Sony's laser TV using Novalux technology at CES

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Laser hardware replaces lamp and color wheel to deliver superior picture

Traditional UHP technology with lamp and color wheel
Laser TV will be here within a year to best plasma and LCD picture quality

Plasma and LCD represent the two main technologies of choice for today’s high definition televisions, but by this time next year a third technology called laser TV will emerge in hopes of bringing the best picture quality yet.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Novalux Inc. is one of the main developers of the upcoming laser TV technology, and promises that its products will deliver appreciable benefits over plasma, LCD and CRT televisions. When compared to plasma and LCD, laser TV technology boasts half the production cost, double the color range, and three-quarters less power consumption.

Laser TV technology is suited for projection (either front or rear), and is likely to become the replacement for the UHP lamp currently used in today’s projection displays. Novalux unveiled its technology last fall by demonstrating a Mitsubishi 50-inch rear-projection with lasers side-by-side with another Mitsubishi plasma television, with the special-made laser TV producing a richer image.

While Mitsubishi products were used as a part of the demonstration, the Japanese electronics company played no part in Novalux’s event. Rather, the use of a standard consumer Mitsubishi television was to prove that lasers could be fitted into existing rear projection cabinets.

“We took the off-the-shelf Mitsubishi projection TV and removed the lamp and color wheel, stuck our lasers inside the box, and then we had our TV,” explained Greg Niven, vice president of marketing at Novalux, also adding that the retrofitted projection TV was for demonstration purposes, and that upgrading existing sets would be cost prohibitive.

Mitsubishi has since then been planning a laser TV product, though Niven was unable to comment on the whether or not the Japanese electronics giant is using Novalux technology. Sony, however, has publically displayed Novalux-powered laser TV technology at its booth at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, though the company has yet to formally announce a laser-based product.

“At CES we had a laser TV beside a plasma TV, an LCD TV and a traditional UHP lamp TV,” said Niven, speaking about Novalux’s showroom in at this year’s CES. “So that’s four TVs lined up running our own produced high definition content, and I mean, it was a no brainer. The laser TV had a way, way better picture than any of the other conventional technologies.”

One area where laser TV may give up to the flat panel technologies plasma and LCD is in profile. The thin profile of flat panels allows users to hang their televisions on a wall, like a picture or painting. Rear projection televisions, by nature, are thicker than flat panels, but thanks to recent developments in the DLP market and the weight savings of laser technology, clever manufacturers may be able to put laser TVs on the wall too.

“The one that Sony had on the show floor was one that they built themselves using our lasers, and it was a thin cabinet TV—maybe 8 to 10-inches—thin enough to mount on the wall,” Niven added.

Novalux is currently in discussions with various OEMs for bringing TVs to market using its lasers and remains confident that its technology will hit consumers within a year’s time. “We now have over four design wins in laser TVs for four different brands that are scheduled for launch in 2008,” said Niven.

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