Forget Screen Size: It's Contrast That Matters

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This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Big TVs, schmig TVs. We saw lots of sets that are bigger than we can (currently) imagine ever having. And we saw some crummy image quality on them, as well.

But the mind-blower was the advance in contrast ratio on LCD TVs—which were traditionally a poor cousin to plasma in that respect.

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Sharp, for example, has TVs that dim their backlights as needed to get blacks deeper on things like night scenes. And its superfast 4-millisecond response time allows the set to actually close the pixels down all the way and block out light when needed in any of the 120 video frames it spits out per second. That and other secrets sharp wouldn't reveal to us push the dynamic contrast rate up to 15,000 to 1, claims Sharp.

More TV tech and photos after the jump...

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

LG raises the bar by ditching the fluorescent backlights from most LCDs and using a matrix of light-emitting diodes. In addition to way deeper color, the LEDs give Samsung that ability to selectively darken or brighten the backlight in different parts of the screen. This yields a contrast ratio of 100,000 to 1, they say.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
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Can Sharp rise to Samsung's challenge? Well, for the second year in a row they demonstrated a prototype TV with super-secret technology that gets a one million to one (they say while holding pinker fingers up to the corners of their mouths). This is wicked cool—digital photos on Web pages barely begin to do it justice.

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DISCUSSION

The best I can tell from the giz post is that LG is using an array of LED's as the backlight for uniformity, while Samsung goes one step further and does some image pre-processing to selectively dim/brighten individual LED's in an array to enhance the picture...thus, the 100,000:1 accounts for pixel and LED performance combined.

For more info on this, check out Brightside Technology. For a further explanation, check out the review at Bit-tech.

I think Samsung must be starting to license Brightside's technology. This stuff is waaaay better than a simple "dynamic" backlight with a single bulb. The single bulb only helps for uniformly bright/dim scenes...with the array of LED's that can individually dim, you can have super-bright whites and super dark darks all one one screen. The LED's are placed close enough together that they are within the region that the "bloom" of your eye would alter anyway.

Also, that "100,000:1" is probably the difference between the "dimmest ON setting" of the LED's and the brightest setting. At least in the Brightside prototypes, the LED's can be turned all the way off, yielding what is technically an infinite contrast ratio...they just use the dimmest ON setting so they can provide a logical number.