DLP LED (Samsung) vs SXRD (Sony) and SED (Toshiba/Canon) - 1080p home theater HDTV systems review

LED DLP DarkChip3 vs SED vs SXRD
compare DLP LED vs SED vs SXRD The new RPTV systems move ahead to 1080p resolution; the battle for your living room home theater system heats up again with Samsung LED technology ...

by Adrian Biffen 
Systems Administrator
AeroHOST Web Systems
April 14, 2006

DLP LED, SXRD and SED technology jumps to 1080p resolution 

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Not to be outdone by the Sony SXRD, and Toshiba-Canon SED technology, Texas Instruments announced this month that its high-definition (HD) resolution DarkChip3 (xHD4) DLP TV technology (1920 x 1080) is in full production, with shipments to customers already taking place. With a contrast ratio in some sets exceeding 10,000:1, these DLP TVs are expected to be the first volume 1080p TVs available on the U.S. market, with affordable 1080p DLP TVs scheduled to be available as early as July from manufacturers such as Toshiba, HP, LG, Mitsubishi, and Akai. Samsung has taken things one step further with the new LED digital light engine from Luminus (see more info below).

The xHD4 1080p DLP chip provides some more HDTV definitions to learn about:

SharpPicture: Processing enhancement that works in conjunction with SmoothPicture technology to simultaneously provide sharp, yet smooth and seamless images.
DynamicColor: Enhances colors and contrast without impacting skin tones, allowing for more vibrant and lifelike color reproduction.
DynamicBlack: System level solution which provides dramatic increases in system contrast ratio and grayscale fidelity by as much as 4x, bringing greater detail to dark scenes and images and allowing customers to achieve contrast ratios well above 5000:1.
DarkChip3: Feature that includes architectural changes to the DLP chip resulting in a 20 - 40% improvement in contrast over DarkChip2.

There are some fancy tricks involved with the new DarkChip3, which actually has only 960x1080 pixels, half the number of pixels in a true 1080p chip like the Sony SXRD (1920x1080). So how do they produce a 1080p picture with only half the pixel count?

First, the micromirrors (pixels) are rotated 45° to offset the need for interpolation of the 1080p signal. This functions in combination with another key technology called Wobulation, a technique developed by Hewlett Packard. The design incorporates an external swiveling mirror that alternates between 2 angles, effectively allowing the system to use each pixel in the DLP chip twice in one frame.

picture with and without wobulation The pixels are illuminated every 1/120th of a second, displaying half the pixels in each 1920 x 1080 frame, then the reflected image is shifted by the swiveling mirror by a half pixel, and the rest of the pixels in the frame are illuminated for the following 1/120th of a second. The two sets of images are blended together by the image retention characteristics of the human eye, in much the same way as conventional TV uses an interlaced scan (only much faster). The picture on the left is wobulated, the sample on the right is not.

It is claimed that Wobulation produces a high resolution image that also almost completely eliminates the screen door effect due to the overlapping pixels. Other manufacturers that use a similar Wobulation technique often refer to it as SmoothPicture, a name trademarked by TI.

So here we have Sony producing a 3 chip pure 1080p device with their SXRD product, stacking up against a single chip DLP true 1080p design with half the pixels being Wobulated. At first glance, it might seem that the pure 3 chip approach is the ultimate, but there are those that would debate that idea. Some of the points being made:

First, the wobulated DLP pixels have an overlap, said to completely eliminate any space between pixels, thus any SDE (Screen Door Effect) is gone. Secondly, some of the new DLP sets are using a 6-color (RGBCMY) color wheel that greatly enhances the color gamut. The 3 chip designs are theoretically limited to using no more than 3 colors.

It will be interesting to see a side by side comparison of these two competing technologies, such as the HP md5880n 58" HDTV set vs the Sony KDS-70CQ006 Qualia. The pricing on these units doesn't seem very far apart either; but I expect that ultimately the DLP wobulated single chip LED sets will be less expensive.


What's a DLP LED set? For RPTVs, there's another light projection technology coming forward that uses a single DLP digital light processor chip in an altogether different way: LED (Light Emitting Diode). Dispensing entirely with the high intensity lamp usually used in DLP projection systems (and SXRD LCoS), Samsung 5679WDLP LED RPTV rear projection 1080p HDTV Samsung and AKAI will shortly begin shipment of a new generation of DLP RPTVs that replace the projection lamp with a sequentially fired red, green, blue (RGB) LED configuration that also eliminates the spinning color wheel common to most other DLP single chip designs.

