Rear projection HDTV sales continue to defy rational analysis as buyers choose to spend an extra $1,000 or more to get a flat panel model instead. One development on the near horizon that could change this is the arrival of the Laser TV.
A Laser TV is really a rear projection HDTV that replaces the projection lamp (or high brightness LEDs) with lasers as the lighting source. This creates a number of advantages. First, the lasers are solid state devices and effectively last forever. Okay, not forever maybe, but longer than the rest of the TV is likely to last. So there’s no expensive lamp to change every year or two.
Also, the laser light is a coherent light beam that does not spread out the way light from a lamp or LED does. This makes the lighting much more efficient, as the light does not stray as much and more ends up on the screen. This means that the beams do not have to be focused and controlled as much, eliminating expensive optics. Fewer optics means a much thinner case design, which solves another problem with rear projection HDTVs. And the lasers put out carefully controlled colored light; the color does not shift with time or temperature as can happen with other light sources.
So yesterday, I got to see a demonstration model put together by the laser manufacturer Novalux. Their engnineers took a stock LCoS rear projection HDTV from a major manufacturer, and tore out its insides. They removed the lamp and related optics, and coupled the lasers directly with the three LCoS imager panels. How did it look? It was great. The colors were remarkably rich and saturated. The blacks were deep, which helped give the color more snap. The only major problem was speckle; the laser beams are so accurate that they create a pattern that almost shimmers. This can be solved by making the beams slightly less accurate, using a vibrating diffuser to mix up the beams a little before they reach the screen.
So when can you expect to see one of these new displays in commercial production? Multiple sources have told me that they should be on sale in time for the 2007 holiday buying season. So in another six months, you should be able to see Laser TV for yourself.
What’s the right technology for your next HDTV? Find out in Professor Poor’s Guide to Buying HDTV, now available in paperback from Amazon or other fine booksellers.