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HDTV For the UnGeek
The FCC standard for HDTV broadcasting has a huge impact. The amount of information to digest can be daunting, even for the professional. Old hardware does not become obsolete, but it will require a tuner to convert the new signal if you are receiving your signal from a VHF/UHF antenna. If you have cable or satellite TV, this will be supported by the service provider.
However, this might be a good time to upgrade your hardware. The new standard offers a much better image. In today’s world of digital projectors, LCD, LCOS, Plasma and DLP are the four different types of televisions that dominate the HDTV market. Each has unique advantages over the other. Plasma and some of the LCD screens can be wall mounted, although surveys show that few people mount them on the wall. DLP and LCOS and some of the LCD units are both projector technologies. Overhead projectors are generally the most economical. The size of some systems is now less than 12 inches deep.
o Video quality on the best projectors now surpasses that available in a conventional commercial movie theatre.
o Traditional television: also called direct vision, the images are displayed on a cathode ray tube.
o Rear Projection Television (RPTV): uses a combination of mirrors and lenses to project the image from behind onto the viewing screen. This allows the displayed image to be significantly larger, up to 70 inches or more. This technique generally offers the best value for money (image size versus cost).
o Front Projection TV (FPTV): It’s like a movie theater. The image is projected forward on an external screen. But like a movie theater, a very dark room is needed because the screen will reflect any light into the room. This technique is generally more expensive than rear projection, but the footprint (the area consumed by the equipment) of the system is smaller.
CRT (cathode ray tube):
The established standard for television screens; good value for money, image quality. The maximum screen size is smaller with the technique. Technology is always a good choice when a smaller image is desired and clutter is not an issue.
Liquid Crystal Display (LCD):
Slim design, but has issues displaying moving images (sports), images tend to stretch. These projectors typically contain three separate LCD glass panels, one for the red, green, and blue components of the projected image. As uncolored light passes through LCD panels, individual picture elements (pixels) can be opened to let light through or closed to block light. This produces the image which is projected on the screen.
Historically, LCD TVs have had a problem with visible pixelation. This is less apparent on newer sets with higher screen resolutions.
Most LCD systems use a fluorescent backlight to shine through the LCD screen. This type of backlight will need to be replaced every few years. Some manufacturers are introducing sets with LED backlighting, with 10 times longer life. Even though the initial cost may be higher, the cost of ownership advantage may make this design worth a look.
o Better color saturation, richer and more vibrant
o Better sharper image, important for text
o More energy efficient
o Poor black levels and contrast
o Problems displaying moving images (sports)
o LCD panels (mainly in the blue channel) may degrade causing changes in color balance
o Visible pixelation
Liquid Crystals on Silicon (LCOS):
A type of LCD technology, LCOS uses liquid crystals rather than mirrors to project (usually rear projection) an image onto the screen. LCOS is good value compared to plasma and LCD TVs, but expensive compared to all other rear projection TV technologies such as DLP. This technique uses a chip like a DLP set does (see below), but the chip is coated in liquid crystals, which reflect the image seen on the screen. LCOS-based systems allow higher screen resolution than an LCD or plasma display.
o Crisp, vivid colors and deep black levels
o It does not slowly change over time like a plasma set does
o Dead pixels usually occur because the technology is partially reflective
o High maintenance cost: LCOS requires frequent bulb changes (6,000-8,000 hours, approximately 3-4 years with normal use) compared to 50,000 or more for most LCD or plasma screens. A replacement bulb will cost around $400
o Reproducibility: image quality can vary greatly from machine to machine
Digital Light Processor (DLP):
The DLP is a Texas Instruments product made in Korea. It uses a chip with many mirrors (there can be over a million mirrors on a chip of about one inch square) that can be mechanically steered to reflect the correct color. This technology offers an excellent display, at a moderate cost.
In the best DLP projectors, like those used in your local cinema, there are three separate mirror chips, one for the red, green and blue channels. However, in DLP projectors marketed to the general public, there is only one chip. In these sets, to define the color, there is a color wheel composed of red, green, blue filters. This wheel spins between the lamp and the DLP chip and alternates the color of the light hitting the chip.
