IFA 2006: DLP Technology Threatens LCD Dominance

Using a projector instead of a screen is close to becoming a viable alternative.

One of the few scheduled meetings I had made at this year’s IFA was with DLP. In practice the notion of filling up your schedule from morning ‘til night with an assortment of one-on-ones sounds good, but in reality it often means blind bookings with companies whose IFA announcements may be limited at best and often requires you to run from Hall 1.2 to Hall 26 and back again. So why did I afford DLP this rare luxury? Because projectors are soon going to be more desirable than the latest plasma or flat screen LCD.

If you haven’t noticed in the last six months – and I wouldn’t blame you with the hype surrounding HD TV – projector prices are dropping like stones and at the lowest level now undercut their LCD equivalents.

Indeed DLP was proudly showing off a brand spanking new model from Acer, the PH530, which projects at a 720p high definition resolution (1280 x 720) and costs under 1,000 euros. With a brightness ratio of 2500:1 and brightness rating of 900 lumens this should give the average 720p HD TV a good run for its money and they’ll be no back breaking carrying it up the stairs. Couple that with the fact it can project a sharp image of up to eight feet (96 inches) and you’ll perhaps start to see my point.

Add another 99 euros to that and you can move to the impending Optomoa HD70, another projector with 720p resolution that has a 4000:1 contrast ratio and 1000 lumens which makes the worries of daylight viewing a thing of the past. Both will be here in the next two months and LCD TV makers should be looking over their shoulders.

That said, if there is a weakness in a projector’s armour it is that they need to be set up on the opposite side of the room and, preferably, hung from the rear wall or off the ceiling… or at least they did. ‘Short Throw’ technology is already on the market in the shape of the Toshiba ET20 (above) which can generate a 42in picture just one foot from the wall on which it is showing. This technology still carries a bit of a premium since the ET20 has an RRP of just under £1,600 when the resolution is a mere 480p (854 x 480) but it was explained to me that it will soon be a commodity feature. DLP also hopes that enhancements will soon enable Short Throw to cast an eight foot image from a similar distance.

All of which may lead you to believe that DLP has it in for screens. Well it doesn’t – at least not in the short term – since the market for projector based televisions is also expanding. Once again the benefits of short throw technology mean that sets are reducing their thickness on an almost monthly basis and the 1080p based prototype we saw from Samsung (above) not only sports stunning picture quality but also a depth only about double that of your average LCD. Price is again competitive with LCD equivalents and, because the image is projected, there are no pixels breaking up the detail.

Finally, for the financial elite among you, I saw where cutting edge DLP based projection technology is heading in the shape of the Sim2 D80, available in Europe this October. It may cost a whopping 9,999 euros (£6,747) but the result is a device which can cast a 1080p image at up to 15 feet with a razor sharp 4000:1 contrast ratio. With this cost likely to half year on year and the projector itself no larger than a compact laser printer LCD and plasma soon won’t be having it all their own way…

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