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The Next Picture Show: Screening Hong Kong
Posted Aug 12, 2003 Print Version     Page 1of 1
  

The Hong Kong Electronics show is not for the faint of heart. This show may not be as big as COMDEX, but it makes up for all that with the pressure of too many bodies and too much stuff in too little space. Surrounded by people squeezing down narrow aisles in between long rows of tiny booths hawking countless brightly colored plastic bits of "personal electronics" sporting the latest attempt to get profits back into electronic products is enough to cause some people to implode, but not me. I'm always on the lookout for new large-screen display products.

There were several types of large-screen products on display, things that can help you do creative work, shown at the Hong Kong Electronics show—and many of them were very cheap by INFOCOMM standards, too. But we're not talking about major brands here. For example, while wandering around the "Multimedia Products" area, I spied a beautiful 30-inch LCD monitor made by the Sevit Company of Seoul Korea (www.sevitech.com). All of their LCD monitors carried the never-before-seen "Neonas" brand. "

So, how much is that big LCD?" I asked. Typically, 30-inch, 1280x768 pixel LCD monitors carry a hefty price in the U.S. and I expected something similar. The booth attendant thought for a moment then said, "The price is too high, but we need $2800."

I wondered if I'd fallen into some kind of never-never land where the prices are all backwards. Then I instinctively reached for my wallet. Can I put one on my Mastercard? Unfortunately, no. The Hong Kong Electronics show is a wholesale event. The exhibitors aren't looking for walk-in customers, but for big distributors who will buy in large quantity. However, if I wanted to purchase 50 pieces then a deal could be made for $2800 each.

If you can buy beautiful 30-inch LCD monitors in bulk from Sevit (using the same LG LCD components as those sold under big brands) for only $2800, then why are they so expensive here? The top brands want big margins while the unknowns are willing to deal. Consider this a harbinger of things to come. Maybe next year, once the effects of the West Coast dock strike have ebbed and goods are flowing freely again, all of us can have inexpensive 30-inch monitors on our desks. Plus, given the way the sales people were asking for forgiveness about the $2800 price for 30-inch monitors, I expect to soon see them below $2000, wholesale FOB Asia. Wouldn't that be great?

There were plenty other cool items to be found at the Hong Kong Electronics show. In another room, I saw a nice-looking, 50-inch rear-screen set, made in China by the NPC for National Projection TV Company (www.npc-tv.com). These sets sell for $800 in quantities of 500. For a 50-inch set that supposedly does 1250 TV lines, $800 is pretty amazing. I have no idea if they really can do it since the source material they were using as a demo was not up to the test, but still, such a deal. Get those dock workers back to work! I saw another direct-view CRT HDTV set in the more traditional 16:9 aspect (a lot of the high-resolution sets in China are 4:3) made by the Shenzhen SEG Hi-Tech Industrial Company (www.shic.com). This 29-inch set cost $900, but it comes complete with 15-pin analog RGB input connectors for use as a digital studio tool.

If those Korean 30-inch LCDs came down to $1000, no one would look twice at a direct-view CRT, would they? In the meantime, what about LCOS? At Shanghai INFOCOMM, a lot of people were proudly showing off rear-screen projection sets using reflective Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) chips made in Taiwan. I had assumed that I'd find lots of LCOS TVs in Hong Kong, but I didn't. I only saw two sets and they were both made by the same "partners."

Both the TCL Company (www.tclhk.com) and the TeamWay Company were showing off a 43-inch and a 52-inch 4:3 rear-screen set using the Polar Lights brand. The TCL people said that their dealer price for the 52-inch model was $2750 and the 43-inch model was priced at $2660. Not much incentive to buy smaller, is there? But that's the way it is with rear-screen technology—most of the cost is in the optical engine and lenses. There's no real savings to fit a slightly smaller screen onto the same basic projector.

How about the LCOS image quality? I could see lots of noise and grayscale problems. However, manufacturers expect the average buyer to overlook those problems. Then again what would the "average" user do with the DVI interface on the RPT5212 set that supports UXGA, 1600x1200 inputs? Not sure, but those who can use the resolution may complain about the picture.

Speaking of which, another Shanghai company—the SVA Group (www.svainfo.com) was showing their HDRTV5008—another 50-inch, 4:3 HDTV set based upon one of TI's DLP chipsets. I don't think that this set uses TI's latest HDTV chipset, since their advertised "native resolution" is only 1024x768 XGA, and the contrast was low. But just like TCL's Polar Light spec, SVA's HDRTV also supports 1600x1200 pixel PC inputs. And their price is even better—only $2400. In terms of image quality, I'd have to say that the 50-inch rear-screen DLP set looked better than the 52-inch rear-screen LCOS. Even if the DLP set was down on contrast, it didn't have all that funny stuff going on with its grayscale that the LCOS sets had. The DLP set was not perfect either. It still had some weird DLP action in its images, but it looked better than the LCOS sets did. Just imagine what your studio life would be like if you could choose between a big LCD with photo-perfect image quality or a 50-inch rear-screen set for the same price? If the Hong Kong Electronics show is any indication, those days are coming.

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