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CES 2008: Laser TV — Too Little, Too Late?

January 8, 2008 | Author: Ibex Marketing

Last night I went to the Mitsubishi Laser TV event in which they rolled out the prototype 50″ Laser TV. The company is careful not to call it rear projection, as they don’t want it to carry the baggage associated with that market segment. Instead, they want to present it as a new class of television. I went prepared to be wowed, but today, I’m still reserving judgment.

First, they did not provide a lot of details about the technology. It uses lasers as a light source. It is 50″ diagnonal and 1080p resolution. And the case is about 10″ deep, which is small enough to put on a small shelf for wall mounting. The accompanying press release says that it uses less power than an equivalent flat panel, but it doesn’t quantify the claim. That’s not a terrible fault, however; this is a prototype, after all. But there also was no official announcement of delivery dates or pricing. The press release says that they will ship “later this year”. I did overhear one Mitsubishi executive guess at a May target date, but I didn’t get the impression that this was either firm or official.

We didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with the display, and looking at a prototype doesn’t really tell you much about how the final product will perform. The image did look great in many ways, with deep blacks and vivid colors, and no obvious motion artifacts. Difficult images such as sparkling raindrops against a night sky were dramatic and crystal clear. And from about 15 feet away, I couldn’t see any speckle that can be associated with laser displays. But there were also signs that there is work yet to be done. The Laser TV event graphic was a black and red image with lots of color gradiants. When this image was shown on the prototypes, it showed strong “posterization” contours instead of a smooth gradient.

The window of opportunity for a new HDTV technology that is not a flat panel seems to be closing. Mitsubishi clearly has some appealing traits in this new design, but until the products are priced and on the shelf, it’s difficult to evaluate their impact. It’s not yet clear that this new HDTV will be the home run that Mitsubishi hopes it will be; I’ll wait and see.