Red, it seems, is the accent color of the year, as Samsung, too, has introduced a subtle red accent to its Touch of Color concept. In a world of me-too piano black frames, companies are looking for a way to stand out, yet remain unobtrusive. “By using a new manufacturing process, we’ve been able to actually infuse color directly into the bezel to provide a seamless appearance,” says Dan Schinasi, senior manager of product planning for HDTV at Samsung. “We feel this advanced design will set the television apart amidst a sea of black flat panels, while still blending seamlessly with consumers’ home décor.”
Such decisions aren’t made lightly, Schinasi notes. Designers selected red for the accent through a lengthy process that included taking cues from the fashion, automotive and even credit card sectors—along with consumer feedback—to select the most visually appealing color. “After testing over 100 colors, red emerged as one of the top choices in the U.S.,” he said.
That’s for now, at least. How long will red be “in” in the fickle world of fashion? That could emerge as an issue for design-sensitive buyers who don’t want to purchase a color that fixes them to a particular point on the fashion timeline.
Hitachi joined the thin campaign at CES, taking the wraps off its series 1.5 LCD monitors (32-, 37- and 42-inch displays) that measure an inch and a half deep. The TVs employ a passive cooling design and a redesigned power supply that help achieve the 1.5-inch spec that’s one-third the depth of conventional flat panels. To achieve the svelte look, engineers also had to remove the tuner from the equation, meaning consumers will have to rely on the tuner from a DVR, cable box or satellite receiver to receive TV signals.
Part of the lure of the thinner panels is a lighter weight design and the ability for consumers to mount the TVs closer to the wall. The thinnest panel of all belongs to Sony, which officially introduced the XEL-1, the 11-inch OLED TV the company has been previewing over the past year. Measuring just 0.11-inch deep, the $2,500 XEL-1 costs more than some 50-inch plasma TVs.
For your $227 per diagonal inch, you get a display with a contrast ratio of more than 1,000,000:1, exceptional color, a new level of detail, a super wide viewing angle and high brightness. “You can position OLED anywhere and have a great picture,” says Randy Waynick, Sony senior VP of home products. “You can put one next to a window and still have a bright image and they’re so light you can hang them like a picture on a hook.” Adding to OLED’s appeal is its low energy consumption.
OLED produces a gorgeous image, but with 11 inches the most Sony could summon in a first-gen product, how realistic is OLED as a home theater-size TV?
That’s a question others in the industry are batting around. Sharp president Mike Troetti told journalists at CES that the company is studying OLED but believes that the product lifespan of OLED is limited to three or four years and is difficult to mass-produce. Waynick counters that, although a lot of work needs to be done to bring production yields up, Sony has years of development under its corporate belt. “We see the adoption rate faster than others,” he said. “We’re not going to completely transition from LCD to OLED, but in five years we believe OLED will be a much more dominant product.”
Samsung showed a 31-inch prototype OLED TV in its booth at CES but didn’t give a timetable for production. According to Schinasi, that product won’t be viable this year or next. “Viable means affordable,” Schinasi says, “and if we have one that costs $31,000 that’s not viable.” Still, Samsung is investing heavily in the technology for its form factor and energy efficiency. “OLED is a thrifty display.”
Meanwhile, Mitsubishi introduced its long-awaited Laser TV, which, as the name implies, uses lasers as the light source for a flat-panel TV. Mitsubishi says lasers produce the truest color possible and better depth of field than other TV technologies. Mitsubishi showed a 50-inch model with 3D capability that could turn your living room into a mini IMAX theater (don’t forget the glasses). Look for the Laser late this year just in time for Christmas.
With all the talk of future TV types, Pioneer won’t let us forget the plasma—with good reason. The company gave CES attendees a peek into the future of plasma at CES with prototypes of products developed as part of the Kuro project. One, a 50-inch super thin plasma panel that measures 0.35-inch thick and weighs 41 pounds, would offer a more appealing solution for wall mounting over current flat TVs that require heavy bracing and bulky mounts. The ultimate, said Russ Johnston, executive VP of marketing and product planning, would be “a TV with no bezel at all.” He also envisions a TV so thin it will “appear to float on the wall.”
Contrast has been a Pioneer bragging right all along, and the company’s extreme contrast TV claims to be the first plasma that is absolute black with no measurable light emitting from the screen. With no idle luminance, as Pioneer calls it, blacks are completely black, enabling colors to be deeper. The super high contrast, which Pioneer says is beyond measurement, results in truer, more accurate colors.
Neither Kuro product will see a retail floor in 2008, but you can expect them to carry a premium when they do arrive. Pioneer’s philosophy behind the Kuro line is to deliver a high-quality, high-margin line that sells above commoditized flat-screen TVs.
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