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With Sony's New Crystal LED Display, Color - and Costs - Go to 11

With Sony's New Crystal LED Display, Color - and Costs - Go to 11

One of Sony's standout TV models at CES this year is a crystal LED display: the first 55-inch full HD self-emitting display using LEDs as the light source. The design ups the contrast, viewing angle and color vividness, but don't count on picking one up from a Best Buy anytime soon. The way it's built may make production costs especially high.

By Richard Adhikari
01/10/12 2:42 PM PT

Sony demoed a 55-inch prototype model of a next-generation television that it calls a "crystal LED display" at CES on Tuesday.

It's claimed to be the first 55-inch full HD self-emitting display using LEDs as the light source.

Sony claims the display offers better contrast, more color and faster video image response times than its existing LCD displays.

The company is "trying to address the life cycle problem with OLEDs, which have had a horrid service life in TVs, typically dropping to about half their original capability within 12 months," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

Many TV makers are currently banking on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens.

Sony's technology is different from other manufacturers, Sony Electronics Vice President Brian Siegel said, though he declined to provide details regarding other aspects of the technology.

Shining a Light on Sony's New Display

The prototype demoed at CES had a 55-inch screen and a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080, Sony said. Full HD uses about 6 million LEDs, divided equally among red, green and blue.

Sony's new displays consist of RGB LED light sources equal in number to their resolution in pixels, meaning that a screen with a resolution of 6 million pixels will have 6 million LEDs.

To achieve this, three ultrafine LEDs -- one each in red, green and blue -- are put together to create a pixel.

The LEDs are mounted directly on the front of the display.

This improves the efficiency with which the LEDs use light, offers images with higher contrast in both light and dark environments, and provides a wider color gamut than NTSC screens. It also improves video image response time and offers wider viewing angles than existing LCD and plasma displays.

Power consumption is less than 70 watts, Sony claims. The display has a viewing angle of about 180 degrees.

Breaking Down Sony's Screen

Sony's crystal LED display is a direct-view matrix of LEDs, as opposed to an LED-backlit LCD, according to NPD DisplaySearch Research Vice President Paul Semenza.

Direct-view LED displays are usually made for outdoor billboards or large indoor signs and are meant to be viewed from tens of meters away. The screen adds to the interest in the technology race for large-sized flat panel TVs, Semenza said.

However, the method used -- clustering RGB diodes to form a full color pixel -- is not new. This approach is used to make conventional LED panels.

The pixels crated are usually square. They're spaced evenly apart and are measured from center to center when calculating resolution.

Jerry-Tron" at Cowboys Stadium in Denver, claimed to be the largest HDTV screen in the world, uses conventional LCD panels with a twist. Each pixel consists of four LEDs -- two red, one green and one blue -- instead of the more usual three, one of each color. The screen measures 160 by 72 feet.

Another type of LED panel, called surface-mounted device (SMD) panels, is used for most indoor screens on the market, although some SMD panels are beginning to be used outdoors. An SMD pixel consists of red, green and blue diodes mounted in a single package, which is then mounted on the driver PC board.

When Will We See You Again?

However, TVs using this Sony's crystal LED screen technology may not appear in the market any time soon.

"I imagine [the LEDs are] bonded to the glass, effectively creating an LCD/LED micro-module," Enderle surmised. "Given this complexity, I'll bet yields are a real problem because this would increase the probability of a partially dead pixel by a factor of four. This is probably what's keeping this from production."

In addition to figuring out how to increasing the yield, Sony will also have to work out how to cut costs.

"Right now I expect a panel done this way costs at least four times what a normal LCD panel costs at optimum volume, and likely well above that in short runs," Enderle stated.


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