NEC eyes billion-color LCD panels

Engineers at NEC Electronics have developed a new chip that should help pave the way towards more vibrant pictures from liquid crystal displays (LCDs).

At present such specifications as panel resolution, brightness and contrast can vary considerably across different sizes of panel. Whether it is a 15-inch panel used in a desktop computer monitor or a huge 50-inch-plus panel used for flat-screen televisions, the combination of specifications is almost as varied as the number of manufacturers. But almost all these displays use 8-bit RGB display drivers that can support up to 16.77 million [m] colors.

NEC Electronics has developed a new display driver that widens support to 10-bit RGB and this means it has the capability to handle just over a billion [b] colors. With 10 bits, each of the three main colors, red, green and blue, can be defined to lie in a range between zero and 1,024 rather than 8-bit processing's zero to 256. There are therefore over 1 billion combinations of the three main colors.

The company has just begun sample production of the chip and is offering it to display manufacturers for evaluation. NEC says it will be able to begin full production at a rate of 100,000 chips per month from March next year.

It is being targeted at monitors and LCD-based televisions over 20 inches (50 centimeters) in size where color graduation, or the appearance of obvious stepped changes in color rather than a smooth gradual change, can be most problematic, according to company spokesperson Seiko Yabuuchi.

Before billion-color displays can be realized some other components must be developed, such as a picture processing chip that can handle 10-bit signals, and the company said it expects to see those in the near future.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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