Insight Media Announces the CES 2006 - "Best Buzz" Awards

Mine's Bigger Than Yours

Panasonic's 103-inch and LG's 102-inch 1080p Plasmas
Having the largest display in the world is all about bragging rights. At this year's CES LG Electronics (Seoul, Korea) (www.lge.com) debuted the "The World's Largest PDP at 102 inches". Did they forget that Samsung debuted their 102-inch PDP last year at CES and won Insight Media's Best Buzz award, or perhaps it was really a few millimeters bigger?

But LG must have been more surprised to see Panasonic (www.panasonic.com) upstage their claim with the "World's Largest Full HD Plasma - 103 inches". But in addition to the bragging rights, Panasonic looks like it will actually commercialize the display for a few well-healed customers.

Mine's Faster Than Yours

BenQ FP93GX and FP93GX+
Serious gamers hate LCD monitors. Why? They don't have the quick response times offered by CRTs - and when trying to survive in a fast-moving game, blurring is not an option. While some companies have moved to 8ms and 4ms LCD panels, BenQ will get the attention of gamers with its FP93GX 2ms monitor. And guess what? A 1ms version is coming too, and this FP93GX+ prototype was on display. This is great news for the gaming community, but it also tells you how far LCD technology can go to eliminate this annoying artifact. That's why people were buzzing about this one at CES.

Mine's More Colorful Than Yours

Sony 82-inch LCD with LED BLU
The Sony 82-inch LCD with an LED backlight was not only big and beautiful, it took the next step in expanding the color space for LCD displays. It was worth resisting the temptation to shrug this unit off as a rebranded Samsung 82-inch model, because the Bravia implements the new International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) xvYCC color-space specification.

The new specification, which will be formally issued this month, expands color gamut significantly - beyond the SMPTE-C and REC-709 HDTV color spaces. Video cameras complying with the specification will be able to record a color range that is very close to what the human eye can recognize, and compliant TVs will be able to reproduce visual images with nearly that same quality. Oh, and did we mention that Sony thinks the LED backlights will offer a lifetime of 100K hours?

Sharp 4- and 5-Color LCD-TVs
Another way to skin the "expanded color gamut" cat is to use new phosphor formulations in an otherwise standard CCFL backlight unit. That's just what Sharp has done by adding a crimson phosphor to the standard red, green and blue mix. This novel approach adds little in terms of cost, but adds some real nice punch in the red part of the spectrum. That's not as big a color space gain as LEDs can offer at greater than 100% of NTSC, but it is a lot less costly too.

Sharp says its 65-inch LCD-TV is the world's largest available with the four-color phosphor system, but the technology is also offered in its 37- and 45-inch models. At 57 inches, Sharp offers an LCD-TV with a 5-color phosphor CCFL backlight. For this one, a second deep green phosphor is added to the four-color mix. Expect this technology to filter down to smaller screen sizes in the future.

Best New Enabling Technology

Luminus PhlatLight LEDs
High-brightness LED technology has been evolving rapidly in the last few years, but at CES, stealth company Luminus Devices (Woburn, MA) (www.luminus.com) put a new stake in the high-brightness ground. Using photonic lattice technology originally developed at MIT, the company has created LEDs that attain brightness levels that are ten times those of competitors.

How do they do this? It seems the secret sauces are in the LED device design, the photonic lattice layer (which is added on top of the LED device), and a good thermal management system. The advantage for projection systems is clear: more light out of the projection lens. Others agree. At CES all five public demonstrations of LED-based rear-projection TVs were based on LEDs from Luminus.

Luminus is offering two standard LED products: one with an 8.5mm2 die and the second with 18mm2. These two products are optimized for 0.70-0.75 inch and 0.80-0.85 inch microdisplays, respectively, and can be used with DLP, LCOS or 3LCD projection systems.

