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March 2006

This chapter is from the book

THURSDAY: MARCH 9, 2006

THIS WEEK’S FOCUS: Choosing a Big-Screen TV

LCD REAR PROJECTION

If you’re susceptible to DLP "rainbows," consider an RPTV powered by LCD technology. Because LCD sets don’t use a color wheel, there are no "rainbows" to see—and no moving parts.

An LCD projector starts with a similar bright beam of light, but this beam is projected onto and through a series of dichroic mirrors. These are mirrors that let one color of light (red, blue, or green) pass through, while reflecting all other colors. This creates three separate red, blue, and green beams, which are passed through separate LCD display chips.

Each LCD chip consists of a layer of liquid crystal material sandwiched between two plates of glass. The hundreds of thousands of liquid crystals are arranged in a grid pattern, representing picture pixels. When an electric charge is applied to the chip, individual crystals rotate the plane of polarized light, effectively acting as an on/off switch for each pixel of the picture. The colored light beams pass through the LCD display panels to create the screen image, which is then projected onto the display’s screen.

The advantages of an LCD projector are the lack of rainbows, good brightness and color reproduction, and slightly more natural colors than with DLP sets. The downsides to LCD technology include limited contrast and black levels and possible "screen door" effects (the visible lines between LCD pixels). The largest manufacturer of LCD RPTVs is Sony.

ON THIS DAY: POWEROPEN ASSOCIATION FORMED

On March 9, 1993, Apple, Motorola, IBM, and four other computer companies formed the PowerOpen Association. PowerOpen was intended to promote new computer chip technology in preparation for the release of the next generation of personal computers. Apple became the primary user of PowerOpen chips, until its decision to switch to Intel chips in 2006.

SOFTWARE OF THE WEEK: CINEMAR MAINLOBBY

If you’re looking for a good front end for a home theater PC (and don’t want to go with Windows Media Center), consider Cinemar’s MainLobby and associated applications. MainLobby lets you use your PC to control all sorts of devices, including home lighting. Helper applications (such as DVDLobby, MusicLobby, TVLobby, and so on) let you perform specific entertainment operations. Buy MainLobby for $59.99 at http://www.cinemaronline.com.

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