Little Big Picture Looming
By Jim Bray
Get ready for a big screen TV that goes where others cant.
This summer, therell be a new kid on the increasingly large block
of TV types, a block that already includes direct view (CRT) TVs,
rear projectors, front projectors, LCD projectors, and plasma units. The
new kid will be known by the name Liquid Crystal On Silicon.
Liquid Crystal on Silicon?
Know by the acronym LCOS, its a projection TV technology from
Thomson Consumer Electronics, the giant electronics company thats
behind the RCA, ProScan and GE brands.
LCOS TVs promise to be lighter, brighter and thinner than conventional
rear projection TVs, thanks to some technical wizardry that could
help put such large screens into homes whose owners would have previously
balked at the thought of a cinema-sized monitor and its accompanying bulk.
The first LCOS model, the RCA L50000, will be a 50 incher that measures
only 47 1/8" wide by 38" high by get this a mere 18 inches
deep. Its also light: less than 100 pounds! RCA says itll
actually be a table top unit, with an optional stand available.
Compare those dimensions with, for example, Sonys current 57 inch
XBR rear projector, at 54 3/8 wide by 55 1/8 high by 26 7/8
deep and a massive 278 pounds and you get the picture (no
pun intended). Granted, because the Sonys screen size is larger
its a little bit of an apples to oranges comparison,
but not too much.
RCA says the digital HDTV LCOS TV will offer a 1280 x 720 pixel progressively
scanned picture (as opposed to interlaced, where half the picture is displayed
at a time) in the 16x9 cinema aspect ratio thats becoming so popular.
Its progressive matrix display frame converts incoming video
signals to the 720P HDTV standard for output, the same as is used by the
ABC and FOX TV networks.
The L50000s other innovations include a newly-designed prism system
that separates white light into its 3 primary colors (Red, Green, Blue),
then directs these light streams to an imager at which point
the video signal is added. The separate signals are then melded back into
a single synchronized video stream for viewing.
For comparison, conventional rear projection sets use three tubes,
each of which throws a primary-colored image onto the screen. These images
are aligned by a convergence control so they overlap to display
full color pictures. LCOS TVs should need no convergence adjustments.
RCA claims the LCOS has advantages over conventional liquid crystal projectors
as well, in its precise color reproduction and up to 25% more light output,
which means it should be substantially brighter.
The total resolution of the LCOS TV should be a spectacular 2.76 million
pixels, which RCA says is three times that of typical projection TV screens.
Its flat screen is also claimed to eliminate the moiré (more-ray)
effect, a wavy distortion you may have seen sometimes.
A built-in decoder will accept and display all off-air digital HDTV signals,
as well as regular and high definition DIRECTV signals (RCAs digital
satellite service). Unfortunately, the output to the screen is only at
the 720P resolution which, while still excellent, isnt as flexible
as TVs that also display 1080i, the other major HDTV format.
Oh well. To add further incentive for customers, the L50000 will also
sport advanced NTSC (the current TV system thats slowly being replaced
by HDTV) twin-tuner Picture in Picture, and component video inputs (which
separate the video signal into three parts) that accept analog, progressive,
and HD signals.
Pricing for the L50000 should be $6,000 to $8,000.
LCOS technology could split the difference between conventional rear
projection TVs, which can be truly spectacular (but are awfully
big and heavy), and plasma TVs (which are much thinner and lighter
than the other projection systems, but are very expensive and dont
do the greatest job of displaying black and white). Plasma TVs should
overcome these challenges before long, however.
If RCAs new LCOS technology lives up to its hype, Thomson may open
up new households (and, perhaps, corporate board rooms) to the concept
of a large screen video display with a comparatively small footprint.
This could be a big deal for people who want a truly big screen, but who
dont have the room required for a rear projector, or the bankroll
for a plasma.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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