Sharp Shows 27-inch 8K Monitor at IFA

In Europe, the Sharp brand name was purchased by Slovakia-based UMC about one and a half years ago. At IFA it was showing TVs but not really talking much about them. The recent acquisition of Sharp by Foxconn is undoubtedly leading to changes and perhaps UMC is unsure of these changes so did not do much at IFA and seemed to be just waiting for some more clarity.

We were told however, that in Q1’17, there will be 50 new TV models with 6 UHD TV series and one HDR10 series. That a pretty small percentage compared to other brands and another indication that the Sharp brand has fallen behind and is playing catch-up.

This was clear in our conversations as we were told that they are actively looking for development partners to help with new products in four key areas: picture, sound, usability and design. One such deal was with Harmon Kardon that means all the new TVs over 50” will have their sound systems integrated inside.

On the picture quality front, UMC and Sharp have announced that they plan to move to IGZO backplane technology for TV panels over the next two years. They think most 4K TVs are now made with a-Si backplane technology as they run mostly at 60 frames per second. IGZO has an advantage at higher frame rates, which was a key driver for 3D panels, but that need has subsided. Currently, Sharp uses IGZO technology on its 8K displays, but IGZO remains more costly than a-Si, so it is unclear why they want to migrate to IGZO for TVs.

We did get a chance to see a prototype 27” 8K monitor off the show floor, however. Image quality was gorgeous offering 87% of the 2020 color gamut (or 95% of Adobe) and with HDR capability (HLG, we believe). It can run at 120 fps and has 326 ppi, but no data was available on the luminance levels. This will be aimed at medical and post production when it becomes available.

Sharp is currently offering their 85” 8K display with 1000 cd/m² of peak luminance for $120K. – CC

Analyst Comment

UMC is really an OEM assembler and I suspect that it is also inexperienced in managing and promoting a significant CE brand. The recent announcements by Foxconn that it wants to take back the brand (Sharp Rethinks TV Licensing) is bound to make UMC nervous. On the other hand, a purchase of UMC by Foxconn might provide a reasonable exit strategy! (BR)