Seeing as that we have discussed what potential deals we will see in 2010 for Plasma HDTVs going into this Christmas season, next we will look at LCD HDTVs. Given the limited offerings of Plasma HDTVs it is much easier to gauge a potential price point for those offerings. LCD is offered in a much wider variety of sizes than Plasma and prices will have much wider variance in prices as well as brand names.
LCD technology is also called Liquid Crystal Display. In more simple forms it is the same type of display used in many calculators. In TV displays has come in both active and passive matrix. The HDTV sets we commonly see today are of the TFT (thin film transistor) variety, and variants of that technology. Without going into extensive detail, the pixels when activated twist and block light through polarization. This prevents some colors from being displayed in a given part of the display. Since the sets use typical RGB for the most part shutting off one or more subpixels yeilds the desired color. The most common variant is the Sharp Quattron which uses 4 pixels instead of 3 adding yellow to the pixel mix. This supposedly yeilds better color representation. Backlights are commonly CCFL or LED. Given the types of LED backlighting, I will discuss those in a seperate article and only discuss CCFL here.
CCFL is cold cathode flourescent backlighting. Basically if you bought an LCD several years ago this is the type of backlighting it offers. The cheapest sets that will likely be available will probably be CCFL based. CCFL has a fairly long track record. I personally own very early LCD sets using this technology that are still working perfectly fine today. The most common complaint seen with this type of backighting is flashlighting and or clouding. Flashlighting is when you see light at the corners of the display, making the black level appear uneven in the corners, clouding can occur anywhere on the display. These problems are not inherent to the technolgy (I have an old iLo 32″ LCD, one of the first made of that size, dating back several years that has a very even backlight). The next biggest drawback is that they never achieve a perfect black. This is mainly because despite polarization some light is still let through the panel so the black level is never perfectly black. Unlike a Plasma where the pixels can be energized with such a low voltage that the black level is much better (at least on better quality panels), or CRTs where the pixel is off, the cheaper LCD sets don’t achieve this.
Resolution will be either 1366×768 or 1920×1080 in most cases regardless of size. Given the wide variety of panel makers and the fact that the market has something of an oversupply of panels, this will likely mean lower prices but could also lead to older panels with slower response times being on the market.
In regards to response time, since an LCD does not react as quickly as a Plasma or CRT there is the potential for motion blur. This is remedied to some degree by increased refresh rates (120hz, 240hz, 480hz on top models). Most of these are artificial schemes which fill data to make motion appear smoother. Some sets do it better than others (usually more expensive ones).
3D is available on LCD sets but these are usually higher end sets. The Sears at the McKinley mall has a Samsung demo set up if you wish to view 3D on an LCD. I personally found the Panasonic Plasma (can be seen at Best Buy also at the mall) to be more impressive but it could be the demo material involved.
Given the potential oversupply of panels, the wide variety of manufacturers, gauging a price point we will see this Christmas season will be hard. It might be wise to start looking at Best Buy and Wal-Mart at the lower tier models (such as Dynex and Emerson) as these will likely be the most similar to those available at a discount. When buying keep in mind that response time and even backlighting will probably be the most important deciding factors as far as picture quality. Features will likely be stripped down on bargain basement models. In regards to LED backlit LCDs I will provide details on those seperate from this article, but they are likely to command a stiff premium (though Insignia sets are starting to show up at Best Buy, as well as Vizio sets at Wal-Mart, BJ’s and others) to a CCFL lit set.