Truth Patrol: Not All RP Is LCD

HDTV Truth Patrol

NBC 13 in Birmingham, Alabama, certainly had its heart in the right place when it published “The In’s And Out’s Of HDTV” on its Web site for its viewers, but it would have been better if they got their facts straight before they tried to explain these topics. The story has a number of glaring mistakes, but here is the one section that I’ll pick on here:

“If you want to get the absolute biggest screen for your buck… check out a rear-projection LCD set. They come with technology names like ‘DLP’ and ‘LCOS’ They’re thicker, but lighter than LCD and Plasma displays. They’re also cheaper for bigger screens but they’re powered by a light bulb that will have to be changed every few years, to the tune of about a couple hundred bucks.”

Now, I’ll admit that this becoming a moot point, since American buyers continue to stay away from rear projection in droves, in spite of the fact that some deliver the best picture quality available from any technology, and they certainly do provide bang for the buck. But if we’re going to mention them, let’s get it right. Yes, there are rear projection LCD HDTVs available on the market. But the technology “with names like” DLP and LCoS are not LCD; they’re something very different. There are three different flavors of rear projection HDTVS: LCD, DLP, and LCoS. (And note that Sony calls its LCoS “SXRD”, while JVC calls theirs “D-ILA”.) Each of the three has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost and performance.

As for the lamp issue, it is certainly true that many rear projection sets still rely on traditional UHP projector lamps, and these do cost $200 to $300, and they do get dimmer over time. It’s probably fair to say that you’ll want to replace them every three years or so, depending on usage. But — and this is a big but — not all rear projection models use these lamps. For example, Panasonic has models out that use a LiFi light engine, which uses microwaves to excite plasma in a tiny quartz capsule, and it probably will not need to be replaced in the lifetime of the HDTV. Samsung also has models with solid state lighting — high brightness LEDs — that should last as long as the television set. So if the lamp issue is a turn off for you, know that you have alternative choices that still let you pick a rear projection HDTV.

Thanks to Emily for spotting this misinformed item. If you find HDTV information on the Web that is a bit off-base, send it in and you too can win a coveted “Truth Patrol” t-shirt if we use it.