LCD HDTVs: Speed Hertz

The LCD HDTV business is highly competitive, and profit margins are razor thin for the manufacturers. They keep looking for ways to increase margins with new features, but the competition rapidly beats back any attempts at getting more money for differentiation. A case in point is the efforts to reduce blurring of moving images on LCD sets. One effective approach has been to increase the refresh rate from 60 times a second (60 Hz) to 120 times (120 Hz). This is done by taking the existing images and creating an intermediate image between each pair. This just requires some additional hardware in the controller, more or less, so it really doesn’t add much to the bill of materials for the set. Some manufacturers have gone a step further; if 120 Hz is good, then 240 Hz must be better. There are sets that do a “true” 240 Hz, inventing three intermediate frames for each pair of original images, but some are merely 120 Hz sets that then “strobe” the backlight at 240 Hz.

DisplaySearch forecasts that 120 Hz and 240 Hz models will account for more than half the LCD HDTV revenues by  2013.

Worldwide LCD TV Revenue Share by Frame Rate (DisplaySearch)

The problem for manufacturers is that just about everyone now offers 120 Hz sets, and competition is driving down the price differential between the 60 Hz and 120 Hz models. As a result, we can expect to see 120 Hz become a standard feature on all but the smaller sets (where blur is less of a problem) and the lowest-priced large screens. DisplaySearch estimates that about 31% of the LCD HDTV revenues worldwide went to 120 Hz or 240 Hz sets. By 2013, 120 Hz sets will acount for 31% and 240 Hz will capture 20% of the worldwide revenues, combining for just more than half of the total.

Manufacturers are also using LED backlights as a differentiating feature, and next year we will see many 3D-capable sets designed for stereoscopic viewing at home. At this point, there is no reason to expect that these features won’t follow a similar price trajectory. Early models will carry a premium, but competition will rapidly beat these down to where you will not have to pay much more to get these features.