without independence these products are slated for release in Q3’08.

Image courtesy: Asus

Easy to pay.

Any and all brands want to shift from low-end to high-end, but if you’ve got the know-how of making money at the low-end, there is no shame in focusing on that market segment. The Eee PC is known for cool low-cost products. I like that and I hope Asustek continue in that tradition. There are two Eee PC notebooks in the pipeline: Eee PC 900 and Eee PC 1001.

Source: DigiTimes

[tags]Asus, Asustek Computer, Eee PC, Notebook PC, LCD Monitor, LCD TV, Ultraportable[/tags]

Lenovo IdeaPad U110: 11.1″ Ultraportable

Lenovo IdeaPad U110

Display Size: 11.1″
Pixel Format: 1366 x 768
Backlight: LED
GPU: Intel GMA X3100 (VGA Out, 256MB shared)
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo L7500 1.6GHz 4MB L2 Cache 800MHz FSB
HDD: 120GB 4200RPM (32GB – 64GB SSD optional)
Optical: External DL DVD
Webcam: 1.3MP
Connectivity: 10/100 Ethernet, WiFi (Intel 4965AGN), Bluetooth (optional)
Input: USB 2.0 (3), FireWire, 6-in-1 Multicard Reader, ExpressCard, Audio In/Out
Weight: 2.4lbs (4-cell battery)
Thickness: 0.72″ to 0.88″
Availability: April 2008
Price: $1899 (base)

Image Courtesy: Notebook Review

$1899. Sounds a bit expensive. Although not an apples-to-apples comparison, Apple’s MacBook Air with a 13.3″ LED backlit LCD goes for $1799. Of course, Lenovo did have to shrink things a bit more to squeeze everything into a box that houses a much smaller LCD at just 11.1″ diagonal. Up to a certain point, smaller is more expensive. But the interesting thing is that Sony’s exceptionally small TZ series notebook PCs also start at $1799.98, which is about $100 cheaper. Does Lenovo think that it’s got something more special than a comparable Sony?

Well, to be fair, the IdeaPad U110 has a faster processor than Sony’s TZ: 1.6GHz vs. 1.2GHz. The MacBook Air sports a 1.6GHz CPU too. The IdeaPad U110 is also lighter than the TZ: 2.4lbs vs. 2.7lbs. Bear in mind that the 4-cell battery lasts just 2 hours whereas the TZ lasts 4.5 hours with the standard battery. Personally, I like the look of Sony’s TZ ultraportables better and wouldn’t spend more money on an equivalent Lenovo box. Notebook Review has a great review of the IdeaPad U110 and the pictures show a very glossy unit. I’m not sure if I like it since my fingerprints will be all over the unit; on the keyboard as well!

The 1366 x 768 pixel format is interesting. The aspect ratio is actually 16:9, different from most others that are 16:10. All of the MacBooks (regular, Air and Pro’s) are 16:10. Most of Dell’s and HP’s offerings are 16:10 (1280 x 800, 1440 x 900, 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200). I personally don’t like 1366 x 768. Although it is 16:9, what good is it? I don’t see a ATSC tuner included. I don’t see a built-in DVD player. Even if the DVD player was built-in, most DVD titles are not 16:9. Even movies downloaded from iTunes are not 16:9. So what’s the deal with 16:9 on a notebook? This question applies to Sony’s 11.1″ TZ series as well.

Update 2008.05.03
Engadget has posted up some unboxing and hands-on pictures of a black Lenovo IdeaPad U110. As mentioned earlier, the IdeaPad U110 is very glossy and is not limited to the screen but the keyboard, palm rests, and pretty much everything else.

