My first stop at this year’s CES was at the Dolby booth where they are now trying to transform the quality of video displays in the same way that they have improved the audio side of AV. Dolby’s new technology improves the brightness and contrast ratio of LCD flat panel displays. Dolby calls this technology High Dynamic Range or HDR. Dolby’s HDR is based on local dimming of an array of more than 1000 LEDs that are used to backlight the LCD panel. Local dimming allows the LEDs associated with a bright area of the display to be brighter than those associated with darker areas of the display. In the past, the whole LCD panel would be equally backlighted by a uniform light source. Local Dimming can potentially extend the dynamic contrast ratio of a display device well beyond the native contrast ratio of the LCD panels. In this respect, it is very similar in concept to the use of an iris or lamp dimming in projector technology, with the important distinction that with projectors, the iris dims the whole display, whereas with local dimming only the darker areas are dimmed. Local dimming therefore can improve the contrast ratio within a frame as well as the on/off contrast ratio .
Dolby had two otherwise identical LCD displays, one with an un-modulated light source for the backlighting, and one using local dimming. The difference in the two images was dramatic, with the HDR display appearing to have a much higher gamma, with brighter highlights and darker blacks in the same image. It seemed a bit overdone, but very suggestive how much punch such technology could add to a display.
Toshiba had a very similar technology display, two LCD displays, one with LED backlighting and local dimming the other without. In this case, with the enhanced image looking much more realistic with obviously deeper blacks.
Toshiba also had a poster explaining the local dimming technology.
LG was also displaying an LCD display with local dimming (above) as was Sharp and Samsung.
Panasonic featiured an LED backlighted LCD display, noting that LEDs allowed two times the light output with the same amount of power consumption or as shown about the same brightness with half the power.
Panasonic also showed a very high contrast LCD display with a claim of 1 million to 1 contrast ratio! The image looked better than this picture!
Hitachi was also showing a prototype hybrid monitor with a claim of 8 million to one.
Perhaps the most impressive improvement in display technology we saw, however, was at the Pioneer booth. Besides their current product offerings they were showing off their Kuro advanced designed concept that included an ultra thin display that was the same thickness as my iPhone, 9mm!
The Kuro project also had a room for display of something they claimed was even more exciting. The opening blub by the Pioneer representative talked the importance of true black levels in display technology and then darkened the room. Pioneer gave no hint of what we were about to see, but soon an image appeared on a display in the center of the room. The opening film was an interview with a cinematographer also about the importance of good black levels. Having heard all this before, I was a little skeptical but Adrian and I sat there in a fully darken room not knowing what was coming. The next images shown were a mixture of movie images, e.g. Pirates 3, and bright colorful objects “floating” on a black background as well as some spectacular CGI. Unfortunately, one could easily see exactly where the display started and stopped, as even during the dark scenes, the area surrounding the display was always darker than the blacks in the image. This new technology was no big deal we thought, black were not really black, just kind of a noisy dark grey like with pretty much every other display. Very dark gray, perhaps, but not pitch black.
But then we slowly became aware of a second display off to the right, but in this case the images seemed to be really floating on a truly black background with no hint of where the actual display area started and stopped. The difference the images with a true black base was dramatic. These were the best blacks I had ever seen. Pirates 3 looked great! After the lights came on, it was revealed that the left display was a 50 inch current generation Pioneer plasma display, and the one on the right featured their extreme contrast concept based on non-priming self emissive technology. This certainly changed my impression of plasma display technology in a very positive way.
Thin is in. The other very thin display we saw was a series of small to medum-sized Organic LED displays or monitors at the SONY booth.
A large, but very thin display was also prominently displayed at the (LG) booth. LG had a very large booth with an impressive array to products.
Hitachi booth emphasized the number 1.5, the thickness of their current flat panel plasma displays, some of which were very attractive.
Hitachi also was showing a prototype of a 0.75 inch thick 32 inch LCD display.
Bezels around the display are also getting narrower as can be seen in this model by Toshiba.
On the other hand, large LCDs and Plasma displays were also prominently displayed, including this 150 inch plasma at the Panasonic booth.
Sharp was featuring an 108 inch LCD monitor.
Sharp suggested one use for such a monitor was as a kitchen wall where calendars and recipes could be displayed, as well as TV and a clock, but I am not sure I would want to give up that much counter space in my kitchen!
A large Ultra High Definition LCD display in the Samsung booth had a very nice image.