Novalux Lasers for Projection Displays
While attendees on the CES show floor were buzzing about LED displays, technologists on the private-suite circuit were buzzing about the next wave of illumination technology: lasers. What was most exciting were the laser-based rear-projection TV demos shown by laser maker Novalux (Sunnyvale, CA) (www.novalux.com). The key to this demonstration was the Novalux Extended Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (NECSEL) developed by the company in green and blue wavelengths.

So why should we care about laser sources? For one, you only need about 6 Watts of laser light compared to 120 Watts of arc -lamp power to light up a projection TV. Lasers have long lifetime, instant on and fantastic color gamut. The downside is cost and speckle, and maybe safety.

Novalux's demonstration is significant as it shows a path to offering lasers at the right wavelengths, power levels and price points to enable the display market. This combination of features has not been available until now, so hitting both the device-development and business-development milestones on this path was very impressive. While much remains to be proved, the progress demonstrated at CES clearly got people talking and wondering: Is there a laser display in my product roadmap future?

NEC's Auto-Focus and Auto Keystone Technology
Cameras have auto-focus and projectors have auto-keystone correction, right? Now, thanks to NEC, projectors will have both features. We, and NEC for that matter, were surprised this feature set had not been implemented in a projector before - but no. That's why we had to give it a Best Buzz award.

This idea is particularly useful for educators and those needing to move the portable projector on the fly, and don't want to have to spend time re-setting up the image. The projector uses a unique IR sensing technology developed by NEC that calculates the distance to the screen, and combines it with sophisticated algorithms that determine the correct image focus and keystone profile. The technology will show up first in NEC's LT30 and LT35 projectors.

Best New Display Category

LED-Based MDTVs from Akai, Samsung, HP, JVC and Sanyo
Five companies - Akai, Samsung, HP, JVC and Sanyo - showed microdisplay-based rear-porjection TVs (MD-TVs) at CES that used LED light sources instead of an arc lamp. As a result, the new category of LED-based MDTVs became a reality at CES'06 - creating quite a buzz in the process.

Why the excitement over LED-based MDTVs? How about long lamp life (20K vs 6K hours), instant on, wide color gamut and reduced thermal loads. With DLP systems, it also eliminates the color wheel and the associated possibility of rainbow effects. And, if prices can be comparable to UHP-based systems, what's not to like about this option?

This last point, pricing, is intersting. Akai is forecasting very aggressive street pricing of something like $1,700 for a 46-inch model, essentially the same as UHP-based sets. HP will offer its 52-inch 1080p model for about $2,500 - again, very aggressive. Samsung will offer the highest priced DLP set, a 56-inch 1080p model for about $3,000 - a good premium over UHP-based sets.

Meanwhile, JVC showed a prototype and has not deccided about commercialization. Nor has Sanyo, which showed a particularly impressive side-by-side comparison demo with a PDP-TV. As expected, the LED-based TV showed much better color saturation, especially in the reds.
With a lot of concern right now about the shifting sweet spot in screen size for MDTVs, LED illumination could give the category a much needed shot in the arm.

SEDs from Toshiba/Canon
It seemed everyone at CES wanted to get a look at the new flat-panel display technology from Canon and Toshiba - Surface-conductionElectron-emitter Display (SED). While SED had its big public debut last fall in Japan, CES provided many people with their first look at the impressive display technology, and this created plenty of buzz at the show - hence the award.

Folks were lining up sometimes five deep and out into the show isle to see the SED demo in the Toshiba booth - and they weren't disappointed. On display were three 36-inch panels with 1280 x 720 resolution and image quality that was second to none, boasting 10K:1 contrast, saturated colors and excellent grayscale and black levels.

Canon and Toshiba expect to begin production of 55-inch models with 1080p in 2006, but none were on display in the booth. There is no doubt that SED technology offers up a superior display. The as yet unanswered question is whether the technology can be manufactured in mass quantities and at a price that can compete with LCD and PDP displays. Stay tuned.

