The Future Of HDTV, Blu-ray and LCD
Is There a Future for High-End Displays? I’ve had a running joke for the last couple of years, that the flat panel TV has ruined the entire industry. It never fails to provoke a reaction. But, people say, there are only two kinds of people in the world- those who want to have a flat screen and those who already have them! The flat panel has become a price-driven commodity. Who needs big screen specialty retailers when your HDTV is just another box you throw in the cart next to the 36-roll pack of TP when you’re at Costco? It’s a funny bit. Then I see Pioneer build the best single-piece HDTVs the world has yet seen, and fail. Not a funny bit. Makes me wonder. Is there a future for high-end displays?
I’ve also said for the last few years that front projection is the new rear projection. 1080p front projectors and screens deliver much bigger pictures and better image quality, and now for less than premium big-screen RPTVs cost ten years ago. RPTVs are all but gone, and seeing Pioneer go down one wonders if there are enough high-end flat screen buyers for manufacturers to continue R&D on high-end flat screens. Is the future cheap flat screens and front projection?
Streaming Is the Best Thing to Happen to Blu-ray While many are predicting Blu-ray’s demise is in streaming and downloads, I think streaming is the best thing to happen to Blu-ray when it’s integrated into the player. Fully featured Blu-ray players have been cheap enough to eliminate the price factor for some time. But people still haven’t been convinced of the value and keep reading how downloads and streaming will win that format war. I’ve written why I see that as dubious, but newer players that incorporate streaming from Netflix or Amazon make the point moot. I think more people will see more value in a $300 player that accesses streaming content than in a $150 player that only plays 5” silver discs. Don’t make people choose or guess the future of video. Vudu just dumped prices of their set-top boxes to $150. I know I’m crazy, but I can’t help but wonder if they’d offer better value with a $400 STB with a Blu-ray drive.
Ludicrous Speed LCDs A few emails have come in on 240Hz and above refresh rates on LCD flat panel TVs. Which reminds me of my other standby joke- I’m holding out for 960Hz before jumping onto the LCD bandwagon. I wouldn’t doubt that these ludicrous speed refresh rates might have some additional effect on defeating motion blur, or other positive effects. But to me, even if it turns out there’s some benefit this is immaterial. The best local dimming LCDs offer to-die-for image quality, with state-of-the-art blacks and contrast, very natural color and eye-popping detail. Even with sports, motion blur isn‘t the problem with today’s better LCDs. No, the Achilles heel no one is addressing in LCDs is viewing angle. In our February HDTV face-off we saw Jekyll and Hyde performance from the LCDs. They were gorgeous and beyond criticism when viewed straight on, and shockingly flawed when we moved even a little off-axis. They can go to GHz speed for all I care. But fix the viewing angle and LCD has no caveats.