Instead of the inefficient and costly bulbs that burn out, the new 56-inch HL-S5679W DLP set from Samsung uses tri-color LED lighting, providing an elegant way of retaining a single chip DLP design that eliminates the two weakest (and costliest) parts of conventional DLP designs: the high intensity bulb and the spinning color wheel (not to mention the noisy bulb fan). There is still some debate about color quality of bulb vs LED, so I'll say it again - the proof of the pudding is in the picture, look carefully before you buy.

These LED light engines are still a 'sequential firing' type of approach, just like a spinning color wheel, but the switching is so fast, it is said to be as effective as a 48x color wheel, eliminating any rainbow effect (RBE).

This unit is rated at a seven-second startup time and 20,000 hours of LED lamp life (vs maybe 6000 hours for regular mercury lamps). The light engine technology behind this innovative product is PhlatLight (Photonic Lattice Light Source) technology, developed by Luminus Devices based on research done at MIT, and it is claimed to be the only Solid State Lighting (SSL) source that provides enough brightness to illuminate large screen rear projection televisions (RPTVs). According to the press release, the PhlatLight has brilliant image quality, deeper color saturation and a simpler light engine design, with a light source that is safe and environmentally friendly (no mercury). 

projector-LED-Luminus-Devices The technology was originally explored at MIT, as an effective way to coax more photons out of a typical light emitting diode (LED). The idea was to suppress the lateral propagation of photons inside the semiconductor device, a common problem in conventional LEDs, which traps the photons and limits the amount of light extracted. Luminus goes on to say that "this concept, based on the application of photonic lattices and now known as PhlatLight technology, has led to solid state light sources with extremely high power and brightness, which are being produced by Luminus Devices in mass production volumes."

Some of the other characteristics listed by Luminus:

-Extremely high light output and high surface brightness 
-Single chip solution for large screen RPTV light engine 
-Emitting area optimized and matched to the size and aspect ratio of the microdisplay 
-Collimated emission for higher collection and transmission efficiencies 
-Air emitting devices for lower coupling losses, higher luminance, and high reliability 
-Uniform distribution of power over the entire chip surface area 
-Proprietary SMT package offers superior thermal and electrical management solution
-Readily customizable mechanical interfaces 
-Outstanding reliability with very long operating life 
-Wide color gamut that exceeds the NTSC standard 

With Cinema Smooth (Samsung's version of HP's Wobulation), the HL-S5679W DLP projector provides a full 1920 x 1080 picture in a progressive format. Samsung claims the dual HDMI inputs will handle 1080p signals, so it could be a good match for use with the Sony PlayStation 3, which will output a 1080p signal (unlike the XBox 360 at 1080i).

This is a very important point, as many of the new 1080p HDTV sets don't actually accept a 1080p input. Why the heck would they not include 1080p inputs on a 1080p set? Cost saving, I guess, because there really aren't hardly any true 1080p sources yet, although the PS3 will certainly be one. Buying a 1080p set isn't a waste, though, because most of these new units will take a lower resolution input, such as 720p or 1080i, and upconvert or upscale it to a simulated 1080p result.

Akai is entering the DLP LED competition too, with the AKAI PT52DL27L and PT42DL27L. These units also incorporate LED light engines utilizing the TI 1080p DLP chip that drives two pixels with each micromirror (wobulation technology). Digital cable ready, the new AKAI RPTVs feature integrated over-the-air tuners.

And finally, we're still waiting to see the new SED sets from the Toshiba/Canon alliance, as discussed in my previous article about HDTV SED technology. SED is an entirely different approach to the reflective technology of DLP and LCoS (which includes SXRD), it can best be described as an 'emissive' technology, closer in nature to the current plasma technology, without the disadvantages. 

Most of these new 1080p units support CableCard, a small PCMCIA-size card available from most digital cable providers that can provides digital cable service without the need for a set-top cable box. CableCard currently does not support the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) or VOD (Video-On-Demand) functionality of a regular cable box, although a next-generation version that does support these features is in development. 


Just to recap the SXRD scene, previously only available in the $30,000 Qualia series, the SXRD chip is available in the front projection VPL-VW100 (left). Sony-Grand-WEGA-SXRDWith an enhanced dynamic iris system, it is said to have a contrast ratio boost to 15,000:1). 

The SXRD technology is also available in the new Grand WEGA SXRD (right) rear-projection microdisplay television series, with screen size ranging from 50" to 100" (KDS-R50XBR1, KDS-R60XBR1, KDS-R70XBR1, KDS-R100XBR1).

There is also a new SXRD rear projection TV model (right); Sony Qualia 006 (KDS-70CQ006) SXRD LCoSthe Sony Qualia 006 (KDS-70CQ006). This Qualia 006 model series has much the same specifications as the Grand WEGA KDS-R70XBR1. 

AS we move on into the decade, the HDTV home theater systems just get better and better, with more bang-for-your-buck value every day. The SXRD systems from Sony certainly fall into the top performer category, but these new 1080p DLP sets look very promising too. I look forward to see how other companies such as Toshiba, Canon and Samsung respond to the challenge.

