A half-year of falling LCD TV panel prices has driven panel makers in two directions: reduce costs or increase value. In a search for higher value, panel makers are launching several new sizes, including 36.5”W, 39”W, 43”W, 48”W, and 50”W. Meanwhile, in order to reduce cost and target emerging markets, panel makers are developing a series of new LCD TV panels that are largely differentiated by the backlight design, including direct-type LED backlights, thick backlights, and scanning backlights. These new designs include many technical changes:
- Brightness reduction
- Reduction in LED packages
- Slim bezel border development
- T-Con (timing controller) reallocation
- Panel’s power supply unit redesign
- Thick direct-lit CCFL backlight development
- Thick direct-lit LED backlight development
The multiple backlight types, plus several new panel sizes, mean that there will be a wide array of choices of LCD TV designs in 2012. This is likely to create confusion, especially when brand recognition is added to the mix. Consumers may lose a sense of how to choose the LCD TV they want. However, this great variety in LCD TV models is the result of innovations from the LCD TV panel supply chain designed to adapt to market changes.
As a product planner for a TFT LCD manufacturer noted, it does not make sense for them to “continue to bring the latest and highest technology to the end market and sell it at continuously lower prices.” Rather, “we have to think differently and try to add value through the new sizes, as well as cost effective solutions.”
While some think that the LCD TV market is mature and will repeat the history of CRT, this product diversity has the potential to energize the market. The big question is whether end users, especially consumers in emerging markets, accept these new products. There are arguments for both sides, including these on the pro side:
- In regions such as India, consumers do not care about the thickness of the TV set, and for many Indian consumers, speakers and sound are highly valued, and thicker LCD TV casing can accommodate large and powerful speakers.
- New sizes can fill gaps; for example, there are no products between 46”W/47”W and 55”W LCD TV, so 50”W can be a good transition point, taking share from 50”W plasma TV.
- If these new sizes and backlight models are priced attractively, it may draw in new consumers.
However, there are also arguments to be made on the con side:
- Consumers might not think the new sizes are better; for example, is 43”W better than 42”W, or is 39”W is better than 37”W? Brand and price are still the key criteria.
- Consumers have equated LED backlights with slim design; it may be that thick LED backlights are not acceptable.
- CCFL is considered old-fashioned, and could damage some brands’ reputations.
Some have characterized the development of these new low-cost LCD TVs as a downgrade of the industry instead of a good sign of technology development. But with difficult times in the LCD panel and global TV markets, the key point is to survive. If these new products can fit end users’ needs at prices they are willing to pay, then they will be successful products.