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From eWeek: Are Laser HDTVs on the Horizon? October 16, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in electronics.

Are Laser HDTVs on the Horizon?

You betcha. (Or at least, we’re betting on it. Our firm has an investment in Novalux)
If eWeek had done its homework, it would have been aware that a couple of Japanese electronics giants have relationships with Novalux (Mitsubishi and Epson), and both Matsushita and Canon have also shown propriatary laser projection TV systems.

RPTV has come a long way, and improvements in screen and optics technologies have produced significant improvements in picture quality and form factor (JVC recently launched a RPTV which is less than 30cm thick which allows wall mounting – it is also significantly lighter than a PDP/LCD screen of comparable size, which also potentially means less reinforcement surgery for your walls).

Laser light engines will allow for even slimmer form factors due to simplified optics requirements and smaller and simpler light engines, reduced weight (again due to the light engine form factor/complexity and  reduced optics), improved colour gamut, improved electrical efficiency and much improved light source lifetimes over existing UHP light bulb technology. Another often underlooked advantage of RPTV technology is its relative eco-friendly nature compared to LCD and PDP technologies. For a start, both LCD and PDP technologies require a lot of glass, which happens to contain not insignificant amounts of lead. Further, the semiconductor content in RPTVs is much, much smaller, which means a lot less semiconductor processing required for each unit. A laser based RPTV also has significant electrical efficiency advantages too.

There will be laser RPTV models on display at CES in Las Vegas in January, hopefully from several manufacturers.

Whilst PDP technology appears attractive on the shop floor with high brightness and apparently crisp images, a comparison of two properly calibrated machines will reveal the superiority of the RPTV devices for a high quality display. Of course, some people will prefer the over-hyped images projected by a badly configured PDP, in the same way that they will be attracted to the boom ‘n’ tizz aural nightmare of a boom box over a real hi-fi.

I’ve seen the future of high end TV in my home, and it is a laser RPTV. At least for the larger form factors and with the requisite ambient environment. (Optimally with a LCoS imaging panel, rather than a DLP implementation, as far as I am concerned)

There will no doubt be a market for PDP displays (especially in commercial settings perhaps, where the need for high brightness and wide viewing angle are pretty much mandatory), but LCD rules the sub-40 inch market and I foresee that next generation RPTVs will be dominant in the 50+ inch market, pushing out PDP. LCDs are growing larger in size too, but manufacturing difficulties and yield issues make mass production of 60+ inch LCDs at a competitive price point unrealistic.
Even at lower price points, the economic arguments for RPTV seem compelling. Certainly one does not need to invest $2-3 Billion for the infrastructure required to produce the required parts, and this must translate into lower prices for the consumer. Both the laser light source manufacturers and imaging device (DLP, LCoS) manufacturers seem confident that a (sustained) $1000 price point for a 60V display is achievable. I doubt that the same can be said for competing technologies, at least not the ones on the market now (or for SED, the Canon/Toshiba effort which has been delayed but may see the light of day next year, finally). Further afield, we may see polymer based display technologies (OLED and the like), but that is likely to be significantly beyond 2010, if they can get things like carrier mobility up to the levels required to display high quality video. (I do think the technical hurdles will be overcome in time, and then with the likes of inkjet printing techniques available will open the door to mass produced large format displays which will be thin and lightweight)



1. Kim - April 30, 2007

“Laser light engines will allow for even slimmer form factors”

Just how slim do you think the entire project box (RPTV) will become? Will it ever be as slim as the 3″ or 4″ LCTV/PDP panel, considering the need to blow up the modulated image on a 50″ screen size?

Are you able to refer to some links for information of ultra-slim RPTVs based on laser/LED light sources?

2. fukumimi - May 7, 2007

I would say that 6″~8″ depth is probably achieveable with a laser light engine in the 50-70V screen form factor. The big strength of laser sources is the ability to control dispersion in a much tighter manner than for traditional light sources which should allow much more agressive optics.

Does 2″~4″ of depth really make much difference for the placement flexibility of a 65V screen, which would ideally be viewed from a distance of 2.2m~3.1m (viewing angle 36 to 26 degrees), per THX recommendations, which would require a decent sized room to start off with?

[Looking at the ~4″ depth touted by a 65V LCD/PDP TV. If you read the specs closely, this is usually the minimum depth of the thinnest portion of the screen, and there are substantial portions of the screen (often at the base, to keep CoG low) which add another 1″ or so in depth]

For a wall mounted TV, that would be the end of the story.

But most people use their TVs in free standing mode. Because of the weight of the big glass panels, LCD/PDP TVs require substantial bases with a significant footprint to ensure stability. Typically the stand depth is around 40cm, or 16″. This places the front of the screen at a distance of around 10″ from the back of the stand.

Using this comparison, an RPTV would be able to get way with a depth of 10″ for the screen to be positioned as far into the room as with a free standing LCD/PDP with stand.

JVC showed RPTVs at the CES in Las Vegas this year with depths of 10.8″ (for a 58V) or 11.6″ (for a 65V) using their LCOS D-ILA and revised optics (but with a traditional UHP light source), and this translates to 1″~2″ further into the room than an equivalent sized LCD/PDP, at most.

Further, an RPTV does not require any support structures protruding in front of the display, as a LCD/PDP panel footer does.

(Regardless of the technology, going to a footprint significantly less than 10″ is probably not wise when dealing with structures nearly 1m tall, but if anything RPTVs will have an edge with regards to stability because they can put virtually all active components at the bottom of the unit.)

3. Kim - June 5, 2007

I’m in the optics industry supplying parts to the RPTV guys. I must say that your comments are sharp, coming from a VC perspective. The big fear is that RPTV has to reinvent the thin and light model, in order to address consumers’ big craze about hanging the big screen display on the wall (though I suspect few people actually do this). Give it two years at most, RPTV will dispear in light of the relentless pursuit of cost cutting by the LCD/PDP set makers in the 40″, 50″ etc screen sizes.

Sony SXRD probably has the best image quality of all TV technologies at the marketplace right now, but they sell far more units of Bravia LCDs (even excluding the really small sizes

4. Roc Joco - January 21, 2008

Mitsubishi’s Laser TV introduced at the 2008 CES was approximately 10 inches thick and surprisingly sleek for a 65-inch RPTV. It looks pretty stable as the center of gravity is well positioned with the bulk of the components in the bottom half of the cabinet. The image is outstanding, nothing better in the market, and as long as the consumer models do not cost a small fortune, Laser TV will make an immediate impact on the HDTV market. Mitsubishi is keenly aware of the TV price wars, and they have announced their initial models will be competitively priced with the LCD/PDP market. More and more firms are making use of laser light engines, which produce the brightest and highest color gamet of any light source, so I expect the inevitable mass production of laser engines for use in cell phone screens and microdisplays will drive laser component costs down significantly in the short term.

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