Sharp Aquos 30′ LCD TV

Plasma was a marketing dream for anyone hoping to revolutionise television. Despite sleek black plastic covers (instead of the old faux-wood laminate) and advances like remote control, the technology behind television have been unchanged for sixty years.

But Plasma has come along in the last five years and despite consumers staying away in droves, it’s been promised as the hot new television technology of the 21st century.

It looks futuristic in any home entertainment catalogue, and pictures of sleek and giant screens hanging on the wall of minimalist households have seduced us further.

Sure, you have to spend three months salary (or be John Howard) to get one, but plasma’s sex appeal is undeniable. It even feels good saying the word ‘plasma’, as if you’re dealing with the propulsion system of a terrestrial starship.

But consider this; how many unproven technologies have we surrounded ourselves with (and now rely on) in the last decade. For example, we consider a movie on DVD to be permanent, but how many digital CDs have we lost, broken or thrown out because of an arbitrary read system fault? And they’ve only been in the mass production mainstream for five years where chemical film still works after a century.

Plasma TV is the same. The shortcomings manufacturers have played down are real, and might get worse. Current technology weighs a ton; don’t expect to just hang it on a picture hook. It suffers image ‘burn in’ the same way old PC monitors used to (the original reason we developed screensavers). Many units are delivered with affixed spirit levels to ensure the box hasn’t been laid down — plasma screens have to be kept upright.

LCD is a far daggier technology — it still makes us think of the first (enormous) pocket calculators. But its ‘founder’ Sharp Corporation (who hold about 3,000 LCD-related patents) is set to send it into the troposphere with a new system called Aquos.

Using LCD instead of plasma (a proven technology with thirty years of real life experience), they’ve created the Aquos range, and new to Australia is the 30′ model.

Already inbuilt with high definition standards, the Aquos is futureproof. Perhaps early in a way, but it may prove a self-fulfilling prophecy, lifting Australian high definition TV out of the doldrums because of its quality and accessibility.

Play a DVD and you’ll think you’re at the movies. The speakers down each side are of course detachable, and you can attach more of them (more later).

The jury is out on plasma TV’s longevity, but some industry opinion reports that it’s been known to have lost half it’s brightness after 5 years. There’s no wear on LCD after 20 or 30 years, but don’t believe Sharp or your reseller — grab out the calculator you used years ago in your final exams at school and see if the numbers have faded.

It’s replacable, of course, but you’ll be virtually forking out the cost of a new unit to do so. LCD’s replacable too — for far less, and when it needs replacing after 60,000 hours (20 years) of use.

There’s also virtually no degradation of the picture if you’re on an askew viewing angle — the same can’t be said for plasma.

The reason the Aquos may be too futuristic is that if you watch a plain analogue TV signal, it’ll come through at normal size. If you stretch it to fill the screen, it’ll be horribly ‘pixelated’. You need a HDTV set-top box to channel a signal of appropriate quality.

But DVD playback is sharp as a razor at any size and ratio, and the whole unit doubles as a computer monitor with a XGA PC input cable, giving you an on-screen resolution of up to 1280 x 1024 pixels. The possibilities to editors and people working on digital film are limitless as the screen size outdoes the displays on most industry-standard digital editing systems.

The cool, smooth design is complemented by the AVC system — a separate unit that connects to the screen by a 10′ cable (with the option for up to 50′) which takes care of all your other connections — from a VCR to extra speakers, from the games console to a DVD.

The unit comes preinstalled with a TV tuner so there’s no extra work to do to get up and running watching TV or connecting any other device.

Right now, the Aquos isn’t priced a lot differently than plasma, but even if that’s your only criteria for buying a new TV, it’s hard to go past the benefits LCD has proven since the late sixties versus the shortcomings plasma has already shown.

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