New LCD HDTV: Astar is Born?

Last week, Astar announced the release of its LTV 3201, a 32-inch LCD HDTV. The model has 1,366 by 768 pixel resolution, making it suitable for 720p content. It carries a suggested list price of $1,299.99, but it can already be found for sale on the Web for under $1,000. Full specifications for the LTV 3201 are available at the Astar Web site.

One point to make is that this is late in the holiday season to be releasing a new product, but there’s a higher level topic here.

Have you ever heard of Astar as a brand? It’s a division of KXD Multimedia, but I doubt that helps much. KXD is a mainland China company that reportedly had revenues of $239 million in 2004. It has manufacturing facitilities capable of producing more than 16 million units (though the company does not specify units of what). This is not a small, fly-by-night operation, apparently.

The fact is that when we encounter a technological upheaval in a market — as we’re experiencing in the TV market now — there’s an opportunity for new brands to make a bid for market share. I had never heard of the Apex brand before DVD players appeared, yet the company made a splash selling affordable DVD players that worked reliably, and now you’ll find their products all over the place.

The same can happen in the flat panel HDTV market. For every familiar Sharp and Panasonic and Sony name, there are a bunch of new brands jostling for position, such as Olevia, Envision, and Astar. Only time will tell which ones have a chance to survive and which ones will disappear, which ones will make a play for the high ground of quality products, and which will settle to compete in the low-price, low-feature bottom segment. But it’s certain that when walk into an HDTV showroom these days, you’re bound to find some brands that are new to you.