LCD is Back in a Big Way at DSE by David Keene

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News a few weeks back that Samsung’s LCD biz had been realigned—and pundits’ and mass media pronouncements that LCD was on the way out, well, that “news” brought laughter from this analyst. The LCD panel has never been stronger in this market. It will continue to dominate the TV market. Any move to OLED or other platforms is years away—well beyond any need for a reevaluation of the market. (And BTW—Samsung’s LCD display business is healthy. In fact the reorg at Samsung in February was an internal accounting move to allow Samsung to develop a price structure whereby they increase profitability from sales from one Samsung division to another, and also to allow Samsung to more efficiently price and distribute their glass to their many OEM partners. Essentially, Samsung is both a competitor and a manufacturing partner of other large LCD display providers, hence the need to change their distribution and pricing structure to reflect that.)

A few hours on the show floor at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas, wrapping today, should convince arm-chair experts that the LCD panel is not only here to stay… in fact, this year there is a bumper crop of new LCD technologies.

The most important development in LCD panel product introductions this year is the ability to now get more brightness out of the LCD panel. Specifically, the LED-backlit LCD panel. The use of LED as a light source replacing CCFL, began several years ago (they are more energy efficient, and have other advantages including the color temperature of the image produced. LEDs permit the manufacturers to provide a wider gamut and tune the LED backlight to produce more accurate colors on screen). But just as in LED-light engine video projectors, there have to date been some brightness limitations on LED-backlit LCD panels. This is not to say LED-backlit LCD panels have not been bright, the last few years since their introduction– in fact they achieved brightness levels greater than the CCFL they replaced. But LED’s, when you try to juice them up to get more light output, produce excessive heat. So before this year, you could not get much more than about 1500 nits out of the screen.

But a walk around the show floor at DSE this week– wow. A variety of LCD display manufacturers were showing brighter LCD displays. The brightest out there– this week at DSE at least: the DynaScan DS? LED backlit High Brightness Series (they have a unit rated at 5,000 nits—put on your shades, and check out the unit’s back, it has a heat radiator like a Ferrari’s, just a lot smaller). And what’s interesting is that this company did not have any LCD panels at last year’s DSE show (they have their own glass supplier in Taiwan, and do not rely on the big glass makers like Samsung—how they kept all this a secret in Apple-worthy.) Also showing LCD panels with impressive brightness were LG Electronics (showing the 47WX50MF with 2000 nits), Planar (Planar’s Clarity Matrix HX60 video wall, 1,900 nits) and Sharp (the Sharp PN-A601, with 2,000 nits). Logically, some of the units above were being shown at DSE in outdoor configurations. The next wave in sales in the digital signage market will come in the outdoor arena like QSR drive-through displays.

The above list of high-brightness LCD displays is not complete–but a quick look at some highlights from DSE. We’ll be covering this trend in Digital Signage Magazine—including a roundup of products shown at DSE. Meanwhile, when the show floor closes today I’ll offer to buy a drink for all the pundits who announced the demise of the LCD display business just a few weeks ago.

David Keene is the executive editor of Digital Signage Magazine.

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