As always, the CES show that just ended in Las Vegas generated significant buzz. Tablet PCs and electronic book readers were hot. There were various mobile product innovations. But the most dazzling products all relied on LEDs as a key enabler. The trend toward LEDs as backlights in HDTVs gained steam with virtually every TV maker turning to that technology for leading-edge sets. LEDs are also serving as a direct light source in new projector designs. And the computer monitor segment will soon be dominated by LED backlit models. In all cases, LEDs yield lower-power and mercury-free green designs. Let's consider some examples.
In HDTVs, LED backlighting offers both the low-power and green advantages as well as improvements in image quality and styling. The image enhancements come courtesy of the TV's ability to selectively brighten or dim regions of the screen to match light and dark content in the displayed video frame. The dimming capability essentially boosts the dynamic range of the image.
Toshiba was touting LEDs as the key to its Super Local Dimming feature. The company's ZX900 Series TVs utilize 512 individually controllable backlight zones. The company claims the design yields a "dynamic contrast ratio" of effectively 9,000,000:1.
Vizio make similar dynamic contrast claims with its newest TruLED models. The larger models such as the 72-in set have 480 dimming zones while the 42-in model has 120 zones. The company claims the LED-based TVs use 50% of the power used by prior models.
LG, meanwhile, offers two different approaches to backlighting in its LED-based Infinia line – more dimming zones or a slimmer TV. The LED Plus models have as many as 240 dimming regions. Meanwhile the Full LED Slim models only have 16 dimming regions, but the edge-lit design measures only 0.92 in thick for 74- and 55-in sets.
Samsung was the first company to broadly feature LED backlighting technology and certainly leads the industry in market share at this point. At CES, Samsung also announced thin TVs attributable to LED edge lighting. And Samsung probably had the broadest array of LED-based products at the show. The company displayed both LED-backlit computer monitors and large-format LCD displays that businesses use for signage. Samsung also introduced an LED-based business projector and that LED light source has a specified lifetime of 30,000+ hours. The company also claims that the projector will maintain brightness over the entire life of the projector whereas other projectors lose 50% over the life of the bulb. The LED light source delivers 1000 lumens.
Casio also tapped LEDs for use in projectors although the Casio design combines a red LED, a blue laser, a fluorescent element, and a DLP IC in a hybrid design. The result is an even brighter output – models range from 2000 to 3000 lumens – that is still mercury free and specified to last 20,000 hours.
Viewsonic joined Samsung and a number of other companies in launching LED-backlit monitors. The company claims that LEDs allow the VX series of products to achieve Energy Star compliance.
Last but not least – except in size – Vizio launched ultraportable LED-backlit TVs. The Razor TVs include 7-, 9-, and 10-in models that are less than an inch thick. The 7-in model can even receive terrestrial mobile TV broadcasts based on the new ATSC-M/H standard that made news throughout CES.