Lenovo IdeaPad U110

Update 2008.05.04
Engadget has updated information on the IdeaPad once again. The IdeaPad seems to be an impressive piece of work. I must comment on the design as I think it is very unique and there might be a lot of design-centric folks out there who would really appreciate it. Engadget calls it “floral swirl’ and it is beautiful (image below). The design theme “flows from the top lid to the underside, all the way to the smattering of touch controls…”

Lenovo IdeaPad U110

Engadget also confirms that the IdeaPad U110 has too much gloss resulting in it being a “fingerprint magnet”. There are two very interesting features about the LCD. First, the LCD reclines quite a bit, much more than say the LCD of Apple’s MacBook Pro. Also, there is no latch to clamp the LCD down; maybe there is a magnetized mechanism to keep it closed? I don’t know. You can read a whole lot more about the IdeaPad U110 at Engadget. There’s even a video.

Source: Engadget, Notebook Review

[tags]11.1″, 1366 x 768, 16:9, Lenovo, Notebook PC, Ultraportable[/tags]

Armani/Samsung Premium LCD TV

Armani/Samsung Premium LCD TV

Sizes: 46″, 52″
Pixel Format: 1920 x 1080
Frequency: 100Hz
Input: HDMI
Availability: Europe, Korea, Russia, mid-summer 2008 (46″), late-summer 2008 (52″)

Inspired by Giorgio Armani’s new 2008/09 Armani/Casa home furnishings collection, the Armani/Samsung Premium LCD TV was designed for “a discriminating consumer” that seeks a “sophisticated design and leading flat screen technology”.

The Armani/Samsung Premium LCD TV does look handsome. The simple and elegant design is something that I like in high-tech products. But there are some problems. In my opinion, the LCD TV looks a bit fat. In today’s ultra-competitive TV industry, slim is in and ultra-slim will be in very soon. I would recommend losing about 50% of its depth.

There isn’t much technical information available, but since this LCD TV is geared toward the discriminating consumer, I would hope it has a LED backlight (local dimming enabled), an incredible contrast ratio, an enhanced color gamut and ambient light sensing capability that automatically adjusts brightness for optimum viewing. Just to name a few.

Source: Samsung

[tags]100Hz, 1080p, 1920 x 1080, Full HD, 46″, 52″, Armani, Full HD, HDMI, LCD TV, Samsung[/tags]

Apple 20″ and 24″ iMac Upgraded

Image courtesy: Apple Inc.

20″ 2.4GHz iMac
Optical: Slot-load 8x SuperDrive
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT 128MB GDDR3
Price: $1200

Options for 20″ 2.4GHz:

20″ 2.66GHz iMac
Optical: Slot-load 8x SuperDrive
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO 256MB GDDR3
Price: $1500

Options for 20″ 2.66GHz:

24″ 2.8GHz iMac
Optical: Slot-load 8x SuperDrive
GPU: ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO 256BM GDDR3

Options for 24″:
CPU: 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS 512MB

All of these units incorporate new Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs that have a L2 cache of 6MB and a faster 1066MHz FSB. The CPUs are manufactured with state-of-the-art 45-nm process technology that should yield smaller footprints and faster processing. Based on testing conducted by Apple using the 24″ 2.8GHz with 2GB RAM, HDV rendering and encoding in Final Cut Pro should run 28% faster and Photoshop ran 22% faster in a 45-filter function test compared to a previous-generation 2.4GHz iMac.

  • Final Cut Pro. HDV render and encode: 28% faster
  • iPhoto. Common application tasks: 27% faster
  • Adobe Photoshop. 45-filter function test: 22% faster
  • iMovie. Common application tasks: 21% faster
  • iTunes. Convert for iPhone: 21% faster
  • Safari. HTML, JavaScript, Java VM: 17% faster

The NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS 512MB option improves graphics performance as well. Apple shows a 2.2x improvement in Quake 4 at 1920 x 1200 High Quality settings for the 2.8Ghz 24″ iMac with the NVIDIA option compared to a standard 2.8GHz iMac using ATI’s Radeon HD 2600 PRO 256MB.