Best Kept Secret

Icuiti Personal Display
Everyone acknowledges Apple's video iPod is a big hit - but is that tiny 2.4-inch screen really good enough for video? What caught our eye at CES was the first of a new wave of personal head-mounted display systems that might actually become popular. The exciting part is that the styling is cool and the price point ($299) is within range of most iPod users. The resolution has also been matched to the content - QVGA. (The similar VGA version is shown in the photo.)

We liked the optics on this headset as it was easy to find the image and the colors looked good. Yea, the image is a bit pixilated, but it may well be very acceptable to the intended users. Look for this one from Icuiti (Rochester, NY) (www.icuiti.com).

BrightSide DR37-P HDR (High Dynamic Range) Display
Want the most fantastic display that money can buy for use in film post-production, satellite imaging, geophysical data visualization, medical imaging, gaming or high-end home theater? If yes, then BrightSide Technologies (Vancouver, British Columbia) (www.brightsidetech.com) may have what you want. We were blown away by this 37-inch, 1080p LCD: contrast, 200,000:1; high brightness, greater than 3000 cd/m2; and wide color gamut (supported by 1400 LEDs in the backlight). And, given the fact that each LED and LCD pixel is driven individually, this truly expands the LCD performance envelope for non-price-sensitive professional applications. If you have to ask what it costs (~$50,000), you can't afford it.

Most Innovative Display Application

Samsung Pro815
We don't normally give out awards for digital still cameras, but we were so impressed with the use of displays in this camera, we couldn't resist. Samsung's (Seoul, Korea) (www.samsung.com) new Pro815 is a prosumer digital camera with a huge 3.5-inch VGA LCD display, an electronic viewfinder and a 1.4-inch top-mounted QVGA display for waist-level shooting. This is a truly innovative use of displays in a camera. Additional features include 8 megapixels and 15x optical zoom with a 28-420mm focal length lens - all for a little over $700.


Best Portable Convergence Product

Commodore Navigator
Call it the "jack of all convergence products" or "the ultimate handheld" or, in this case, the Commodore Navigator Combo. Yes, the venerableCommodore brand is back, resurrected by a Netherlands-based company in Baarn (www.commodoreworld.com), which is aiming to be a leader of the mobile video convergence trend.

The Navigator Combo, which is the size and weight of two decks of playing cards, has an attractive 3.6-inch color QVGA screen. It offers touch-screen control, portable GPS, 20GB hard disk, music playback and FM radio, voice recording, image playback for photos, storage for eBooks, and over 800 available games. The Navigator Combo is being launched in Europe with European map sets in March. The US launch is targeted for later this year at an estimated MSRP of $699.

The next generation of the Navigator Combo will offer WiFi access, a 4.3-inch screen, Bluetooth capability for a wireless headset, and digital satellite radio. Do you think it can make the VCR stop blinking "12:00" too?

Best Comeback

Full HD PDPs
LCDs have it; MDTVs have it, and now PDPs have it. Have what? Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080. Sure the very largest PDP-TVshave offered this resolution, but at CES, the groundwork was laid to see this resolution roll out to 65-, 60-, 55- and 50-inch PDPs in 2006. And there is even talk of going to 42 inches.

Pioneer, Panasonic, Hitachi, LG, and Samsung showed they could achieve 1920x1080p resolution in PDPs at CES, offering products in various screen sizes. Many of these PDPs will offer a contrast of over 5,000:1 and high brightness of more than 1000 cd/m2 with 12 or more bits of processing. These TVs are awesome and will give any buyer pause when they see them. Many think the move was necessary to stave off the perceived pixel advantages of the other technologies. Now, the PDP makers have the answer. Go get em!

About Insight Media

Insight Media (www.insightmedia.info) provides a full array of market research, news, analysis and consulting services for the microdisplay industry, with special attention to projection and near-to-eye products. Tracking the complete supply chain from finished products and distribution to components, microdisplay-based products, technologies, trends and analysis is delivered through newsletters, technology reports, forecasts, conferences and custom consulting activities. Insight Media has developed a world-class team of industry analysts and associates to provide the most comprehensive coverage and analysis of the microdisplay industry has to offer.

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