High-definition television (HDTV) is still in its infancy, but already a new crop of sets is upping the ante on screen resolution. At the 2005 International Consumer Electronics Show, almost all major vendors were showing high-end sets with native 1080p screen formats - a big step up from the 720p format of today's HDTVs.
What this means is that these newer sets will have 1080 rows of pixels (1080p), compared to the 720 rows of most currently shipping HD sets. On bigger sets especially, the higher pixel count should produce images that are visibly smoother than those of previous-generation sets.
The 1080p sets on display here are either LCD TVs or rear-projection sets based on Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology.
Samsung, for example, expects to bring the first 1080p DLP set to market next month - the 56-inch HLR5688W pedestal model, with a suggested retail price of $US4999. It will be followed in June by an even larger 1080p DLP set, the top-of-the-line 67-inch HLR6768W, with a suggested retail price of $US6999.
Also in June, Samsung plans to ship a 57-inch 1080p LCD-TV, the LNR570D - but at that screen size (which would make the set the biggest LCD on the market), only the wealthy need apply: The suggested retail price is $US15,999 (on the street it might drop to $US15,000, Samsung officials said).
LG Electronics, meanwhile, said it would ship a 62-inch 1080p DLP rear-projection set, the 62SY2D, in June for a suggested retail price of $US4499. Also due from LG in the northern autumn time frame is a 55-inch 1080p LCD-TV, the 55LP1D, but pricing has yet to be determined.
Sharp is already shipping several 45-inch 1080p Aquos LCD TVs; at CES, it showed off a 65-inch 1080p Aquos LCD TV, but price and availability were yet to be determined. Even budget vendors are getting into the act. Syntax Groups said it planned to introduce 37- and 42-inch 1080p LCD TVs sometime this year (pricing wasn't announced), as well as a 61-inch liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) rear-projection 1080p set for $US7000 to $US8000.
Waiting for Hollywood
One reason we haven't seen many 1080p sets before now is that no one is broadcasting TV programs in 1080p: The bandwidth requirements would simply be too excessive. The HD shows we see today are transmitted in either 720p or 1080i, so 1080p sets will have to convert those signals.
Movies on DVD are even lower resolution - the standard format is 480p. But that is likely to change once Hollywood settles on a successor to DVD that will have the larger capacity required to hold a high-definition movie. Bandwidth won't be an issue, so the studios could well choose to go with 1080p. But that's still a few years off, which is one reason why some vendors are not jumping immediately onto the 1080p bandwagon.
ViewSonic also had a 1080p technology display (a 46-inch LCD), but officials there said they look at 1080p as a high-end technology that doesn't make sense for ViewSonic's value- oriented strategy.
But Samsung senior television marketing manager, John Lavoie, doesn't agree that lack of Hollywood entertainment in 1080p means customers won't see a benefit from the technology.
"It should reduce flicker," he said. "The goal is to take 1080i [content] and de-interlace it."
Lavoie said the micro-displays on the 1080p DLP sets were also larger than the ones used for 720p DLPs, so the sets could reflect more light. This meant the newer sets achieved contrast ratios of 5000:1 compared with the 2000:1 of previous DLP rear-projection TVs.