LED TVs are, however, gaining more momentum in the HDTV line, boosted by the “green” trend and declining costs.
LCD TVs continue to dominate China’s HDTV industry. Exports of the category reached 41.4 million units from January to October last year, representing a 50 percent increase from the same period in 2009. Shipments of plasma TVs, meanwhile, totaled only 370,000 units, a 10 percent decline.
Even though sales in the latter, especially for models larger than 50in, are picking up in Japan, Australia, the US and the Middle East, LCD variants will still be mainstream. This is also despite a predicted slowdown in demand, particularly in major markets such as the EU and US. In general, makers remain optimistic, leveraging feature and design upgrades to boost revenue.
Companies are also banking on the rising popularity of LED TVs, which are forecast to slowly displace LCD alternatives that feature CCFL backlight. The market share of the former was estimated at 26 percent in 2010, according to DisplaySearch. Models based on this were mostly small and midsized releases.
Makena Electronic Co. Ltd uses LED backlight in 80 to 90 percent of sets smaller than 32in. Half of its large TV output continues to employ CCFL.
At ExpressLuck Industrial Ltd, 40 percent of LCD units are based on LED-backlight modules. For Shanghai Kingstronic Co. Ltd, the share of LED TVs has exceeded 30 percent and is predicted to remain on an upward trend as quotes go down.
At present, the price difference between LCD and LED TVs is at least $10 for small sizes. It can be $80 to more than $100 for models 32in and bigger.
To bolster competitiveness further, China suppliers of HDTVs are improving the resolution, refresh rate, and broadcasting and decoding capability. Many are adding DVD and Blu-ray player function, and developing ultraslim designs.
Full HD capability is now extended to small TVs. Manufacturers usually provide 1080p resolution in 20 to 22in or larger sets. Makena has released 21.5in full HD versions with either CCFL or LED backlight. Shanghai Kingstronic’s full HD models with LED or CCFL backlight start at 23.6in. Other companies deliver 1366x768, 1280x768 or 1280x1024 pixels.
Makers are complementing resolution upgrades with enhancements on the refresh rates. These have been raised to 100 to 120Hz to address tailing problems associated with motion displays. Other companies can provide models with up to 240Hz.
Besides ISDB, many suppliers also offer DVB and ATSC, and H.264 video compression. Even though HDTV-ready varieties dominate exports, makers are starting to integrate tuners, digital or analog.
Such releases are currently exported to Hong Kong, Australia and North America. The latest rollouts from HongKong THTF Co. Ltd deliver DVB-T, DVB-C and DVB-S/S2 reception and MPEG 2/H.264 decoding. Manufacturers also adopt IC solutions that support full HD decoding and HDMI-ready interfaces.
Built-in DVD and Blu-ray players are becoming popular as well under efforts to add value. Shanghai Kingstronic’s K-LCD2222D model has a detachable DVD functionality.
The company is also developing slimmer LED TVs with built-in removable DVD players. Its 26in HDTVs with Blu-ray are shipping to the EU and the US.
With regard to aesthetic innovations, streamlined designs are strong. New LED models are 20 to 30mm thin, and CCFL variants 70 or 80mm. Ultraslim units are typically more expensive by about $10 for small TVs, and $20 to $30 for larger ones.
Prices are also determined by the panel type, resolution, refresh rate and other add-ons such as DVD or Blu-ray players. A DVD player with license usually incur an additional $17, and its Blu-ray counterpart $80.
China is bolstering its supply chain for LCD panel production. There are currently five advanced-generation manufacturing lines pending approval.
These are BOE’s 8G in Beijing, TCL’s 8.5G in Shenzhen and LG Display’s 8.5G in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, Longfei’s 7.5G in Kunshan and Samsung’s 7.5G in Suzhou, both in Jiangsu province.
China’s leading TV manufacturer Skyworth is expected to invest in LG Display’s 8.5G project.
Once these five lines are completed, suppliers will be able to source panels locally, which could eventually boost their capability in the large-screen LCD TV segment. Other companies are also investing in LCD module production to control operating costs. ExpressLuck has its own assembly factory for this input. Makena has recently completed a facility for 26in and larger modules.
Taiwan and South Korea continue to be the major panel sources for mainland China TV manufacturers. CMO and AU Optronics of the first provide small and medium inputs, while large and PDPs come from LG Display and Samsung. Local supplier Changhong has been using its own PDPs since 2010.
Since the second half of last year, LCD panel costs have dropped by 15 to 20 percent across the different sizes. Spending on LED panels has likewise declined during the period, with the rate at 15 to 25 percent. This contributed to the increase in demand for LED TVs. Rates for CCFL and plasma panels TV also went down by 15 to 20 percent.
China’s LCD TV exports are dominated by small and midsized models, usually 32in and below. Worldwide shipments of plasma variants constitute mostly 42in and bigger configurations.
China manufacturers are currently exploring emerging markets as major destinations such as North America and Europe reach saturation point. For instance, Shanghai Kingstronic is eyeing Russia, South America and Southeast Asia. The company’s latest ISDB-T models are designed for Japan and Brazil.
Similarly, Makena has also ISDB variants for Japan and Brazil, but also export CCFL-backlit types, which are lower in price, to India. The company’s releases feature a smart energy saving function.
LED-backlit, 3D and Internet-connected TVs are the three major trends for next-generation HDTVs in Taiwan. The penetration rate of the first is predicted to grow to 50 percent this year from 20 percent in 2010. Data from Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center or IEK project Internet TV adoption will surpass 50 and 62 percent in 2013 and 2014, respectively, after reaching 21 percent last year. Apple and Google TV are currently the main driving forces for connected TVs worldwide.
The price slump in the HDTV segment is prompting most makers to work on new technologies to widen profits. R&D trends emphasize up to 1080x1920 resolution, 240Hz refresh rate and LED backlight adoption.
In 3D TV development, companies are setting their sights on 120Hz or higher to enable smooth 3D TV playback. The cost-down solution uses 120Hz and passive 3D technology. Taiwan makers can offer 42, 47, 55, 58 and 65in units with LCD and PDPs.
Sampo has released 63 and 58in 3D plasma TVs with 600Hz refresh rate and 12-bit 68.7 billion colors. Teco plans to launch 3D TVs in coming months.
Industry analysts said it will take three years or more for Taiwan companies to get OEM and ODM orders for 3D TVs from worldwide players such as Sony and Samsung, which currently control 3D technology. At present, available 3D technologies for FPDs are glass and autostereoscopic types. The first includes passive polarized and active shutter glasses, with the latter delivering better visual resolution but is more expensive.
Glass types are currently mainstay, but autostereoscopic 3D technology, which does not require glasses, is the future trend. Parallax barrier and Lenticular lenses are the two major factors for commercialization.
Sharp has released autostereoscopic 3D panels based on the first, and AU Optronics can offer 3D autostereoscopic panels based on lenticular lens technology.
Taiwan is a major production center for HDTVs worldwide. IEK predicts the island’s share of global TV production will hit 66 percent this year, up from about 55 percent in 2010.
The local manufacturing industry is controlled by leading large companies, including TPV, Foxconn, Amtran, Compal, Wistron, Unihan, Tatung and Briview. The US, Europe and mainland China are the major markets.
ExpressLuck Industrial Ltd
Hongkong THTF Co. Ltd
Makena Electronic (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd
Model: M2 series
Shanghai Kingstronic Co. Ltd
Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
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