Asustek ups the ante on laptop displays

ASUS is launching its new U1 laptop with an LED backlight, a technology that sharply increases picture quality on a display and saves battery power.

Users looking for the best possible display screen on a notebook PC might want to check out a new offering from Asustek Computer due out in early March.

The company, which sells products under the ASUS brand, plans to launch the U1 business notebook PC on March 7 in Taipei, Taiwan with an LED backlight behind the display screen. It will be among only a handful of laptop PCs using LED backlights to create stunningly sharp pictures and vivid colours on a display.

A backlight is a light behind the LCD display, on a laptop in this instance, used to illuminate the screen. Most notebook PCs currently use cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) backlights because the technology is less expensive than LEDs. An executive at AU Optronics, the world's third largest LCD (liquid crystal display) screen maker, estimated that LED backlights were two to three times more expensive than CCFL, in an interview last year.

But LED makers have been driving down costs by getting their product into more gadgets. The more they increase production, the lower their per-LED cost. LEDs are now used in a number of products, including auto lights and the small displays on DVD players and MP3 digital music devices. As costs comes down, LEDs that can be used in larger and larger screens.

Aside from the ability to display a greater range of colors, LED backlights beat CCFL technology in power savings as well. Their reduced drag on battery life is a key consideration for notebook PCs, and a number of companies are promoting their use in laptops, including Intel.

The LED backlight used in the U1 is as thin as the wing of a cicada, according to the news conference invitation from Asustek. The entire LCD panel, including the backlight, was 5mm thick, the release said.

Few other details were immediately available about the new U1 laptop, aside from the fact it will use the business version of Microsoft's Windows Vista OS and that the casing will be black.

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Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service
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