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LCD vs. DLP: The Ultimate HD Television Comparison

Published August 25, 2004 in HOME THEATRE
By Ryan Parsons | Box Light
After reading a few tech/gadget magazines I realized that there was very little information on the new DLP televisions and how they compare to any other state of the art television, such as LCD. Therefore, this article will not only discuss and tell you what DLP is, but also compare DLP televisions with LCD in order to find out which is a better buy for the home theatre enthusiast.

DL Wha?


DLP stands for Digital Light Processor, a technology created by Texas Instruments. The magic behind DLP televisions is the ~580,000 tiny mirrors that are used to reflect, or deflect, light to or from the screen; each mirror represents one pixel on the screen. Each single mirror has its own tiny motor that can tilt it up to twenty degrees thousands of times a second. Because of this ability, DLP is able to offer beautiful contrast as it can create up to 1024 shades of gray alone. Besides the advanced mirror functions of DLP televisions, their design and technology is rather simple.

A lamp in your television creates the light which then goes through a color wheel which then hits the DMD [Digital Micromirror Device] chip. The chip then decides how to angle each mirror for proper, and pretty much perfect, user viewing.


LCD- The Flat TV


LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. The technology involved with LCD televisions are tiny liquid filled crystal cells that have been placed between two sheets of glass. Each cell receives a certain amount of voltage that causes it to react by filtering white light. Depending on the voltage, the LCD cell will only allow one light wavelength to get through to the screen. The advantage of this is that the colors displayed by LCD televisions is very grand and vibrant as each color spectrum is filtered by a single cell.

Finding the Contrasts


The first formidable advantage of DLP televisions is their size and price. The average size of a DLP television is ~52" while LCD is ~22". You can also find DLPs for $2,700 and up while LCDs are typically much more expensive for smaller dimensions.

Contrast


As stated previously, DLPs do exceptionally well with contrast levels. A DLP television can have a contrast range from 1000:1 to 1500:1 while an LCD television is only from 350:1 to 800:1.

Picture


Even though LCD claims they have the best picture within 'optimum viewing,' I found the DLP to look much better when the two televisions were put side by side. LCD's greatest problem is what is known as the 'screen door effect' as the viewer can see pixelation. This is also more apparent while fast motion occurs across an LCD screen that fails to refresh quick enough. However, some have also complained that DLP can cause viewers to see the 'rainbow effect.' It is said that some people can see a color bar appear on the screen [at times] as an issue from the color wheel that DLP uses. I watched the DLP [60"] for some time and failed to notice anything of that sort.

Color Brightness/Accuracy/Saturation


The LCD obviously has the advantage in this department with its vibrant colors [anyone who has seen an XGA flat panel monitor knows what I mean]. However, when it comes to brightness, home theatre enthusiasts could take the time with the DLP settings to shrink the gap considerable between the two television types.

LCD televisions are also slightly more accurate on color than the DLPs. This is because LCDs have a chip for each color, red/blue/green, while DLPs rely on the color wheel to output color to the DMD chip.

Eventhough it would seem LCDs have the advantage in this arena, there is one slight problem. LCDs light bulbs dim after some time [~3 years] and the colors will lose their brightness and vibrance. Replacing the bulbs can be difficult and expensive. DLPs also have bulbs that will dim but replacing them is usually easy and inexpensive, making your television like new once again.


Final Verdict


To be in full honest, save your money [in both ways] and buy a DLP television. For the price, you can amaze your guests, and yourself, with beautiful displays in larger sizes [find room for the 61"]. If you have any doubts go to your local television dealer and compare the two for yourself. You should find that DLP is the king of clean visuals. Unless, of course, you want to hang your television on the wall [then where would you put all your home theatre components].
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Ryan Parsons
Sources: Box Light
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