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IFA 2006: Toshiba SED Blows Away LCD & Plasma

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So here I am, squashed into a camped Press Room fighting over a single wireless connection with not nearly enough bandwidth, rubbing my sore feet and drying myself off from the day’s torrential rain. Good thing the technology has been fantastic.

Awe-inspiring moment of the day – and possibly the whole show – has come from a practical demonstration of Toshiba’s much anticipated next generation panel technology: SED.

SED, or Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display, was first announced back in September 2004 and has been theorised about ever since. Co-developed by Tosh and Canon it is not an enhancement to either LCD or plasma but a replacement for both, a technology which promises quality beyond that of CRT yet on an LCD deep format. I finally got a practical demonstration today and a lot of answers.

Firstly SED is all that. Sitting in the front row during a 15 minute demo which ran extensive tests illustrating colour, brightness, resolution and motion I was simply blown away. I had spent the morning examining large 1080p after 1080p screens produced across a wide range of manufacturers and, quite simply, they aren’t on the same planet. We are indeed talking about next generation CRT beating quality in every sense.

It has been a long time since I sat in a briefing where audible gasps were heard from the cynical ranks of the IT press but that was the case today. There was even applause afterwards and that without a US journo in sight.

So given any attempt at photographic justice to a high definition screen in a darkened room is doomed to failure just when is the public going to get its first look? Q4 2007 according to Keiichiro Mori, chief specialist of the SED Project Team at Toshiba Corp. That is certainly some way off but mass product of SED panels is not expected to begin until July 2007.

Mori also told me that Toshiba will be exclusively selling SED technology for the foreseeable future despite developing it in conjunction with Canon. He said it will be used solely for the high end market space with TVs based around it being at least 50 inches. Price at this stage hasn’t even been bracketed but he confirmed with a wry smile it would not come cheap.

2008 will click round before we see smaller SED sets and Mori confirmed that the company wants to eventually integrate the technology into desktop monitors and – ultimately – notebook screens. SED is a real slice of the future, stunning enough to wipe out my desire for an HD LCD TV and, all in all, not a bad way to begin a technology show…

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