CES 2006: Rear-Projection HDTV with No Lamp!

I just got back from a week at the Consumer Electronics Show, which is a mammoth annual conference on a scale that is only matched by its location: Las Vegas. I saw and learned tons at the show, and will be sharing some of the highlights over the next week or so.

It’s clear that the competition between LCD, plasma, and rear-projection HDTV is heating up, and the 40″ to 50″ size range appears the be the prime battleground. Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages, but the manufacturers are working hard to eliminate any competitive disadvantages.

For example, one of the big knocks on rear-projection HDTVs is that they have lamps that must be replaced every two or three years to maintain brightness, and they cost about $200 or $300 a pop. Well, lots of companies were showing prototypes that use LEDs for illumination. A company named Luminus has developed a way to get lots more light from an LED, making it bright enough for projected images. Samsung had a prototype using TI’s DLP micro-mirror imaging panel, and JVC had another using the company’s HD-ILA LCoS imagers. Both sets looked great, and the colors were so well saturated that they almost appeared garish. This is okay, because you can dial down the color if there’s too much, but you can’t increase it if there’s not enough.

LEDs last just about forever, at least in television terms, so this new development could eliminate one of the key complaints about rear-projection HDTVs.