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This series of articles is designed to help you get through the complicated process of choosing and setting up an HDTV home theater system. It is part of our overall website, which is about the X10 home automation system that uses the A/C wiring in your home - you don't need to run any wires. (for complementary home automation products such as lighting control and motorized blinds and shades, see our home automation DIY kit article) Here's a brief topic summary of these home theater articles, with direct links:
Article# Topic
1 HDTV Definitions and terminology used in home theatre systems
2 HDTV news from Jan 2005 Las Vegas CES show
3 HDTV remote control consolidation issues
4 DLP projector decision: My reasons for purchasing
5 BenQ DLP 6200 review -projector setup process
6 HTPC: using home theater PC for DVD display
7 DVD software player review: watch DVD on your PC
8 Upsampling DVD player vs HTPC - comparison with Zenith DVB 318
9 Sony HDRHC1 Handycam review: widescreen high definition 1080i camcorder
10 Wireless video sender solves the 'extra tv' problem
11 SED Toshiba-Canon HDTV display review - the flat panel HDTV race heats up!
12 Canon SX 50 Realis LCoS projector review - first 3 chip LCoS projector under $5,000
13 Optoma H78DC3 'DarkChip3' DLP projector review - first 'Dark Chip3' DLP projector under $4,000
14 Xbox 360 review: best buy for game play online? - Windows Media Center Extender
15 Play Station 3 vs Xbox 360 - Sony and Microsoft Compete for gaming market
16 SXRD vs SED vs DLP - Sony raises the HDTV bar with Qualia and Grand Wega series
17 LED DLP light engine from Samsung vs SXRD, SED - 1080p resolution arrives
18 HD DVD vs Blu-ray: We review the new Toshiba HD DVD players (HD-XA1 and HD-A1)
19 H.264 AVC: High Definition advanced codec for movie downloads and HDTV Online


For the sake of clarity, here is a repeat of some acronym and terminology definitions relating to the various display technologies, used in the other table below to compare the various screen types:

TLA Three Letter Acronym
HDTV High Definition Television. The highest quality video picture available in Digital TV. In the U.S., the 1080i and 720p resolution formats in a 16:9 aspect ratio are the two acceptable HDTV formats. Regular NTSC analog TV is 480i.
HTPC Home Theater Personal Computer. The use of a PC as a processing and source control platform for a home theater system.
RPTV Rear Projection TV. The type of home theater screen system where the image is projected onto the back of the screen. Can be DLP, LCD, CRT projection technology.
Lumens An ANSI Lumen is a measurement of light radiation or brightness. A 3,000 Lumen projector creates a brighter picture than a 2,000 Lumen unit. The ANSI prefix is a standards designation (American National Standards Institute).
Nits Plasma and LCD manufacturers use this term to define the brightness of their screens. Another term for Nits is Candelas per square meter (Cd/m2). One nit = 0.2919 foot-lambert. Nits includes an area definition, unlike lumens, so you can't simply divide by Watts to establish a Nits/watt spec.
480i 720p 1080p resolution measurement in lines, p for "progressive scan", i for "interlaced scan". Conventional TV (e.g. 480i) is interlaced whereby the screen is scanned twice by alternate lines that are interleaved (interlaced), whereas HDTV (e.g. 720p) can scan all lines sequentially (consecutively or progressively).
DVI HDCP Digital Visual Interface technology with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection. Developed by Intel Corporation, HDCP is a specification to protect digital entertainment content through the DVI interface. The HDCP specification provides a transparent method for transmitting and receiving digital entertainment content to DVI-compliant digital displays. Some products, such as set-top boxes and DVD burners will require this connector. Even if you have a HDTV set-top box, if it lacks the DVI, your signal may be degraded.
HDMI High Definition Multimedia Interface. Like DVI, HDMI is another digital interface, and from what we saw at CES 2005, it may become the universal standard. Developed by Sony, Hitachi, Thomson (RCA), Philips, Matsushita (Panasonic), Toshiba and Silicon Image, the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) has emerged as the connection standard for HDTV and the consumer electronics market. HDMI is the first digital interface to combine uncompressed high-definition video, multi-channel audio and intelligent format and command data in a single digital interface.
SACD Super Audio CD uses a new recording technology called Direct Stream Digital. DSD records a one bit digital signal at a sample rate of 2.8 million times per second, 64 times higher than conventional CD's. 
NTSC Existing color TV standard developed in the U.S. in 1953 by the National Television System Committee. NTSC vertical line resolution is 525 lines/frame and the vertical frequency is 60Hz. The NTSC frame rate is 29.97 frames/sec.
CRT Cathode Ray Tube - venerable old style picture tube
PDP Plasma Display Panel, plasma is a physics term for an electrically charged gas
LCD Liquid Crystal Display, same as laptop screens
TFT Thin Film Technology, a type of LCD
DLP Digital Light Processor, a reflective light switch chip developed by TI. Has a very fast response time - no motion lag
TI Texas Instruments Corp., original manufacturer of DMD's and DLP's
DMD Digital Micro-mirror Device - chip for DLP technology by TI
DNIe Digital Natural Image enhancement - chip for optimizing video picture quality, by Samsung (used in their DLP units)
LCoS Liquid Crystal on Silicon, reflective light switch
SXRD projection Silicon X-tal Reflective Display: Sony's incarnation of LCoS technology. Sharp picture, no pixelation, very high resolution, reflective system won't burn out picture element, "no moving parts" design usually incorporates 3 imaging chips for primary colors, instead of color wheel.
SED Surface conduction Electron emitter Display by Toshiba/Canon
FED Field Emission Display: New technology from Sony
OLED Organic Light Emitting Diode display: new technology from Seiko-Epson
D-iLA Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier, LCoS chip developed by JVC
QXGA high screen resolution of 2048 x 1536, attained by D-iLA chip
DCDi Directional Correlation Deinterlacing (a de-interlacing method to eliminate jagged edges (jaggies) along diagonal lines caused by interpolation, developed by Faroudja corp. An important feature to look for, this Emmy® award winning technology was once only available in products costing $20,000 or more, and is now available in numerous products costing well below $2,000
aspect ratio ratio of screen width to height. An aspect ratio of 4:3 is conventional TV and 16:9 is HDTV (and film)
3-2 pulldown a method of film-to-video conversion
twitter and judder   terms describing film conversion related artifacts
anamorphic lens   a special lens that compresses the pixels of a 4:3 screen into a 16:9 format, and allows a projector to use the full brightness of the display, without black bars above and below the image. Must normally be removed for regular 4:3 viewing.
SDE  Screen Door Effect is a term used to refer to the visible pixel structure on a screen.
YADR! Yet Another Dang Remote! A common exclamation heard from people who just bought their third or fourth home audio/video component. And then there are further unmentionable expletives when you find out a component isn't supported, or it's just too complicated to program everything in?? Maybe it's time to read about our experience in the remote control review article.

