Monday, October 19, 2009

Thin TV Requires a Thick Wallet

Last week I discussed the use of LED (light emitting diodes) in home lighting and how these energy efficient replacements for Mr. Edison’s bright idea were beginning to become available and affordable. I thought that this week we could look at another application of LED technology that is receiving a lot of buzz in the consumer electronics arena of late.

Joining the LCD, Liquid Plasma, and DLP TV screen options is LED based display technology. These TVs have only recently been showing up in any great numbers in retail stores but as prices fall they very well might become the standard for TVs.

Most LED TVs on the market do not use LEDs to actually render the picture. Rather, they use LEDs to backlight the traditional LCD screen. Older LCD models used fluorescent lights or other older technology light sources for this task. LEDs, because of their very low energy consumption and very long life, are a better fit. Also they can be more precisely controlled to turn on and off, allowing deeper “blacks” and more vivid colors.

So is the picture really that much better? It depends on the eye of the beholder and whether the TV set has been set up correctly when fist installed. My opinion is that there really is not much of a difference in the actual picture quality between a traditional LCD set and an LED set.

For sure there will be a significant reduction in power consumption and the LEDs should remain bright much longer than the fluorescent LCD models. Even with this better efficiency it is unlikely that most consumers will be able to save enough on their Duke bill to pay the difference in price of the LED set over the standard LCD or Plasma models.

One of the “Wow” features of LED TVs is the thin profile. A large 50” screen can look like a picture frame with a depth of less than one inch. While that is great for your “know- it-all,” “have-it-all” neighbor to regale you with at the next Super Bowl party, in reality, who cares. Remember that “thin” profile comes with the need for a “thick” wallet. LED TVs are very expensive right now.

With manufacturing capacity increasing, look for LED sets to drop in price as to be competitive with other models. Right now, unless you are one of those “gotta have the newest and greatest” kind of people, wait to buy.

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