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CEATEC '08 - LED Backlight TVs

LED Backlight TVs

We’ve kind of got used to seeing plasma TVs dominating shows in terms of raw picture quality. But at CEATEC, while the plasma offerings on display from both Panasonic and Pioneer certainly looked good, they found themselves under some severe pressure from an array of new screens using LED technology.

LED TVs are effectively LCD TVs that replace the standard, always-on, single backlight with a patchwork of individually controllable LED backlight arrays. A key advantage of this approach is that you can turn specific LED segments off if they’re not needed by a particular image, to produce much better black levels than an ordinary LCD is capable of. The LED approach also much improves the ‘step and hold’ presentation problem that can cause blurring on normal LCD TVs, as well as being able to produce a much richer and more expansive colour range than you’d get from a normal LCD TV.

And we have to say that the LED efforts on show from Sony (its 40ZX1 as also seen at IFA), JVC and Hitachi all looked very impressive indeed.

Sharp's XS1

In raw performance terms, though, the star of the LED backlighters was Sharp. This is perhaps a bit surprising given that the brand hasn’t blown us away with the picture quality of its normal LCD TVs as much as some of its rivals.

But seemingly keen to put things right after rather underselling its new XS1 LED TVs at IFA, Sharp went into presentational and technical overdrive to sell the idea that the XS1's really do offer something over and above the competition.

In fact, amid repeated mentions of the fact that the XS1's use RGB LED dimming technology to produce a wider colour range than the black and white LED dimming approach adopted by its rivals, Sharp was also boldly claiming that it believed the XS1s delivered picture quality already better than that of OLED and even Pioneer’s KURO plasma technology.

And you know, having stared agog at the 52 and 65in XS1 models at CEATEC for more time than I care to mention (I wasn’t looking at the pretty ‘booth ladies’, I promise), I have to say that Sharp may have a point. Let’s hope the screens live up to these startling first impressions when we scrutinise them under more intense reviewing conditions in the near future.

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