The following table provides a quick comparison of the display types; "pixelation" refers to the ability to see individual picture elements (pixels) at normal viewing distances (note that all the types below can contribute to the YADR index). Please note that these products are being constantly improved and not all manufacturer's models may be subject to the disadvantages listed below:

CRT conventional
picture tube
Cathode Ray Tube: very sharp and bright, high contrast ratio, good picture view from side, low cost, handles regular analog NTSC channels well, no moving parts heavy and bulky, limited in size to about 36", picture can fade 
CRT projection
low cost, large screens possible, no moving parts heavy and bulky, limited viewing angles, visible raster lines, mis-convergence can be a problem, picture can fade over time 
LCD flat screen panel Liquid Crystal Display: bright, sharp picture, light and compact, can hang on wall, solid state, no moving parts picture can fade over time
LCD projection fairly bright, large screens possible, sharp picture, no moving parts display can fade due to heat damage to organic compounds that some manufacturers use in the LCD, projector bulb can fail
PDP Plasma flat screen panel Plasma Display Panel: bright picture, light and compact, can hang on wall, wide viewing angle, no moving parts, handles fast motion really well expensive, some pixelation, display can burn out.
DLP projection Digital Light Processor: bright, sharp picture, high contrast, no  pixelation, reflective system won't burn out picture element, very fast response time - no motion lag. possible visual "rainbow" artifacts on single chip versions caused by spinning color wheel, projector bulb can fail
LCoS projection Liquid Crystal on Silicon: bright, sharp picture, no pixelation, very high resolution, reflective system won't burn out picture element, "no moving parts" design usually incorporates 3 imaging chips for primary colors, instead of color wheel. projector bulb can fail
SXRD projection Silicon X-tal Reflective Display: Sony's incarnation of LCoS technology. Sharp picture, no pixelation, very high resolution, reflective system won't burn out picture element, "no moving parts" design usually incorporates 3 imaging chips for primary colors, instead of color wheel. projector bulb can fail
SED panel display Surface conduction Electron emitter Display: very bright picture, very high resolution, can hang on wall, very high contrast ratio, can be viewed from any angle, no moving parts, handles fast motion really well expensive at first, not available yet
FED panel display Field Emission Display: New technology from Sony, properties are similar to SED expensive at first, not available yet
OLED panel display Organic Light Emitting Diode display: new technology from Seiko-Epson expensive at first, not available yet

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