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Who’s Got the Power for LCD Monitors?

With global demand for TVs remaining behind industry expectations, panel makers with fab lines to fill continue to eagerly look for ways to revitalize other large-area panel markets like monitors. Recent supply chain indications from Korean LCD manufacturers suggest a new wave of promotion for wide-viewing angle IPS (in-plane switching) and PLS (plane-to-line switching) panels for desktop monitors. As one can imagine, one way to promote these technologies is to lower the price premium over the standard TN (twisted nematic) for these arguably better technologies.

One downside of these technologies is that they can have higher power consumption. Since, traditionally, desktop monitors are driven off of AC power and have power “bricks” or built-in power supplies, the issue of power-draw has been less relevant for desktop displays than for battery operated mobile PC displays. Recent green initiatives have tried to shed light on the power consumption for desktop displays, and the use of LED backlights has helped reduce power draw, but lower power consumption is hardly a selling proposition. 

A tangible benefit of lower power monitors, however, is the ability to “cut one cord” of a desktop display or future cloud monitor. Current monitors and all-in-one PCs require at least a video cable, a power cable (and/or power brick), and an Ethernet connection. LCD monitor players have offered several solutions to cut at least one of these cables:

  • Power from USB 3.0
  • Power from DisplayPort
  • Power from Ethernet (still requires a separate video connection)

Asus showed a USB-powered monitor at Taipei COMPUTEX, but its brightness was only 200 nits (stated power draw was 6.5W). Many LCD monitor panel roadmaps show low power monitor panels allowing for an 8W total solution, but these are mostly for low brightness (200-250 nits) TN panels from Taiwanese or Chinese panel makers that might not have as much access to advanced technologies like IPS/PLS. 

So the near-term desire to push IPS/PLS technologies to the mainstream of desktop computing could have a side effect of hindering other monitor advancements, such as power over Ethernet, that are needed for the development of consumer cloud monitors.

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