HD Sets Slim Down, Are DLP-Based

CES intros point to growing popularity of digital light processing technology

If HDTV introductions at the recent Consumer Electronics Show are any indication, the future of consumer TV sets will tap plasma, LCD and, increasingly, DLP technology. And it's the last that may prove to be the dark horse against the glamorous plasma displays that are currently the darlings of the media and consumers.

There was no greater acknowledgment of the growing popularity of DLP (or digital light processing) technology than Toshiba's announcement that the company would stop building HDTV based on the LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) micro device and instead use DLP chips manufactured by Texas Instruments. The Toshiba DLP sets are expected to cost $3,000 and up, with the company's CRT-based models available for less than $3,000.

But the biggest development in DLP was Thomson's RCA line of 50-, 61- and 70-inch HDTV sets that are less than 7 inches deep. The big selling point of plasma and LCD technology has been the ability to hang them on the wall as their depth is routinely 5 to 7-inches. So making DLP sets available in a similar form factor gives consumers another option, one that is free from the burn-in problems and decreasing-brightness issues that plague plasma and LCD screens. The smaller size, however, comes with a bigger price tag: $8,999 for the 50-inch version, $9,999 for the 61-inch (no pricing was available on the 70-inch model).

Samsung, which has taken the lead in DLP technology, introduced two slimmed-down models, although they are still 12 inches deep. The two models, a 50-inch and a 56-inch, are pedestal-mounted (eliminating the need for bulky TV stands) and will be priced at $4,499 and $4,999, respectively.

One of the more interesting developments at the show was the entry of Motorola and Westinghouse into the TV market. The Motorola introductions were by Moxell Technology, a division of Taiwan-based Proview and a partner of Motorola. The Motorola-branded sets will include a range of LCD- and plasma-based HDTV sets as well as DLP-based rear- and front-projector sets.

Westinghouse is moving beyond refrigerators and ovens with its Digital Electronics Division's first LCD TV lineup. Five models range from 15-inch to two 30-inch models, the most expensive being the 33001 with a resolution of 1,280x768 pixels priced at $2,999.

Panasonic introduced DLP-based HDTVs as well as its Viera flagship line of LCD- and plasma-based HDTV sets. The plasma sets range from 37 to 50 inches; the LCD models, from 14 to 32 inches.

One manufacturer made news by not making news: Sony didn't introduce any TV sets at the show.