2015 Ushers in the Smart Panel

Panel makers are adopting different strategies towards low-cost UltraHD units, depending on their location. Deborah Yang, an NPD DisplaySearch analyst, examines the market in a blog post (

Korean makers are focusing on panel cost, with pixel structures such as RGBW. Taiwanese companies, on the other hand, are emphasising the system cost – especially the high cost of signal processing and memory. System costs can be lowered by re-combining processing functions, such as framerate conversion (FRC), into new devices, says Yang.

A ‘Smart panel’ (created by adding functionality to the TCON IC) can fit an existing chassis and create a back-end UltraHD solution. According to DisplaySearch, this approach solves several problems:

  • TCON ICs need memory and lots of connections to the LCD drivers. Due to the number of connections, much of the silicon die is unused (in order to give a large enough perimeter). Adding FRC functions to the unused silicon means that they are almost free.
  • The saving is multiplied, as it removes the need for memory for the FRC. The existing TCON’s memory is sufficient.
  • Brands with limited expertise or resources, or those looking for economic product introduction for mid-range UltraHD offerings, may value an off-the-shelf solution to handle the FRC, which is complex.

Yang notes that there are several types of Smart panel that may appear next year, as TV makers shift from premium UltraHD products to mid-range units. The type will depend on companies’ business models and relationships with panel and IC vendors.
There is one more development. The rapid UltraHD adoption in China has triggered domestic IC design houses to enter the UltraHD signal processing market. These IC firms are using their local advantage to promote to the Chinese market, but are expected to export, as well.