A New Rear Projection
Say hello—and maybe goodbye—to the microdisplay.
No longer the “new” kid on the block, prices on microdisplays have dropped dramatically.
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November 02, 2007 by Rebecca Day

View Evolution of TVAs the digital age of television emerged, sexy plasma and LCD flat-panel TVs were appealing to consumers. They offered a clear style and space advantage to the aging CRT (cathode ray tube). But they came at a high price.

A rear-projection “microdisplay,” so named because it is based on microchip technology, bridged the gap between the sexy, expensive flat panel and the dowdy, inexpensive CRT. Microdisplays offer a big-screen experience, with screen sizes from 50 to 70 inches, and at more affordable prices.

Sales of microdisplays peaked in 2004 at 3.51 million units, though sales have fallen off since. Today you can get a name-brand 50-inch “Full HD” 1080p microdisplay for about $2,000, with lower-resolution 720p models going for far less.

And although early models were barely shallower than a CRT and did little to minimize the floorspace required, today’s microdisplays have depths that have been shaved, in some cases, to under 10 inches.

Microdisplays have also helped to usher in an alphabet soup of labels: DLP (Digital Light Processing), LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon), and LCD (liquid crystal display). Two other acronyms, D-ILA (Direct Image Light Amplifier) and SXRD (Silicon X-tal [Crystal] Reflective Display), popped up—they are LCoS variants from JVC and Sony.

When I got my first television set I stopped caring so much about having close relationships.
— Andy Warhol

Technological issues, such as a rainbow effect from color wheels that plagued some DLP TVs and the screen-door effect of visible pixels associated with early LCDs, are fading with newer technologies.

Microdisplays also require maintenance. They use high-intensity lamps that have to be replaced after 3,000 hours of use or longer, depending on the TV. Some newer microdisplays use more efficient and longer-lasting LED (light emitting diodes) for lamps.

Some predict that microdisplay TV sales will fall to near zero by 2011. However, a technology from the past could breathe new life into DLP TV. Mitsubishi and Samsung are pushing 3D TV, using DLP as the core technology. To achieve 3D effects, users connect a wireless transmitter and don 3D glasses. DLP is conducive to 3D playback, because it is easy to implement at a low cost to TV makers. A synchronization signal is created for each view and transmitted wirelessly to the viewer’s glasses, which process the signal.

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TV Timeline: 2004
Rear-projection “microdisplays” gain in popularity.

FCC fireworks go off after Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show.

Friends and Frasier both air their final episodes.

Within a 6 month time period,  nightly news stalwarts Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings all leave their posts as network anchormen.

View more Evolution of TV

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