At CES in January, Mitsubishi established the lead in a new product category, laser projection TV. However, despite the 65-inch set’s remarkable performance, the company left details unanswered about product specs, timing for introduction and TV pricing. That left the door open for Asia Optical (AOCI; Taichung, Taiwan; www.asia-optical.com) to demonstrate a 60-inch prototype powered by QPC Lasers (Sylmar, CA; www.qpclasers.com), which we covered in our Display Daily on August 8. In an expanded version of that article in this month’s Large Display Report, we speculated that some of these lasers could be going to Mitsubishi.
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Now, another shoe has dropped with the Mitsubishi LaserVue HDTV. It was recently shown at CEDIA, where we finally learned that the 65-inch set will retail for $7,000 when it ships to Select Diamond retailers at the end of September. Along with this information came a few more technical details on the mysterious set.By using an array of red, green, and blue lasers to project its image onto the screen, the LaserVue delivers a color gamut over 200% NTSC standard, and consumes less than 200 watts (significantly less than LCD and plasma screens). Also, the company even claims that it can run indefinitely without the light source "burning out" or dimming (a problem faced by other flat panels and projectors). The impressive claims come from the fundamental properties of solid-state illumination. Please see Insight Media’s Laser Projection Systems Report for analysis and forecasts for laser devices for projection systems.
Furthermore, a forthcoming 73-inch version has been announced. But, again, it doesn’t yet have a price or release date.
There are a lot of reasons to like this display technology–its precise imagery and impressive colors, as reviewed in the July issue of the Large Display Report. But despite LaserVue’s impressive performance, it still can’t be expected to have the same viewing angle or absolute thinness, compared to flat panels.
The big question is how well will this set compete with the established category of flat panels in this size range. Although the set is priced below the newly introduced high-end 65" Pioneer Kuro at $10,000, it will inevitably face mainstream products like Sharp’s 65-inch LCD-TV that sells for $5,000 on the company’s website or Samsung’s 63-inch plasma that lists for $5,500 and sells for even less. Is the performance worth it?
Even if it is, piled on top of this pricing challenge is whether Mitsubishi has the budget, or more importantly, the resolve to successfully establish this new product category of "laser-TV." Surely, it will take a commitment to get long-term traction, as would any new category in today’s noisy consumer electronics market environment.
Laser-TV has a chance to breathe new life, as we suggested last time, into the dying projection TV market. But will enough consumers learn about it, and will they have the confidence to buy one? Or will the laser-TV become just another science experiment that ends up like so many others along the way?
Of course, we don’t have all the answers, and only time will tell. But in the meantime, with apologies to Mark Knopfler, "We still want our L-TV."