One of the most interesting stories to come out of CES 2012 is about a pair of technology demonstration displays that were tucked away in the Sony booth. Labeled “CrystalLED”, these 55″ HDTV panels were quite different from any other display that has been marketed as an “LED HDTV” in recent years. These panels actually were LED displays, using discrete, individual LED components for each sub-pixel in the 1080p display. That adds up to more than six million LEDs.
Reports from the show were that the image quality was excellent, and why shouldn’t it be? LEDs are emissive, so viewing angle should not be an issue, and they are mind-numbingly fast, so there should be no problem with image blur. LEDs have an extremely long lifetime (when was the last time you had an LED power indicator “burn out” on a piece of equipment?), so they should last forever, or at least well beyond the time when you’d want to replace it. The only problems that I can foresee are the challenge of “binning” the parts so that you get consistent color output from all two million LEDs of the same color, and the fact that some LEDs show color shift with changing temperatures.
Oh, and then there’s the problem of how do you actually build these suckers? A tip of the hat goes to my friend and colleague, Ken Werner, did some old-fashioned journalistic legwork for his “Display Daily” column for Insight Media. He cites a “reliable source” who indicated that each of the six million LED chips were individually wire-bonded to the electrodes. It is not immediately obvious how this sort of assembly could be automated at a speed and yield that would be economically feasible. In fact, the display industry is moving toward production processes that let you spray or print the display materials onto the substrates; a move to discrete LED components would seem to be a big step in the wrong direction.
So my best guess is that you should not bank your HDTV budget in hopes that Sony will be selling one of these LED displays any time soon (if ever).