Is Now the Time for that New TV?

It's Super Bowl week — a time when fans consider upgrading their TVs  —and a good time to discuss TV trends. One of the prominent themes at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was large, high-performance LCD (or LED/LCD) TVs. After several years of seeing mobile devices and the elusive OLED TV taking the spotlight, this year LCD TVs re-emerged as the show's star.

For Super Bowl fans, the most important feature is TV size. Touring the CES exhibits, I saw very few TV models below 55 inches and numerous models above 80 inches, with the largest being 120 inches. This emphasis on larger sizes resonates well with U.S. consumers according to our recent consumer study, as they consider a larger screen to be the single most important feature when purchasing a new TV, and a majority of U.S. respondents (66 percent) defined a “large” TV to be in the 50-70-inch range. Since the average screen size of new TVs in the U.S. last year was still around 42 inches, this increasing emphasis on TVs above 50 inches will likely grow the average screen size dramatically over the next few years. This is an important driver for our equipment business because every inch of average size growth worldwide requires one new Generation 8.5 factory to support the extra area.

Viewers understandably want a larger screen to really see the football game and player details. However, as TV screen sizes grow, the pixels also get larger, which can reduce the smoothness of the picture and partially defeat the benefit of the bigger screen. The solution to this problem is to increase the number of pixels, therefore making each pixel smaller. This capability is already available with 4K TVs (a.k.a. Ultra HD TVs), which were all over the show floor at CES. 4K refers to screen resolution that has four times the pixels as a 1080p Full High Definition (FHD) display.

Broadcasters like Amazon, Comcast, Netflix and others are already providing 4K content, further fueling consumer demand by delivering high-quality programming that fully utilizes all those extra pixels. And many 4K TV models can up-convert FHD programming content to create a 4K image, although this typically does not look as good as native 4K content. As 4K TV prices continue to fall, we expect adoption rates to more than double in 2015 to nearly 40 million sets worldwide.

One surprise at CES was the diminished hype for OLED displays. For years, we’ve been hearing that OLED is poised to take the TV market by storm, due to superior image quality and form factor. Based on the minimal offerings at CES, however, not to mention the process complexity and yield challenges in manufacturing OLED TVs, the industry still has a ways to go before OLED reaches the tipping point and can hold its own against the price and performance of LCD displays.

The good news is you don’t have to wait around for OLED in order to get a premium TV viewing experience for this weekend’s football game, thanks to new developments in LCD technologies enabled, in part, by Applied’s manufacturing technology. Here are a few of the innovations enabling LCD to close the performance gap with OLED:

  • Quantum dot technology, another CES darling, dazzled the crowds this year. Thanks to this budding new technology, the color gamut on LCD TVs can now rival that of OLED. This is done by using nanoparticles called “quantum dots” to reemit the LED backlight at a wider range of frequencies, improving the color gamut for a more vibrant picture. It remains to be seen how significant a role this emerging technology will play in the long-term roadmap for advanced displays.
  • Full-array backlight LCDs are another alternative to delivering high-quality pictures, as they allow more flexibility to locally dim the backlight, so that night time or other dark images are displayed with even darker black tones. This significantly improves the dark/light contrast ratio of LCDs, further closing the performance gap with OLED.

These exciting TV technology improvements, when combined with upcoming events like the Super Bowl and Lunar New Year, may stimulate many consumers to finally pull the trigger on upgrading their TVs over the next few weeks.

Regardless of whether you watch the Super Bowl to cheer on your favorite team, catch the halftime show, or simply to confirm whether the football is properly inflated, you can’t deny it all looks better on a huge 4K LCD TV.

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