The (Near) Future of Flatscreens
Dual-view screens, 3D capabilities, absolute blacks and even lasers and are just a few of the technologies coming soon to a flatscreen near you.
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February 20, 2008 by Rebecca Day

Think what you want about shopping for a TV, but one thing you can’t say anymore is that they’re all the same. In fact, today’s TVs bear little resemblance to the me-too tube TVs many of us grew up with. More and more they’re being designed to be part of the décor rather than just a box destined for the family room. Flat keeps getting flatter while cabinets are retooled to minimize the amount of space a TV takes up.

But the design overhaul isn’t just about the physical aspects of the TV. New speaker designs, display technologies and features are reshaping the way we’ll look at TV for a long time to come. The custom electronics world calls it the “wife acceptance factor”—the need for electronics to have a design-friendly approach for them to get through the front door. There’s no question that women’s design preferences have had an impact on the look of TVs today including the trend toward thinner bezels, touches of color in the cabinets and rounder, softer edges. But while the designer look may have originated from the woman’s point of view, it has quickly been adopted by members of both sexes and has set the tone for future generations of thinner, highly styled TVs.

Philips CEO Andrea Ragnetti underscored the importance of design in today’s electronics at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Noting that products have generally reached a high standard of performance, he says design is the next challenge for electronics makers. “In a world where technology is pretty much 100 percent effective all the time,” Ragnetti said, “design comes to the forefront. What used to be a CE device is today more a signature piece of furniture that helps define you and your personal style.”

Philips has introduced to the United States the Aurea line of TVs first launched in Europe last year. Moving away from the “masculine technology box” and toward a more feminine approach is part of an overall philosophy toward integration with the home environment, according to Ragnetti. “Consumers have shared with us their desire for products with a simpler and softer, more sophisticated design that blends the masculine and feminine and makes a sophisticated statement about their lifestyle aspirations.”

The new look debuts in Philips’ 7000 series TVs that will hit stores between April and May. Suggested retail prices range from $1,699 for a 42-inch LCD model to $2,799 for a 52-inch model. The rounded, black edge of the 7000 series frames are wrapped inside an acrylic frame.

LG touts the marrying of technology and art. Allan Jason, vice president of marketing, said that it’s been a surprise how important design has become. “You want the panel to look as good [turned] off as it does on,” Jason said at LG’s CES press conference where the company launched new designs based on thinner frames. Included in the lineup are a 1.7-inch-thick set and a bedroom TV with subtle red accents that packs a side-mounting DVD player.

LG’s 1.7-inch Super Slim LGX 42-inch LCD boasts a two-toned look with red back and black front bezel. Features include LG’s TruMotion 120Hz screen refresh technology, 24p input, four HDMI inputs and a USB 2.0 jack for direct access to JPEGs and MP3 files. To achieve the thin frame, LG engineers positioned speaker actuators around the perimeter of the bezel, which replaced traditional speaker drives and grilles. LG says in addition to providing a sleeker look, the new design creates a wider sweet spot with a virtual wall of sound.

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