I consider Apple’s iMac one of the best desktop computers around for those that focus on getting things done (and with style) with the computer. Because of the rather enclosed design, the iMacs are not for those who like to tinker with the insides. The 24″ iMac with a pixel format of 1920 x 1200 is a beautiful sight.

Personally, I would like to see easy upgradeability married with great design. With this combination, I think there would be less material impact on the environment. Imagine an iMac where you can easily replace the CPU, GPU, LCD, entire motherboard, RAM, HDD, optical drive, etc. Instead of an entire computer being retired, it could just be a small SDRAM module or a HDD.

The iMacs are generally earth-friendly as they use a healthy dose of recyclable glass and aluminum and are rated EPEAT Silver and Energy Star 4.0. It seems Apple colored the backside of the iMac black.

Source: InfoSync, Apple

[tags]1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200, 20″, 24″, All In One, Apple, ATI, iMac, NVIDIA[/tags]

Samsung LN32A540: 32″ Full HD LCD TV

Samsung LN32A540

Size: 32″
Pixel Format: 1920 x 1080
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Contrast Ratio: 35,000:1 (dynamic)
Viewing Angle: 178/178
Response Time: 6ms
Input: HDMI (3), Composite (2), VGA, S-Video, Component (Y/Pb/Pr, 2)
Tuner: ATSC

Sharp was the first to introduce a Full HD 32″ LCD TV with a pixel format of 1920 x 1080. Almost everyone in the display community thought that was overkill. I wonder why. Well, the reasoning was that our visual system couldn’t distinguish the increased resolution at the distances that we would be watching a 32″ LCD TV. That’s probably true. But, there are a lot of folks out there that play Xbox 360, PS3 and PC games on their 1080p-capable LCD TVs. And when they do that, my guess is that they play a bit closer to the box than if they were simply watching video. I think 32″ LCD TVs with a 1920 x 1080 pixel format will be quite popular.

So, not wanting to be outdone by anyone, Samsung introduced its 32″ LCD TV with 1920 x 1080 pixels, the LN32A540. That alone is cool. In addition, the the LN32A540 has a dynamic contrast ratio of 35,000:1 and great viewing angles of 178/178. The 6ms is on the fast side, but nothing to boast about. The myriad of inputs is great for having multiple video sources, which most of the consumers of the LN32A540 will likely have.

Samsung states on its website that the LN32A540 has a “HD-grade 1366 x 768 pixel resolution” but in the key specifications area it points to a resolution of 1920 x 1080. The full specifications page reveals a 1920 x 1080 pixel format as well.

Source: Samsung

[tags]16:9, 1920 x 1080, 32″, Display Manufacturer, Dynamic Contrast, Full HD, HDMI, LCD Manufacturer, LCD TV, Samsung[/tags]

LG Display to Produce 16:9 LCDs for Notebook PCs

Size: 8.9″
Pixel Format: 1024 x 600
Availability: August 2008

Size: 9.4″
Availability: April 2009

Size: 10.1″
Pixel Format: 1024 x 576
Availability: October 2008

These LCD panels are rumored to be integrated into ultra-portable low-cost notebook PC units by Acer, Asus and HP. I’m glad the width of these LCDs are at least 1024. Browsing the Internet and anything less than 1024 pixels is not very pleasant. Other sources point to the possibility that these LCDs will sport LED backlights. This makes and doesn’t make sense.

It makes sense because these ultra-portables need to be light leading to smaller batteries. Smaller batteries mean that it won’t last very long if the unit is power hungry. LED backlights can help in that situation by consuming less power than CCFL backlights. On the other hand, LED backlights are more expensive than those made with a CCFL. With low-cost one of the major concerns, it would be difficult to maintain sub-$500 prices sporting a LED backlight.

