As I’ve mentioned before, sales of rear projection HDTVs continue to defy gravity. The advantages over flat screen models are considerable; they cost less, they weigh less, and they take up less space because their bezels are a small fraction of the typical plasma screen. And the new slim models are not much deeper than the base of an LCD or plasma panel of the same screen size.
One of the big complaints about rear projection models is that they use projector lamps that grow dim with time, and need to be replaced after 3,000 hours or so. (If your TV is on five hours a day, then you’ll need to replace the lamp every two years.) At $200 to $300 per lamp, this can add up to a significant expense.
Manufacturers have addressed this problem by moving to solid-state light sources that should last for the life of the HDTV. Panasonic has just started shipping their new LCZ and LCX model lines which use the new LIFI light source from Luxim. Not only does the lamp last longer, it also starts up faster, cutting the startup time from about 60 seconds with a conventional lamp to as little as 15 seconds.
The LIFI lamp uses plasma as a light source, sealed in a tiny quartz capsule. Instead of using an electrical current to excite the plasma, the lamp uses microwaves. This eliminates the need for electrodes in the capsule, which means that there is no metal to be transferred to the inside of the capsule (which is a major cause of light loss in a standard projector lamp).
Panasonic has released five models with the LIFI lamp. The PT-56LCX70 is a 56″ 720p model, with a suggested retail price of $1,699.95, and the PT-61LCX70 is a 61″ model for $1,999.95. The LCZ series has 1080p resolution, and comes in 50″, 56″, and 61″ sizes: the PT-50LCZ70 for $1,699.95, the PT-56LCZ70 for $1,899.95, and the PT-61LCZ70 for $2,199.95.