Even if you bought a TV in the past several months, you may already feel like it’s out of date. Your shiny new flat-screen arrives, you hook it up to the antenna, and the first thing you see is a commercial for a bigger, better model. It might even have a cheaper price. It’s the way things seem to work these days in the world of TVs.
Things aren’t likely to change anytime soon. The latest buzz is around “100Hz” or “120Hz” technology, which relates to how often the image on the screen is refreshed or redrawn. The technology is already appearing in TVs, and if you haven’t seen promotional stickers for it yet, you probably will soon.
Most TV sets today refresh the picture either 50 times per second (50Hz) or 60 times per second (60Hz) depending where in the world you live. (Different regions use different color formatting.) That rate is fine for most images, but when it comes to fast-moving shows like sporting events, the images can appear blurry on a liquid crystal display (LCD) TV. Doubling the rate at which images are displayed, to 100 or 120 frames per second, makes for a better, more high-definition picture.
The need to improve LCD TVs has been especially acute because their chief competitor, plasma display panel (PDP) TVs, don’t have the same blurring problem. Compounding the issue is that screen sizes are getting bigger, so any imperfections are more noticeable, said Mina Naito, a spokeswoman for Sony.
PDP makers have trumpeted their advantage for some time, but things may be about to change. Compared to previous LCD panels, the new 100Hz and 120Hz models are “a big improvement,” said Hisakazu Torii, a TV industry analyst with DisplaySearch in Tokyo.
Prototype panels with the faster refresh rate began appearing last year. At the FPD International 2006 show in Yokohama in October, Samsung Electronics demonstrated images and text scrolling across just such a panel, and they appeared to move more smoothly than on existing LCD TVs.
Then at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, Sony announced a 120Hz model with the Samsung screen for the U.S. market. The 70-inch LCD TV is launched this month and carries the hefty price of US$33,000.
Samsung plans a 70-inch set, also based on the Samsung panel, which will go on sale in the first half of this year. Competitors including Victor of Japan (JVC) and Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) are also promoting 120Hz sets in Japan.
The latest company to join the party is Sharp, which last week said it would put five sets in its Aquos range on sale in Japan in March. The price runs from 500,000 yen (US$4,200) for a 42-inch model to 1 million yen for a 65-inch model.
-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)
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