And why 16:9? Does LG Display (and Samsung too) think that all we do on our notebook PCs is watch HDTV? As far as I am aware, I don’t know of many ultra-portable notebook PCs with ATSC tuners built-in. Or maybe they think we’ll be watching DVDs? Well, it’s unfortunate because most ultra-portable notebooks don’t have DVD optical drives and even if they did you’d be lucky to watch a 2-hour long movie. Oh, one more thing: most DVDs are not 16:9 unfortunately. So, why are you guys wanting to push customers to purchase 16:9 ultra-portable notebook PCs? It’s simple: they can make more 16:9 LCDs compared to 16:10 LCDs and make more money.

Source: Smarthouse, Engadget, Electronista

[tags]10.1″, 1024 x 576, 1024 x 600, 16:9, 8.9″, 9.4″, Display Manufacturer, LCD Manufacturer, LG Display, Notebook PC[/tags]

Samsung LCD Shipments Up 54% Y/Y in Q1’08

Samsung has five main divisions: semiconductor, LCD, telecom, digital media, and appliances. In Q1’08, sales from its LCD division comprised 25%, unchanged from Q4’07. LCD sales were down 3% Q/Q but up 53% Y/Y to KRW4.34 trillion (US$4.32 billion). Operating profits were up 10% Q/Q and 1,278% Y/Y to KRW1.01 trillion with a healthy 23% profit margin, the highest among all of its divisions.

Samsung’s LCD division shipped 22.8 million large-size LCD panels in Q1’08, virtually unchanged Q/Q from 22.9 million in Q4’07, but up a substantial 54% Y/Y from Q1’07, when it shipped just 14.8 million. Samsung indicated steady shipments of notebook PC and LCD TV panels. LCD monitor panel shipments on the other hand were weak due to seasonality. In Q2’08, Samsung expects large-size LCD panel shipments to increase 8-10% with 40″ and larger sizes to account for 60% of LCD TV panel shipments.

Samsung did caution that LCD TV set inventory sell-through must be monitored. But the company is moving strongly to expand the portion of 40″ and larger sales to over 60% in Q2’08. Samsung also expects value-added features such as Full HD (1080p), 120Hz frequency, and LED backlight to increase. The company is also expecting pull-in demand in preparation for the Beijing Olympics. I think history shows that sporting events, no matter how popular or global, do not do much for overall demand for LCD TVs.

In terms of area shipments, LCD TV panels decreased from 55% to 53%. The 2% decrease was due to a 2% increase in notebook PC panel area shipments. LCD monitor shipments remained unchanged at 33% in Q1’08.

Source: DigiTimes, Samsung (PDF)

[tags]Display Manufacturer, LCD Manufacturer, Samsung, LCD Monitor, LCD TV, Notebook PC[/tags]

Merck High Margins in Liquid Crystals

On April 23, 2008, Merck, a pharmaceutical and chemical company based in Germany, announced net profits of €239.1 million in Q1’08 after posting a loss of €8.3 million (US$13.2 million) a year earlier. The Q1’07 loss was mostly due to high interest payments on debt and Serono acquisition-related write-downs. Growth was driven by all divisions according to the company. Merck expects 2008 revenues to increase 5% to 9% while operating margin is expected to be in the range of 23% to 27%.

Merck forecasts 5% to 10% revenue growth and 47% to 52% operating margin in its liquid crystals division in 2008. Operating margins in the 50% range is incredibly strong. Merck has a dominant position in the liquid crystal market with about a 65% market share due to its very popular liquid crystals for both vertical alignment (VA) and in-plane switching (IPS). Merck’s closest competitor is Chisso of Japan. Merck’s market position is strong because its liquid crystals leads in performance and that’s what is required in a fast growing segment: LCD TVs.