Sony had a large flat panel featuring 4x 2K technology which turns out to indicate that the resolution of this display has essentially four times the number of pixels found in a 1080p panel.
There were a number of 3D displays on the show floor using a variety to techniques so that your two eyes saw an image from a slightly different perspective. Philips had two presumably plasma displays that created the 3D effect for people standing at the right distance without the need for special glasses or goggles.
I was also pleased that Philips was featuring that their products were “green”.
Visiting the Texas Instruments booth is always a good idea in that they overview what they feel are the important new developments related to use of their DLP technology. This year TI was showing off their new Dark Chip 4 technology, and the Dark Chip 4 combined with an LED light source for twice the brightness and a contrast ratio of 500,000:1.
As well as emphasizing the need for speed with displays that update at a 240 Hz rate.
Texas Instruments was showing a unique capability their DLP technology to show 3D images: a mode that allows two users, rather than two eyes on the same user, to see a different image. TI’s 3D and the DualView mode use special glasses with shutters synchronized to the various images, to allow the two eyes on the same user, or different users to see different images. TI claims that many 3D capable DLP-based displays are currently shipping from several companies. TI was illustrating this DualView mode using a racing game in which each player could see the race from the prospective of their own car. The isolation of the two images was very good and helped really appreciate the potential uses of this technology. The separation of the images obviously depends on the rapid response of the image to the movement of the mirrors in the DMM in DLP-based displays.
A number of companies were showing techniques beyond update speed to address motion blur and judder including Visio with a very effective demonstration of their MJC feature.
Visio is a company that has really gone after the “value” part of the display market and their displays are available at “clubs” like Costco. They had a number of new models this year.
And yes, there were projectors at this years CES. And no, I have not been completely seduced by the dark side. To me there is nothing more involving than a large display that one looks at directly, rather than through a piece of glass with reflections, etc. As always, Dan Miller from Marantz put on a great demo for their new VP-11S2 DLPÂ® Projector, featuring the Texas Instruments DC4 chip, allowing my colleagues and I to really appreciate the advantages of a well setup front projector. The images of “Cars” that we all saw in the Marantz demo were very involving indeed, very sharp, and with well-saturated colors.
JVC was also demonstrating their new LCOS-based projector, the DLA-HD100, which is an upgrade to their HD1 with twice the native contrast ratio, now 30,000 to one. The black levels were very good, but the picture seemed softer, smoother if you prefer, and less saturated than the images we saw at Marantz just a hour or so before.
Other 1080p projectors being shown included:
The Optoma HD80
The Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB for UltraBlack featured a new LCD chip with 17% less light leakage than previously used in the Home Cinema 1080.
Mitsubishi was showing several projectors including a new FL7000 5000 lumens 1080p projector that they see filling the crossover market.
Panasonic featured their PT-AE2000U.
And Sanyo their Z2000.
Sony and Sharp (pictured) had static displays of their projectors, but nothing new. Also on the video side of things there is the matter of the high definition DVD format wars, HD DVD vs. BlueRay. Warner’s announcement on the eve of CES to go exclusively with BlueRay was generally seen by the media as a sign of the beginning of the end of the format wars, but both side were well represented at CES.
BlueRay had the more elaborate booth and came to the show with all cannons in firing position, and a Warner emblem prominently displayed. The BlueRay booth was always crowded with people in good spirits.
In comparison, the HD DVD booth was simpler in construction, but it was clear that from their point of view that the battle was not over and their ship was still afloat. The HD DVD people were emphasizing the number of available titles and languages, and interactivity as part of the HD DVD experience. Display technology has come a very long way recently with projectors and flat panels giving contrast ratios that one could only dream about a few years ago. CRTs are gone. As far as I am concerned 1080p is now the de facto resolution, and this was reflected by a majority of the displays on the floor. Don’t settle for anything less! And we have plenty of High Definition sources to watch, with HD TV common and (unfortunately) two high definition DVD formats. The world of displays is doing great and there are some pretty good signs it will keep getting better. Stay tuned.
This was my first CES show and I was impressed with both the scale of the show and the quality of presentation. Just starting out on this first day was a lot of navigating through the crowds trying to get a glimpse of the latest products. This massive transformer was Dolby’s welcoming comittee. What an awesome display this was. Dolby was showcasing video technology (see Steve Smallcombe’s CES 2008 report) and Dolby TrueHD, their next generation lossless technology that delivers up to eight full-range channels of 24-bit/96 kHz audio.