Screen giants

As television screens get bigger and bigger, they appeal only to airports and crazy people. And that’s a good thing.

     Print Edition: Feb 8, 2009

By the time you read this, one or maybe even a clutch of flat-panel manufacturers will have showcased Plasma and Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD) screens measuring 120-odd inches diagonally (that’s 10 feet). Don’t think it isn’t possible: Sharp has a commercially available Aquos, which measures a not inconsiderable 108 inches diagonally. Compared with the bog standard 21-inch TV found in homes half a decade ago, these gargantuan machines are almost six times bigger.

Sizing it up: As screen sizes grow, prices for the not-so-big ones plummet
Sizing it up
But here’s the thing—the size war won’t stop there. TVs have been getting bigger while the rest of technology has been getting smaller. And there’s no end in sight. It’ll carry on until screen physics starts to fail. And this begs the question—why? Why do we need display panels that are as big as beds? What’s the point of a television so vast that you might have to knock a wall down to accommodate it. Forget getting it up the stairs.

Well, one part of the answer is simple. Most Godzilla televisions will not be bought for homes at all. Airports love giant displays—the larger the screen, the more flight information you can fit on. Actually, anywhere you find the need for an information display board—from museums to malls—you love large screens. And advertisers love them, too. Massive sets remove the need for installing screen matrixes to display outdoor or indoor advertising. For such people, these large screens seem practical. But there’s a second category of buyers—crazy people. Crazy people who usually don’t read columns such as these and will thus ignore them. These people have actually bought some of the 100-inch screens that were launched last year to fit in their massive home theatres. They don’t come cheap—anywhere between $200,000- $400,000 (Rs 1 crore-Rs 2 crore). It might make more sense to buy a high-definition projector and screen for a hundredth of such a sum.

Why should this matter to you? Trickle down. It’s like the space programme. Utterly impractical but with side benefits for normal people. Because the larger screens get, the cheaper it becomes to buy the smaller ones. In other words, you can get a bigger screen for the same money. Recently, LG Electronics took out an advert hawking their current high-end (and frankly excellent) 42-inch Jazz LCD TV for around Rs 66,000. Now, prices fall, but high-end LCD TVs at that size cost a lakh at the start of 2008, and now you can easily get a 50-inch television for the same sum. That’s eight inches in a year. That’s growth.

You may not want something quite so massive to dominate your living room. And even if you do like to watch your cricket on a supersize screen, you need to sit at a distance before you can see the whole thing in focus. But let’s not knock the march of the mammoth TVs. Bigger screens for airports and crazy people might actually make for cheaper small screens for the rest of us. And that is not such a bad deal.

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