While consumers are still weighing up the benefits of plasma versus LCD televisions, manufacturers will next year be introducing another option: rear-projection laser TVs.
Optoelecronics manufacturer Arasor and laser specialist Novalux unveiled a working "laser TV" prototype in Sydney on Tuesday, a modified 52-inch Mitsubishi WD-52627 using Arasor's optical chips and lasers to drive the display.
Compared to LCD or plasma TVs, the benefits of rear-projection laser televisions are twice the colour range reproduction, 75 percent less power usage and half the weight of similar sized sets, according to Novalux CEO Jean-Michel Pelaprat. For the demonstration, 1080p high-definition video was simultaneously played through the prototype laser TV and a 52-inch Samsung plasma, both featuring 1920 by 1080-pixel native resolution displays.
Our impressions of the laser TV were that colours certainly seemed extremely vivid. We did notice some colour bleeding between the red and magenta bars in test patterns during the demonstration and a "Rainbow Effect" similar to some DLP rear-projection units. Pelaprat told CNET.com.au that the colour wheel had been taken out of the prototype TV and that Mitsubishi and other manufacturers will have eliminated this flaw when commercial sets are released. As it is a rear-projection set, the laser TV was much thicker than the Samsung panel, but Novalux expect release units to come down in size to between 10 to 15 cm deep.
"Laser televisions will be in shops in time for Christmas 2007," Pelaprat said, but declined to comment on availability in specific markets. Pricing is yet to be confirmed but Novalux estimates a 65-inch model will cost around AU$2,500, significantly less than a similar-sized plasma.
Another next-generation flat panel display technology called SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display) is also expected to debut at that time, according to Canon and Toshiba.
Las Vegas is set to become the battleground for the competing technologies with Pelaprat claiming eight of the top consumer electronics manufacturers will be showcasing laser TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Mitsubishi and Samsung are as yet the only confirmed manufacturers introducing laser technology into televisions, but Novalux is also working with Epson to produce high-definition front projectors.
Similar light engines are also being developed for use in mobile phones, camcorders, PDAs, PCs and car windshield displays.
The unveiling of the laser TV comes as Arasor plans to publically float on the Australian Stock Exchange later this month. "Australia's intellectual property laws are the best in the world... that is why we chose here," co-chairmain of Arasor Australia Larry Marshall said during the press conference. Arasor currently has production and R&D facilities in Silicon Valley, China and Japan, and on Tuesday announced it would expand operations into Australia.
Mitsubishi "Laser TV" with Arasor and Novalux components (left) and Samsung plasma (right)