Sony's big story at CES 2012 was all about Crystal LED.
Shown on a 55-inch screen in a 'future technology' zone in an out of the way corner of Sony's CES stand 12 months ago, Crystal LED claimed to deliver all the pictorial benefits of OLED - outstanding contrast, dazzling colours and extreme sharpness, along with two significant further benefits.
First, since CLED doesn't use organic material, it's not prone to OLED's image quality decay issues, where colours tend to fade.
Second, it's a self-emitting system, with three RGB LEDs in every pixel - around 6 million in total - an arrangement which would be expected to produce such benefits as a wider viewing angle, more expansive colour range, and better motion reproduction.
It received rave reviews at the show, but fast forward 12 months to CES 2013 and Crystal LED has completely vanished from Sony's display.
It was not mentioned during the press conference and there are precisely zero references to it on the show floor. So what's happened?
"We are internally still investigating the opportunity of how to make it. But Crystal LED looks only to be viable in huge screen sizes," Kentaro Matsumoto, product manager at Sony. "It's not easy to manufacture at a consumer price still because we are using one dot for three LEDs so it's expensive technology-wise. So we are still trying to work out what we can use it for, so we're talking medical uses, professional references devices possibly."
When Sony announced the Crystal LED tech, it pledged to develop it alongside OLED and it has showcased a dazzling 4K OLED prototype at this year's show. But there's no Crystal LED, even in prototype form. So what gives?
Well it turns out that Sony is facing up to making a choice of which next-gen panel tech to choose. And it doesn't look good for Crystal LED.
"It's quite tough to work out which technology we're going to go for," Matsumoto told TechRadar. "We have a lot of considerations but we have to decide and choose which one we want. Of course we can utilise both in some way, but this year we wanted to utilise 4K and OLED itself as the panel technology."
The smart money is on Crystal LED never making it into consumer products then, which is disappointing. And indeed, a cursory glance at Sony UK's website reveals the CLED page has been removed. Sad face.
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