FLAT-PANEL DISPLAYS

Flat-panel monitors demonstrated at COMDEX (Las Vegas, NV) last November highlighted what may be the next beachhead in the CRT-replacement war. On display were a range of flat-panel monitors sized from 12 to 17 in. (diagonal) that are already beginning to assault ordinary deskto¥CRT monitors. But the war may be expanding to even bigger sizes. Several vendors showed flat-panel monitors larger than 20 in. that seek, for the first time, to displace CRTs in this size range.

Jan 1st, 1998

FLAT-PANEL DISPLAYS

Newest displays exceed 20-in. mark

Flat-panel monitors demonstrated at COMDEX (Las Vegas, NV) last November highlighted what may be the next beachhead in the CRT-replacement war. On display were a range of flat-panel monitors sized from 12 to 17 in. (diagonal) that are already beginning to assault ordinary deskto¥CRT monitors. But the war may be expanding to even bigger sizes. Several vendors showed flat-panel monitors larger than 20 in. that seek, for the first time, to displace CRTs in this size range.

For the notebook-computer market, 12.1-in. displays still dominate, but observers such as Joel Pollack (Sharp; Camas, WA), see two new market thrusts. "One area is meganotebooks that feature 13.x- or 14-in. displays and can double as deskto¥computers. We also see a resurgence of mininotebooks that will use next-generation reflective displays," he says.

Dale Maunu, marketing manager for Mitsubishi Electronics America (Sunnyvale, CA), thinks that the 13.x size will soon disappear in favor of 14-in. displays. "If you look at the notebook market, displays with even sizes have succeeded, but for desktops, monitors with odd sizes are favored."

Liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) in the 13- to 17-in. range were quite prominent at COMDEX. All the major manufacturers showed their latest display panels, some of which were further integrated to produce flat-panel monitors. Monitors require additional electronics for conversion and scaling of incoming signals, as well as a power supply and enclosure. Sharp, LG Electronics USA (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), Samsung Semiconductor Inc. (San Jose, CA), Fujitsu Microelectronics Inc. (San Jose, CA), IBM (Research Triangle Park, NC), NEC Technologies (Itasca, IL), Hitachi America (Norcross, GA), and Mitsubishi Electronics America all introduced new flat-panel monitors.

Traditional CRT monitor vendors are also jumping on the flat-panel-monitor bandwagon. ADI Systems Inc. (San Jose, CA), Eizo Nanao Technologies Inc. (Cypress, CA), MAG Innovision (Santa Ana, CA), CTX Opto (Santa Clara, CA), and ViewSonic Corp. (Walnut, CA) introduced new flat-panel monitors in the 15-in. range.

Most monitors in this range are priced between $2000 and $3000 and have so far been sold primarily for medical and financial-trading applications. Some manufacturers, such as Samsung, now include multimedia features such as integrated speakers that will appeal to the small-office/home-office and corporate markets.

As these markets expand, prices are expected to dro¥to perhaps $1500 by next fall. Smaller flat-panel monitors could be less than $1000. Most industry analysts believe that the market for flat-panel monitors really takes off when they are priced at about 1.5-2 times the equivalent CRT price.

Trend toward larger-sized monitors

Perhaps the most interesting trend at COMDEX was displays in the 18- to 30-in. range. NEC is the only manufacturer to have actually shipped LCD displays of this size, however--a 20-in. UXGA (1600 ¥ 1200) display (see Laser Focus World, July 1997, p. 34).

US display manufacturer dpiX (Palo Alto, CA) entered the fray with a 19-in. panel that breaks new ground in image quality (see photo on p. 28). David Mentley, display analyst at Stanford Resources Inc. (San Jose, CA), ex plained, "It has a photographic-like quality that is very pleasing to the eye, much better than what the specs would indicate."

The newly formed team of Hosiden and Philips Display (San Jose, CA) introduced a family of flat-panel products from 12.1 to 22.9 in. The 22.9-in. device is a UXGA display that, they say, will enter production in 1998. In addition, Shar¥will begin shipping its 18.1-in. SXGA display in March, but will retool the 20.1-in. product to make it UXGA resolution, delaying production until next fall. Samsung introduced a 30-in. LCD, the largest such display made from a single substrate. Remarkably, the company plans to bring this prototype into full production in 1999.

Even plasma displays could compete with these larger LCDs. Fujitsu`s new 25-in. plasma panel, for example, features SXGA resolution, while a 25-in. plasma product from Hitachi features XGA resolution.

Applications that require large, high-resolution CRTs, such as medical imaging, financial trading, geographic imaging, graphics, and CAD/CAM are expected to make use of these new products. But price is a major issue. Liquid-crystal-display manufacturers may well choose to optimize production for 15-in. products, where they expect the volume, instead of seeding niche market applications for the largest displays.

Chris Chinnock

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