The LED LCD Revolution

The LED LCD Revolution

Earlier this month, I attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the world’s largest exhibition for consumer electronics. This year, in addition to the ever increasing dominance of LCD TVs over other display technologies in the market and the continued increase in screen sizes at reasonable price points, we also saw two revolutionary trends in form factor and viewing experience. The first was the emergence of mainstream LED backlights, a feature that improves form factor, picture quality and power consumption. While still in early stages and with a seemingly uncertain future at last year’s show, LED back (and edge) lighted LCD TVs have exploded onto the scene and will dramatically increase their market penetration this year. The second big trend in LCD TVs was 3-D. Almost every major TV maker is launching a 3-D model this year and lots of content will be coming out this year as well.

In this blog I will focus on the amazing growth and value of LED backlights, and leave the discussion on 3-D for a future article.

Almost every high-end LCD TV sold this year (and probably many middle-of-the-road models) will have LED back light units (BLUs), like the ones shown from LGE in Figure 1 A/B.


Figure 1B: LGE 55LHX. A 55-inch LCD TV featuring “Full LED backlighting” and wireless connectivity at 240Hz. LED backlights are making great LCD TVs even better.

LGE's 55LHX, an almost “borderless” design, is enabled by a direct-view LED BLU as well as the blood, sweat and tears of talented industrial designers and mechanical engineers. With LGE's SL90, we not only see a great new state-of-the-art 55-inch LCD TV with LED enabled regional dimming etc., but this model comes with a “wireless” box for all the video connections, enabling the TV screen to be wall mounted with only the power cable to attach. Even in the stand configuration this enables all of your video peripherals and legacy connectors to be placed far away from the elegant TV, adding greater “Wife Acceptance Factor” (WAF) to the entire configuration!

This is one of the many things I have been talking about for years and it's finally getting to market. Visit the LG site where you can find more specs and photos.

The technology behind these types of TVs (see figure 2) provides a great example of how component designers can work closer with the “set” designers to make a better product come to market much more quickly than what had been the 18-24 month standard in the CE/TV space not too long ago (versus the 6-12 months we have become used to in the IT/PC world).

This type of complicated system is enabled by ever-more intelligent electronics inside the set, which enables new and thinner “smart panels” with the electronics integrated into fewer boards with fewer connectors inside the panel, and thus not only better and thinner designs, but less costly and more reliable as well (which fewer “parts” can achieve, but it takes a great deal of work!). The pace of advancement and improvements seem faster and better than ever.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Figure 2: From CES’09, these are ultra-slim and narrow white LED backlighting LCD TVs. The edge-backlighting enables slim designs (11.9mm body thickness; 18mm bezel width).

Not only were these new slim 11.9 mm thick panels (less than ½ an inch!) seen at last year's CES (in Jan'09 but again in May'09), LGD also showed a 42-inch panel that was only about half as thick at 5.9 mm. Keeping the momentum moving fast, on December 21, 2009 a version of a 42-inch FHD (full HD or 2 megapixel 1920x1080) panel that was only 2.6 mm thick was shown.

I can't wait to see a fully wireless sub-1/2-inch TV with elegant new designs by NEXT year's CES (with less than a 2-inch box/package for green “logistics” too, we hope). From LGE to Toshiba, and from Vizio to Panasonic, there are many great TV design teams out there and with the tools of their trade getting ever more advanced.

I look forward to sharing more advances in TVs and other displays as they emerge throughout this year.

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