LCD Trickle Down Theory

Sony_KDL-55XBR8_55inch_Triluminos_RGB_LED_Backlight_LCD_TV

This is my thesis: Advanced technologies you see on high-end LCD TVs will trickle down to LCD monitors, notebook PCs and eventually to your smartphones. LCD technology is unique in that it is the only display technology that is being used for the largest of TVs to the small display on your mobile phone. And that’s why this trickle down theory for displays can only be applied to LCD technology. So, what do I mean by advanced technologies? Here’s a partial list:

  • 240Hz Frequency
  • LED Backlight with Local Dimming / High Dynamic Range
  • Wide Viewing Angles
  • Extended Color Gamuts

It used to be that a TV was classified as a display with a tuner. That’s how most people watched TVs a while back: via a tuner to catch terrestrial broadcasts. But that’s not how we watch TV today. A lot of us watch TV via cable or satellite. Some of us use our computers and log onto Hulu. In countries such as Korea and Japan there are quite a few folks that watch TV on their mobile phones. The way we watch TV is very heterogenous and that is why any device that is capable of displaying video will need to have advanced display technologies that were originally designed for LCD TVs for an optimal viewing experience. So let’s get down to specifics.

240Hz Today’s most advanced LCD TVs make use of 240Hz frequencies to combat and almost completely eliminate motion blur or juddering. The definition of judder is, “a shaking or wobbling effect in a video image,” according to PC Magazine’s Encyclopedia. Motion blur or judder is especially pronounced when watching sports where everything moves very fast. You absolutely need 240Hz if you have a sharp eye and a sports buff. At the moment, the fastest LCD monitor runs at 120Hz: Samsung’s SyncMaster 2233RZ. In the near future, high-end LCD monitors will sport 240Hz.

LED Backlight with Local Dimming I much prefer picture quality compared to how thick a LCD TV is. Almost all major brands such as Samsung, LG, Sony are moving toward making their LCD TVs thinner. What a waste of time and resources! Unless you’re planning to mount your LCD TV on the wall, don’t waste your money. These thinner LCD TVs make use of edge-lit LED backlights. For now, local dimming technology cannot be applied to edge-lit LED backlights. (My friend who does research on LED backlights says that we should expect edge-lit LED backlights paired with local dimming in 2010.) When local dimming technology can be applied to edge-lit LED backlights we can expect a surge in adoption for LCD monitors, notebook PCs as well as smartphones. Local dimming greatly improves contrast by dimming the brightness of the LEDs where it is dark and brightening the LEDs where it is bright. The combination of a direct-type LED backlight and local dimming generates a very high dynamic range of light and ark areas. Of course the ultimate solution would be to have RGB LED backlight and local dimming technologies.

Wide Viewing Angles The best LCD panels have a viewing angle of around 89/89/89/89 (Up/Down/Left/Right). The best wide viewing angle LCD panels are made using one of these technologies: IPS (In-Plane Switching), PVA (Patterned Vertical Alignment), ASV (Advanced Super View) and MVA (Multi-domain Vertical Alignment). IPS is manufactured by LG Display and IPS Alpha. PVA is produced by Samsung. ASV is made by Sharp and MVA is manufactured by both AU Optronics (AUO) and Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO). All of these wide viewing angle LCD panels have their pros and cons but is generally quite better at preserving color and contrast at different viewing angles compared to TN (Twisted Nematic). There are very few LCD monitors that make use of these panels today: IPS (Dell 2209WA, Dell U2410, NEC EA231WMi), PVA (LaCie 724, Samsung T240) to mention a few. Notebook PCs have recently been equipped with LCD panels with much better viewing angles. I think Apple is at the forefront of using LCD panels with better-than-average viewing angles on its MacBook Pro notebook PCs. Smaller LCDs usually have terrible viewing angles but that is changing too: Canon’s latest EOS 7D makes use of a 3-inch ClearView II LCD screen with 160/160 viewing angles.

Extended Color Gamuts With an enhanced phosphor coating, traditional CCFL technology can improve the color gamut from the typical 72% NTSC to 92% NTSC. With RGB LEDs the color gamut can be improved to over 100% NTSC. Higher color gamuts provide green colors that are more green and blues that are more blue; red colors are especially pronounced. Sony’s XBR8 LCD TVs make use of RGB LED backlight technology called Triluminos significantly enhancing the color gamut. Here is a video I found on YouTube that does a nice job of explaining the Triluminos technology found on Sony’s XBR8 LCD TVs:

Expect to see these advanced LCD TV technologies trickle down to LCD monitors, notebook PCs and mobile phones in the near future as brands participating in the IT and CE spaces realize that everyone wants a great experience watching video on their displays.

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