Fujitsu Forges Ahead

While many manufacturers are flying journalists to exotic locales for their annual line shows this spring, Fujitsu decided to try something different. Using a service called WebEx, the company invited journalists to log onto a specific WebEx Web page at a specific time on Friday, February 18, to see a slide show controlled in real time by National Training Director David Fink. In addition, participants joined a conference phone call to provide real-time voice communication during the presentation.

Among the many interesting things revealed during the Web conference was the fact that Fujitsu will continue to market plasma monitors, even though they are selling most of their shares in Fujitsu-Hitachi Plasma (FHP), a supplier of raw plasma panels, to Hitachi. In fact, Fujitsu will retain 20-percent ownership of FHP after the sale, down from 50 percent, and they will continue buying their glass from FHP as well as other suppliers.

Five new Plasmavision monitors were introduced, from the 42-inch, 852x480 P42VHA40US ($3999) to the 63-inch, 1366x768 P63XHA40US ($17,999). Also announced was an 80-inch 1920x1080 model ($TBA) that should weight about 260 pounds and be available in the fourth quarter of 2005. Finally, the company will unveil their first digital cable ready (DCR) plasma display (a 50-incher) this fall. All of Fujitsu's current plasma displays are monitors with no built-in tuners, and all connections and processing are integrated into the panels rather than being placed in an outboard box.

Speaking of processing, Fujitsu's latest version of their Advanced Video Motion, called AVM II, will be included in all new plasma displays to minimize various types of noise and perform all deinterlacing, scaling, motion processing, etc. In addition, a text/picture optimizer is said to clean up both types of information independently rather than sacrificing one for the other. In terms of longevity, Fujitsu claims a "life to half brightness" (a more accurately descriptive term than "half life") of 60,000 hours, much like many other plasma manufacturers these days.

Another product of note is the new LPF-D711 LCD front projector ($25,000), which has just started shipping. Unlike Fujitsu's plasma panels, the LPF-D711 is a 2-piece design, with a small projector and an outboard processor/input selector that provides 17 video inputs (two of which are digital) and AVM II processing. The projector uses three large (1.3-inch) Epson-built LCD panels with 1920x1080 resolution and is said to produce 1200 ANSI lumens with a contrast ratio of 3300:1. Not only that, a replacement lamp will cost only $500.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the LPF-D711 is its variable light output to improve black level and contrast ratio. Unlike other projectors that vary their brightness according to the average picture level, the LPF-D711 does not use an auto iris, which the company claims can induce color artifacts. Instead, the Fujitsu projector uses a pair of rotating neutral-density polarized filters, which block more or less light depending on their relative orientation, not by changing the diameter of the light path. Look for a review of this projector as soon as we can get our hands on one.

In addition to this year's product announcements, the conference included a peek into the future of large-size Fujitsu plasmas. Instead of trying to build ever-larger glass panels, which become impractically heavy after a certain point, Fujitsu is developing a new approach called Plasma Tube Array in which thin, vertically oriented glass tubes hold the plasma gas, reducing the overall weight of the panel dramatically. We look forward to bringing you more information about this exciting new technology as it becomes available.