Sharp's Oh-So-Thin Display

Posted by: Kenji Hall on August 22, 2007

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Remember the new $3-billion factory Sharp announced plans for just last month? Most people (including me) assumed the Japanese TV maker was just burning through more money to make bigger TVs. Au contrare! Today, the company lifted the veil off a next-generation liquid-crystal display technology that it expects to be stamping out at the new Osaka plant in 2010. And was it ever a beauty.

The 52-in TV Sharp showed off was relatively light, weighing just 25 kg (55 lbs) so it can be hung on a wall, and it’s a mere 2-cm (1-in) thick. That’s far more svelte than anything Sharp offers now—and outdoes most, if not all, of the competition. (Currently, Sharp’s thinnest LCD TV is 8 cm.) The set can also receive a high-speed wireless signal, which means you only need one cable to plug into a wall socket.

This TV was just a prototype. Even so, Shigeaki Mizushima—Sharp’s Mr. LCD—looked like a proud papa. And he’s got every reason to be. It’s not just that this TV is lighter and thinner; the picture is also clearer (better contrast, more vivid colors) and features a faster response time so swift-moving images don’t blur as they move across the screen. The latest improvement: The set’s internal circuitry can process a superclear high-definition signal transmitted from 30 cm away. And Sharp execs on hand said they’re hard at work trying to make cords a thing of the past.

They even bragged, which you rarely see from Japanese execs. Sharp’s President and COO Mikio Katayama went so far as to say their new tech was better than organic light-emitting diode sets, which are being developed by Sony and Samsung and have been touted by analysts as the flat screens of the future. “It goes beyond the resolution of most of today’s cameras,” Mizushima said. When asked, though, about the TV’s backlight and other innards, he shook his head. “We’re not going to talk about that here.”

The trick will be producing these sets big enough to satisfy consumers—and at a price that won’t send them running for the Sony Bravias. At least the size part appears to be no problem. Mizushima told a small group of reporters that Sharp could easily stretch or shrink these LCDs. That will be key as it fights off the invasion of OLED TVs in smaller sizes over the next few years and gets in on the giant screens vs. plasma technology. Stay tuned.

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