Samsung preps slimline CRT for assault on LCD TVs

Samsung will start making slimmer CRTs (cathode ray tubes) with screen sizes around 30 inches in 2005 to help introduce less bulky CRT TVs, the company said in a recent interview.

The aim is to offer consumers high-definition TVs that approach the thin form factor of LCD (liquid crystal display) TVs, but that will cost about one-third of the price of LCD models, according to spokesman Bryan Sohn, in an interview at the FPD International exhibition held in Yokohama, Japan.

The company has redeveloped its CRT technology to cut the length of the tube so that a TV with a 32-inch screen has a slimmed-down depth of 38 centimeters (cm) compared to about 60cm for a conventional CRT TV. Mass production of TVs using the so-called Vixlim technology will start in early 2005, he said.

The technology will be applied to produce 28-inch, 29-inch, 32-inch and 34-inch TVs in 2005 although Samsung SDI won't say which company or companies will be making the sets and in what volume.

A 32-inch Vixlim TV will cost about US$1,000 compared to about $3,000 for a LCD TV of equivalent size. The company is promoting the technology primarily for TVs aimed at the European market and developing countries, he said.

"People want three things from a TV," he said. "They want the image quality, at reasonable price, but they want a nice design. When it comes to quality and price, CRT is the best, with Vixlim, they'll save a lot of space."

Samsung SDI argues that while 38 centimeters is still much thicker than the depth of an LCD TV, it is about the same depth as a DVD player or a VCR deck. Since consumers often place DVD players and video decks and other electronics goods under their TVs, even if they have LCD TVs, the space savings of the TVs are often unrealized.

The Vixlim tubes will produce a picture that has a brightness of 800 candelas per square meter, a contrast ratio of 5,000:1, a viewing angle of 180 degrees and a response speed of a few microseconds. The power consumption is between 160 and 170 watts, similar to that of LCD TVs. The screens will have a 1,080 line resolution, according to company data.

Samsung SDI is not the only company to announce slimline CRT technology for a 32-inch screen. In August, LG Philips Displays International announced that it had developed a CRT screen of that size with a tube length of 35 centimeters. As with Samsung SDI's technology, LG Philips said that 32-inch TVs using the tubes would have a depth of 38 centimeters.

LG Philips did not respond to questions about production and sales plans for their 32-inch product. The company has, however, been showing its slimline CRT technology in China recently and announced it has start mass production of 21-inch TVs using the technology in China. It has also said that it intends to make TVs with larger screens using the technology.

Samsung SDI wants the Vixlim TVs to compete with LCD TVs with screen sizes ranging from 28-inches to 32-inches. The company predicts that about 1.9 million Vixlim TVs will be sold globally in 2005 and that this will rise to 3.6 million units in 2006 and 5.6 million units in 2007.

"CRT is getting to be seen as 'analog and old' and LCDs are seen as 'digital and cool,' and Samsung's technology directly addresses the weakest part of CRT," said Paul Semenza, executive vice president of U.S. market research company iSuppli in a recent interview.

"CRT is a very cost-effective technology, but CRT makers have to find a way to sustain it against LCD. I see these moves as a way of doing this," he said.

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Paul Kallender

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