The spinning color wheel used to project the image can produce a problem on the screen known as the rainbow effect, which is the separation of colors into distinct red, green, and blue. At all times, the image on the screen is either red, green, or blue, and the technique relies on your eyes not being able to detect rapid changes from one to the other. However, not only can some people see the colors separate, the rapid color sequencing may be responsible for reported cases of eye strain and headaches. But the vast majority of people cannot detect the rainbow effect.
Newer sets have doubled the rotation speed of the color wheel. Also, newer sets use a six-segment color wheel (instead of a 3-segment) that has two sequences of red, green, and blue. Because the wheel is double-speed, and because red, green, and blue are seen twice with each rotation, the effect is a quadrupling of the rotational speed. This eliminated the visibility of rainbows for most people who had already seen the effect.
Samsung and other companies have introduced DLP sets with LED lamps and no color wheel. Lamp bulbs in older models need to be replaced every few years. The LED lamp should last the lifetime of the TV.
LaserVue (Mitsubishi) is being introduced in the US now in time for the Christmas season. LaserVue is a DLP (Texas Instruments “Dark Chip 4″ Digital Light Processor) system that eliminates the conventional light bulb and replaces it with a solid-state laser. Video performance is outstanding, but the technology will cost you around $7,000 for a 65” HDTV. The improved reliability and lifespan may be better, but there is little data on this new laser.An Argon ion laser should have a lifespan of around 8000 hours (5-6 years of normal use).The Mitsubishi LaserVue uses a laser system made by Arasor, an Australian start-up, manufactured in from lithium niobate (PPKN).Mitsubishi is currently performing accelerated stress testing, but a LaserVue HDTV uses less than 200 watts of electricity, about half of a comparable LCD HDTV and less than a third of a high definition plasma system.
o Small package size
o High contrast image with deep black levels
o Good value for money
o Less bright images
o Rainbow effect
o High maintenance cost: DLP requires frequent bulb changes (6,000-8,000 hours, approximately 3-4 years with normal use) compared to 50,000 or more for most LCD or plasma screens. A replacement bulb will cost around $300 to $400. Samsung uses LED lighting instead of lamps. The LED should not need to be replaced.
Slim design, high contrast ratio, size up to 60 inches or more; some display limitations: expensive and older systems had a high risk of burn-in (over time a memory of what was being projected was retained); This could be a problem for those who like to play video games or watch recorded movies. If you pause the game or tape for too long, it could burn an image onto your screen.
o Exceptional image quality: it can produce up to 8.6 billion colors, accurate color reproduction and wide viewing angles
o Large screen sizes: some plasma TV units are now manufactured in screen sizes up to 100 inches
o Lifespan: Plasma TVs are also known for their extended lifespan capability of around 60,000 hours and excellent contrast (deep blacks)
o Cheaper than LCD screen
o The screens are very bulky, heavy and fragile
o Degrades slowly over time
o Energy inefficient
Coming soon: OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) HDTV sets are now available, but it will be a few years before they warrant serious consideration. An OLED assembly is less than 1″ thick. OLED has previously been used in digital cameras and cell phones with small panels, due to their power efficiency, which is important in portable devices.
o NTSC Analog TV or Standard Definition TV (SDTV): the current system which is being phased out (National Television Systems Committee).
o EDTV (Enhanced Digital TV): High-end standard definition TV: Although these TVs are better than standard TVs, the picture quality is not equal to that of HDTV. Technically, there is little difference between an SDTV and an EDTV (except for the higher price).
o ATSC Digital TV: This is the new system (Advanced Television Systems Committee), which is not necessarily in High Definition.
o HDTV: is digital television where the picture is a widescreen picture with much more detail than is contained in current analog television pictures. Most consumers will see a huge improvement in image quality. HDTV has a higher quality picture than SDTV because it has more lines of resolution. The image is two to five times sharper because the gaps between scan lines are narrower.
Any of the four technologies can be a good choice. Competition is intense and all technologies will continue to improve. Buying a TV will never be as easy as it was before HDTV, but the benefits can be worth it.
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