Update 2008.04.30
VA liquid crystals are used by companies such as Samsung, Sharp, AU Optronics (AUO), Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) while IPS liquid crystals are used by LG Display, IPS Alpha, Hitachi and a couple of others.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

[tags]Chisso, In-Plane Switching, IPS, Liquid Crystal, Merck, VA, Vertical Alignment, LG Display, Samsung, Sharp, AU Optronics, AUO, Chi Mei Optoelectronics, CMO, Hitachi, IPS Alpha[/tags]

Sharp Profit to Rise 3% in FY2008

Sharp is forecasting that its profits will increase 3% Y/Y to JPY100 billion to JPY101.9 billion in FY2008 that just ended on March 31, 2008. The company stated that increased sales of cheaper LCD TVs were part of the reason for the increase. In a previous blog post, I referred to a report by Pacific Media Associates that showed a trend toward smaller and more affordable LCD TVs, namely 32″. This trend will most likely continue as folks in the US are cash-strapped and it seems a recession is in full swing.

According to DisplaySearch’s latest Pricewise information, 32″ LCD TV panel prices declined $1. Meeting demand for 32″ LCD TV panels does not seem to be a concern. However, there is concern that loading 32″ LCD TV panel production on G8 fabs might lead to an oversupply. 720p 42″ LCD TV panel prices were down $2 in the second half of April while 1080p 46″ LCD TV panels were down $5 in the same time frame.

Source: Bloomberg

[tags]Display Manufacturer, 32″, G8, LCD TV, Sharp[/tags]

Pioneer and Matsushita Forge Alliance

On April 24, 2008, Pioneer and Matsushita announced a comprehensive business alliance on PDP technology development and panel production. Pioneer will share its proprietary PDP-related technologies (and that means its KURO PDP technology) and Matsushita will absorb Pioneer’s PDP R&D team. Matsushita will be responsible for volume production of PDPs for the Panasonic and Pioneer brands. Matsushita brings the economy of scale needed to compete against LCD TVs and Pioneer brings some very special PDP technology. Pioneer’s KURO-line of PDP TVs have been hailed as one of the best in the industry for deep blacks and overall excellent front screen performance.

The two companies have many goals, among which are decreasing power consumption by two thirds by 2010, increasing front screen performance in the areas of contrast and reducing the thickness to less than one inch. Ken Morita, Senior Vice President at Panasonic AVC Networks Company boldly claimed that, “We are confident that we can develop a 42-inch PDP TV whose power consumption is 150 watts, equivalent to that of a 27-inch CRT TV. With a 100-inch PDP, we can reduce power consumption to a level comparable to today’s 42-inch PDP TV.”

Luminous efficacy, an extremely important term that indicate the the overall lighting efficiency that depends on how much of the input energy is converted into visible light. Currently, luminous efficacy for PDP TVs are hovering around 2.5 lm/W (lumens per watt). Matsushita plans to double that with its newly announced NeoPDP technology.

Matsushita is currently building its 5th PDP plant that will manufacture next-generation PDPs and is expected to commence production in May 2009. The NeoPDP technology that applies single-scan Full HD technology will reduce the cost of manufacturing substantially. In addition, new materials, processes, cell design and driving methods are expected to improve luminous efficacy 100%. The 5th plant that will be located in Amagasaki, Japan will be able to cut sixteen 42″ PDPs, double that of its current 4th plant. Matsushita also plans to increase the color gamut through its Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) and improve contrast ratio to 30,000:1 with an enhanced real black driving method and new materials. Another advance that we can look forward to is 4K2K-compliant displays that sport a pixel format of 4096 x 2160.

Starting in 2009, Pioneer and Matsushita will use the same PDPs and the TVs will be differentiated by proprietary image processing and video expertise. This is the same condition under which Samsung and Sony competes in the LCD TV market. Both use the same LCD TV panel and then apply their own processing expertise and brand IDs. I can see Panasonic and Pioneer both succeeding in this type of structure.

Source: EETimes

[tags]Display Manufacturer, KURO, Luminous Efficacy, Matsushita, NeoPDP, PDP, PDP TV, Pioneer, Plasma Display Panel, Plasma, Plasma TV[/tags]